After relocating from Berlin to Davos in 1918, the output of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner underwent a transformation both in terms of style and motifs during the 1920s. No longer was the focus of his artistic interest directed at the ceaseless hustle and bustle of the modern metropolises, but rather the intensive exploration of mountain landscapes and the relatively archaic living and working environment of the indigenous population. As a creative artist interacting in and with primordial nature, Kirchner felt deep affinity to the local farmers. Often he would arrange dance evenings in his house in den Lärchen and after 1923 in Wildboden/Frauenkirch to which he invited the local inhabitants. He felt at ease in their company and used them as sitters for his paintings. He was full of fascination for their simple, rural life in the heart of nature. "Living and working side by side with the mountain folk, I became acquainted with life's logical cycle of birth and death. I witnessed the permanent renewal in the interaction of nature, man and animal in the simple and unadorned life of the mountain farmers", noted Kirchner in 1930 in his "Notes on Life and Work".
This present sheet, executed in luminous watercolours over a grease crayon drawing, shows an elderly farmer's wife in a blue apron with a red–haired child at her side. Both are calm and sitting still, apparently deeply immersed in their own thoughts. The subjects fill the canvas, the surrounding space with the cropped windows remains only adumbrated. Characteristic for the tranquillity of Kirchner's visual language in the mid 1920s, and in stark contrast to the restless agitation and radicality of the "Brücke" period, this work reveals an altogether more measured tone. At the same time, the open, cursory brush strokes speak to Kirchner's immediate observation of the motif and the artist's deep relationship towards his subjects. Due to the greasy underground, the loose brushstrokes applied upon it gain a lucid transparency, and in the interplay of the sheet's many blank spaces the palette appears saturated in light. Despite the prevailing serenity of the motif, the representation radiates an expressive vitality. With the rather sombre, two–dimensional simplification of form and the intentionally sparse compositions of his Davos years, Kirchner is seeking to find a formally aesthetic counterpoint to the hardships and austerity of the farmers' daily lives. Resonating symbolically in his empathetic observations of the two figures is his representation of their different ages, which are intrinsic to nature's eternal cycle. Particularly the demeanour of the old woman conveys something of both the hardships of their working lives, but also the pride and dignity of these mountain folk.
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