RIEHEN / BASEL

ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER &
GEORG BASELITZ in Dialogue

25th February until 25th May 2022

Invitation card (PDF)

Online cataloge (PDF)

  • Manfredini 2014 8PL Stabat Mater 03

    Giovanni Manfredini
    Stabat Mater
    Silver gold plated, 2014.
    Diameter 33 cm.
    Item Id: 79808

     

     

  • Baselitz 1988 3FZ Ohne Titel 15VI88 01

    Georg Baselitz
    Ohne Titel. 15.VI.88 (Untitled)

    Pastel, chalk, 1988.
    On paper. 77 x 59 cm.
    Item Id: 75152

     

     

     

  • Kirchner im Stadion 06

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Drei nackte junge Männer (Three Nude Men)
    Oil on canvas, 1932/36.
    65 x 50 cm.
    Item Id: 75337

  • Kirchner 1913 2A Pantomime Reimann I 02

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Pantomime Reimann I
    Water color, black chalk and pencil around, 1913.
    46,1 x 58,8 cm.
    Item Id: 80498

     

     

  • K06621 01

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Flanierende Leute in der Strasse
    (Strolling people in the street)

    Coloured chalk and pencil, around 1910.
    On satinated chamois paper.
    21 x 17 cm.
    Item Id: 80825

  • Indianergrab 01

    Georg Baselitz
    Indianergrab (Indian Grave)

    Linocut, 2002.
    On paper. Edition 6. Copy 3/6.
    201 x 150 on 228 x 170 cm.
    Item Id: 80307

     

     

     

 

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
& Georg Baselitz in Dialogue

25th February until 25th May 2022


According to Socrates, to be in dialogue means to create a common reality. One's habits and those of others are examined and weighed in direct conversation with one another, and one's knowledge and that of the other is brought to light. According to its Greek roots "diá" (through) and "légein" (to tell, to talk) the dialogue is understood as a "flow of words", translated from the Greek "diá-logos". However, the literal exchange that creates relationships with the other in its here and now can also be a pictorial one: Where the spoken word reflects the attitude of its speaker, the work of art can visually express the inner frame of its creator. When two artists are brought into direct juxtaposition with each other, this may miraculously produce an exchange, a "conversation" between colours, techniques, and styles that might even be considered equal to the spoken word.

With the exhibition "Ernst Ludwig Kirchner & Georg Baselitz in Dialogue", this fruitful moment is explored, which can arise in the synopsis of two artists and which is surprisingly inherent in many new ways of viewing. Kirchner (1880-1938) and Baselitz (*1938) influenced and continue to influence entire generations of artists in their œuvre, whereas both of their artistic expression was created separately from one another, and prepared the way for an art that was colourful, provocative, and consistently rebelled against the traditional and developed new modes of expression. The often different results of this creative work, to which both artists dedicated themselves throughout their lives, will in their dialogue with each other, however, also reveal one thing to the visitor: a common reality.
During the manifold experiences in and around the years of the First and Second World Wars, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's work bore witness to the attitude towards the life of an individual and the hope of an entire generation. Like no other, Kirchner captured the light-heartedness of his Dresden days and the briefly happy Berlin days in pulsating big-city scenes, in front of cheerful vaudeville backdrops, people playing by the lake, or the nude moving freely in nature. With the same conciseness, however, he also sketched his own inner turmoil during the entry into the war in 1915 and its dramatic consequences in melancholy, dreary self-portraits. Kirchner finally found an inspiring new beginning in the seclusion of the Swiss mountains around Davos, which offered him refuge until his death and inspired the development of the so-called “Neuer Stil” (New Style) described by himself in the 1920s.
What unites Kirchner's paintings, drawings, woodcuts, and sculptures is a unique use of colour, rather a "richness of colour" that, contrary to naturalism, renders what is seen in expressive reds, blues, and yellows, later also gladly in shades of pink and brown, in a highly abstracted manner. Rough, woodcut-like forms, the dissolution of traditional perspective and emphasis on the fleetingness of the moment not only became Kirchner's stylistic hallmark but also unfolded political potential at the time: "With the belief in development, in a new generation of creators, [...] we want to gain freedom of arms and life from the well-established, older forces." [1] The hour of birth of German Expressionism coincided with the "BRÜCKE" artists' association founded by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and his friends Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff in 1905. It marked a radical change in artistic production that broke with previously conventional modes of expression and placed the focus on the artist's own experience.
As a radical avant-gardist of a European modernism, Kirchner laid down his rebellion against the establishment early on in the program of the "BRÜCKE" and always remained true to it in his "aggressive deformations" of the given. What Kirchner showed for the zeitgeist of the time in terms of unconventional design methods culminates definitively in Baselitz's "Kunstlosigkeit" (“artlessness”), the rebellion against "good taste" that expressive art continues to think.

