“The bridge” Connecting the past with the present, society with ideologies of the expressionist artist Kirchner

“The bridge” Connecting the past with the present, society with ideologies of the expressionist artist Kirchner

The bridge between the barbarian human nature and Übermensch (the superman)

Kirchner was greatly influenced by the concept of overman or superman, a concept introduced by Nietzsche. Although Germany was lagging behind some European centers in terms of the industrialization of the time, nevertheless the social changes and upheavels and resulting alienation were troubling to artistic minds. Kirchner initiated and became a founding member of the group called “The Bridge” in the hope of finding a new form of artistic expression connecting the past and the present and above all of finding the bridge towards a higher form of human being.

“It seems as though the goal of my work has always been to dissolve myself completely into the sensations of the surroundings in order to then integrate this into a coherent painterly form.”
― Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Kirchner believed in the powerful forces that govern people, and as the industrial development was transforming and becoming more angular, so were people. He depicted the movement, force and powers. both constructive and destructive. This association to power also attracted him to explore Primitive art, especially that of the Pacific islands, as he considered this to be closer to original life force.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?… All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape… The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth… Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end. “

Primitive art, and folk influences

The early 20th Century witnessed not only the revolution of the means of expression but also that the type of inspiration seemed to gravitate heavily towards folk art, primarily found in rural populations, the old traditions remaining despite all the changes that had occurred about them. This was also evident in the works of many other artists and musicians of the time; to name but a couple Paul Gauguin and Bela Bartok both found unending space for inspiration in the primordial.
This is a prime example of the wisdom of the crowd, when the art survives the test of time without intellectual interference, and while in many cases simple, the fold? pieces serve as great inspiration and a distinctive landmark to the place from where they originated .

Street, Berlin (1913)

One of the most important of Kirchner’s pieces explores the anxious energies of a pre-War Berlin. Depicted women represent street walkers, dressed luxuriously, and with superficial associations. They are surrounded by the angular sullen faces of mostly men. There is an almost predatory, aggressive feel to this and it is clear that the artist is sensing the sinister collective consciousness.

Biographical details

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (6 May 1880 – 15 June 1938) was a major German expressionist painter and printmaker and one of the founders of the artists group Die Brücke or “The Bridge”, a key group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art.

He was born in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria.[2] His parents were of Prussian descent and his mother was a descendant of the Huguenots, a fact to which Kirchner often referred. He volunteered for army service in the First World War, but soon suffered a breakdown and was discharged. Suffering at different times from depression and various chemical dependencies which troubled him throughout his life, he spent much of his time from 1917 onwards in Switzerland where he sought treatment and settling in Frauenkirch but he had regular exhibitions of his works in Germany. In 1913, the first public showing in the United States of Kirchner’s work took place at the Armory Show, which was also the first major display of modern art in America. In 1921, U.S. museums began to acquire his work and did so increasingly thereafter. His first solo museum show in the US was at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1937 However in 1933, his work was branded as “degenerate” by the Nazis and in 1937, over 600 of his works were sold or destroyed. In 1938, he committed suicide by gunshot.

Source: Wikipedia

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