Ernst Ludwig KIRCHNER

(Aschaffenburg 1880 - Frauenkirch 1938)

Two Seated Women Sewing at a Table (Zwei Nähende Frauen am Tisch)

Charcoal on buff paper.
Inscribed and numbered 7213 and B Da/Bi 15 on the verso.
340 x 508 mm. (13 3/8 x 20 in.)
 
In 1920 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner published an article on his own drawings, written under the pseudonym Louis de Marsalle. As he wrote of himself in the third person, ‘If we are to understand Kirchner’s idiosyncratic manner of representation, his forms, and his compositions, it is best to look at his drawings…Kirchner draws as others write. Years of habitually recording in drawings everything that he sees and experiences have given him the ability to reproduce with ease, in lines and shapes, everything that appears before his actual or his mind’s eye. In so doing he uses the entire surface of the sheet he is working on. The image consists not only of the lines, and the shapes they constitute, but also of those areas of the sheet that are not drawn upon…Kirchner’s drawings are possibly the purest and loveliest of his works. They are without conscious design or intent; they mirror the sensations of a man of our time. Moreover, the contain the formal idiom of his graphic work, of his paintings, to which the other part of his work is devoted and in which a conscious will informs creation. But the living strength of this will is derived from drawing.’

The present sheet, which is datable to c.1924, is listed in Ernst Ludwig Kircher archives, Wichtrach, Bern. Among stylistically comparable works is an equally large drawing of a Studio Interior with an Artist and Models of c.1923, in the Kornfeld collection in Bern.
 
One of the finest exponents of figurative Expressionism in the early part of the 20th century, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was active as a painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor. He studied in Munich and Dresden, and from the very start of his career was as much engaged in the graphic arts as in painting. It was in Dresden in 1905 that he became a founder member of the artist’s group Die Brücke (‘the Bridge’), alongside his friends and fellow artists Erich Heckel, Fritz Bleyl and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Between 1905 and 1913 the Brücke artists - who were soon joined by Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein, followed in later years by Kees van Dongen and Otto Mueller - mounted a series of group shows in Leipzig, Braunschweig, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dresden and Berlin, and also issued portfolios of original prints that included woodcuts by Kirchner. The work of the Brücke artists achieved some commercial success among a small group of contemporary collectors, and Kirchner’s paintings and drawings of the cafés, cabarets and theatres of Dresden, as well as the landscapes of the surrounding area in Saxony, are among his finest early works. In 1911 Kirchner moved to Berlin, where he continued to develop a reputation as a painter of powerfully modern, urban figure subjects. Between 1913 and 1915 he produced the seminal paintings of Berlin street scenes that became known as the ‘Streetwalker’ series, and which represent a high point of his oeuvre. Although he had a number of solo exhibitions of his work in 1913 and 1914, the outbreak of the First World War upended his life and caused him great anxiety, and he began to drink heavily. In the spring of 1915 Kirchner entered military service but within a few months had suffered a nervous breakdown. Medically discharged from the army, he came to spend several weeks in a sanatorium. In 1917, following a long period of intense physical and psychological stress, Kirchner left Berlin and settled in the village of Frauenkirch, near Davos in the Swiss Alps, where he was to spend the remainder of his life. He continued to have periods of convalescence in Swiss sanatoriums, with occasional bouts of paralysis, and did not emerge from the grip of the worst of his mental difficulties until around 1920. In Switzerland he developed a late style that was somewhat more private and subdued than his earlier manner, with a new emphasis on alpine landscapes, while also continuing to produce superb woodcuts. At the same time, however, he made the decision to repaint or re-date some of his earlier paintings, disavowing much of his Brücke work as ‘the nonsense of youth’. Isolated from the circle of German dealers, collectors and critics who might have supported his career, Kirchner struggled for recognition and success in his native country. Perhaps as a result of his inclusion in the Entartete Kunst (‘Degenerate Art’) exhibition held by the Nazis in 1937, as well as the removal of some 640 of his works from German museums, Kirchner began to destroy some of his earlier works. His increasing disillusionment with his status as an artist, and his despair at the Anschluss and the growing threat of war, led the artist to take his own life in June 1938. Kirchner was a highly prolific artist, and despite the destruction of many of his paintings by the Nazis, a large corpus of his work survives today. Some twenty thousand drawings by the artist, often in the form of sketchbooks, are known; while a handful of these drawings were produced as studies for paintings, the vast majority were made as works of art in their own right.

Provenance

The estate of the artist
By descent to the artist’s companion, Erna Schilling (Kirchner), Davos-Frauenkirch
Possibly acquired from her by Lise Gujer, Davos
Galerie Theo Hill, Cologne
Acquired from them in 1964 by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne
Their sale, London, Sotheby’s, 22 June 2016, lot 386
Private collection, France. 
 

Ernst Ludwig KIRCHNER

Two Seated Women Sewing at a Table (Zwei Nähende Frauen am Tisch)