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Aus dem Wald schreitender Akt

Aus dem Wald schreitender Akt
signed ‘ELKirchner’ (lower right); signed again twice and titled ‘ELKirchner Aus dem Wald schreitender Akt E.L.Kirchner.‘ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
49 3/8 x 35 ½ in. (125.5 x 90.1 cm.)
Painted in 1913-1920
Dr. Frederic Bauer, Davos (acquired from the artist, 1932).
Dr. Giovanni Mardersteig, Verona (possibly acquired from the above); sale, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Stuttgart, 20-21 May 1960, lot 250.
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale).
By descent from the above to the present owners.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Archives, Photo Album I, no. 324 (1913 version illustrated, pl. 343) and no. 325.
W. Kern, "Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Seine Bilder von 1907 bis 1929" in Das Kunstblatt, June 1930, vol. XIV, no. 6, p. 162 (illustrated, p. 163; dated 1912).
D.E. Gordon, "Kirchner in Dresden" in Art Bulletin, September-December 1966, vol. XLVIII, no. 3-4, p. 361, no. 72 (illustrated, p. 362).
D.E. Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1968, p. 315, no. 343 (illustrated).
H. Gerlinger, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner auf Fehmarn, exh. cat., Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen Schloss Gottorf, 1997, p. 20, no. 54.
H. Delfs, Frederic Bauer und Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, exh. cat., Kirchner Museum, Davos, 2004, pp. 72-73.
H. Delfs, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Der Gesamte Briefwechsel, Zurich, 2010, p. 605, no. 20.
Kunstverein Winterthur, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, June-July 1924, no. 10.

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Lot Essay

Striking strokes of green, violet and ocher seem to hum and coalesce in Kirchner’s Aus dem Wald schreitender Akt. In and through the artist's characteristically frenetic paint application, we can almost feel branches rustle and insects chirp as a nude figure emerges from a deep, dense, dusky forest-scape. With bold lines and a popping complementary color scheme, the canvas bears a striking graphic sensibility. Yet, this verve is harmonized by the work’s human scale and balanced, fluid movement. Kirchner’s canvas embodies the best of his oeuvre, optical and psychological depth, straddling his early and late career at a time of trial and metamorphosis.
Having left his fashioned creative crucible of Dresden for Berlin in 1911, Kirchner experienced a series of hindrances in his adjustment to big city life. With the failure of his and Max Pechstein’s newly-opened modern art school in 1912 closely followed by his falling out with his longtime friends and collaborators Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and the resulting dissolution of Die Brücke in 1913, it became clear that Kirchner’s path forward was his own to forge. Thatsummer of 1913, Kirchner returned to his seasonal retreat of Fehmarn, a pristine German island on the Baltic Sea, where he found fecund ground to produce numerous landscapes and bathing scenes—Aus dem Wald schreitender Akt most likely among them—comprising roughly half of the artist’s works that year. Providing a poetic counterpoint to his anomie-laden Berlin street scenes, Kirchner’s bathers celebrate the primal balm of nature. These rich, dueling preoccupations came to be a hallmark of his distinct style and aesthetic contribution as an artist now independent of Brücke.
By 1920, Kirchner had once again relocated, now from Berlin to the alpine placidity Davos. In the intervening years, he returned to Aus dem Wald schreitender Akt, deepening its tone and contrast. While Kircher never returned to Fehmarn after the outbreak of the First World War, the idyllic setting remained deeply impactful in his psyche and oeuvre, as evidenced by his return to the present work. The resulting final canvas is a magnificent combination of the artist's immediate experience of his time in Fehmarn’s embrace and his recollection thereof. The painted figure is enmeshed in her environment but distinguished from it. She is both yielded by nature as is Sandro Botticelli’s Venus but also imbricated in it as are Paul Cezanne’s bathers. The result is a nude that is springs forth from the pictorial plane but remains poignantly ambiguated in her surroundings, her right hand blended with foliage as she walks.
Kirchner’s final product is not otherworldly or alien—it is an exuberant celebration of our being in the world. Far from advancing a perspective of humanity’s domination of nature, Kirchner seems to posit that human beings—their bodies, their psyches, their values and recollections—are the sweet fruit of nature itself. Not imposed from without, the mind and body are reared by the natural world, Kirchner seems to say, not only occupying it, but in some primordial sense, always being it.
The present work was first purchased from Kirchner by Dr. Frederic Bauer, the artist’s doctor and director of the Davos Sanatorium, to whom the painting was dedicated on the work’s reverse. After changing hands, Aus dem Wald schreitender Akt appeared at auction in 1960 and has thence remained in a private family’s collection for over sixty years.

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