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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner


Born in Aschaffenberg, Germany on May 6, 1880 , Ernst Ludwig Kirchner studied architecture in Dresden beginning in 1901. While in Dresden, he befriended three other young architecture students, Erich Heckel, Karl-Schmidt Rottluff, and Fritz Bleyl. This young group was drawn together by their desire to become painters as well as their dislike of modern painting. They began calling themselves Die Brücke which described their liking of "all revolutionary and surging elements". The group sought inspiration in such painters as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch as well as the primitive arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands.

Kirchner's own artistic development began with woodcuts he created in the years before 1900. After studying architecture, he studied painting in Munich and was influenced there by Art Nouveau styles as well as the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer. In Munich, Kirchner's style of painting developed as he began using bold colors, remniscent of Gauguin, and wild brushstrokes reminsiscent of Van Gogh. The portrayal of subjects conveys the emotional intensity found in the woodcuts of Dürer and Munch.

With the onset of World War I, Kirchner entered service and in 1915, he suffered a nervous breakdown and physical collapse. He moved to a sanitarium near Frankfurt, where he completed five wall frescoes in 1916, but was struck by a car and severely injured. In 1918 he moved near Davos, Switzerland to convelesce, but continued to suffer from depression despite solo shows held in Munich, Hamburg, and New York.

His inclusion in Entartete Kunst, the Nazi's 1937 exhibition of so-called “degenerate art,” along with the destruction of approximately 600 of his completed works, caused him further distress. Kirchner committed suicide on June 15, 1938 in Davos.

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