"Dame vor Waldstück (Woman Before a Copse)", 1916
Watercolour and pencil on paper
20.87 x 14.17 in / framed 33.07 x 27.17 in
Inscribed, estate stamp with number verso
- with handmade craftsman's frame and
UV absorbing, non-reflective glass -
Über das Werk
For Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, the year 1915 heralded the beginning of an arduous phase in his life. The outbreak of WW1 and his training as an army recruit at a barracks in Halle an der Saale pitched the highly sensitive artist into an existential crisis, which was only exacerbated by his alcohol and substance abuse. Seeking refuge from his mounting mental and physical crisis, Kirchner was admitted to sanatoria in Berlin-Charlottenburg and in Kreuzlingen near Lake Constance several times from 1915 to 1917. With brief interruptions, Kirchner was an in-patient at the Dr. Kohnstamm sanatorium in Königstein from December 1915 to July 1916, where he was treated for his nervous disorder. During his time there, his continued pre-occupation with his artistic activities gave him a much-needed inner stability. The works he produced are possessed of a haunting poignancy: depictions of the surrounding Taunus countryside and of the "nervous people", as Kirchner dubbed his fellow patients in the sanatorium. Against the backdrop of a life of mental and physical extremes, Kirchner's pictorial language intensifies increasingly into a hyper-sensitive, agitated, and gestural form of articulation, with which he seeks to commit his inner emotional turmoil to paper. During this period, particularly Kirchner's water-colours can be read as hectic psychograms, in which he endeavours to give emotional expression to his observations. Executed with rapid, dynamic, yet casually applied strokes of the pen and brush, this work portrays the figure of a perambulating woman against a background of a wooded, pine-tree landscape. Both the figure and nature remain only adumbrated, whilst the motif dissolves into individual patches of colour and brush marks. In many areas, the sheet's open ground is integrated into the composition, which, in conjunction with the fragile pictorial structure, evokes the impression of an ephemeral snapshot. The elongated, slender figure of the woman, whose statuesque form appears to glide like a ghostly vision across the canvas, is most likely a co-patient of the artist at the mental home. In these works from Königstein, Kirchner's style of drawing assumes a previously unattained heightened sensitivity and delicacy, which convinces through its remarkable tenderness and suggestive force of expression.