Georg Baselitz is considered a polarizing artist whose art form contributed to a radical upheaval in art history in the mid-20th century, offering a way out of contemporary abstract painting. Even the classification of his style was difficult, so people vacillated between Surrealism and Expressionism, and a little later, his art was assigned to "Neo-Expressionism", although the term had rather negative connotations. Thus, the artist has always resisted the labelling as a neo-expressionist, just as Kirchner refused to be called an expressionist.[1]

It is not only this rejection of "pigeonhole thinking" that unites the two artists, who are separated by half a century. Georg Baselitz, actually Georg Hans Kern, was born in Deutschbaselitz in Saxony in 1938, the same year Ernst Ludwig Kirchner died in Davos.

In fact, Georg Baselitz only became acquainted with the works of Kirchner and the "BRÜCKE" artists later, after his youth, as they were banned from all exhibition spaces due to the Nazi iconoclasm. It was not until 1983 that direct references to the "BRÜCKE" group of artists appeared in the master's work. But as Günther Gerken already formulated the question: " [...] should one understand the Brücke pictures as an examination of the expressionist painting of the Brücke or only as a reminiscence of the artist group in the search for a model for a new expressive figure painting?"[2] Finally, it is not so much Kirchner's style that impresses Baselitz, but his attitude as an artist, as a human being, his outsiderness, and not least his loneliness. With regard to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's work, it is a matter of an affinity that can be traced in Baselitz's work over the years.

Thus, clear parallels can be seen in the graphic work of both artists, although, as Günther Gercken notes, their intentions are fundamentally different, because Baselitz's art, unlike Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's, is not a pictorial one, and he "develop[s] drawing as a structure that absorbs the motif, out of itself. In doing so, the variation of form, unlike in the contracted pictorial language of the Expressionists, ranges from the utmost reduction of pictorial signs to manneristic squiggling and overload." [3]

The drawings of both artists are determined by the spontaneous grasp of sensory impressions, of what is observed and felt, and especially by the speed of the working process. This is equally evident in Baselitz's drawing "Büsche” (“Bushes)” from 1969-70 as in Kirchner's "Menschen unter Bäumen (Blühende Bäume)" ("People under Trees (Blooming Trees)”) from 1909.

A common technique of the two artists is found in the woodcut. While this was one of Kirchner's most important means of expression in graphic design, especially for the "BRÜCKE" artists, Baselitz revived the 16th-century Clair-Obscur colour woodcut in 1966, which was unusual for the time.

Meanwhile, the motifs of the two also seem to overlap: the human being in the focus of the creative work. However, while in Kirchner's work nature occupies an almost equal position, Baselitz's motifs are mostly created by destroying existing images. The artist does not even stop at his own images, as the series "Remix" shows, in which he revisits past motifs from his œuvre and turns them into a kind of representation of an interaction with his own past.

Despite the many stylistic transformations to which Georg Baselitz's work has been subjected over the decades, a unified, unmistakable body of work has emerged that, with its individuality and uniqueness and especially its innovation, is quite like that of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

The dialogue between Georg Baselitz and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is rounded off in the exhibition by sculptures by Daniel Spoerri (*1930). His heads and animal-like creations, developed from assemblages, in turn, create a motivic connection within the œuvres of all three artists and at the same time enable a new view of the works of Georg Baselitz and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Susanne Kirchner and Katharina Sagel
(Translated by Uli Nickel)


[1] Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Programm der Brücke („Programme of Brücke“), woodcut in black on vergé paper, folded in the centre, monogrammed in the printing block of the text upper left: ELK, 1906.

[2] Thorsten Sadowsky, Vorwort, in: Exhib. cat. Georg Baselitz: Besuch bei Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kirchner Museum Davos, 2013, pp. 6-7, here p. 7.

[3] Günther Gerecken, Georg Baselitz: Expressiv, aber nicht expressionistisch, in: Exhib cat. Georg Baselitz: Besuch bei Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kirchner Museum Davos, 2013, pp. 13-26, here p. 21.

[4] Günther Gercken, Der geopferte Adler, in: Exhib. cat. Georg Baselitz, Adler, Galerie Buchmann, Basel, and Galerie Neuendorf, Frankfurt on the Main, 1987, p. 6.


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