This work is listed in the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner archives, Wichtrach/Bern.
Sitzender und liegender Akt auf Bett comes within a sequence of dynamic, self-contained color drawings along the same theme that were each intended to stand as complete, finished works in their own right. Executed in Dresden in 1908, this stunning work depicts two nude women in the midst of the artist’s elaborately decorated studio, portraying the predominant theme of Kirchner’s art at this time, the highly corporeal interaction between two female figures in an interior. As such, Sitzender und liegender Akt auf Bett is a swiftly and richly executed response to the dynamism of this impromptu scene taking place naturally, uncontrived and unposed before the artist. Kirchner’s aim with such works was to record not a visual impression of what he saw, but rather to express, through an immediacy of response, something of the emotional impact and feeling that the women, acting and reacting naturally to one another, prompted in him as they moved through the carefully constructed faux-primitive idyll of his exotically decorated environment.
Kirchner reminisced of this period, “Our Dresden years were filled with free and fanatical work on the naked figure, either in a meagre studio (or store) or at the Moritzburg lakes. This constant work finally brought results and the solution, with new means, to the problem of representing naked figures, free in the great outdoors of Nature. In unbroken colors, blue, red, green and yellow, people’s bodies now glowed in the water or between the trees” (quoted in Die Badenden: Mensch und Natur im deutschen Expressionismus, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, exh. cat., 2000, p. 46). Kirchner’s studio was set up in a shopfront in a bourgeois district of Dresden. As Gustav Schiefler recalled, the space was “fantastically decorated with colored textiles which he had made using the ‘batik technique,’” and was an arena within which to live, work and entertain. It was a “primitive setting, borne of necessity but nevertheless strongly marked by his own taste,” a haven and an idyll where Kirchner could live “a disorderly lifestyle…simple in material terms, but highly ambitious in his artistic sensitivity” (quoted in G. Schack, ed., Postkarten an Gustav Schiefler, Hamburg, 1976, p. 80).