An Oasis of Peace and Quiet

Figures reclining and resting –
from Expressionism to the present day

1st September 2017 until 13th January 2018

Invitation (PDF)

Minicatalogue (PDF)


  • Kirchner 1926 2A Liegende Frau auf Sofa 01

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Liegende Frau auf Sofa.
    Aquarell über schwarzer Kreide um 1926.
    34 x 50 cm.
    Obj. Id: 79849



  • Kirchner 1927 5H D556 Liegende Frau auf Sofa 01

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Liegende Frau auf Sofa.
    Holzschnitt 1926.
    36,5 x 47 cm. 
    Obj. Id: 79593




  • Heckel 1911 5H D220 Liegende auf schwarzem Tuch 03

    Erich Heckel
    Liegende auf schwarzem Tuch.
    Farbholzschnitt 1911.
    27,7 x 42,4 auf 40,5 x 50 cm.
    Obj. Id: 80263

  • Mueller 1921 7L K146 I Maedchen auf dem Kanapee 76669 01

    Otto Mueller
    Mädchen auf dem Kanapee.
    Lithographie 1921-1922.
    43,5 x 56 cm.
    Obj. Id: 76669



  • Hartung 1948-49 8PL K411 Liegende mit ueber dem Kopf verschraenkten Armen 01

    Karl Hartung
    Liegende mit über dem Kopf verschränkten Armen.
    Bronze um 1948/49.
    78 cm.
    Obj. Id: 67509



  • Brodwolf 1981 Figuren-Entfaltung 02

    Jürgen Brodwolf
    Figuren-Entfaltung (Bewegungsablauf).
    Drei Figurentafeln 1981.
    91 x 51 x 5 cm.
    Obj. Id: 66213





An Oasis of Pieace and Quiet
Figures reclining and resting -
from Expressionism to the present day

1st September 2017 until 13th January 2018


Idealized representations of the dead, reclining as though at a feast, already decorated the sarcophagi of the Etruscans and, later, the Romans. Stylized depictions of the dead, lying in repose, are to be found on vases of the early geometrical art of the Greeks. Early examples of reclining figures in artistic representations that had nothing to do with the death cult are to be found in the bottom corners of ancient Greek tympani. Among the fragments of the ornamentation of the Parthenon of the Athens Acropolis, which have gone down in history as the Elgin marbles, are representations of a river-god and Dionysus in reclining positions. Numerous surviving legacies from classical Roman painting and sculpture depict people reclining at those Bacchanalian feasts that were so popular with the ancient Romans. Not to be forgotten here are the wonderful depictions that decorate the interiors of the houses of Pompeii submerged by the volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius.


The Christian art that followed that of the Romans and the Greeks developed new forms of reclining and resting figures, these being primarily the births of Mary or Jesus, and also Mary in confinement after the birth of Jesus. The dead were also depicted, as in the Pietà or the Entombment of Christ. Dead warriors on the battlefield were also a widespread theme.

The reclining figure in art did not become emancipated until the end of the 18th century through such artists as Francisco de Goya with his two companion paintings “Maja vestida” (“Clothed Maja”) and “Maja desnuda” (“Nude Maja”), the name “Maja” not standing for a specific, identifiable person but rather for an attractive girl or young woman. Here Goya has finally broken with the tradition of the bashful, modestly dressed woman. It was an act that brought him before the Inquisition and cost him the title of “Royal Court Painter”. Until then naked bodies had been depicted only within the context of mythological, symbolic or religious themes, such as, for example, “Venere di Urbino” (Titian), “Venere Rokeby” or “Venus at her Mirror” (Velasquez). But things had now changed, and the autonomous depiction of reclining nudes was from now on to become a widespread subject matter in the pictorial arts. By the 19th century more and more painters were depicting reclining nudes as odalisques, the painters Ingres and Boucher being only two of many examples.

A further scandal was triggered by Eduard Manet in 1865 with the exhibiting of his “Olympia” at the Paris Salon. The depiction of a (known) prostitute looking straight into the eyes of the viewer was received with disgust by the members of the public. Both the subject matter and the artist's style of painting were criticized most harshly. Be that as it may, Manet's painting paved the way for the developments that were yet to be made in art, developments that we have witnessed during the last century right up until the present day.

Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Otto Mueller and Christian Rohlfs followed in this tradition. With his wonderful woodcut “Reclining Figure on Black Cloth”, most probably produced on the island of Fehmarn, Erich Heckel created a nude depiction – reduced to its very essentials – against a background of the typically round pebbles of the beaches of Fehmarn. The young woman in black-and-white is lying on a black cloth, with arms and legs drawn up, against the said background of light brown pebbles and some green vegetation. The interior details consist “merely” of a few weak, curved lines that had fortuitously escaped the cutting and gouging process. As is so often observed with the artists of “Die Brücke”, one has the impression that the woodcut depicts a sculpture rather than a living person. The outlines of the figure are stylized and sharp-edged. The woodcut by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner “Reclining Nude”, dating from roughly the same time, differs from Heckel's woodcut inasmuch as the interior details are somewhat more prominent and the almost continuous, double outlines give depth to the figure. Here the model is posing slightly more

permissively in an interior surrounded by what look like sculptures or masks. Here, too, the model is reclining on a black cloth, but one that is decoratively patterned.

Karl Hartung's sculptures and drawings represent reclining figures in a diversity of positions: with heads reduced to a stump, but bodies all the more detailed in shape, his sculptures of reclining figures are viewable with equal effect from all sides. One can walk around them without their losing any of their visual dynamic. His works on paper, too, manifest interior details that convey a strong impression of depth. Likewise sculptured in the round are the works of the husband-and-wife team Kubach-Wilmsen, which have to be presented in a “reclining” position, especially in the case of the books of the series “Ikaros”, which have all fallen flat on their opened pages. The stone for these sculptures was specially sought after and the effect is so realistic that one feels tempted to pick the books up and place them back in their shelf.

Jürgen Brodwolfs paint-tube figures, cardboard-and-gauze figures and bronze figures are all presented in reclining positions. In fact there is no alternative, for the paint-tube figure, which serves as the basis for all Brodwolf's figures, has no means of holding itself upright. It has no base on which it can stand. Thus we find them together with other found objects as assemblages, or as papier-mâché versions in relief collages or in boxes, or cast in the round in bronze or as relief figures rising out of a fissured ground.

Inspired by Caravaggio and Mantegna are the works of the contemporary artist Giovanni Manfredini depicting the reclining Christ. To this end he has details from the works of the great masters of the past photographically reproduced and then alienates and reworks them by subtly overlaying them with a pencil drawing. His series “Forse mai, o forse in Paradiso” includes an alienation of the famous “Cristo in scurto” (“The Lamentation of the Dead Christ”) by Mantegna, a foreshortened depiction of Christ viewed from the feet. Manfredini has superimposed a pencil drawing – like a veil - with the feet likewise pointing towards the viewer. There is certainly something poetical about this work: it is as though the artist has gently breathed his drawing onto the photographic reproduction of Mantegna's painting of the body of the Dead Christ.

Reclining, resting, sleeping and dead figures have populated the art of the past centuries right up until the present day. The reclining figure has been a widespread motif in the history of western art, from the ancient Greeks and Romans through to the contemporary artists of our own day. Indeed, the subject matter cannot but inspire the artist to celebrate the human body in its very essence, in its eternal being.


Alexandra Henze Triebold

(Translation by John Brogden)


We cordially invite you and your friends to the vernissage on Friday, 1st September between 12.00 noon and 8.00 pm. If you cannot make it, you are of course welcome to visit the exhibition at any time within its duration.

Your visit to our gallery could be complemented by a stroll through the wonderful exhibition halls of the Beyeler Foundation, which is located only a few hundred metres away from our gallery in Riehen. The exhibitions “Tino Seghal” and “Wolfgang Tillmans” can be viewed until 12th November and 1st October respectively. From 1st October the Fondation Beyeler will be showing works by Paul Klee. Works from the permanent collection of the Fondation Beyeler may be viewed any time.

We are looking forward very much to the pleasure of welcoming you and your friends to the forthcoming exhibition.

For further information on our 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
Galerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold
Wettsteinstrasse 4, CH 4125 Riehen
Tel. +41 (0)61 641 77 77