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Liebespaar am Morgen (Lovers in the Morning)

Liebespaar am Morgen (Lovers in the Morning)
lithograph, on heavy wove paper, 1915, signed in pencil, the second (final) state from stone E, one of three known impressions of this state (this impression cited by Gercken, there were also two impresisons of the first state), with margins at left and right, framed
Image: 19 ¾ x 23 ¼ in. (503 x 590 mm.)
Sheet: 19 5/8 x 25 5/8 in. (500 x 650 mm.)
Estate of the artist, Germany, with the estate stamp of the Kunstmuseum Basel on the reverse and and annotated 'L 261 II' in ink (Lugt 1570b)
Schiefler L.261; Dube L.276 II; Gercken 737
Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College Museum of Art; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; The Modern Art of the Print: Selections from the Collection of Lois and Michael Torf, 5 May-14 October 1984, no. 118, p. 148; pl. IV , p. 38 (illustrated)

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Lot Essay

German Expressionist artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner were drawn to printmaking not only as a means of multiplying their imagery and making their art better known but also because of the potential for personal expression latent in the printmaking media. The result of their experimentation was a radical redefinition of how the various print media could be used and how they should look.
Mercurial in temperament, Kirchner appears never to have recovered from his military experience. The very year that Lovers in the Morning was executed, 1915, saw his discharge from the German army, suffering from a physical and nervous breakdown. Among his paintings from this time are portraits in which he betrayed his feelings of insignificance and self-abasement, one of the most striking being the Self Portrait as a Soldier (Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin). It shows the emaciated Kirchner in military dress with a nude woman in the background, and — ultimate emblem of artistic impotence — his right hand symbolically severed.
Although he treated the theme of lovers in all media, it was in lithography that Kirchner made the most use of it. In 1911, he executed a series of six explicitly erotic lithographs of couples making love; in 1915 he created eight startlingly frank lithographs of prostitutes and their customers. Lovers in the Morning is, by comparison, exceptionally discreet, even tender in feeling.
The male lover may be intended to represent Kirchner's friend Hugo Biallowons, who, with similar features, is seen reclining in military uniform in a lithograph of the same time (and probably executed on the same stone). When Biallowons was killed in action the next year Kirchner issued a woodcut portrait with the inscription: “Hugo Biallowons died for us.”
The German Expressionists’ exploitation of the expressive potentialities of the woodcut medium (stressing the “woodiness" of the wood, leaving clear traces of the attack of knife and gouge) is well known. Less discussed is their understanding of the unique properties of other print media, such as lithography. In Lovers in the Morning the design extends right to the edges of the lithographic stone, its irregular shape becoming an integral part of the image. An intentionally exaggerated emphasis on the special qualities of both crayon and lithographic wash give new textural interest to the surface of the print. The granular crayon is applied broadly with rhythmically scribbled strokes and the puddled wash casts a dim gray veil over the lovers.
Michael M. Floss, The Modern Art of the Print: Selections from the Collection of Lois and Michael Torf, p. 38

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