20. Mai 2017 - 22. September 2017


  • Heckel 1913 1G V1913-45 Alsterlandschaft 02

    Erich Heckel
    Alsterlandschaft (Die Alster bei der Mellingburger Schleuse).
    Öl und Tempera auf Leinwand 1913.
    69,5 x 79 cm.
    Obj. Id: 80008

  • Heckel 1917 2A Ostende  Casino 01

    Erich Heckel
    Ostende, Casino.
    Aquarell auf Velin 1917.
    43 x 30 cm.
    Obj. Id: 66375



  • Heckel 1911 5H D220 Liegende auf schwarzem Tuch 01

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



  • Heckel 1929 2A Moissac 02

    Erich Heckel
    Aquarell 1929.
    54 x 69 cm.
    Obj. Id: 65562



  • Heckel 1912 5H D234 a I  von II  Stehende 01

    Erich Heckel
    Holzschnitt, aquarelliert 1912.
    54 x 19 auf 58 x 35 cm.
    Obj. Id: 80020



  • Heckel-19221GGebirgslandschaft 04

    Erich Heckel
    Öl auf Leinwand 1922.
    83 x 96,5 cm.
    Obj. Id: 67906

  • Heckel-1944-2A-Wilder-Schneeball 05

    Erich Heckel
    Wilder Schneeball.
    Aquarell über Kreide 1944.
    61,5 x 48 cm.
    Obj. Id: 67922

  • Heckel 1910 7L D153 Szene im Wald 01

    Erich Heckel
    Szene im Wald - Akte in der Waldlichtung.
    Lithographie 1910.
    27,6 x 34 auf 40 x 53,7 cm.
    Obj. Id: 67848

E R I C H  H E C K E L
(born in Döbeln in Saxony in 1883 – died in Radolfzell, Lake Constance, in 1970)
A lifetime's oeuvre:  an emotionally Expressionist interpretation of the world between Nietzsche, George and a “Storm of Steel” is followed by the lull after the storm: subdued forms, delicate colours, inward illumination


The oeuvre of Erich Heckel embraces vast expanses of life, art and literature, his sojourns in many countries of the world, as well as a multitude of different themes and techniques. From his Expressionist beginnings he developed a personal style of Magic Realism during the 1920s, a style that lost nothing of its delicate dynamic all the way through to the 1960s. He drew his spiritual inspiration from the writings of Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Jean Paul, Stefan George and Hölderlin. His works depict cities and landscapes from from the whole of Europe: Dresden, Rome, Berlin, Flanders, the Baltic coast, the island of Sylt, the South of France, Lake Constance, Carinthia and the cold heights of the Engadine of the 1950s and 1960s. While he approached the human being in simple scenes – people at work, in the music halls, at the circus, bathing – and also in the immediacy of war, his portraits brought out the complexity of his subjects' personalities.  Besides his human and geographical subject matter, Heckel also drew his inspiration from the things and objects that found expression in his still-lifes. The forthcoming exhibition will – to put it in a nutshell – show “the whole Heckel”. This has been made possible through the long-standing work of our gallery for and with the oeuvre of Erich Heckel, and not least through our close collaboration with Hans Geissler, the nephew of Erich Heckel and administrator of his estate. Another factor that has made this extensive exhibition possible is the history of our gallery itself, especially the long friendship and collaboration of Roman Norbert Ketterer and his late wife Rosemarie with Siddi and Erich Heckel since the late 1940s. Only on such a basis has it been possible for us to mount yet again such a large-scale and comprehensive exhibition of the oeuvre of this painter, to whom we are highly attached and indebted.         

When, in 1905/1906, immediately after their founding of the artists' group “Die Brücke” in Dresden, several students from the architecture and art academy met at the “digs” of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in order to practice their rapid “fifteen minute nudes”, they were creating the foundation  of what was to become the typical Fauvist-Expressionist style of their Dresden/Berlin years. It was as a member of “Die Brücke” that Erich Heckel, together with his friends, was able to develop the fundamental skills and aspects of his art. But not only that: he was the organizer of the group, which from its very beginning had already been exhibiting both at home and abroad. By 1913 the group could look back upon as many as 120 exhibitions, which was indeed a masterly accomplishment considering the initially poor reception and the correspondingly negligible financial  means available to the group. Heckel loved to travel and this marked his entire life. On the other hand, however, he was the spiritual and intellectual pivot of the group, a fact that seemed – at least at first glance – to be incompatible with the personality of an organizer, a man of action, a “doer”. Heckel would climb the stairs to Kirchner's studio quoting Nietzsche's Zarathustra – that's how they first met each other.         

