Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

* 06 03 1880 | Aschaffenburg
† 15 06 1938 | Frauenkirch-Wildboden (CH)

His work is among the great achievements of modern art. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, one of the protagonists of the “Brücke” Expressionist group of artists founded in Dresden in 1905, went down in the history of art with his early nudes in the studio and outdoors, the nervous-expressive Berlin street scenes, the Alpine motifs of Davos and the abstract tendencies of his late work.


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Vita Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

1880

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is born on 6 May in Aschaffenburg.

1890

The family moves to Chemnitz.

1901

He receives a prize from the Chemnitz Kunstverein (art association) as one of the best pupils in his art class. Following his Abitur (school leaving examinations), he begins studying architecture at the Königliche Technische Hochschule (Royal Technical University) in Dresden.

1905

On 7 June, Kirchner founds the “Brücke” artist group together with Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Fritz Bleyl.

He sees works by Vincent van Gogh in the Galerie Arnold.

1906

The ”Brücke” formulates its artistic programme, which Kirchner carves into wood.

1908

First trip to Fehmarn; further stays follow until 1914.

1909

The milliner Doris (Dodo) Große is Kirchner’s lover and model until 1911. The eight-year-old Lina Franziska (Fränzi) Fehrmann models for the painters.

The “Brücke” members visit the Moritzburg Ponds for the first time together with their girlfriends and models.

1910

Kirchner becomes a member of the New Secession in Berlin. First involvement with non-European art following a visit to the ethnological museum in Dresden.

1911

The artist moves to Berlin, where Erich Heckel and Max Pechstein already reside.

1912

He meets the two sisters Gerda and Erna Schilling, who work as dancers in a nightclub. Erna becomes his life partner, with whom he lives together until his death.

1913

The artist group dissolves due to differences of opinion about the chronicle of the “Brücke” authored by Kirchner.

First solo exhibition in the Museum Folkwang in Hagen.

1915

In the hope of being able to have an influence on his wartime deployment, he volunteers for service and receives field artillery training in Halle. Following a physical and psychological breakdown , treatment in the Sanatorium Dr. Kohnstamm in Königstein in the Taunus Valley.

1916

During a subsequent stay in Königstein, he finishes monumental wall paintings for the Brunnenhaus (fountain house) of the Sanatorium.

1917

First stay in Davos, treatment under Dr. Lucius Spengler.

1918

Together with Erna Schilling, he moves into the farmhouse In den Lärchen in Davos Frauenkirch.

1919

Kirchner spends the summer on the Staffelalp above Frauenkirch.

1920

Under the pseudonym Louis de Marsalle, the artist publishes his first articles about his work.

1921

He meets the dancer Nina Hard, who visits him and poses nude for him as a model.

1923

Kirchner moves into the house on the Wildboden in Davos Frauenkirch.

1925

Intensive involvement with the works of Pablo Picasso.

In December, the artist returns to Germany again for the first time and visits Chemnitz, Dresden, Berlin and Frankfurt.

1927

Commission for designing the ceremonial hall in the Museum Folkwang in Essen, which is, however, not realised.

1928

His painting Schlittenfahrt (The Sleigh Ride) is exhibited at the Biennale in Venice.

1929

Trip to Frankfurt, Essen and Berlin.

1931

Participation in the German Paintings and Sculpture exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is made a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts.

1933

Extensive retrospective in der Kunsthalle Bern.

1937

The first solo exhibition of the artist in the USA takes place at the Detroit Institute of Art.

639 of his works are labelled as “degenerate” by the National Socialists and removed from museums. Thirty-two of his paintings can be seen in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) propaganda exhibition. He is excluded from the Prussian Academy of Arts.

1938

Kirchner’s health worsens steadily. Fearing a German invasion, the artist ends his life with a gun on 15 June.

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