"Zwei weibliche Akte (Two Female Nudes)", 1920/1922
Coloured chalk on paper
18.9 x 14.17 in
Estate stamp on reverse, labelled in ink "FS Da/Bf 15",
numbered in pencil "K 5945, C 3096, 5576"
Über das Werk
Throughout his life, the central theme in the oeuvre of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was the intensive study of the female nude, be it in the studio or in the open air. During his so-called Davos years from 1918 onwards, the artist would frequently invite his partner Erna Schilling, as well as friends and acquaintances to sit as models for his paintings, both in an interior setting or outside in the surrounding mountainous countryside. Kirchner's decisive impulse for the expressive manifestation of what he saw derived from his direct observation of the moment, the subjective visual snapshot. This also applies to this large-format scene, executed on yellow paper, and depicting two standing naked women in the act of turning to face each other. This undated sheet may probably have been completed in around 1925. In June and July of that year, the Basle-domiciled artist friend and his wife Anni were visiting Kirchner. Among the other guests were the painter colleague Fritz Pauli and his wife from Bern. Together they revelled in the Alpine summer amidst the pristine natural environment, where they would draw nudes, both inside their house, dubbed the "Wildboden", and at various picturesque locations across the wooded landscape, such as the Sertig valley. This present sketch may well have originated during a care-free nude bathing session.
Still emotionally charged, Kirchner's drawing style appears here to be echoing the exuberant spontaneity of his early Berlin years. With dynamic pencil strokes and use of line, he rapidly captures the observed figures, dispensing with details of their immediate surroundings, whilst focussing on depicting the naturalness of the uncontrived movements of the human body. The broken angular forms of the past have now given way to softly rounded outlines, lending the representation greater overall harmony and elegance. Expressive highlights are found in the sharply contrasting blue and pink colours on this luminous yellow sheet, which the artist frequently used around 1914/15 to infuse his graphic works with greater intensity of expression. Accordingly, this loose sketch exudes the warmth and brightness of a sun-drenched summer's day in the Davos mountains, amidst an ambience of unrestrained joi de vivre. This motif was also rendered in the wood cut "Bathers" by Kirchner in 1925 (Dube H 537).