Author(s): Sandra Gianfreda
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's move from Dresden to Berlin in 1911 marked a turning point in his art. Under the influence of the most modern metropolis in Europe, during the years between 1912 and 1915 the artist created works whose exaggerated and condensed styl e could be regarded as a true metaphor for the attitude to life during the early years of the twentieth century. During this time of rapid change the capital of the German Empire promised progress and countless opportunities, but also danger and profound e xistential fear. The city was not only the centre of industry, which continued to grow unchecked, but also of increasing motorised traffic and, with three million inhabitants, it was the biggest "city of tenement blocks" in Europe. But Berlin was also the metropolis of the arts, of hedonism, prostitution and accordingly of a sexuality that could be lived to the full as never before. Berlin vibrated with challenging energy and intellectual challenges. In this melting pot of opportunities and risks Kirchner c reated pictures of breathless, existential directness which he launched unerringly at the conventions of the Wilhelminian age.
The main area of focus of the publication will lie on this dialectic and the resulting tension. It will reproduce Kirchner's grea test masterpieces, and in order to demonstrate the profound changes in his style, a representative selection of his early works from Dresden will also be shown alongside the paintings, drawing s and prints from the time in Berlin.
Sandra Gianfreda is an art historian and curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich.