ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER (1880-1938)
ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER (1880-1938)
ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER (1880-1938)
ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER (1880-1938)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION, SWITZERLAND
ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER (1880-1938)

Sertigweg im Sommer (recto); Fehmarnküste mit grünem Himmel (verso)

Details
ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER (1880-1938)
Sertigweg im Sommer (recto); Fehmarnküste mit grünem Himmel (verso)
signed and dated ‘EL Kirchner 23’ (lower left); signed again and inscribed 'Sertigweg EL Kirchner' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
47 ¼ x 35 5/8 in. (120.2 x 90.5 cm.)
Painted in 1924 (recto); Painted in 1913 (verso)
Provenance
Hermann Lange, Krefeld, by whom acquired in the 1920s, and thence by descent; sale, Christie’s, London, 9 December 1997, lot 29.
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie’s, Zurich, 5 December 2016, lot 61.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
E.L. Kirchner, Photoalbum, vol. III, no. 264 (dated '1924').
D.E. Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Massachusetts, 1968, no. 757, p. 376 (recto illustrated; verso illustrated p. 425).
I. Herold, U. Lorenz & T. Sadowsky, eds., Der doppelte Kirchner: Die zwei Seiten der Leinwand, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Mannheim, 2015, no. D123, p. 169 (recto & verso illustrated).
Exhibited
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Kirchner: Oils, Watercolours, Drawings and Graphics, June - July 1969, no. 21, p. 16 (recto illustrated p. 44).
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, 1982-1997 (on long-term loan).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay


Executed in bold swathes of vibrant, saturated colour, the double-sided canvas Sertigweg im Sommer provides a window into two key moments in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s career, from his sojourns on the Baltic island of Fehmarn prior to the outbreak of the First World War, to the calm serenity of his time in the Swiss Alps during the 1920s. Created more than a decade apart, the two paintings on this double-sided canvas illustrate the evolution of the artist’s work during this tumultuous period, while simultaneously highlighting the ways in which the natural world continued to feed his artistic imagination throughout his career.
Sertigweg im Sommer offers an idyllic view of life in harmony with nature, filled by a richly-hued view of the Sertig valley, where Kirchner had settled in October 1923. Revelling in the grandeur of the mountains, the vast, open vistas across the valley, and the peaceful pastures and thick woods that surrounded his modest new abode, Kirchner’s paintings from this period were rooted in his direct experience of the landscape and his observations of the rhythms and patterns of life in the high-lying villages of the Swiss Alps. In the present composition, the artist focuses on the natural and man-made landmarks of the valley he now called home, subtly condensing the view in to a portrait-format in a manner that accentuates the steep incline of the terrain and the scale of the towering mountains in the distance. A road winds its way through the valley in a sinuous line, its flowing outline echoed by the cascading waters of the nearby river, while the tall trees, arranged in thick clusters, stretch upwards towards the sky in sharp points. In the immediate foreground of the painting, a horse-drawn cart carrying two figures traverses the path, their presence offering a glimpse into the more traditional, timeless ways of life that governed the daily comings and goings of the mountain community.
The scene, which contains many of the same landmarks visible in photographs taken by the artist from the balcony of his home at this time, sings with vibrant colour, from fiery tones of orange and multifaceted shades of green, to passages of deep blue, bright pink, and reddish-brown. These unexpected colour combinations, along with a new bold, planar approach to form, were a striking element of Kirchner’s style as it developed through the 1920s. As the artist explained in 1923, his paintings from this period were ‘not coloured form… but constructed with colour,’ begun not with ‘a linear drawing of objects, but rather with areas of colour from which the forms of the objects gradually take shape’ (quoted in “No one else has these colours.” Kirchners Paintings, exh. cat., Davos, 2011, p. 73). Alongside this, the nervous agitation which had dominated the artist’s work during his years in Berlin steadily receded through the 1920s, and his painterly explorations attained a greater sense of balance and composure. Kirchner himself spoke of a ‘tapestry style’ of painting, by which he meant that his compositions began to resemble weaving designs, in which the subject is built up from component areas of vivid colour. ‘I see a new way of painting becoming possible,’ Kirchner wrote, ‘with more independent planes, toward which I must already have always been steering’ (quoted in D. Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1968, p. 124).
Kirchner’s enthusiasm for this new approach to form and colour led him to repurpose a number of his earlier paintings during his years in Switzerland – short of canvas, and believing that his new works marked a significant improvement on the compositions he had previously made in Dresden and Berlin, Kirchner set about re-working several of the earlier paintings still in his possession and using the backs of others as the supports for new works. To create Sertigweg im Sommer, for example, Kirchner re-stretched Fehmarnküste mit grünem Himmel, a 1913 painting focusing on the undulating coastline of Fehmarn, where the artist had spent extended sojourns each summer in the years immediately preceding the war. Like Davos, the Baltic island of Fehmarn had become a refuge for Kirchner, an escape from the frenetic atmosphere of life in the city, a place where, according to the artist, he ‘…learnt how to create the ultimate oneness of Man and Nature’ (quoted in L. Grisebach, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1880-1938, New York, 1999, p. 92). Renting rooms from the lighthouse keeper at Staberhuk, Kirchner was able to immerse himself in an idyllic, free lifestyle on Fehmarn, filled with nude bathing, frivolous games and prodigious painting, all animated by the fresh sea air and verdant landscape which surrounded him. Still visible on the reverse of the canvas, Fehmarnküste mit grünem Himmel captures an impression of the untouched wilderness of the island, the dramatic sand dunes and curving, wind-swept beaches devoid of human life, which seemed to meld and merge with the natural elements.

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