Lot 18
  • 18

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

350,000 - 550,000 GBP
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  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
  • signed E.L. Kirchner and dated 04 (lower right); marked with the Nachlass stamp on the reverse
  • colour chalks and charcoal on paper
  • 89.5 by 66cm.
  • 35 1/4 by 26in.


Estate of the artist
Rüdiger Graf von der Goltz, Düsseldorf (acquired by 1958)
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1976)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1985


Bern, Kunsthalle, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1933, no. 122
Essen, Museum Folkwang, Brücke 1905-1913, eine Künstlergemeinschaft des Expressionismus, 1958, no. 79
Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts aus rheinisch-westfälischem Privatbesitz, 1967, no. 161
Bielefeld, Kunsthalle, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner aus Privatbesitz: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Grafik, 1969, no. 27, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Mädchen mit Hut and as dating from circa 1904)


Executed on a strong sheet of cream wove paper, not laid down, hinged to the mount on the reverse of the top two corners. The sheet has some surface dirt and slight undulations, and there are artist's pinholes at the top and bottom edges. There are a few small repaired tears at the extreme right edge, and various nicks and small losses at the edges, not visible when mounted. There are two diagonal flattened creases in the lower right corner, a horizontal flattened crease running above the lower edge, and some other smaller flattened creases with associated pigment loss. The area around the woman's hat shows small spots from liquid staining (visible in the catalogue illustration). The current framing arrangement allows viewing of both recto and verso. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the paper tone is slightly less warm and the blacks are stronger in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Executed in Dresden in 1908, Sitzendes Mädchen mit Hut is a rare and important drawing, marking a stylistic shift in Kirchner's work, as he embraced an increasingly Expressionist, avant-garde manner. Donald E. Gordon argued that the 'most important factor in Kirchner's artistic maturation during the early Brücke years was, in his own view, a slow and arduous progress in draftsmanship. Exposed to academic drawing instruction [...], it was nevertheless through long self-training in Dresden that he gradually learned that exact representation could not be achieved through objective faithfulness to nature' (D. E. Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Cambridge, 1968, p. 19). As the artist himself wrote: 'Through the speed of work (moving, walking, not holding still until one was finished), abbreviations took place in sketches, paintings and sculptures. I was struck with astonishment: there was after all a form which could represent, say, a man or a movement exactly and for all that, depart from the objective form in nature. Was it perhaps possible in this manner to produce an art, understandable to all (though not their ideal in photographic faithfulness to nature) - an art in a language of symbolic form?' (quoted in ibid., p. 19).


As was often his practice, Kirchner himself backdated this drawing to 1904. It was, however, executed in 1908, according to the Kirchner Archives, and stylistically belongs to this period, characterised by a strong, Fauve-like use of colour, a flattening of the picture plane and a distortion of perspective, all elements that reflect his interest in moving away from literal representation of reality towards a more avant-garde pictorial concept. This stylistic shift was certainly inspired by his first-hand experience of Van Gogh's art, exhibited in Dresden in 1905. Also during the formative years of Die Brücke, Kirchner and his fellow artists had the opportunity to see works by Gauguin, Munch and the Fauve painters. Of particular influence were the brightly coloured canvases by Matisse (fig. 4), whose vivid palette and disregard for naturalistic representation had a lasting effect not only on Kirchner, but also on other avant-garde artists working in Germany at this time. Like Emil Nolde and other group members, he was also interested in the simple, expressive style of sculptures from New Guinea which he had seen in the Dresden Ethnographic Museum.


Since the early Die Brücke years, Kirchner was fascinated with the subject of the human figure. As was the case with most of the female figures that appear in Kirchner's works of this period, the model in the present work is most likely his companion, Doris 'Dodo' Grosse, a Dresden milliner who was recognisable by the dark coiffure and hats that she often wore (figs. 1, 3 & 5). The dynamic of the present composition is derived from the contrast between the areas of solid black charcoal and the free-flowing, spontaneous lines of colour chalks. The large figure of the woman, occupying the entire sheet, attests to the confidence and technical mastery Kirchner had achieved by this time.


Another characteristic of Kirchner's Dresden years was a tendency to depict a picture within a picture. In the present composition, a drawing of a nude occupies the upper left corner, which helps identify the setting as the artist's studio. During this time, Kirchner transformed his studio into a bohemian space populated with exotic objects as well as his own paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs. Describing Kirchner's Berlin studio, Jill Lloyd noted: 'By covering his dingy studio with exotic decorations, piercing its confines with a mirror or doorway, or pinning a freshly painted canvas to its grey walls, Kirchner did more than imaginatively expand the physical limits of the place. As time progressed, the works of art which reappear in his studio compositions as pictures within pictures enabled Kirchner to transcend the mundane reality of the room to reveal a symbolic or metaphysical realm where the relationship between art and life could be called into question' (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: The Dresden and Berlin Years (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2003, p. 15).

Fig. 1, Doris (Dodo) Grosse and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, circa 1910, photograph, Kirchner Museum, Davos

Fig. 2, verso of the present work: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Two Bathers in a Tub, 1914, charcoal on paper

Fig. 3, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Sitzende junge Frau mit Hut und Zigarette, 1909, colour chalks and ink on paper, Sprengel Museum, Hanover

Fig. 4, Henri Matisse, La Femme au chapeau, 1905, oil on canvas, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

Fig. 5, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Dodo mit grossem Federhut, 1911, oil on canvas, Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee