Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
- Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
- Waldstrasse (Forest Road)
- signed EL Kirchner (lower right); signed EL Kirchner and titled on the reverse
- oil on canvas
- 80.4 by 70.5cm.
- 31 5/8 by 27 3/4 in.
Dr Arthur Weisz, New York (acquired by 1955)
Edith B. Weisz, New York (by descent from the above. Sold: Christie's, London, 4th February 2002, lot 30)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
London, Tate Gallery, Painters of the Brücke, 1964, no. 82 (as dating from 1913)
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1969, no. 23, illustrated in the catalogue
Donald E. Gordon, Modern Art Exhibitions 1900-1916, Munich, 1974, vol. II, listed p. 421
Kirchner, joined by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel and Fritz Bleyl (later replaced by Max Pechstein), founded the Brücke group in Dresden in June 1905. Like Matisse and the Fauves who pushed the boundaries of colour at Collioure from 1905, Picasso and the Cubists who explored the idea of form at L’Estaque, and Kandinsky and the Blaue Reiter who harnessed colour’s emotive potential in Murnau, Kirchner and the Brücke set about divesting painting of its traditional concerns of narrative representation and three-dimensional illusion. Instead they focused on the sensations it could provoke and the essential qualities of art as it transcended cultural boundaries, taking inspiration from the art and design of primitive and exotic cultures.
Technically, Kirchner went further than most to introduce new textures and tonal qualities to his works. Using paints with as little oil as possible on thickly woven, lightly primed canvases, the raw colours remain strikingly vibrant yet almost fresco-like in their opacity, and would remain so when kept in their unvarnished state. Where Kirchner went the other Brücke painters often followed, and in the landscapes of 1910 and 1911 by Schmidt-Rottluff and Heckel (fig. 1) we can see the impact of Kirchner’s experimentation on their vivid colourist landscapes.
In 1910 Kirchner made a further innovation – extensively applying thick black lines to both outline his composition and add contrast to the brighter areas of colour as well as giving added sense of energy. As Donald Gordon points out: ‘The black contours themselves begin to take on expressive autonomy [...]. The black contours in Forest Road [the present work] and in In the Forest [fig. 2] are so varied in length and direction that they exceed their role as mere outline in order to vie for pictorial dominance with the intense blue, green, and orange tones used for objects’ (D. E. Gordon, op. cit., 1968, pp. 67-68).
The present work was shown at the last, largest and most ambitious exhibition the Brücke group held in Dresden at the Galerie Ernst Arnold in 1910. Alongside eighty-eight works chosen by the group, Waldstrasse made its first public appearance, marking the new direction the artist was taking. The following year was to be his last in Dresden before moving to Berlin with other members of the Brücke, however the pivotal changes to his painting style were well and truly made in works such as Waldstrasse.