The present work has been requested for the exhibition, Der Blick auf Fränzi und Marzella - Zwei Modelle der Brücke Künstler to be held at the Sprengel Museum, Hanover from August 2010 to January 2011.
Fränzi, am Wasser liegend belongs to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's most vital periods of artistic development and represents a subject and style that occupies a central position in the history of Die Brücke movement. This strikingly graphic composition was created during one of the summer excursions Kirchner and his Brücke colleagues took to the Moritzburg lakes outside of Dresden in 1909 and 1910, where they felt free to remove their clothes in order to swim, enjoy the sun or to invoke primitive man's simple and direct relationship with nature. These outings to the countryside coincided with the peak of their association in terms of the communal advancement of a style that not only emphasized the decorative logic of the two-dimensional picture plane, but also conveyed an emotive response to the human body.
In Fränzi, am Wasser liegend, both the landscape and the model are reduced to the bare essentials, creating a tight linear structure that seamlessly integrates a heightened use of colour and abstracted form. Yet the figure retains just enough information in the animated outline of her recumbent body and abbreviated facial features to make her physical characteristics easily identifiable. With her distinctive hair-ribbon and angular, pre-pubescent body, it is clear that the subject of the present work is Lina Fränziska Fehrmann, a girl of about ten years of age who lived near Kirchner and Heckel in Dresden and who accompanied them to Moritzburg. Young Fränzi's slender body conformed to the primitive art that had had a decisive influence on Die Brücke's Expressionist idiom since around 1909 and she soon became a crucial model for Kirchner, appearing in numerous paintings and drawings.
This deft portrayal of a restless, partially nude Fränzi conveys Kirchner's fascination for her unselfconscious attitude and the naturalness of her movements. It also asserts the essential principles of Expressionism and of Kirchner's art to create with absolute freedom, directness and authenticity to the moment. Executed with a palpable sense of urgency and energy, the composition successfully unites Kirchner's Fauvist sensibility toward colour with an economical style of draftsmanship that is driven by expressive impulse, thereby satisfying his inner desire to capture 'the finest, first sensation' of his experience of the world.