“People become artists out of despair." - The German expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

6 May 1880, the German expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was born in Aschaffenburg
“People become artists out of despair." (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner)

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: "Brandenburger Tor" (Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 1915)

The prerequisites for being a true blue artistic personality didn’t change very much from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Being sickly, full of angst, abusing narcotics, depicting the demi-monde in paintings and verse, running around in the nekkid and revolutionising art all around still were almost standardised matters of behaviour when a group of German artists formed “Die Brücke” (the Bridge) in Dresden in 1905. In contrast to the French fauvists, mental, emotional, even spiritual aspects played a far greater role above and beyond form, colour and composition and Expressionism dawned over the European art world, along with the looming convulsions of the Great War. And Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, founding member of the “Brücke” was busy causing one scandal after the other while he painted some quintessential examples of Expressionistic art.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: "The Visit-Couple and Newcomer" (1922)

“Gutter art” - the Kaiser’s verdict from 1915 was already casting shadows – naturally, Kirchner’s paintings were banned as “entartete Kunst”, degenerate art, by the Nazi regime, the retaliation on the Bohemians of the shocked petty bourgeois Nazi regime. And as much as Kirchner enjoyed himself of being above and beyond society as an artist, the Nazi’s total ostracism of his works as well as his person finally did it for him. He committed suicide in 1938, already living in exile in Switzerland, after a life full of controversies and self-destruction. From wilful drug abuse to render himself unfit for frontline service in the Great War to a point that his health never recovered from it to a completely paranoid dealing with criticism, people were either for or radically against him in his rather disturbed mindscape, Kirchner left nothing out.  And still was one of the leading artists of the first half of the 20th century.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: “Potsdamer Platz” (1914)

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