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Just a few more days to visit Kirchner's exhibition at the Neue Galerie in New York: an incredible collection of works created by the German artist from 1907 to 1937. Curated by Jill Lloyd e Janis Staggs, this show has presented a large group of works selected by using the topic of the iconic places in artist life as the common thread...

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Indeed, the exhibition presents paintings, drawings, prints and a wooden sculpture to highlight how his work has been transformed concerning the surrounding environment, historical events and changes in the society of the time. But the exhibition's main focus is centered on the artist's innovative use of color, used in different ways depending on the chosen subjects but also on the different media with which he engages during his career. Kirchner loved to experiment with different expressive means and had an organic and overall vision of art, which rejected traditional hierarchies. To account for this complexity of stimuli and creative responses, approximately one hundred works on display are organized into five sections, one for each of the places that hosted the artist (Dresden, Berlin and Davos), plus one dedicated to the war years and another with only prints. 

 

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Berlin, 1911-14, Installation view. Courtesy Neue Galerie, Museum for German and Austrian Art in New York.

 

Read more about Abstract Expressionism

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was born in 1956 at Aschaffenburg. During his architectural studies in Dresda in 1905 Kirchner founded together with Fritz Bley, Erich Heckel e Karl Schmidt-Rottluff the Die Brücke group. Linked with the latest experimentation of the German Expressionism, this movement stood out for the refusal of academic styles and the goal of creating a new bridge between past and present. The key to Kirchner's work in this period is color, which the artist himself defined as the fundamental brick of his paintings. One of the first paintings on display in this section, the Portrait of Hans Frisch (1907), offers a brilliant example of a particular use of color that moves on a line between Post-Impressionism and decorative arts. Another incisive moment in Kirchner's style and subjects is in 1911 when the life and energy of Berlin provoked a sudden transformation on his work. Characterized by blu tonality, this period is affected by the presence of a melancholy and restlessness crowd. Stressed by the urban life chaoticity and the abuse of absinthe, alcohol and drugs, Kirchner choose the way of military recruitment in 1914 during the first world war's outbreak. But this choice will lead to the artist various psychological problems. 

 

          

From left to right: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Berlin street scene, 1913-1914. Credit Neue Galerie New York and Private Collection; Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Self-Portrait as a soldier, 1915. Credit Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH. Charles F. Olney Fund.

His biggest fear was losing his artistic identity and being sucked into the meat grinder machine of war. The wood engravings from the Extraordinary History series by Peter Schlemihl (1915), inspired by the novel by Adelbert von Chamisso, in which the title character sells his shadow to the devil, are to be interpreted through this lens. The series is a sort of widespread self-portrait, within which the Soldier Self-Portrait (1915), Kirchner shows himself in uniform and without the right hand he used to paint, opens a window on the artist's worst nightmares. After the nightmare of the war, the artist begins to take refuge in Swiss Alps and started a new series of works dedicated to the Devos mountain where he seems to evoke a dreamed life more than lived. An example of that is the case of the triptych "Cattle drive into the Alps" (1926) in which the artist gives shape to a narrative structure that runs through the whole day, mythologizing the bucolic image of an existence made of manual work, in harmony with nature.

 

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Davos, 1918-38, Installation view. Courtesy Neue Galerie, Museum for German and Austrian Art in New York.

 

Cover image: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Panama dancers, 1910-11. Courtesy North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, Bequest of W. R. Valentiner. Photo by Bridgeman Images

New York // until January 13 2020.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner |  NEUE GALERIE | 1048 Fifth Avenue at 86th Street – New York

Written by Elisabetta Rastelli

 

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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