ernst lud­wig kirch­ner

1880-1938 This am­bi­tious young bo­hemian over­came a break­down To be­come Ger­many’s Most cel­e­brated artist – only for his world To come crash­ing down un­der The nazi regime

All About History - - TORTURED ARTISTS -

When World War I broke out, Ger­man artist Ernst Lud­wig Kirch­ner, like many of his con­tem­po­raries, joined the war ef­fort.

Un­like many other young men, how­ever, Kirch­ner was an an un­will­ing vol­un­teer, re­luc­tantly ap­ply­ing to be­come an ar­tillery driver.

Used to the bo­hemian life, Kirch­ner had been a found­ing mem­ber of Die Brücke (‘The Bridge’) whose lib­er­ated views were key in the evo­lu­tion of Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­ism. Months into his train­ing and ad­dicted to both al­co­hol and sleep­ing pills, Kirch­ner had a men­tal break­down and was dis­charged in Novem­ber 1915. Kirch­ner never ac­tu­ally served, but the hor­rors of war left their mark on his work, in par­tic­u­lar in his Self-por­trait as a Soldier, de­pict­ing him­self mu­ti­lated, his back turned on his old life.

Fol­low­ing his break­down, Kirch­ner sought treat­ment in a sana­to­rium in Switzer­land in 1916, where he re­mained for a cou­ple of years. In 1918, he moved to a small vil­lage in the Swiss Alps. In the in­ter-war years, Kirch­ner’s evoca­tive work gath­ered a keen fol­low­ing in his home coun­try. But not ev­ery­one ap­pre­ci­ated his ex­pres­sive, prim­i­tive art. In the 1930s Kirch­ner’s works were rounded up by the Nazis and in 1937 sev­eral of his art­works were ex­hib­ited in the ‘De­gen­er­ate

Art Ex­hi­bi­tion’ in Mu­nich. Con­sid­ered a badge of pride for many artists who were re­pulsed by the regime, the ‘hon­our’ was Kirch­ner’s un­do­ing. The fol­low­ing year he shot him­self.

Kirch­ner painted this self-por­trait in his army uni­form just be­fore he was ad­mit­ted to a sana­to­rium in 1915

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