Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig

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Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig

(ĕrnst lo͝ot`vĭkh kĭrkh`nər), 1880–1938, German expressionist painter and graphic artist. He studied art in Munich and was greatly impressed by the neoimpressionists. Kirchner studied Oceanic and other primitive sculpture at the Dresden Museum of Ethnology in 1904. This art was of great importance for him and for the movement known as the BrückeBrücke, Die
[Ger.,=the bridge], German expressionist art movement, lasting from 1905 to 1913. Influenced by the art of Jugendstil (the German equivalent of art nouveau), Van Gogh, and the primitive sculpture of Africa and the South Seas, the Brücke
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, which he cofounded the following year. Also inspired by late Gothic woodcuts and the art of Edvard MunchMunch, Edvard
, 1863–1944, Norwegian painter and graphic artist. He studied in Oslo and under Bonnat in Paris, traveled in Europe, and lived in Berlin from 1892 to 1908.
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, Van GoghVan Gogh, Vincent
, 1853–90, postimpressionist painter, b. the Netherlands. Van Gogh's works are perhaps better known generally than those of any other painter. His brief, turbulent, and tragic life is thought to epitomize the mad genius legend.
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, and the Fauves (see fauvismfauvism
[Fr. fauve=wild beast], name derisively hurled at and cheerfully adopted by a group of French painters, including Matisse, Rouault, Derain, Vlaminck, Friesz, Marquet, van Dongen, Braque, and Dufy.
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), Kirchner merged their expressive forces into powerful and original creations. With startling contrasts of pure color and aggressive forms, Kirchner explored the world of night cafés and the streets of metropolitan Berlin. His savagely executed woodcuts are among the outstanding works in this medium produced in the 20th cent. and are among the most powerful creations of the expressionist vision. He suffered an emotional breakdown in 1914 and moved to a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, after World War I. In the next few years, his art became less tortured and more abstract. In 1938, following the Nazi condemnation of "degenerate art," including some 600 of Kirchner's works, the artist, in failing health, committed suicide. Characteristic works are the portrait of Erich Heckel and his wife (Smith College Mus.); The Street (1913; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City); and the illustrations for Peter Schlemihl (1916).


See biographical study by D. E. Gordon (1968).

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig


Born May 6, 1880, in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria; died June 15, 1938, in Frauenkirch, near Davos, Switzerland. German painter and graphic artist.

Kirchner studied architecture in the Dresden Technical School from 1901 to 1905. A self-taught painter, he was one of the first representatives and theorists of expressionism. In 1905, Kirchner, E. Heckel, and K. Schmidt-Rottluff founded the group Die Brücke (The Bridge). From 1915, Kirchner lived in Switzerland. After the Nazis came to power, he was expelled from the Prussian Academy of Arts (where he had been a member since 1931), and his works were removed from German museums. Kirchner committed suicide.


Gordon, D. E. E. L. Kirchner. Cambridge (Mass.), 1968.
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