Celebrating the Roots of Expressionism | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 08.06.2005
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Celebrating the Roots of Expressionism

100 years have passed since the founding of the influential art group, "Die Brücke" or "The Bridge." To mark the occasion, Berlin is staging the exhibition "Brücke and Berlin - 100 Years of Expressionism."


Erich Heckel's Brücke book cover from 1910

In 1905 four architect students, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt Rottluff, joined forces in a bid to find new forms of artistic expression which would liberate them from the constraints of the then predominant academic style.

Their founding manifesto contained a clear message for them and anyone who cared to listen. "With a belief in development and in a new generation of people who can create and enjoy, we call all young people together. All those who can show their creative motivation belong to us."

Diebstahl im Brücke Museum in Berlin: Gemälde Junges Mädchen von Max Pechstein gestohlen

Max Pechstein's " Junges Mädchen"

Through their work, the artists voiced the thoughts of the anti-bourgeois younger generation, who were starting to move towards the idea of sexual freedom and individual autonomy. They began with old-fashioned techniques such as woodcuts, but in keeping with their lust for liberation, used them to depict images of naked men and women.

Complete collection

By way of celebrating the movement, which was the root of expressionism and one of the most important events in the art history of the 20th century, the exhibition in Berlin is showing a collection of 300 early prints, never before shown in their entirety.


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Czardastänzerinnen, 1908/1920

"Through the gifts from Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, we have a whole series of very rare copies. Kirchner experimented a great deal with color at the beginning, making unique prints of the same image with different colors. Fritz Bleyl created very delicate woodcuts, and then in 1906 Emil Nolde joined die Brücke -- and introduced the others to etchings," exhibition director Magdalena Moeller said.

Although the Brücke artists followed the principles of uniqueness, the collection on show in Berlin is testimony to the rich influences which fed into their work. From art nouveau to neo impressionism, from van Gogh to Munch and Matisse to Gaugin's images from the south seas, it is all there for the trained eye to see.

Collective Brücke style

Otto Mueller, who joined die Brücke in 1910, is represented in the exhibition with bathing pictures, which date back to the days when the group spent long summer holidays deep in the nature surrounding Dresden.

Ausstellung zu Expressionisten-Sammlung Brücke

"Zwei Mädchen am Wasser" by Erich Heckel

They played with their idea of harmonious unity between art and life and used the Viertelstundenakte, in which models changed their pose every fifteen minutes in order to maximise the life element of a situation, to clearly show their new found self-image, which peaked in an almost collective Brücke style in 1910 and 1911.

The group eventually moved from Dresden to Berlin, where a new manifesto drawn up by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner sent them scattering in different directions. But now they are back together in the capital's Neue Nationalgalerie, and can be viewed there until 2nd October.

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