Art in the early twentieth Century was quite one of a kind from the art today. Artists were challenged with a number of issues, especially denial by the society to exercise their freedom of expression through art. Weak artists who could no longer stand society criticism backed out of the art creation work, whilst the strong-willed artists like Die Brücke of 1905 carried forward and fought through the critics and objections. The team is part of an early group of artists who fought for their artwork and up to date their legacy still remains.
The Die Brücke and what they stood for
The Die Brücke group was first formed in 1905, and it originally comprised of 4 students: Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff . The translation of Brücke was generally Bridge and their main objective in the creation of the group was to break new grounds especially in terms of art. They were very keen in breaking various academic traditions and they worked very closely to express their art freely . The early works of Brücke clearly showed Neoimpressionism and Art Nouveau . In 1906, the Die Brücke showed their first exhibition and it was majorly focused on the theme of the female nude .
Through the focus on the female nude, the group felt that life should be a source of inspiration and artists should have ways in which they subordinate themselves to direct experiences. The Brücke group each composed their own ideas and they combined them in one of their books known as “Odi profanum” , through this they were able to compare each other’s individual qualities and this is one of the ways through which the group Brücke was formed. Edward Kirchner brought his inspired woodcut which was revived from the inspiration of old prints from Nurnberg . Heckel was responsible for carving of the wooden figures that were enriched by Kirchner through the use polychromy in his carvings. Their other partner, Schmidt-Rottluff made the first of the lithographs on stone.
During their first exhibition, the group received no support and they were completely ignored. However, this did not deter the group from moving forward. They were joined by German artists during the exhibition one of them being Aimet in who was later followed by Nolde in 1905 . With Nolde at Brücke’s side, the group was inspired with great techniques and he was able to learn something about woodcuts from Die Brücke group. In Dresden, Kirchner was quite versatile in his creations and it was during these times that he created the Negro carvings and some South beam sculptures in the ethnographic museum . Kirchner was joined by new members and it was during this time that they carried out an exhibition in Salon Ritcher, Dresden .
The exhibition was greatly welcomed by the young artists living in Dresden and Kirchner and Heckel wanted the exhibition space related to their new painting. Kirchner took up the task of decorating the rooms with murals and batiks that Heckel had also helped work on . When Nolde left the group in 1907, Heckel and Kirchner felt a need to study the nude and they went to Moritzburg lakes which were open enough and conducive for their study . Meanwhile, their other parner Schmidt-Rottluff was working to perfect his color rhythm in Dangast while Pechstein went to Berlin to paint decorations .
Theme of Die Brücke art
Impressionism was quite common in Germany during when Die Brücke were creating their art . However, a theme of expressionism was brought about by the group. Despite the various convectional nature of the German society that was mostly driven by money and Christian morality, Die Brücke was at the top advocating for bodily freedom and enjoying life in the wild while staying in communion with the various elements . During summers, they were in the countryside painting and setting up short term communes. They did collective shows and it was quite difficult to distinguish their arts from each other.
Their expressionism was also seen from their unity of style and how it reflected in their common aspirations. The Die Brücke also painted nudes in landscapes, nudes and landscapes, their desires and pleasure were shown from the intensity of colors they mastered . The models displayed on the nudes were quite youthful, mocking and shameless, with their forms defined by just a few lines . The group later took interest in art from Africa and Oceania that were some of the displays in various ethnographic museums back in Dresden and Berlin . This drove them to travel abroad, and in 1913 Pechstein travelled to Palauan archipelago back in Micronesia while Nolde went to New Guinea
Kirchner retired to Swiss Alps to a chalet in 1917 . Here, he carved various wooden models of women and he also took to encouraging his female friends to dance naked. This was meant to act as a distraction from Europe and modern conflict . They also fought for National heritage affirmation and they were able to revive the old media especially the woodcut prints. They also created art that was filled with violent imagery emotional tension, one which was influenced by primitivism . The group first concentrated majorly on urban subject matter and they decided to venture into Southern Germany on various expeditions that Mueller arranged and here they were able to create more nudes and they also managed to invent the printmaking technique of linocut that they originally described as woodcuts that they also created .
In the beginning, the group worked solely alone and far from other people in a neighborhood of Dresden. Their main aim was to adversely reject their middleclass backgrounds. They used an empty butcher’s shop found by Erich Heckel as their studio. The studio was described by Bleyl as a studio full of paintings that were found scattered all over the place, with drawings, books and various artists’ materials . It was also described as been a romantic lodging by Bleyl .
