Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Landschaft mit Bäumen (landscape with trees), 1907

Watercolour on handmade paper

28 x 37 cm / framed 50 x 60 cm
11 x 14 inch / framed 19 x 23 inch

Wege und Bäume (Paths and Trees), 1907 on the back, as well as the estate stamp and the designation in ink: “A Dre/Aa 17”

- frame with non reflective glass -

N 9518

About the work

A painting like this from the earliest artistic years of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner must be viewed as something special in several respects: it is not only an outstanding example of the early Brücke style, but also, given nearly 140 double-painted canvases, one of the rare examples of watercolour sheets used on both sides in Kirchner’s oeuvre.

On 7 June 1905, friends and fellow students of the Königliche Sächsische Technische Hochschule (Royal Saxon Technical University) in Dresden, namely Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Fritz Bleyl and Karl Schmidt from Rottluff near Chemnitz, joined to form the Brücke artist group, which wanted to revolutionise art and society. As “youth carrying the future”, according to their programme, carved in wood by Kirchner, “we intend to obtain freedom of movement and of life for ourselves in opposition to older, well-established powers”. This was the hour of the birth of German Expressionism.

While the first painterly attempts of the young autodidacts still owed a great deal to Art Nouveau, with attractive lines understood more graphically, own tendencies would soon be recognisable, originating from an involvement with neo-impressionism. Here, one should primarily mention Vincent van Gogh, whose work Kirchner was able to study in November 1905 in the Galerie Arnold in Dresden. The visit to the exhibition would prove to be the igniting spark for his powerful divisionist painting, with casually placed points and flecks, as well as lines placed shimmering next to one another or intertwined – “more colourful and dappled”, the critic Friedrich Ernst Köhler-Haußen wrote, “than I have seen even in the boldest of the French Impressionists”.

The Landschaft mit Bäumen originated in the summer months of 1907, when Kirchner and Max Pechstein, who in the meantime also belonged to the inner circle of the Brücke, had retreated to the small villages of Goppeln and Golberode to the south of Dresden to work. The artist painted his landscape motif in a quick and spontaneous notation with animated, sometimes almost lambent lines. The gaze glides over the perspectivally tapered path at the edge of the forest into the depths of the painting to the buildings at the edge of the field captured flatly in radiant yellow in the background.

Like later, when material was scarce and he had nothing else available, Kirchner here also used the back of the sheet for another motif. In light, airy watercolour shades, he brought a second landscape to paper in the same year – with paths, trees, a few small walkers, above the blue sky in flowing, lucid watercolour.

Kirchner’s practically obsessive will to work, his overwhelming creativity and his pictorial genius already created a body of work in his early years that was among the most exceptional achievements of German Expressionism.

Text authored and provided by Dr. Doris Hansmann, Art historian

Studies of art history, theater, film and television, English and Romance Languages at the University of Cologne, doctorated in 1994. Research assistant at the Art Museum Düsseldorf. Lecturer and project manager at Wienand Verlag, Cologne. Freelance work as an author, editor and book producer for publishers and museums in Germany and abroad. From 2011 chief editor at Wienand Verlag, from 2019 to 2021 senior editor at DCV, Dr. Cantz’sche Verlagsgesellschaft, Berlin. Numerous publications on the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, landscape with trees, 1907, 28 x 37 cm / framed 50 x 60 cm, N 9518
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