Lot 39
  • 39

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

5,000,000 - 7,000,000 GBP
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  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
  • signed E L Kirchner (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 120 by 151cm.
  • 47 1/4 by 59 1/2 in.


Joseph Feinhals, Cologne (acquired from the artist in 1912)
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne (received as a gift from the above in 1927; deaccessioned as 'degenerate art' in 1937)
Sale: Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, Gemälde und Plastiken moderner Meister aus deutschen Museen, 30th June 1939, lot 62
Dr. Alexander Zschokke, Basel (purchased at the above sale)
Dr. Peter Zschokke, Basel (by descent from the above)
Sale: Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, 21st June 1991, lot 56
Purchased at the above sale by the present owners



Berlin, Neue Secession, IV Ausstellung, 1911-12, no. 16 (titled Theaterplatz mit Blattpflanzen)
Cologne, Städtische Ausstellungshalle am Aachener Tor, Internationale Kunstausstellung des Sonderbundes Westdeutscher Kunstfreunde und Künstler, 1912, no. 431, illustrated in the catalogue
Munich, Ausstellung Entartete Kunst, 1937, no. 16137
Bern, Kunsthalle, Brücke, 1948, no. 62
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1952, no. 39
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Park und Garten in der Malerei, 1957, no. 78, illustrated in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Europäische Kunst 1912, 1962, no. 79, illustrated in the catalogue
Berlin, Nationalgalerie; Munich, Haus der Kunst; Cologne, Museum Ludwig in der Kunsthalle & Zurich, Kunsthaus, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1979-80, no. 123, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Archives, vol. I, no. 115, listed
Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, no. 10, 1912, illustrated p. 23
Hans F. Secker, Die Galerie der Neuzeit im Museum Wallraf-Richartz, Leipzig, 1927, illustrated in colour pl. 46
Franz Roh, Entartete Kunst, Kunstbarbarei im Dritten Reich, Hanover, 1962, mentioned p. 210
Helmut R. Leppien, 'Kirchner und die Kölner Sonderbund-Ausstellung', in Jahrbuch der Hamburger Kunstsammlungen, Hamburg, 1966, no. 3, illustrated, p. 111
Donald E. Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1968, no. 198, illustrated p. 294
Donald E. Gordon, Modern Art Exhibitions 1900-1916, Munich, 1974, vol. I, no.1031, illustrated p. 225
Stephanie Barron, 'Degenerate Art' – The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, New York, 1991, illustrated p. 158


The canvas is unlined. There are two thin lines of retouching to the lower left quadrant; some minor areas of retouching towards the centre of the lower edge; a small area of retouching in the white dress of the woman to the left; and some minor areas of retouching at the upper extreme edge and to the lower right corner, visible under ultra-violet light. Otherwise this work is in good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the greens are slightly richer 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

Kirchner's monumental Das Boskett: Albertplatz in Dresden is a highly sophisticated blend of Brücke boldness allied with cosmopolitan allure. Painted in 1911, the year in which Kirchner and the Brücke group moved from Dresden to Berlin,  the present work was one of the artist's last canvases to depict the topography of Dresden, the capital of Saxony where he came of age as an artist and as a man. The Albertplatz in Dresden was one of the epicentres for life and traffic in the heart of the city (fig. 1), on the north bank of the Elbe, and the railed, circular arrangement of plants, dominated by the exotic palm trees, forms the centre of the square and the focal point of Kirchner's composition.

The topography of Dresden and Berlin were crucial themes in the work of the Brücke artists. Deborah Wye writes of the topographical theme in Kirchner's work: 'Many of [Kirchner's] urban vistas focus on recognisable buildings, bridges, train stations, and monuments, with people appearing only incidentally, if at all. Some views, leaning toward the picturesque, even hint at the artist's early training in architecture. In images of Dresden, a sense of documentation prevails, and often an air of gentility. In those representing Berlin, compositions are either benign in impact or bold, depending on the subject at hand. In many examples, the emphasis is on such artistic concerns as innovative perspective, color, or composition, while the prevailing mood might be described as neutral, instead of invested with psychological or symbolic urgency' (D. Wye, 'Motif and Meaning: Cities, Nudes and Dancers', in Kirchner and the Berlin Street (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, p. 33).

