Ernst Ludwig Kirchner


His Training for a Degree in Architecture
The Collected Architectural Drawings

9th November 2018 - 16th February 2019

 Invitation Card (PDF)

Online catalogue (PDF)

  • 78793 04

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Entwurf eines Malerateliers. "Maleratelier II".
    Tuschfeder über Bleistift 1903.
    Signiert. 47 x 62,5 cm. Verso Nachlass-Stempel
    Obj. Id. 78793

  • 78825 04

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Entwurf eines Rauchzimmers.
    Tuschfeder über Bleistift, laviert, Aquarell- und Sprühtechnik 1903/04.
    Signiert.  38,1 x 68 cm. Verso Nachlass-Stempel
    Obj. Id. 78825

  • 78833 05

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Innenräume. Innenraum mit Liege.
    Aquarell über Bleistift 1904/05.
    13,6 x 21 cm. Verso Nachlass-Stempel.
    Obj. Id. 78833

  • 78853 04

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Ornamente. Entwurf für eine Vorsatzpapier.
    Tuschzeichnung über Bleistift um 1904.
    Signiert. 16,7 x 12,6 cm. Verso Nachlass-Stempel
    Obj. Id. 78853

  • 78788 04

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Studienarbeiten - Schlösschen für einen Kunstliebhaber, Blatt 4.
    Tuschfeder über Bleistift , Gouache, Sprühtechnik um 1904/05.
    96 x 60,4 cm. Verso Nachlass-Stempel
    Obj. Id. 78788

  • 78779 04

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Studienarbeiten - Entwurf für ein Museum. Blatt 1.
    Tuschfeder über Bleistift um 1904/05.
    114 x 64 cm. Verso Nachlass-Stempel
    Obj. Id. 78779



His Training for a Degree in Architecture
The Collected Architectural Drawings

9th November 2018 - 16th February 2019

On April 15, 1901, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner began his architectural studies at the Royal Saxon Technical University in Dresden. While Kirchner went down in art history as a draughtsman, painter, graphic artist and sculptor of German Expressionism, there are not many people who know that he was also a trained and qualified architect with the academic status of a graduate engineer. The architectural drawings from his training up to and including his graduation have survived and testify to his dexterity with designs for various private and public buildings, with floor plans and elevations, perspective views and suggestions for interior design. It was with the submission of his degree piece, a design for a cemetery complex, that Kirchner ended his career as an architect before it had even begun. His parents had hoped he would become an engineer instead of dedicating himself to a life of poverty as a painter.

At that time, training as an architect in Dresden was possible both at the Academy of Fine Arts and at the Technical University. Education and training at the Academy of Fine Arts focused on the freelance, artistic aspects of architecture, while the Technical University accommodated the architect as an engineer working to strict standards. For Kirchner, his friend Bleyl and their fellow students, this meant adhering to a tightly structured, regimented curriculum every semester, with extremely detailed basic courses followed by exercises and seminars based on them. The course of study comprised eight semesters with an intermediate degree examination after four semesters. The basic course dealt with general scientific and technical aspects, including higher mathematics, physics, descriptive geometry and chemistry, while the main course, after the intermediate degree examination, focused on design and on art and architectural history.

The study of architecture was naturally based on drawing, although this was primarily technical drawing, which dominated the many compulsory courses on descriptive geometry and architectural drawing during the first semesters. Indeed it was regarded by the students as “scientific and alien to life”. Freehand and ornamental drawing, on the other hand, afforded more creative freedom, with Kirchner and Bleyl always achieving the best marks. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Fritz Bleyl already became good friends during the first semester of the course on descriptive geometry. They quickly recognized their mutual affinity and accompanied their studies with joint excursions into the art of drawing and painting through visits to museums as well as trips into the city and its surroundings. They were particularly inspired by African and Polynesian art, which could be seen in Dresden at the Ethnological Museum.

The designs drawn by Kirchner may be understood in the sense of a Gesamtkunstwerk, inasmuch as they also included interior decoration, especially ornaments, lamps and furniture. His drawings for “Herrenzimmer Dr. Münchmeyer” include views of an interior with continuous ornamental panelling, and also designs for chairs, stools, upholstered armchairs, desk chairs, tables, sofas and ceiling chandeliers. Kirchner was also interested in architectural details and structural ornaments, as we can see from the design for a hillside house in his “Architecture Details”, and also from the view of the hallway, in which the entire interior is meticulously planned, from wall and ceiling panelling to decorated and upholstered furniture, from tablecloths to carpets. When designing a smokers’ lounge, Kirchner also specified the stucco and plush wall panelling, which he designed in rich detail and colour. In principle, it was these early architectural drawings that inspired Kirchner to design the interiors of his studios in the same spirit of the Gesamtkunstwerk, first in Dresden, then in Berlin and finally in Davos. These interiors were artistically designed through and through: wall coverings, cushions, upholstery, tablecloths, sofa covers, stools, chairs, doors, fence posts, even ashtrays and beds. Not to mention his own works, which hung on the walls or stood in the room and were used over and over again as accessories in his drawings, graphics and paintings.

Kirchner spent the winter semester of 1903/04 at the Royal Technical University in Munich, where at the same time he attended the Schwabinger Lehratelier für freie und angewandte Kunst, a private school for applied and unapplied art that had turned its back on the traditional borderlines between architecture, arts and crafts, painting and sculpture. Regrettably, hardly anything of the artist’s work has survived from this time in Munich, but after his return to Dresden and the resumption of his studies at the Technical University, he created wonderful designs for a hotel, for a museum and for a small castle for an art lover, all with colourful views, ground plans, elevations and cross-sections.

The degree thesis was written during the semester break after the main course of study, i.e. after the eighth semester and prior to the examinations in the ninth semester. The head of the Department of Architecture set the tasks for the degree thesis and determined its scope. These tasks consisted in drafting an explanatory report, floor plans, elevations and sections. The complete explanatory report belonging to Kirchner's degree thesis – the task was to design a cemetery complex - has survived and is now in the care of the Kirchner Museum Davos. Also well preserved are the design of the main entrance to the street, the ground plan of the mortuary halls and graveyard, the views of the mortuary hall as well as their cross-sections with a view of the mortuaries, the coloured ground plan, the street view with a ground plan of the director’s and gardeners’ apartments, the views of the three terraces with columbaria, urn alcoves, rock tombs, fountains and ramps as well as a cross-section through the entire complex. On May 1, 1905, Fritz Bleyl and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner submitted their degree theses to the Royal Saxon Technical University in Dresden and, after successful examinations, received their degrees as graduate engineers on July 1. The founding of the artist group “Brücke” together with their fellow students Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff had taken place shortly before on June 7 and finally sealed their decision to turn their backs on the academic education they had hitherto received. The following year, Kirchner carved the group’s manifesto in wood: “With faith in progress and in a new generation of creators and spectators we call together all youth. As youth, we carry the future and want to create for ourselves freedom of life and of movement against the long-established older forces. Everyone that reproduces that which drives him to creation with directness and authenticity belongs to us.”

With this stroke of liberation, the four former students of architecture had broken free from all restrictive norms in order to depict freely what they felt when looking at a motif. As it soon became apparent, they had also begun to undermine the cornerstones of their education and training, no longer depicting according to the rules of perspective but rather directly according to meaning and importance. Tables, interiors and buildings were distorted in keeping with the artists’ inner needs, such that objects were not perceived as being one behind the other, but rather one above the other, and spaces folded open in the picture plane. This led to a very unique Expressionist imagery, which could not be understood by everyone at first sight , a fact that is certainly answerable for the low esteem in Mediterranean countries, where German Expressionism is still not as art-historically recognized and publicly appreciated as it deserves. It was in the German and English speaking countries that the artists of the "Brücke" achieved their breakthrough with numerous exhibitions and soon rose to artistic and financial success – success that even ostracism during the Third Reich could hardly harm.

Alexandra Henze Triebold

(Translation by John Brogden)


We cordially invite you to the vernissage on Friday, November 9, 2018 between 12.00 noon and 7.00 pm. If you cannot make it, you are of course welcome to visit the exhibition at any time within its duration. We are all looking forward to the pleasure of greeting you and your friends in our Gallery.

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