An Elegant Woman with a Fur Muff

Raphaël KIRCHNER (Vienna, 1875 - New York, 1917)

Biography

Coming of age at the height of the Art Nouveau period, Raphaël Kirchner began his career in his native Vienna, where he studied at the Akademie der bildenden Künste and became one of the most renowned illustrators associated with the Secessionist movement. He was known in particular for the risqué ‘Kirchner Girl’; a highly eroticised and exotic woman, embracing her freedom and sexuality, who appeared in hundreds of picture postcards. After his move to Paris in 1900, Kirchner continued to depict these seductive women, though the influence of Parisian fashion led his muses to be transformed from languid and sensuous to more elegant and sophisticated. In Paris Kirchner developed a reputation as a portraitist and illustrator, working in particular for the weekly magazine La vie parisienne. His alluring depictions of the nightlife of Paris, and in particular the exotic women of the bars and cabarets of Montmartre, led to considerable success. Not long after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Kirchner left Europe and settled in New York. There he met a fellow Viennese artist and architect, Josef Urban. It was through Urban that Kirchner was hired to design marketing and paint decorative panels for the Century Theatre in New York. His panels of The Seven Deadly Sins, later produced as a popular postcard set, hung in the lobby of the theatre, and brought the ‘Kirchner Girls’ to popularity in America. This renewed success allowed Kirchner to remain active as a portraitist and illustrator until his early death in 1917, at the age of forty-one.