The Programme by Kirchner of Die Brucke
This was majorly the creation of Kirchner in 1906 where he wrote:
“We call all young people together, and as young people, who carry the future in us, we want to wrest freedom for our actions and our lives from the older, comfortably established forces”
The programme, work creation by Kirchner made up the charismatic center of the group. Its main purpose according to Kirchner was to champion it in their youth and also use it for claims of authenticity . The woodcut used to create the art piece by Kirchner was medium and this was a sign of the respect that the group had for the preceding German artists and also the respect for what they represented . Kirchner also used formal style to create the programme art work and this was suggestive of the innovations by Johannes Gutenber . The art had a large capital “M” as the first imprint of his work and this was followed by compact lines of various printed prints.
You will note that the programme art was handmade by Kirchner and this is mostly attributed to the irregular lettering of the art. He used his knowledge of architecture to add to the art and design of his work. The applied art he used was also to be used to enhance Die Brucke’s art and philosophy in the following years.
Through this art creation, Kirchner was able to become a venue that allowed freedom of frequent nudity and casual love making . He used models that were in his social circle and ignored the commercial models, where he encouraged them to use quarter-hour poses and this was supposed to encourage naturalness. A fifteen year old model from their neighborhood was described by Bleyl as lively and beautifully built, a girl without deformation and also as a joyous individual and one who fitted their art demands . This was especially due to the reason that she was hitting puberty. Kirchner also composed a manifesto that was also used by the group.
The manifesto was carved on wood and it majorly represented a new generation. The carving stated the group’s desire for freedom in their work and lives and also freedom in what they believed in. The also craved independence from older and established forces and this was also carved on the same wood.
Other works of the Die Brücke group
Die Brücke did a number of other artistic works during their active days. One of the most common was the female nude that brought a lot of controversies thereafter. The group used the female nude as their first exhibition in 1906 and the exhibition event was held in the Karl-Max lamp factory due to Heckel’s various connections from design school. The nude woman displayed by Bleyl and a lot of controversies arose thereafter.
The female nude figure was however quite striking for Die Brücke and their supporters. The group directed their attitude towards their idea of open sexuality and naturalness of nudity through the art. Bleyl tried to make the female nude more presentable by adding series of curves and contours but the German Exhibition deemed the poster too sexual for public view. The poster was thereafter banned under the pornography laws of Germany.
Incorporation of Die Brücke in modern day art
Die Brücke was not truly recognized in French museums up until 1970s and 1980s . The major problem was that the grouped surfaced the same time as Fauvism in Paris and this led to comparisons between Die Brücke’s Kirchner and Heckel and Matisse and Derrain and it was patriotically concluded that the latter were better in art than the Brücke . During this period, Germans were considered brutal and exalted while the French were harmonious and balanced . Things started to take a turn in 1922, when figures such as du Moderne had their art exhibited in Paris. Despite Die Brücke’s group members not having ever had an exhibition, Matisse had had about four shows at the Pompidou Centre since 1977 . Emil Nolde retrospective at the Grand Palais in 2008 was the only effort that has been made to remedy the omission of Die Brücke art since 1992 .
In Paris in places such as Strasbourg, they have received works from the German museums. A recent exhibition was carried out and this proved to be the most valuable of all the works . Brucke- Museum back in Berlin has been able to loan a part of its collection that comprises of 120 paintings, woodcuts and drawings from the start of the Die Brucke movement from 1905 to the time the movement ended in 1914 . It is such a great pleasure having the works of Kirchner and his members displayed until now. This helps bring out a common ground among artists. What was common among the Die Brucke group was that the members were all born in the early 1880s and they all agreed on various aesthetic issues. All of them grew to reject the world and its principles and arts .
They have been able to inspire the world today, especially people who are so open to art and also those artists who are much like them. Die Brücke was majorly a movement of the 20th century revolt and they did this through art and in art. The anger and force that inspired the group has not been lost and is still felt today. However, Die Brücke’s modern followers are still worried that the group’s work is still not been exhibited enough.
The end of Die Brücke movement
After 1911, the major rifts that had started to develop among the members increased. The group split in 1913 after various provocations from Kirchner about the Die Brücke group .
The Die Brücke legacy
Even after the Die Brücke group broke in 1913, there were still artists who respected the group and wanted to carry on their legacy. In 1919, a successor group to Die Brücke was formed and it was known as Dresdner Sezession. This also included the painter Conrad Felixmuller. Expressionism was fundamental to the Die Brücke group and this act was expressionism was taken up by the “Blue Rider Group” that was formed in Munich in 1911. Bibliography
""The Artists' Association Brucke"." (Brucke Museum) 2007.
"Ernst Ludwig Kirchner" (Brucke Museum), 2007.
"Die Brucke." Origins of Expressionism, 2011.
Selz, Peter. "German Expressionist Painting." (Berkeley: University of California Press) 1957: 78.
Simmons, Sherwin. ""Ernst Kirchner's Streetwalkers: Art, Luxury, and Immorality in Berlin, ." The Art Bulletin, 2007: 1913-16.
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