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Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig - Pinakothek der Moderne Munich


With 19 works by

the Pinakothek der Moderne houses the most extensive collection of paintings in Germany by the Expressionist painter who is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Although Kirchner made a significant contribution to the revolutionary use of colour as a pioneering »Brücke« artist, he has hardly been recognised as a »colour person« to date.
The exhibition explores the systematic and experimental path to colour that Ernst Ludwig Kirchner followed and his analysis of the colour theory tradition so controversially discussed around 1900. Kirchner modified the latest industrially manufactured tube paints in a particular way to achieve a matte but simultaneously intensive brilliance in his painting that, in retrospect, he proudly emphasised was his »identification mark«.
The basis of this exhibition (22.05.2014 - 31.08.2014) is a joint research project carried out in collaboration with the internationally renowned Doerner Institut at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, among others, during which a thorough examination of Kirchner’s paintings and the techniques he used was undertaken from 2009 onwards. This was the first time the work of an Expressionist painter had been the subject of a systematic, art-technological research. It does justice to Kirchner’s varied, contradictory and continuously evolving oeuvre that remains fascinating to this day.
In addition to the aspect of colour, the exhibition enables the underdrawings and paint layers hidden beneath the surface of the pictures to be seen using ultraviolet, infrared and x-ray photography, providing an insight into the way the artist worked and how his major paintings such as »Circus«, »Dance School« and »Self-Portrait as a Sick Person« were created. In contrast to the stereotypical notion of the immediacy of Expressionist painting, Kirchner’s work proves to be precisely planned and carefully developed – even if its appearance suggests a certain spontaneity. With great technical refinement the artist succeeded in transferring the speed and openness of his sketches into his oil paintings that continue to fascinate us more than a hundred years after they were created through the vitality and directness of their paint application.
A special focus of the exhibition will be Kirchner’s continuous self-reflection and self-correction evident in his work. For the first time, the presentation of both the front and back of selected paintings at the Pinakothek der Moderne allows the painted reverse of canvases to be examined as well. Traces of reworkings and overpainting provide the opportunity of presenting yet another of Kirchner’s unusual practices – the correction of his earlier work and its adaptation to his current style. Loaned drawings, sketch books, prints and photographs testify to the artist’s great talent and his interest in depicting pictorial motifs in a variety of different media.
The exhibition brings together some 90 works, including important loans from public collections such as the Kirchner Museum Davos, the Städel Museum Frankfurt am Main, the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, the Kunsthalle Bremen and the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Estate in Wichtrach/Bern, as well as from major private collections in Germany and Switzerland.

The research project and exhibition have been generously sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The joint project was carried out with the Doerner Institut at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in cooperation with the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart and the Kirchner Museum Davos, as well as the Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft in Zurich. (Text: Pinakothek der Moderne)