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Zwei Mädchen mit Badewanne (Frau in flacher Wanne und Mädchen mit Fächer) (recto); Sitzender schwarzhaariger Mädchenakt (verso)

Zwei Mädchen mit Badewanne (Frau in flacher Wanne und Mädchen mit Fächer) (recto); Sitzender schwarzhaariger Mädchenakt (verso)
incised with initial 'K' (recto lower right); signed and dated 'E.L. Kirchner 09.' (verso upper right) and signed again 'E L Kirchner.' (verso lower left)
oil on canvas
29 1⁄8 x 39 ½ in. (74 x 100 cm.) (recto); 39 x 30 in. (99 x 76 cm.) (verso)
Painted in 1909-1911 and 1920 (recto); Painted in 1910 (verso)
The artist's estate, Davos.
Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione d'Italia, by whom acquired from the above in 1960.
Acquired from the above by the late owner on 7 September 1971.
E.L. Kirchner, Photoalbum, vol I, no. 177 (illustrated).
W. Grohmann, E. L Kirchner, Stuttgart, 1958, p. 88 (recto illustrated; titled 'Zwei badende Mädchen im Raum' and dated '1908').
W. Grohmann, E.L. Kirchner, New York, 1961, pl. 112 (recto illustrated; titled 'Two Bathing Nudes in a Room' and dated '1908').
D. E. Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Massachusetts, 1968, nos. 177 & 177v, p. 291 (recto illustrated; verso illustrated p. 422).
J. Serke, 'Die nackte Welt des Malers Ernst Ludwig Kirchers' in Stern Magazin, no. 48, Hamburg, 22 November 1979 (verso illustrated on the front cover; illustrated again p. 166).
Galerie Roman Norbert Ketterer ed., Legenden am Auktionspult. Die Wiederentdeckung des deutschen Expressionismus, Munich, 1999, p. 276.
J. Heusinger von Waldegg, 'Modelle und Modellstudium: Medienreflexion am Beispiel "Franzi" und "Marcella" in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Aquarelle und Zeichnungen, Die Sammlung Karlheinz Gabler, Berlin & Frankfurt am Main, 1999-2000, p. 27.
H. Strzoda, Die Ateliers Ernst Ludwig Kirchners - Eine Studie zur Rezeption "primitiver" europäischer und aussereuropäischer Kulturen, Petersberg, 2006, p. 150.
W. Henze, 'Verzeichnis der doppelseitig bemalten Gemälde Ernst Ludwig Kirchners', in Der doppelte Kirchner. Die zwei Seiten der Leinwand, exh. cat., Mannheim & Davos, 2015, no. D29, p. 150 (illustrated).
Essen, Museum Folkwang, Brücke, 1905-1913, eine Künstlergemeinschaft des Expressionismus, October - December 1958, no. 59, p. 35 (titled 'Zwei Akte im Badetub'; dated '1907-1908').
Ulm, Ulmer Museum, Die Brücke, 1959, no. 4.
Bremen, Kunsthalle, Meisterwerke des deutschen Expressionimus, E. L. Kirchner, E. Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff, M. Pechstein, Otto Mueller, March - May 1960, no. 14; this exhibition later travelled to Hanover, Kunstverein, May - June 1960; The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, July - September 1960; and Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, September - November 1960.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Deutscher Expressionismus: Erich Heckel, E. L. Kirchner, Otto Mueller, Max Pechstein, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff eine Privatsammlung, May - June 1961 (titled 'Zwei Mädchen mit Badetub'; dated '1908-09').
Turin, Galleria Galatea, Kirchner, March 1964, no. 3 (titled 'Due nudi nel bagno'; dated '1908').
Campione d'Italia, Galerie Roman Norbert Ketterer, E L Kirchner: Brücke, Autumn 1964, no. 8, p. 23 (recto illustrated p. 22).
Campione d'Italia, Galerie Roman Norbert Ketterer, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Graphik, 1971, no. 4, p. 9 (recto illustrated p. 8).
Campione d'Italia, Galerie Roman Norbert Ketterer, Moderne Kunst VII, September 1971, nos. 56a & 56, pp. 111 & 112 (illustrated pp. 110 & 113).
Essen, Museum Folkwang, Im Farbenrausch, Munch, Matisse, und die Expressionisten, September 2012 - January 2013, no. 68, p. 293 (verso illustrated p. 185).

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Zwei Mädchen mit Badewanne and Sitzender schwarzhaariger Mädchenakt are two spectacular studio-paintings made on one double-sided canvas by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in Dresden at the height of the artist’s involvement with Die Brücke. Fusing raw, spontaneous brushwork with eloquent, simplified colour and form, both pictures are accomplished works that typify Die Brückes aim of capturing and conveying the energy and vitality of life directly from its source and rendering it as part of a wider, joyous and harmonious world of simplicity and grace.

In Dresden in the early years of the twentieth century it was the Brücke artists’ studios that served as both refuges from the grey, bourgeois norm of metropolitan life and society and as shared laboratories of communal experiment. By 1910, as Gustav Schiefler recalled, Kirchner’s Dresden studio had become an entire world unto itself: ‘[Kirchner] had rented a remarkable studio in a Dresden suburb, a narrow shop which had a large glass window to the street and a small adjacent space that served as a bedroom. These rooms were fantastically decorated with coloured textiles which he had made using the batik technique; with all sorts of exotic equipment and wood carvings by his own hand. A primitive setting, born of necessity but nevertheless strongly marked by his own taste. He lived a disorderly lifestyle here according to bourgeois standards, simple in material terms, but highly ambitious in his artistic sensitivity. He worked feverishly, without noticing the time of day...’ (G. Schiefler, 1910; quoted in G. Schack, ed., Postkarten an Gustav Schiefler, Hamburg, 1976, p. 80).

From the group’s beginnings in 1905, the Brücke artists aimed to reinvigorate painting and its stale academic roots through the creation of a new art of intense and spontaneously felt experience. Towards this end, Kirchner and his comrades Erich Heckel, Fritz Bleyl, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff and Max Pechstein, often worked together a group, sharing models and work spaces, in an attempt to record all the most vital and essential aspects of the human form. Central to their approach was the creation of quickly-executed and direct studies from the naked model, rendered as swiftly and as impulsively as possible. As Kirchner recalled of this exciting early period, the group produced ‘hundreds of sheets a day, interspersed with talking and play (where) the painters became models too, and vice versa… All the moments of daily life were in this way incorporated into our memory. The studio became the home of the people who were painted there: they learned from the painters, the painters learned from them. Directly and abundantly, the pictures absorbed life’ (quoted in U. Lorenz, Die Brücke, Cologne, 2008, p. 9 and p. 46).

Through the pictorial integration of the naked human form and the decorations of their studio environments, the Brücke artists sought to establish the idea of a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) in which the lives of the artists, their models and their environment all collectively fused into one powerful, expressive and holistic entity. Working in partnership with his female models, Kirchner portrayed them within the bright and eclectic décor of his studio, using swift strokes of colour applied directly to canvas without any appearance of drawing or line. As in both the paintings of this double-sided canvas, he also deliberately flattened the planes of colour into a series of broad and distinct sweeps reminiscent of both recent Fauvist painting and of the wood carving techniques of African sculpture. In this way, the resultant images carry a powerful sense of the vigorous, direct and spontaneous response of the artist (both visually and emotionally) to the scenes set before him.

Similarly, the natural, languid and unselfconscious positions taken up by his models – here seen either in conversation with one another in Zwei Mädchen mit Badewanne, or seemingly engaging with the artist in Sitzender schwarzhaariger Mädchenakt – are not poses in the traditional sense. They are instead expressive of the relaxed, communal life that Kirchner encouraged in a studio where nakedness, honesty and a bohemian lifestyle free, from bourgeois habit and convention, was proudly championed. Such natural, un-staged body language was also the reason that the Brücke artists, unlike many of their contemporaries, always sought to work with untrained and unprofessional models. As Jill Lloyd has written on this point: ‘Kirchner’s break with the constraints of academic tradition… led him to seek out non-professional models, replacing studio professionals with the friends, girlfriends, child models and circus artists who shared the Brücke artists’ bohemian, anti-establishment lifestyle. As Max Pechstein recalled in 1946, “We had to find two or three people who were not professional models and therefore guaranteed us the kind of movements that avoided studio training”’ (‘Sexuality and the Nude,’ in A. Haldemann, ed., Rethinking Kirchner, Davos, 2018, p. 151).

For these reasons, as Kirchner was keen to point out, it was studio paintings like Zwei Mädchen mit Badewanne and Sitzender schwarzhaariger Mädchenakt that formed the core of the Brücke group’s collective aesthetic and practice throughout the crucial years of its development between 1909 and 1911. The path of this development, ‘from the first appliqué ceiling in the first Dresden studio to the perfectly harmonious space in each of our Berlin studios,’ Kirchner would later write, ‘is an uninterrupted logical progression, which went hand-in-hand with the painterly developments of the pictures, the graphics and the sculpture…’ (quoted in U. Lorenz, op. cit., pp. 10-11).

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