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Dresden and Berlin 1905–1918
Supported by the RA Exhibition Patrons Group
28 June - 21 September 2003

Royal Academy of Arts

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938) is widely acknowledged as the greatest artist of German Expressionism. Compelling and emotive, Kirchner's work is characterised by bold, energetic use of colour and a primitive vitality. Focusing on Kirchner's most creative and innovative years between 1905 and 1918, the exhibition explores how the celebratory, dynamic spirit of his Dresden paintings develops into the complex, dramatic mood of the Berlin scenes, ending with a selection of works from the beginning of the First World War. Including over 100 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, this is the first major exhibition of Kirchner's work in this country, introducing visitors to one of the greatest artists of the early 20th century.

Born in 1880, Kirchner originally studied architecture in the baroque town of Dresden. In 1905 he founded the artists' group, Die Brücke ('The Bridge'), with Nolde, Heckel and Schmidt-Rotluff. Inspired by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and African art, the group shared radical ideas and a bohemian studio space, creating a thriving artistic community. During these years, Kirchner depicted dynamic cabaret and circus scenes using brilliant, vivid colour as exquisitely as his contemporary, Matisse. In the summer, Kirchner escaped the studio to capture the freedom and primitivism of nude bathers in the lush landscape of Dresden's surrounding countryside.

Kirchner, along with other members of Die Brücke, moved to the rapidly expanding capital city of Berlin in 1911. The crowds and excitement of Berlin had a striking effect on Kirchner, and his paintings during this period depict the intensity and urgency of city living. In the competitive atmosphere of the Berlin art scene, Kirchner became increasingly isolated and his work became darker and more complex. His fascination with modern life culminated in the outstanding series of Streetwalker paintings, which vividly convey the tension and fear beneath the elegant façade of the crowd. Five of these masterpieces are on display at the RA.

In 1915 Kirchner was conscripted into the army and billeted to Halle, where his deepening personal crisis led to a physical and psychological breakdown. During his recuperation at a Swiss sanatorium Kirchner created some of his most powerful graphic work. This included a series of woodcut illustrations for the folk tale The Wonderful Story of Peter Schlemihl, which confirmed his position as one of the great printmakers of the 20th century. The exhibition ends with the haunting Self-portrait as a Soldier, depicting Kirchner with a severed hand, an imaginary amputation which is a striking metaphor for his personal and historical crisis. Kirchner's work was never again to achieve the brilliance and intensity of the Dresden and Berlin years. Labelled a degenerate artist by the Nazis, Kirchner was expelled from the Berlin Academy of Arts and his work was exhibited in the Degenerate Art exhibition, 1937. His rejection in Germany subsequently led to his breakdown and suicide in 1938.

The exhibition has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts and the National Gallery of Art, Washington. It has been curated by Jill Lloyd, Independent Curator, Magdalena Moeller, Director, Die Brücke Museum, Berlin and Norman Rosenthal, Exhibitions Secretary, Royal Academy of Arts.

This major exhibition of Kirchner's work continues the Royal Academy's series of exhibitions on outstanding German artists of the 20th century, which has included The Berlin of George Grosz (1997) and Kandinsky: Watercolours and Other Works on Paper (1999).

The exhibition is supported by the RA Exhibition Patrons Group. The Royal Academy receives no public subsidy and is entirely reliant on self-generated income and charitable donations. Exhibition Patrons are dedicated individuals who appreciate the Royal Academy’s exhibition programme and invest in its continuing success by making an annual tax-effective donation. They are encouraged to become directly involved in the artistic life of the Academy and gain a unique insight into the creative process through which each exhibition evolves.

To complement the exhibition, RA publications has produced a fully illustrated catalogue, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1880-1938. The catalogue presents new research by Kirchner scholars and is the first comprehensive publication on Kirchner in English, for 30 years.
Hardback £35.00 ISBN 190397318X
Paperback £19.95 ISBN 1903973178

Narrated by art critic and author, Frank Whitford, the audioguide, produced by Antenna Audio, provides a comprehensive guide to the exhibition and uses direct quotes from Kirchner's writings. Price £3.

The exhibition will be complemented by a series of evening and lunchtime lectures and gallery talks. There will also be a Focus Day highlighting Berlin as the subject, backdrop and inspiration for Kirchner's work. Please see separate release for full details.

National Gallery of Art, Washington 2 March - 1 June 2003
Royal Academy of Arts, London 28 June - 21 September 2003

Press View: Tuesday 24 June 2003
Open to the public: Saturday 28 June - Sunday 21 September 2003
10am - 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm)
Late night opening: Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm)

£7.00 full price, £6.00 60 years+ and registered disabled; £5.00 NUS; £3.00 12-18 years and Income Support; £2.00 9-11 years.

Tickets are available daily at the RA. To book tickets in advance please tel: 0870 848 8484. Groups of 10+ are asked to book in advance. Please tel: 020 7300 5995, fax: 020 7300 5781 or email:

Publicity images for the Kirchner: Expressionism and the City can be obtained from Picselect, the Press Association’s image service for press use. Please register at and once registered go to the Royal Academy folder in the Arts section of Picselect.

Coming soon...
Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection from 20 September to 12 December 2003 Craigie Aitchison: Out of the Ordinary from 9 October to 9 November Giorgio Armani: A Retrospective from 18 October 2003 to 15 February 2004

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House

tel: 020 7300 5610
fax: 020 7300 5886



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