June 28, 2011

Ernst Kirchner

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was born in Bavaria in 1880. When he began to paint he was influenced by Neo-Impressionism but, by 1904, the influence of the Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch and of African and oriental art helped him to simplify his use of form and color. The dominant member of Die Brücke, Kirchner worked with his friends in Dresden, graduated from architectural school in 1907, and then, with the members of Die Brücke, went to Berlin. It was there, between 1911 and 1914, that he painted his most famous works, portraying the eerie, worldly, and artificial life that was then typical of Berlin. He painted portraits and street scenes distorting their forms and features into what he called "hieroglyphics," tinting them with unreal colors, and blending them into abstraction. While serving in the German Army, in 1916, Kirchner fell seriously ill and, in 1917, he left Germany for Switzerland, where he remained, constantly fighting against various ailments. In 1933, Kirchner was labeled as a degenerate artist by the Nazis. In 1937, 600 of his works were confiscated from public museums in Germany and were sold or destroyed. In 1938, the psychological traumas of these events, along with the oppressive Nazi occupation of Austria, close to his home, led the emotionally fragile Kirchner to commit suicide.

Life can be full of distortions. A reality that is difficult to recognize, navigate. Our own being is subject to abstractions. Life is not always clear like the mountain water cascading down. Life can be unclear, decisions uncertain. This can cause fear but we must take care not to let that happen. For every problem, there is a solution. For every tree blocking the road, there is an alternative path. Abstraction should not cause confusion or fear if we view it in the proper context.

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