The art and personality of Erich Heckel are rooted in three fundamental pillars: his active involvement in the development of Expressionism, the irresistible call of the wide world and its creative reflection in an orbis pictus, and the great literature of the world and its characters.  Life with its outward circumstances and inward changes did the rest. 

The two great wars of the 20th century affected Heckel in different though very deep and lasting ways. In the Second World War it was his oeuvre that took the brunt, for many of his works were destroyed by fire in his studio in Berlin in an Allied air raid, and also in a disused coalmine, where some of his works had been stored, with the result that little is known today about Heckel's early oeuvre. In the catalogue raisonné of his paintings, as many as 50 to 70% of the works of a particular year are marked as “destroyed by fire” or “disappeared without trace”. Knowledge of this circumstance is an important prerequisite for a proper appreciation and evaluation of Heckel's oeuvre.   

The First World War took its toll on Heckel himself. Artists and art historians seem in 1914 to have belonged to the few that sensed that this war would in no way be like any war that had gone before.  This does in fact seem quite understandable, as artists and art connoisseurs are concerned above all with quality and are hence sensitive to any changes that quality may undergo. Some of them were even sensible enough to be afraid, although they were less afraid for themselves than for their art, which without them would cease to continue. 

Heckel was conscripted into the legendary medical corps in Flanders in which the art historian Walter Kaesbach had brought together a great many artists, including Max Beckmann. It was there that Heckel made friends with several members of the Stefan George Circle. One of them, Ludwig Thormaehlen, remembers Heckel: “... whose intellectuality, not to say wisdom, held me spellbound.” Besides Thormaehlen, the circle around Heckel included above all Ernst Morwitz, the Basel sculptor Alexander Zschokke and the Bernese art historian Wilhelm Stein, all of whom were portrayed by Heckel.

The experience of the war and the new beginning led to an inner change in Heckel's being (but this and what follows must be read with immense care, for we hardly know anything about Heckel, as he only seldom spoke of himself). In issue No. 9 / 1910 of “Blätter für die Kunst”, a magazine published by Stefan George, there is a passage that might indeed have strengthened Heckel's resolve in his new way forward: “...this struggle for the highest formal perfection of his works, this love of the perfect (cosmic) circle, of that which is complete in itself, of that which is right on all sides, and this rejection of all that is merely compulsive, sketchy, lacking in skill and hence superfluous, inadequate...: this love and this rejection presuppose more than a formula – namely a mental attitude, indeed, a conduct of life.”       

After resuming his work after the end of the war in 1918, Heckel's emphatically Expressionist style – the excess of form, colour and gesture – became increasingly spiritual, even to the point of an “inward illumination” that reached its height in his Carinthian and Lake Constance landscapes at a time when one would least expect it, namely during the Nazi reign of terror in the Second World War. Nevertheless, expression in the sense of a strong visual effect always remained a constituent feature of his art notwithstanding the frequent reproaches concerning the aforementioned change of style around 1918/19.  All the same, we may justifiably ask ourselves why he did not continue to paint just as before. He could indeed have done so! He had by no means lost the ability to express himself in the typically exaggerated forms, colours and gestures of Expressionism. And so we must in all modesty query the change in Heckel's art. Indeed, we have just begun to do so, albeit very tentatively.

But there is something else, too:  the fact that the continuity manifest in Erich Heckel's oeuvre is far more important than the aforementioned change is verified not least by a comparison of Heckel's early landscape painting “Park von Dilborn II” of 1914, which we are glad to be able to show in this exhibition, with all the other landscapes in the exhibition – and they are numerous – through to the magnificent Engadine series of the 1950s that rounds off the exhibition so strikingly.      

Wolfgang Henze


Text accompanying Exhibition No. 115 of the Henze & Ketterer Gallery, Wichtrach/Bern
(Translation by John Brogden)

Galerie Henze & Ketterer
Kirchstrasse 26, CH 3114 Wichtrach
Tel. +41 (0)31 781 06 01
Galerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold
Wettsteinstrasse 4, CH 4125 Riehen
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