Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

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self-portrait in photo, 1919; by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - his quote under his pseudonym Louis de Marsalle, 1921: 'All art needs this visible world and will always need it. Quite simply because, being accessible to all, it is the key to all other worlds'
Kirchner, 1905: 'Moonrise: Soldier and Maiden', oil-painting on board; current location: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston U.S.
Kirchner, 1907: 'Two Nudes', oil on canvas; current location: National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.
Kirchner, 1905/08: 'Czardas dancers', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag Netherlands
Kirchner, 1908: 'Couple / Paar', current location: Brücke Museum Berlin
Kirchner, 1909: 'Bathers Throwing Reeds', colored wood-cut-print; current location: Metropolitan Museum of Art New York
Kirchner, 1909: 'Girl in a flowering meadow', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Museum der Phantasie - quote of Kirchner, 1913: '..to study the nude, the foundation of all pictorial art, in total freedom and naturalness. From this basis there emerged the feeling, shared by all, of taking creative stimulus from life itself..'
Kirchner, 1910: 'Marcella', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Brücke Museum, Berlin - quote of Kirchner about Marcella, 1910: 'Marcella has now become quite at home and is developing fine features. We have become quite familiar with one another.. .There exists quite a charm in such a pure female.. .More fantastic than those of the older girls. More free, without having lost the developed female'
Kirchner, 1910: design of the poster for the exhibition of Die Brücke, in gallery Arnold in Dresden, 1910
Kirchner, 1910: 'Artistin Marcella', woodcut, over-painted with colors; current location: Kunstmuseum Ravensburg - quote of Kirchner, 1937: 'Making wood-cuts, which I'd learnt as a fifteen-year-old from my father, helped me to stabler and simpler forms..'
Kirchner, 1912: 'Nollendorfplatz' (Berlin), oil-painting on canvas; current location: Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin later quote of Kirchner: 'I was born near a station. The first things that I saw in my life were the moving locomotives and trains, and I drew them as a three-year-old. Perhaps it is because of this that observations of movement are my impetus for my inspiration'
Kirchner, 1913: 'Girl in tub', reed pen and black ink on paper; current location: Kupferstichkabinett Berlin
Kirchner, 1913: 'Street-scene Berlin, 1913', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Museum of Modern Art N.Y.C. quote of Kirchner, 1916 (looking back to his Berlin-years): 'Every day I studied the nude and movement in the streets and in the shops [in Berlin]. Out of the naturalistic surface with all its variations I wanted to derive the pictorially determined surface'
Kirchner, 1914: 'Berlin Street Scene', technique unknown; current location: Städel Museum Frankfurt Germany
Kirchner, 1914: 'The Drinker, selfportrait / Der Trinker, Selbstbildnis', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg - quote of Kirchner, 1916, about this self-portrait 'I painted it in Berlin, while screaming military convoys were passing beneath my window day and night' (World War 1.!)
Kirchner, 1914: 'View from the Window / Blick aus dem Fenster', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri U.S.
Kirchner, 1915: 'Das Soldatenbad / The soldier bath', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum N.Y.C. - quote of Kirchner, after being discharged from the army because of a mental crisis, 1916: 'The heaviest burden of all is the presence of the war and the increasing superficiality. It gives me incessantly the impression of a bloody carnival..'
Kirchner, 1915: 'Self-portrait as a Soldier', oil on canvas; current location: Allen Memorial Art Museum, Ohio - quote of Eberhard Roters: 'The artist presents himself in the masquerade of a uniform: his face is a mask of isolation: a bleeding arm stump looms out of the right sleeve; the painter's active hand seems chopped off'
Kirchner, 1916: 'Harbour in Frankfurt am Main', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Städel Museum Frankfurt
Kirchner, 1917: 'Head of the sick man / Kopf des Kranken', xylography on paper; location: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart Germany
Kirchner, 1919: 'Winter-moon night / Wintermondnacht', color-woodcut; location, unknown - quote of Kirchner about winter-moonlight, Jan. 1919: 'There was such a wonderful setting of the moon this morning, the yellow moon against little pink clouds, and the mountains a pure deep blue, quite glorious, I would so have liked to paint. But it was cold, even my window was frozen.. ' (some time later he made this wood-cut
Kirchner, 1920: 'Interior with painter / Interieur mit Mahler', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Museum der Phantasie
Kirchner, 1923: 'The Sleigh Ride / Die Schlittenfahrt',oil-painting on canvas; current location: Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg - quote of Kirchner, 1923: 'I see the possibilities of a new kind of painting. With free surfaces, the goal I was always steering towards.'
Kirchner, 1928-29: 'Dancing couple in the snow', current location: National Gallery of Art Washington D.C. quote of Kirchner, 1925-26: 'I begin with movement.. .I believe that all human visual experiences are born from movement..'
Kirchner, 1932-33: 'Two acrobats - sculpture / Akrobatenpaar - Plastik', oil on canvas; current location: de:Kirchner Museum Davos
Kirchner, 1933-35: 'Stil-life with sculpture in front of a window', oil on canvas; location: Estate Günther Ketterer, Bern
Kirchner, 1935-37: 'Archers / Bogenschützen', oil-painting on canvas; current location: de:Kirchner Museum Davos
Kirchner, 1937-38: 'Selfportrait', black chalk drawing; current location: Kirchner Museum Davos

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (6 May 188015 June 1938) was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the artists group Die Brücke (The Bridge).

Quotes of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner[edit]

chronologically ordered, after date of the quotes of Kirchner

Quotes, 1905 - 1915[edit]

  • Believing in development, in a new generation of those who create and those who enjoy, we call together the youth of today. And as a youth which bears the future, we aim to create space to live and work, as opposition to the well-established, older powers. Everyone who reproduces, directly and without illusion, whatever he senses the urge to create, belongs to us.
    • from the group manifesto of Die Brücke, written by Kirchner in Dresden, 1906; as quoted in 'The Artists' Association 'Brücke' – Chronology'[1], Brücke Museum. Retrieved 29 September 2016; from Wikipedia: Kirchner
  • Marcella has now become quite at home and is developing fine features. We have become quite familiar with one another.. .There exists quite a charm in such a pure female, indications that could make one crazy. More fantastic than those of the older girls. More free, without having lost the developed female. Maybe some things are more developed in her than in the more mature ones and will diminish again.
    • quote, 1910; as quoted (and translated) in Claire Louise Albiez (incl. translation), Brücke und Berlin: 100 Jahre Expressionismus; submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida, May 2013, p. 24
    • Marcella was then a favorite model for Kirchner, only 16 years old
  • ..art is made by man. His own figure is the center of all art.. .Therefore one must begin with the man himself.
    • c. 1910; as quoted in: Der Blick auf Fränzi und Marcella: Zwei Modelle der Brücke-Künstler Heckel, Kirchner und Pechstein, Norbert Nobis; Sprengel Museum Hannover und Stiftung Moritzburg, 2011, p 17
  • ..momentarily, we (Erich Heckel, Max Pechstein, and I) are once again at Moritzburg. There is nothing more delightful than nudes in open air.
    • note, 1910; in: ' 'Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: ein Künstlerleben in Selbstzeugnissen' ', Andreas Gabelmann; Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany 2010, p. 36
    • the location was a baroque hunting lodge at the Moritzburg Ponds a few miles from Dresden
  • Completely strange faces pop up as interesting points through the crowd. I am carried along with the current, lacking will. To move becomes an unacceptable effort [describing the crowds in Dresden].
    • quote in a letter to fellow-painter Erich Heckel, from Dresden, before 1910; as quoted in 'the information added to his painting Street, Dresden' by the MOMA museum[2]
  • [carving a sculpture in wood] is such a sensual pleasure when blow by blow the figure grows more and more from the trunk.
    • in a letter to de:Gustav Schieflerfrom Dresden, 27 June, 1911; as quoted in German Expressionist Sculpture, ed. Stephanie Barron, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1983, p. 114
  • The struggle for existence is very difficult here [Berlin! - in 1911 Kirchner and his Brücke-friends moved from Dresden to Berlin], but the possibilities are also greater. I hope that we can create a fruitful new school and convince many new friends of the value of our efforts.
    • quote in a letter to Louise Schiefler, from Berlin, 5 November 1911; as quoted in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Grosstad, Eros und Natur, aus der verborgenen Sammlungen der Region, Städtische Galerie Delmenhorst Germany, 2005, pp. 113-114
    • about the move of Die Brücke artists from Dresden to Berlin, Kirchner was optimistic in the beginning
  • Life is unfixed when one lives in Berlin, where one has to fight for a living. It is painfully base here. I see that a fine, free culture cannot be created under these circumstances and wish to leave as soon as I have overcome this big slump.
    • End of 1911; as quoted in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: ein Künstlerleben in Selbstzeugnissen, Andreas Gabelmann (transl. Claire Louise Albiez); Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany 2010, p. 45
    • remark, shortly after their move to Berlin - the bustle, tempo, and anonymity of city-life soon got tough to Kirchner and the other Brücke members
  • to study the nude, the foundation of all pictorial art, in total freedom and naturalness. From.. ..this basis there emerged the feeling, shared by all, of taking creative stimulus from life itself and submitting to the decisive experience.
    • Kirchner, in 'Chronik KG Brücke', 1913; a quoted by Wolf-Dieter Dube, Der Expressionismus in Wort und Bild (Genf and Stuttgart: Skira, Klett-Cotta, 1983), p. 34; as quoted in 'Portfolios', Alexander Dückers; in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings - Essays Vol 1.; published by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California & Prestel-Verlag, Germany, 1986, p. 68

Quotes, 1916 - 1919[edit]

  • After lengthy struggles I now find myself here [Dr Kohnstamm's sanatorium in Königstein, in Taunus] for a time to put my mind into some kind of order. It is a terribly difficult thing, of course, to be among strangers so much of the day. But perhaps I'll be able to see and create something new. For the time being, I would like more peace and absolute seclusion. Of course, I long more and more for my work and my studio. Theories may be all very well for keeping a spiritual balance, but they are grey and shadowy compared with work and life.
    • Letter from Königstein, Taunus to Dr. Karl Hagemann, January 1916 (friend and patron in Leverkusen and collector of his art); as quoted in the biography-pdf of the Kirchner museum, Davos
    • Kirchner suffered then a serious mental breakdown and was also afraid for being drafted once more in the German army, so back in the war
  • Every day I studied the nude, and movement in the streets and in the shops [in Berlin]. Out of the naturalistic surface with all its variations I wanted to derive the pictorially determined surface.
    • Letter to Botho Graef, 21 September 1916; as quoted in Voices of German Expressionism, ed. Victor H. Miesel, Tate publishing, London 2003 p. 18
  • The heaviest burden of all is the presence of the war and the increasing superficiality. It gives me incessantly the impression of a bloody carnival.. .I am now like the whores, I once painted [in his Berlin-time]: the merest brushstroke now, gone tomorrow. Nonetheless I am still trying to put my thoughts in order and, from all the confusion, create an image of time, which is my task, after all.
    • in a letter from the sanatorium in Köningstein, Taunus, to Gustav Schiefler, 12 November 1916; as quoted in War, art and crisis: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1914 – 1918, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. 2003, p. 28
    • in the Summer of 1915 Kirchner volunteered the German army, but soon suffered a breakdown and was discharged
  • I painted it in Berlin [self-portrait 'The Drinker'], while screaming military convoys were passing beneath my window day and night.
    • In a letter from the sanatorium in Köningstein, Taunus, to Gustav Schiefler, 12 November 1916; as quoted in Expressionism, de:Wolf-Dieter Dube; Praeger Publishers, New York, 1973, p. 46
  • It seems as though the goal of my work has always been to dissolve myself completely into the sensations of the surroundings in order to then integrate this into a coherent painterly form.
    • Letter to Karl Ernst Osthaus, 23 December 1917; as quoted in Kirchner and the Berlin street, ed. Deborah Wye, Moma, New York, 2008, p. 36
  • Down there it's still Summer, I suppose, whereas our sun [in Switzerland] is already gilding the mountains and the larches are turning yellow, but the colours are wonderful, like old, dark red satin. Down here in the valley the huts stand out in the strongest Paris blue against the yellow fields. Here one really learns the values of the individual colours for the first time. And the harsh, monumental lines of the mountains.
    • Letter to Nele van de Velde ((daughter of Henry van de Velde), from Frauenkirch, 13 October 1918; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, pp. 223-224
  • There was such a wonderful setting of the moon this morning, the yellow moon against little pink clouds, and the mountains a pure deep blue [viewed from his Swiss farmhouse], quite glorious, I would so have liked to paint. But it was cold, even my window was frozen, although I had kept the fire in all night.
    • In a letter from Frauenkirch, Jan. 1919; as quoted in Expressionism, de:Wolf-Dieter Dube; Praeger Publishers, New York, 1973, p. 48
    • Some time later Kirchner would made a colored wood-cut: 'Moonlit Winter Night'
  • Bloated, one [=Kirchner himself] staggers off to work, where all work is in vain and the onslaught of mediocrity flattens everything. Like the cocottes that I painted, that is how one is now. Wiped out, next time gone.
    • Kirchner in a letter to Gustav Schiefler, March 28, 1919, in Dube-Heynig, Kirchner: Graphik, p. 49; as quoted in 'Portfolios', Alexander Dückers; in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings - Essays Vol 1.; published by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California & Prestel-Verlag, Germany, 1986, p. 78
  • [The account of a man who sells his shadow is] in actual fact the life story of a persecution complex, that is to say, the paranoid narration of a man who through one event or another is suddenly made aware of his infinite smallness and at the same time finds the means by which to deceive the world in general, concerning this discovery.
    • in a letter to Gustav Schiefler, 27 June, 1919; as quoted by Paul Rabe, in Illustrated Books and Periodicals in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings; The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, Vol. 1.: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989, p. 119
    • for Kirchner the Schlemihl illustrations he made for Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte ('The wondrous story of Peter Schlemihl') were a release from his existential anxieties
  • I am very happy and thankful to be 'here' [Switzerland] and to remain. Here I can at least work a little on my good days, and be at peace among these simple, kindly people. In this solitude I have fought my way through to the possibility of continuing to live, even suffering so much. My time for circuses, 'cocottes' and company is over [referring to his wild 'Brücke'-years in Berlin]. I made what I could out of it, and I do not think it had been done in that way before. Otherwise there is nothing to link me with those 'événements'. During my 7 years in Berlin I let the whole essence of that kind of thing seep into me so thoroughly that I now know it back to front, and can leave it. Now I have other tasks, and they lie here.. .I cannot go down again into the throng. I am more than ever afraid of crowds. But more still, my work here is only at the beginning of its possibilities.
    • Letter to architect Henry van de Velde, from Frauenkirch, 5 July 1919; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, pp. 224-225
  • We Europeans have to toil to achieve it, at least as a transitional stage, for it is what we feed our dreams upon. These Orientals [from India] have it in their blood, perhaps because they spend their lives I the sun. We poor wretched Europeans must sacrifice body and soul for even a shadow of it.. .It is not a question of trying to reproduce objective features, only of good practice for the fingers and for the perceptive faculty, and that too is very useful. You must have read how Van Gogh was always getting his brother to send him drawings to copy. And how Rembrandt used to copy Indian an Italian pictures. Not of course, because they were short of material, but to get 'du corps'. So one should be always drawing.. .Oh, you'd love the Indians. The pure, Aryan Indians, not those one could see in Berlin, whose forms had become rigid and sterile through mingling with the Chinese.
    • Letter to Nele van de Velde ((daughter of Henry van de Velde), from Frauenkirch, 1919/20; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, pp. 224-225
  • They [his 'Street Scene' paintings and drawings,he made in Berlin] originated in the years 1911-14, in one of the loneliest times of my life, during which an agonizing restlessness drove me out onto the streets day and night, which were filled with people and cars.
    • In Notebook entry 'Meine Strasenbilder', 24 Augustus 1919; as quoted in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Meisterwerke der Druckgraphik, M. M. Moeller, Gerd Hatje, Stuttgart 1990 p. 184
  • There is an intellectual guardianship over the world, it is man.. .This is the last judgement, before them you stand.. .They help you when you work. You can thank them only through work. When you want to die, they sometimes appear to you. When you are completely empty and completely open, you belong to them. [after his mental recovery]
    • quote from 'A Painter's Credo' c. 1919; from his Davoser Tagebuch'; from Wikipedia: Kirchner

Quotes, 1920's[edit]

  • The people who live here [in and around Davos] are proud. The hard work, which is done with great love, the way they treat animals (you very seldom see an animal being mishandled) entitle them to be proud. In most cases, work here has reached the ideal standard of being done with love. You can see it in the movements of their hands. And that, in turn, ennobles the facial expression and imbues all personal contacts with a great delicacy.
    • Quote, c. 1920; as quoted by Kornfield, E. W.; Stauffer, Christine E. Stauffer (1992), Biography Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kirchner Museum Davos. Retrieved March 21, 2016; from Wikipedia: Kirchner
  • Many thanks for your letter and the Gauguin woodcuts.. .One can see, incidentally, that Gauguin had Persian miniatures, Indian batik and Chinese art in his very blood. The shapes of the birds and the horse show that clearly. But although it looks very well, Gauguin can't stimulate us present-day artists much. We need a direct route from life to plastic form. And we get it by perpetually drawing everything we see.
    • Letter to Nele van de Velde ((daughter of Henry van de Velde), Frauenkirch, 29 November 1920; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, pp. 224-225
  • You too, find release only in art, you are one of those privileged people who have that gift, and you will be free and at peace so long as you make use of it. Art gives us an inner superiority, for it has scope for every sensation of which human beings are capable, and first and foremost for love, which is the basis for knowledge. The artist loves without wanting to possess, and no one on earth can understand that except other artists, that is why other people think us mad.
    • Letter to Nele van de Velde ((daughter of Henry van de Velde), Frauenkirch, 29 November 1920; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, pp. 224-225
  • All art needs this visible world and will always need it. Quite simply because, being accessible to all, it is the key to all other worlds.
    • Quote from Zeichnungen von E. L. Kirchner, (under his pseudonym de:Louis de Marsalle) E. L. Kirchner, Genius 2, Book 2, 1921, 216-234, reprinted by National Gallery, Washington D.C. 2003, p. 226
  • The technical procedures doubtless release energies in the artist that remain unused in the much more lightweight processes of drawing or painting [referring to his printmaking].
    • Quote from Uber Kirchners Graphik, (under his pseudonym de:Louis de Marsalle) E. L. Kirchner, Genius 3, Book 2, 1922, 251-63, reprinted by National Gallery, Washington D.C. 2003, p. 226
  • Nowhere does one come to know an artist better than in his prints [and] the woodcut is the most graphic of the print processes.
    • quote of 1921; de:Louis de Marsalle, in 'Uber Kirchners Graphik', Genius 3, no. 2, p. 252; as quoted in 'The Revival of Printmaking in Germany', by I. K. Rigby; in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings - Essays Vol 1.; published by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California & Prestel-Verlag, Germany, 1986, p. 39
    • Kirchner expressed the significance of print-making for German Expressionism in general when he wrote this quote
  • Only the artist who has a love and an aptitude for craftsmanship should make prints; only when the artist truly prints himself does the work earn the name original print.
    • quote of 1921; de:Louis de Marsalle, in 'Uber Kirchners Graphik', Genius 3, no. 2, p. 252; as quoted in 'The Revival of Printmaking in Germany', by I. K. Rigby; in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings - Essays Vol 1.; published by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California & Prestel-Verlag, Germany, 1986, p. 40
  • The woodcut is the most graphic of the printmaking techniques. Its practice demands much technical ability and interest. Kirchner's technical skill made woodcutting easy for him. Thus he came in a spontaneous way through the simplification necessary here to a clear style of representation. We see in his woodcuts, which constantly accompanied his creative work, the formal language of the paintings prefigured.
    • de:Louis de Marsalle (pseudonym of Kirchner) Uber Kirchners Graphik, Genius 3, no. 2 (1921), p. 252-53; as quoted in 'The Revival of Printmaking in Germany', I. K. Rigby; in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings - Essays Vol 1.; published by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California & Prestel-Verlag, Germany, 1986, p. 52
  • After the war [1918] etching became Kirchner's favorite medium. He attributed this to its responsiveness. 'Etchings', he wrote, 'develop in the first states the most immediate hieroglyphs. Rich in lively handwriting and rich in variety of motifs, the etchings are like a diary of the painter.'
    • de:Louis de Marsalle, in Uber Kirchners Graphik, Genius 3, no. 2 (1921), p. 258; as quoted in 'The Revival of Printmaking in Germany', I. K. Rigby; in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings - Essays Vol 1.; published by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California & Prestel-Verlag, Germany, 1986, p. 53
  • A primitive power of artistic sensuousness speaks from the prints, which itself develops directly from the graphic technique that is tied to painstaking effort. Like the 'savage' who with patience cuts the figure.. ..out of the hard wood, so the artist creates perhaps his purest and strongest pieces.. ..following the primordial curse, if one may so understand it: from the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread.
    • de:Louis de Marsalle, Uber Kirchners Graphik, Genius 3, no. 2 (1921):, p. 263; as quoted in 'The Revival of Printmaking in Germany', I. K. Rigby; in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings - Essays Vol 1.; published by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California & Prestel-Verlag, Germany, 1986, pp. 52-53
  • The bleak and yet so intimate nature of the mountains has had an enormous impact on the painter. It has deepened his love for his subjects and at the same time purged his vision of everything that is secondary. Nothing inessential appears in the paintings, but how delicately every detail is worked out! The creative thought emerges strongly and nakedly from the finished work. Kirchner is now so taken up with entirely new problems that one cannot apply the old criteria to him if one is to do justice to his work. Those who wish to classify him on the strength of his German paintings will be both disappointed and surprised. Far from destroying him, his serious illness has matured him. Besides his work on visible life, creativity stemming solely from the imagination has opened up its vast potential to him – for this the brief span of his life will probably be far from sufficient.
