Dresden - Berlin - Davos. Masterpieces on Paper 1906-1937

6th September - 29th November 2014
exhibition extended to 7th February 2015

Mini-Catalogue (PDF)

  • Kirchner 1908 3FZ Paar am Strand 03

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Paar am Strand.
    Farbige Kreiden um 1908.
    Verso "Nächtlicher Park", Aquarell 1916. Mit Nachlass-Stempel.
    Obj. Id. 67697

  • Kirchner-1927-2A-Erna-im-Atelier 01

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Erna im Atelier (Akt im Raum).
    Aquarell und Tusche um 1927.
    49 x 36 cm. Mit Nachlass-Stempel.
    Obj. Id.  79838



  • Kirchner-1910-3FZ-Zwei-weibliche-Akte-im-Atelier 01

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Zwei weibliche Akte im Atelier.
    Farbige Kreiden um 1910.
    36,4 x 38,8 cm.
    Obj. Id.  67571

  • Kirchner-1918-5H-D334-Ziegenhirt

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Holzschnitt 1918, Dube H 334 III.
    Signiert und datiert.
    47,7 x 38,5 auf 52,5 x 42,5 cm.
    Mit Nachlass-Stempel
    Obj. Id.  67936

  • Erich Heckel "Junger Clown", Holzschnitt, aquarelliert 1929. Dube H 344 a

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Blonde Pippa in weissem
    Tanzkostüm mit Schirm.
    Radierung 1911, Dube R 145b II.
    Signiert und datiert von Erna Kirchner.
    24,2 x 18,1 auf 53,5 x 44,2 cm.
    Obj.Id. 67399

  • Erich Heckel "Boot am Ufer". Holzschnitt 1912, Dube H241

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Toilettemachende Mädchen.
    Lithographie 1910. Dube L 144.
    38,5 x 32,5 auf 51,3 x 41,5 cm.
    Mit Nachlass-Stempel
    Obj.Id. 66515



Dresden - Berlin - Davos. Masterpieces on Paper 1906-1937

6th September – 29th November 2014

All of them – the women and girls in his circle of friends and acquaintances – posed in the nude for Kirchner, the master of drawing, watercolour and printmaking. With just a few clear strokes of the brush or pencil, Kirchner was able to convey the essence and personalities of the people about him. Reclining, seated, standing or kneeling, they present themselves to the viewer in a completely natural, never artificial pose, as though they are performing an altogether normal movement or action that the artist has captured momentarily on paper. Whatever the activity, whether doing one's toilet, combing one's hair, washing, swimming, dancing, playing, or simply resting or conversing, Kirchner's models are captured with the deftest of lines. In most cases they do not pose for the artist, indeed they seem to take no notice of him, nor do they seem to be aware of the fact that they are being drawn or painted.

As the son of a chemist working in the paper industry, Kirchner not only possessed sound technical knowledge of the medium but also had a constantly plentiful source of good-quality paper for his requirements. Circumstances were such that hardly any works from his incredibly vast oeuvre were lost. With the exception of just a few works that fell victim to the “Degenerate Art” campaign of the National Socialists, almost his entire oeuvre survived the ravages of time, and not least the two world wars. A decisive factor was certainly Kirchner's early emigration to Switzerland where his works could exist in the relative safety of a neutral country.

Kirchner preferred to use calendered, or at least slightly calendered chamois – i.e. light-beige – paper. He also used, and not infrequently, a light-brown (packing) or yellow paper. These papers served not only as supports for his pencil, chalk and pen-and-ink drawings but also for his watercolours and prints. The artist would sign only those works that were intended for exhibition or were sold directly from his studio. Thus the authenticity of Kirchner's works on paper – notwithstanding the fact that they are difficult to imitate – is evidenced rather by the estate stamp, which contains a reference number, handwritten in ink, that furnishes information on the technique, the motif and the place where the work was produced, and also by various inventory numbers that in most cases are to be found on the backs of the works.

No art lover can fail to be overwhelmed by the quantity – and hence even more so by the quality – of these works on paper that have survived to the present day. The Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Archive – which was established in Campione d’Italia in 1979 and has now been operating in Wichtrach near Bern since 1993 – has records of at least 12,000 sketchbook pages, over 20,000 drawings, 2,000 coloured chalk drawings and watercolours and at least just as many prints. When we consider Kirchner's relatively short life as an artist, this is the largest oeuvre of works on paper in the whole of the 20th century, comparable only with the oeuvre of that equally “obsessed” artist Pablo Picasso.

What is also remarkable is the fact that every single work is a complete composition, that is to say, not a preliminary study for some other work and may therefore be regarded as being absolutely unique. This also applies – and this is a point that deserves particular emphasis – to the prints that Kirchner not only produced by his own hand from beginning to end but also varied from one exemplar to the next in terms of paper, state and colouration.

A characteristic feature of all these works is their clarity and economy of line and contour, seldom blended or washed and hence rarely creating an effect of depth or volume. Kirchner's technique reduced the motif to its very essentials and thus permitted a particularly fast execution. It was a technique that Kirchner acquired during the years spent with his fellow “Brücke” artists, when they would practice what they called “quarter-hour nudes”, for which the models were not allowed to remain in the same pose for longer than 15 minutes and the artists had to capture what they saw in just as short a time. The artists had to work so fast that there was no time for corrections with an eraser, for example, and any mistakes simply had to be drawn over, thus leaving the corrections visible in the drawing.

Kirchner was particularly interested in the capturing of movement, many of his series being reminiscent of early chronophotographic images of whole sequences of movement.  These depictions were often created in various techniques and the same motif would appear in a whole diversity of media – drawing, chalk, pen/brush and ink, woodcut, etching, lithograph and oils – and sometimes as sculptures, tapestries and photographs.

Kirchner was above all inspired by the human body and especially the female nude. No matter where he was – in the studios in Dresden, Berlin and Davos, on the shores of the Moritzburg Lakes, on the beaches of the island of Fehmarn or in the forests around Davos – Kirchner portrayed not only Erna, his lifelong companion and muse, time and time again but also their women friends who came to visit them, dancers and even the young daughters of neighbouring peasants, their nakedness inspiring the most wonderful compositions. For what could be a more direct way of representing natural movement than the naked body?  All the same, Kirchner will certainly have been considered unconventional, not to say weird, especially in Davos.

While the forthcoming exhibition in the rooms of our gallery in Riehen will present a whole diversity of nude depictions from Kirchner's years in Dresden, Berlin and Davos, it will also include works devoted to such other themes as the circus, dancers, peasants at work and people in conversation as well as works from the Mary Wigman dance series, which Kirchner painted in 1926 during his first return visit to Germany following his emigration to Switzerland. Here, too, Kirchner attached the utmost importance to the capturing of movement.

We cordially invite you to the forthcoming exhibition. The vernissage will be on Saturday, 6th September, between 12.00 noon and 7.00 p.m. and a preview will also be possible during the Season Opening of the Basel Galleries on the preceding evening, Friday, 5th September between 5.00 p.m. and 9.00 p.m.

Alexandra Henze Triebold

(Translation by John Brogden)

For further information on the gallery's programme and activities please visit our website:  www.henze-ketterer-triebold.ch

Galerie Henze & Ketterer
Kirchstrasse 26, CH 3114 Wichtrach
Tel. +41 (0)31 781 06 01
modernart (at) henze-ketterer.com
Galerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold
Wettsteinstrasse 4, CH 4125 Riehen
Tel. +41 (0)61 641 77 77
ghkt (at) artgalleries.ch