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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

May 6, 1880 - June 15, 1938
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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) was a German painter and printmaker. Born in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria, Kirchner studied painting and architecture informally in Dresden before founding Die Brücke, an artists’ group considered to be the birth of German Expressionism, with Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff in 1905. Inspired by the work of Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch, the group rejected academic art in search of a more authentic means of expression. In 1911, Kirchner moved to Berlin, and the group disbanded two years after. Known for his use of vibrant color and emotional tension, by the mid-1910s Kirchner had gained a devoted following and his art was being exhibited and collected. After suffering a nervous breakdown, he moved to Davos, Switzerland in 1917, though he would continue to have his work exhibited in major German cities throughout the 1920s. Inspired by his rural surroundings, his work began to depict the peaceful nature of the mountains and freedom from civilization, contrasting from his early interest in the chaos and cruelty of the city. In 1937, more than 600 of his pieces were confiscated by the Nazis in their campaign against Degenerate Art and either destroyed or sold. The next year, after suffering from depression and mourning the loss of his work, Kirchner took his own life.

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