    • from the 'Preface' of the catalog of Kirchner's Frankfurt exhibition in 1922, (written by Kirchner, about Kirchner under his pseudonym de:Louis de Marsalle); as quoted in the biography-pdf of the Kirchner museum, Davos
  • ..the only certainty is that he [written by Kirchner himself] creates from the forms of the visible world, however close or far from them he desires to or must come.
    • Quote from 'Ein neuer Naturalismus? Eine Rundfrage des Kunstblatts', in 'Das Kunstblatt' 9, 1922; p. 375
  • Our new little house [Kirchner moved to the Wildboden house] is a real joy to us. We shall live here comfortably and in great new order. This will really come to be a turning point of my life. Everything must be put in clear order and the little house furnished as simply and modestly as possible, while still being beautiful and intimate.
    • Quote from his Diary, 1923; as quoted by Kornfield, E. W.; Stauffer, Christine E. Stauffer (1992). Biography Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kirchner Museum Davos. Retrieved March 21, 2016; from Wikipedia: Kirchner
  • ..and the first thing for he artists [of Die Brücke ] was free drawing from the free human figure in the freedom of nature.. .We drew and we painted. Hundreds of paintings a day, with talk and fooling in between, the artists joining the models before the easel and vice versa. All the encounters of everyday life were incorporated in our memories in this way. The studio became the home of the people who were being drawn; they learned from the artists and the painters from them. The picture [ made] took on immediate and abundant life.
    • from Kirchner's Diary, 1923; as quoted in Expressionism, de:Wolf-Dieter Dube; Praeger Publishers, New York, 1973, p. 28-29
  • A happy coincidence brought together [in Die Brücke ]the really talented men whose characters and gifts, even in human terms, left them with no other choice than the profession of artist. This form of living, of dwelling and working, though peculiar for a regular human being, was not a deliberate 'epater le bourgeois', but simply a very naive and pure necessity to harmonize art and life. And it was precisely this more than anything else that so tremendously influenced the forms of present-day art. Of course, it was mostly misunderstood and totally distorted, for there [the will] fashioned the form and gave it meaning, whereas here the unfamiliar form is affixed to habit, like a top hat on a cow.
    • from Kirchner's Diary, 1923; as quoted in Expressionism, a German intuition, 1905-1920, Neugroschel, Joachim; Vogt, Paul; Keller, Horst; Urban, Martin; Dube, Wolf Dieter; (transl. Joachim Neugroschel); publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1980, p. 93
  • I see the possibilities of a new kind of painting. With free surfaces, the goal I was always steering towards.
    • In a letter, 1923; as quoted in Expressionism, de:Wolf-Dieter Dube; Praeger Publishers, New York, 1973, p. 52
  • I see possibilities for a whole new way of painting, in which planes are used more freely. Weaving and embroidery make this possible.
  • I find it increasingly necessary to express my ideas first in engraving or lithography so that they may develop before I start to paint. Every year my form and expression become more sensitive, and my ideas frequently have to pass through three graphic stages before I can start on the canvas.. .I can hear you say no, that is impossible because the value of the colors demands quite different treatment from black and white, but it is the inner idea that I try to establish firmly through graphic preparation.
    • In a letter to de:Gustav Schiefler, 1924, in Annemarie Dube-Heynig, Kirchner: His Graphic Art, Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1961, p. 96 - note 46
  • ..the feeling that pervades a city presented itself in the qualities of lines of force [slight impact of Futurism ]
    • from Diary entry 'Das Werk', 1925, in E. L. Kirchner Davoser Tagebuch, ed. Grisebach, p. 86
  • The beautiful, architectonically constructed, severely formed bodies of these women [his girlfriend in Berlin and life companion, Erna with her sister Gerda] replaced the soft Saxon physique.
    • In an unpublished manuscript 'Die Arbeit E. L. Kirchners', by E. L. Kirchner 1925–1926; as quoted in Kirchner and the Berlin street, ed. Deborah Wye, Moma, New York, 2008, p. 36
  • I begin with movement.. .I believe that all human visual experiences are born from movement..
    • An unpublished manuscript 'Die Arbeit E. L. Kirchners' by E. L. Kirchner 1925–1926; as quoted in Kirchner and the Berlin street, ed. Deborah Wye, Moma, New York, 2008, p. 39
  • Is such a street scene as the blue prostitutes not a picture of fantasy? Of course, only the accusation is really present. But how nice, how powerful, and how removed from nature is the design. The danger of being caught up in the representational did not exist for Kirchner [he is writing about himself, in the third person]. Instead he thought too painterly for that. The graphics and paintings of the 'Streetscenes' show best where purely painterly, one could say non-representational, feelings converged.
    • In: ' 'Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: ein Künstlerleben in Selbstzeugnissen' ', Andreas Gabelmann; Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany 2010, p. 47'(transl. Claire Albiez)
    • Kirchner's quote from 1926, looking back on his many 'Streetscenes' paintings with the prostitutes in Berlin, he painted between 1911-1914
  • Now I'm sitting quietly at home again and I'm happy to be able to work undisturbed. I made a lot of sketches of life in Germany and it was very intriguing to see life there [in Berlin, a stay for three weeks]. I was also glad to see the old pictures of Rembrandt, Dürer, etc. again and to have the confirmation and encouragement they gave me. As for the moderns, I saw damned little that gripped me.. .Modern German painting has moved so far away from me and become unintelligible in areas in which my work had, and still has, an influence; but people like Klee, Kandinsky, etc. have moved much closer to me again, in fact I value the Bauhaus more and more. These people are working and developing. You can see that there is development. And they love their work, which is the main thing.
    • Letter to Dr. Karl Hagemann, 26 March 1926 (short after a stay of 3 weeks in Berlin; as quoted in the biography-pdf of the Kirchner museum, Davos
  • It would be nice if you wouldn't call me an expressionist. I'm really not one. (schön wäre es, wenn Sie mich nicht Expressionisten nennen würden. Ich bin wirklich keiner.]
    • in a handwritten addendum to his letter to de:Gustav Schiefler, 20 October, 1927; from GB vol. 2, no. 411, p. 497; as quoted by Peter H. Fox in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Shadow; from the digital archive Loss and Restitution: The Story of the Grunwald Family Collection by the Hammer Museum

Quotes, 1930's[edit]

  • Here we have been hearing terrible rumours about torture of the Jews [by the Nazis] , but it's all surely untrue. I'm a little tired and sad about the situation up there. There is a war in the air. In the museums, the hard-won cultural achievements of the last 20 years are being destroyed, and yet the reason why founded the Brücke was to encourage truly German art, made in Germany. And now it is supposed to be un-German [Degenerated Art / Entartete Kunst]. Dear God. It does upset me.
  • The new school [in the Swiss village Frauenkirch where Kirchner lived since c. 1919] was inaugurated yesterday. It was a celebration with songs, dancing and speeches, followed by drinking such as I have not seen or experienced in decades. Everyone sat in the 'Post', the village council, the president of the council, the farmers, every one of one accord and friendly. They made a point of including me and so there I was, sitting once again amongst these people who had received me with such kindness and friendliness on the Alp twenty years ago. The relief [in the school, made by Kirchner] has found favour and was mentioned often in the speeches.
  • ..how the movement of the passers-by [in his Street scene painting of 191-14] is comprehended in the rhombus of the heads which is twice repeated. In this way life and movement arise from an original geometric form. [Kirchner designed a diagram together with this line in the letter]
    • Letter to Karl Hagemann, 27 February 1937; as quoted in Kirchner and the Berlin street, ed. Deborah Wye, Moma, New York, 2008, p. 81 - note 31
  • Did you know that in 1900 I had the bold idea of renewing German art?.. .First of all I needed to invent a technique of grasping everything while it was in motion, and it was Rembrandts drawings in the Kupferstichkabinett in Munich that showed me how. I practiced seizing things quickly in bold strokes, wherever I was, walking and standing still.. ..and in this way I learned how to depict movement itself, and I found new forms in the ecstasy and haste of this work.. ..and to these forms was added pure colour, as pure as the sun generates it.. ..in line with Goethe's theory [of colours]. It makes pictures much more colorful. Making wood-cuts, which I'd learnt as a fifteen-year-old from my father, helped me to stabler and simpler forms. And armed in this way I returned to Dresden.
  • [that all differences among the former Brücke members should be put in the past and that] ..every individual conflict must be silenced and that everyone join together in the name of the whole, that is for our modern German art.
    • In a letter to Hans Fehr, 1937; as quoted in Brücke und Berlin: 100 Jahre Expressionismus, Anita Beloubek-Hammer, ed.; Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin 2005, p. 338 (transl. (transl. Claire Albiez)
    • When die Brücke was shown at the infamous 'Degenerate Art' show in Munich by the Nazi's in 1937, Kirchner wrote this to Hans Fehr

undated quotes[edit]

  • I was born near a station. The first things that I saw in my life were the moving locomotives and trains, and I drew them as a three-year-old. Perhaps it is because of this that observations of movement are my impetus for my inspiration to create. Out of this I receive a creative experience of life, which is the source of creativity.
    • In: ' 'Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: ein Künstlerleben in Selbstzeugnissen' ', Andreas Gabelmann; Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany 2010, p. 17 (transl. Claire Albiez)
    • Kirchner had been inspired by movement and trains his whole life. He painted a. o. 'Nollendorfplatz' in West Berlin - it was one of the stops on the first electrical tram (Straßenbahn) in 1896, according to 'Lexicon der Berliner Stadtentwicklung'. Berlin, 2002. The Underground (Untergrundbahn) followed in 1902, also with a stop at 'Nollendorfplatz'
  • [the way of life of Die Brücke artists] though strange to the ordinary man, was not meant to shock, it was a pure and simple compulsion to integrate art and life..
    • In: ' 'Expressionism, a German Intuition, 1905-1920' ': [Exhibition 1980-81]; Paul Vogt, Horts Keller, Martin Urban, Wolf-Dieter Dube, and Eberhard Roters; Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1980, p. 7
  • [that] simple people brought their bodies and shared their scanty bread with the artists. Kirchner learned the course of life again in their houses.
    • later quote of Kirchner (writing in the third person); as quoted in Claire Louise Albiez, in Brücke und Berlin: 100 Jahre Expressionismus; submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida, May 2013, p. 38
    • about the relaxed atmosphere, not only found in die Brücke's ateliers, but also through the Brücke-artists' contact to common people in the working quarter of the city of Dresden, c. 1906-10
  • The desire that drives an artist to graphic work is perhaps partly the effort to capture the unique and indefinite nature of a drawing in a fixed and durable form. Another aspect of it is that the technical manipulations exercise energies in the artist that he does not use in the far less strenuous crafts of drawing and painting.. .the mysterious attraction that surrounded the invention of printing in the Middle Ages is still felt by anyone who takes up graphics seriously and performs every stage in the process wit hits own hands.
  • I already realized [that time] that only a new study of nature and a new attitude towards life would bring the much-needed renewal of German art.
    • In: Brücke und Berlin: 100 Jahre Expressionismus, Anita Beloubek-Hammer, ed.; Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin 2005, p. 26 (translation: Claire Louise Albiez)
    • looking back to his early art-student years in Munich [c. 1903/4], when he was standing before the artdeco paintings of Leo Putz and Fritz Erler
  • ..he [Kirchner, writing about himself] was especially interested in the naturally naked human being. He knowingly broke the traditional manner of the nude study and created for himself in his studio [in his Brücke-years in Berlin] a circle of young women, whom he studied in their free movement. Thousands of drawings and hundreds of paintings and studies resulted from this. A beautiful, healthy, blossoming sensuality that never turns base emanates from these works.
    • Kirchner; as quoted in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: ein Künstlerleben in Selbstzeugnissen, Andreas Gabelmann (Claire Louise Albiez, translation); Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany 2010, p. 28
  • I found it very difficult to suddenly depart [from Berlin] since this year I had risen completely in the landscape and life and hardly needed awareness to access this place.
  • (original German: 'Es fiel mir schwer, so plötzlich abzureisen, da ich dies Jahr vollständig in der Landschaft und dem Leben da oben aufging und nur fast ohne Bewusstsein zuzugreifen brauchte.')
    • as quoted in: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: ein Künstlerleben in Selbstzeugnissen, Andreas Gabelmann; Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany 2010, p. 41 (transl. Claire Albiez )
    • As Kirchner had been busying himself with nature images since the Summer of 1913, the outbreak of World War 1. brought him back to reality; as he describes here

Quotes about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
  • he [Kirchner] dwelled here in a living situation that a bourgeois would deem uncharacteristic, materially simple, but sophisticated in his artistic sensibility. He worked feverishly, without concerning himself with the time of day.
    • observation of de:Gustav Schiefler, 1910; as quoted in: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: ein Künstlerleben in Selbstzeugnissen, Andreas Gabelmann; Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany 2010, p. 34 as quoted by Louise Albiez (incl. translation), Brücke und Berlin: 100 Jahre Expressionismus; submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida, May 2013, p. 14
    • de:Gustav Schiefler was the Hamburg provincial court director and Kirchner's first sponsor and collector
  • Kirchner lived in an Atelier that he had assembled out of an attic apartment. Every piece of furniture, every carpet was created by him. When one entered his room, one felt as if they were on another star or a faraway century.
    • note of de:Karl Theodor Bluth, c. 1912-14; as quoted in Brücke und Berlin: 100 Jahre Expressionismus, ed. Anita Beloubek-Hammer (Claire Louise Albiez, translation), Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin 2005, p. 220
    • after visiting Kirchner in his studio: Koernerstrasse 45, Berlin, the philosopher and poet Karl Theodor Bluth wrote this
  • [Kirchner's studio was] that of a real bohemian, full of paintings lying all over the place, drawings, books and artist's materials — much more like an artist's romantic lodgings than the home of a well-organised architecture student.
    • Fritz Bleyl c. 1915, in Kirchner - Expressionism and the city, Royal Academy, 2003 - retrieved 7 September 2007; from Wikipedia: Kirchner
    • Bleyl is describing the studio of Kirchner in Dresden, who was first an architecture student, like Bleyl himself
  • We [Kirchner and Bleyl] established [c. 1902-03, in Dresden] a friendly relationship at once, and, striving for the same goals, we quickly developed a close friendship. We were constantly together, either at the Hochschule [Architecture], in our lodgings, or taking walks in the evenings, in the Grosser Garten in Dresden. We were never without pencil and paper.
    • Fritz Bleyl c. 1915 - looking back; as quoted in Expressionism, Wolf-Dieter Dube; Praeger Publishers, New York, 1973, p. 23
  • A colourfully painted curtain concealed a large collection of paintings [in Kirchner's studio in Berlin]. When we began to look at them, he came alive. Together with me, he saw all his experiences drift by on canvas, the small, timid-looking woman set aside what we had seen and brought a bottle of wine. He made short explanatory remarks in a weary voice. Each picture had its own particular colourful character, a great sadness was present in all of them; what I had previously found to be incomprehensible and unfinished now created the same delicate and sensitive impression as his personality. Everywhere a search for style, for psychological understanding of his figures. The most moving was a self-portrait in uniform with his right hand cut off. Then he showed me his travel permit for Switzerland. He wanted to go back to Davos.. ..and implored me to ask father for a medical certificate..
  • Eberhard Grisebach[3], in a letter March 1917 to Helen Spengler; as quoted by E. W. Kornfield, Stauffer, Christine E. Stauffer (1992). Biography Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kirchner Museum Davos. Retrieved March 21, 2016; from Wikipedia: Kirchner
    • Grisebach visited Kirchner in his studio in Berlin, March 1917; after his leaving of the German army in war, and during his mental crisis
  • a true victim of the war; the hellish delusion of being sent back into battle had deranged him and flung him helplessly onto the shabby bed of a third-class hotel. . . . In Davos I found an emaciated man with a piercing, feverish gaze, who saw imminent death before his eyes.
    • In a letter of Belgian artist Henry van de Velde, 1917:as quoted by Peter H. Fox in his essay 'Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Shadow'; from the digital archive Loss and Restitution: The Story of the Grunwald Family Collection by the Hammer Museum, 2017 - note 7
  • A tragedy had been quietly enacted here over the last few months. Because of the defamation in Germany [in 1937 a total of 639 works by Kirchner were confiscated by the Nazi-regime: Degenerate Art] and the failure of the November exhibition in Basle.. ..he [=Kirchner] chose a radiantly beautiful day, 15 June, to put an end to his life. I shall spare you the details. He had been suffering grievously until he was able to make this decision.
  • one day [c. 1905-07], Kirchner brought with him a volume from some bookstore with pictures of Meier-Graefe about the modern French artists. We were enthralled.
    • Fritz Bleyl, as quoted in: Brücke' Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Druckgraphik, Magdalena M. Moeller; Verlag Gerd Hatje, Stuttgart 1992, p. 14; as quoted by Louise Albiez (incl. translation), Brücke und Berlin: 100 Jahre Expressionismus; submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida, May, 2013 p. 8
  • In the days that I spent in Dresden [before 1911].. ..I was together with Kirchner and Heckel a great deal.. .Here they led a singular bohemian life, liberated from any ordering of day-times and mealtimes; when they had the impulse they worked the whole night through and slept through the morning. I was convinced that they not infrequently lived on coffee, cake, and cigarettes.. .When the lamps were lit, we sat on benches and crouched over the batiked fabrics that were spread around the low table and looked at the portfolios with hand drawings and printed sheets; all the time strange, grotesque sculptures peered over our shoulders. The two showed me how they etched their lithographs, printed their etchings, and Kirchner drew two.. ..portraits of me with the dry-point needle.
    • Gustav Schiefler[4], Meine Graphiksammlung, 1974; editor, Gerhard Schack. Publisher, Christians, p. 5; as quoted in 'The Revival of Printmaking in Germany', I. K. Rigby; in German Expressionist Prints and Drawings - Essays Vol 1.; published by Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California & Prestel-Verlag, Germany, 1986, p. 41 – note 14
  • In spring 1915, the recruit, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, was furloughed from his field artillery unit because he did not prove adequate to the demand of service. The diagnosis said: "because of affected lungs and feebleness." But the true cause was a profound physical and spiritual crisis, which brought him to a sanatorium in Königstein, Taunus. Artistic efforts at overcoming the trauma are revealed in works such as the 1915 'Self-Portrait as a Soldier'. The artist presents himself in the masquerade of a uniform: his face is a mask of isolation: a bleeding arm stump looms out of the right sleeve; the painter's active hand seems chopped off.
    • de:Eberhard Roters, in Big-City Expressionism: Berlin and German Expressionism; as quoted in Expressionism, a German intuition, 1905-1920, Neugroschel, Joachim; Vogt, Paul; Keller, Horst; Urban, Martin; Dube, Wolf Dieter; (transl. Joachim Neugroschel); publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1980, p. 247
  • Kirchner superimposes [in his series Street Scene painting from Berlin], (de:Straßenszenen) a jaded artificiality over its excitement and glamour, situating the garish yet exotic streetwalker in an atmosphere suggesting loneliness and alienation, as well as agitation and danger. Paint is applied in spontaneous, splintered brushstrokes that create jagged forms and express an immediacy and energy that approximate the stimulating yet hectic urban environment.
    • Deborah Wye, in 'Introduction: Stetting the Stage', Kirchner and the Berlin street, MOMA, New York 2008, p. 17
  • More than any of the other artists, Kirchner translated the staccato rhythm of the music into visual means; the legs of dancers become solid entities and almost dashes in his 1910 Hamburger Tänzerinnen (Hamburg Dancers) (Fig. 34). All weight of this image is on the legs, as they are the largest parts of the scene and are rendered fully in black. Moreover, the repeating subject of the three dancers each doing identical leg lifts creates a vibrating back-and-forth. In this quick sketch, Kirchner manages to relay the unified spirit of this performance.
    • Claire Louise Albiez, in Brücke und Berlin: 100 Jahre Expressionismus; submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida, May 2013, p. 40

External links[edit]

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