The Brücke group was known as much for its portrayal of the countryside outside Dresden as for its depictions of the city itself. Kirchner's and his fellow artists' bathing trips to the Moritzburg Ponds were documented in many of their finest paintings of the landscape and the nude. The notion of the Freikörperkultur, the free expression of the human body in nature, was central to their work and to their activities of this period. In Das Boskett: Albertplatz in Dresden, however, nature is brought into the very heart of the city itself and this scene would have appealed to Kirchner because of its unifying of the city and nature. The genteel figures sitting on a bench in the background or walking up and down the pavements, are prescient of his later street scenes. The figure in the very foreground, posed against the railings in a pink coat and hat that connect her with the mauve-pink of the roundabout beneath her feet, is very much at the heart of the action.

In 1911 Kirchner's desire for pure expression became paramount. In Das Boskett: Albertplatz in Dresden the artist brilliantly expresses himself through form and colour from which the painting itself then acts as a springboard for emotional responses. In the same year Kandinsky had written his great treatise On the Spiritual in Art which stated that very sensation: 'In a mysterious puzzling way and mystical way, the true work of art arises from out of the artist, once released from him it assumes its own independent life, takes on a personality, and becomes self-sufficient, spiritually breathing subject that also leads a real material life: it is a being... It lives, and acts and plays a part in the creation of the spiritual atmosphere [...]' (quoted in Kenneth C. Lindsay & Peter Vergo (ed.), Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, London, 1982, p. 210). 

The city's meeting-points are a recurrent theme in Kirchner's œuvre, both in the Dresden and Berlin periods of his Brücke activity (figs. 2-4). The idea of the intersection was both a topographical and a social one: the coming-together of thoroughfares and people, the meeting-places of the modern metropolis, was a rich thematic seam in Expressionism: points in the city-space where all strata of society met. These intersices of the city would later be embodied in the appearance of the street-walker, such as in Potsdamer Platz from Kirchner's later Berlin years where the human figure became ever more central to his cityscapes (see fig. 4). In Das Boskett: Albertplatz in Dresden the focus is still very much on the decorative, schematic impact that the city's architecture, roads and street furniture create.

The Brücke artists' interest in ethnography and the artefacts and cultures of the South Seas are reflected perhaps in Kirchner's choice of location in Das Boskett: Albertplatz in Dresden. The exoticism of the palm trees is placed at the very centre of the composition and dominates the scene. Donald E. Gordon writes of Kirchner's Dresden works from 1911 and their connection to other cultures: 'Kirchner's paintings from the spring and summer of 1911 – his last to be created in Dresden and Moritzburg – reveal important style-changes which reflect the profound artistic reorientation of these months. At the very moment when Kandinsky (through non-objective painting) and the futurist painters (through their first manifestos) tried to divorce painting irrevocably from its prior traditions, Kirchner sought in the earliest of all traditions the untapped sources for a new art' (D. E. Gordon, op. cit., pp. 73-74).

Above all, it is the fauve-like and vivid colour-palette that renders Das Boskett: Albertplatz in Dresden so emblematic of Kirchner's new-found voice and of his Expressionist style in these Dresden works. The present work is a powerful precursor to the extraordinarily daring cityscapes that would follow in Berlin. In its schematic treatment of form and space, it renders the cityscape of Dresden in a modernist way that represents – as Donald E. Gordon suggests – an entirely 'new art': one that would secure Kirchner's position as the most influential of all the Brücke artists.


Fig. 1, Albertplatz in Dresden, circa 1905

Fig. 2, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Nollendorfplatz, 1912, oil on canvas, Stadtmuseum, Berlin

Fig. 3, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Strasse am Stadtpark Schöneberg, circa 1912-13, oil on canvas, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee 

Fig. 4, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Potsdamer Platz, 1914, oil on canvas, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin