British Museum collections, £12.99
Explore / Articles
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)
Although he had graduated as an architect, Kirchner always wanted to be a professional artist. In 1905 he co-founded the Die Brücke ('The Bridge') with Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel and Fritz Bleyl, sharing a studio in Dresden. They later invited other artists, such as Emil Nolde, to become members. Kirchner was always the leader, both by personality and ability, and he led the way in numerous innovations of the field of printmaking, which the group always took as seriously as drawing and printing.
After the group had moved from Dresden to Berlin late in 1911, they began to be noticed and each artist began to follow a more independent style. This led to the formal disbanding of the Die Brücke in 1913. At this point Kirchner was to paint some remarkable street scenes, noted for their particularly angular manner, which are now regarded as some of the greatest works of German Expressionism.
At the outbreak of World War I (1914-18), Kirchner was drafted into the army. A mental breakdown followed and he was discharged. In 1917 he emigrated permanently to Switzerland. The focus of his subject matter turned to mountain landscape. Kirchner's isolation now increased his paranoia and he made several trips back to Germany, anxious to secure recognition of his importance. In the Nazi purge of 'degenerate art' of 1937 his work was removed from German museums. The next year he committed suicide, fearing a Nazi invasion of Switzerland.