Never having made it to the Kirchner’s museum in Davos Switzerland Kirchner’s work has often been an experience of seeing one of his paintings amongst a group of German expressionist pieces in a museum collection. Seeing an extensive group of his work was reason enough to make a trip to another museum, much closer to home, that I’ve never quite made it to either. The museum in question is the Singer museum in Laren (the Netherlands).
The show consists of around a hundred pieces, paintings, works on paper and woodblock prints. We are taken on a journey from his expressionist roots and connections with Die Brucke group, his relocation to the Alps and finally to his depression and eventual suicide there. It was a period in the 1930s when his work was branded degenerate and 600 pieces were removed from German collections and were either sold or destroyed.
The paintings in the singer are almost all figure based work. The earlier pieces relying on aggressive brush work and strong us of colour. These are the sorts of pieces I have seen elsewhere in Die Brucke exhibitions. The more surprising part of the exhibition comes, for me at least, in the later work that displays perhaps more influences from the likes of Picasso and Braque but above all in the woodcut prints that are displayed.
The graphic limitations of the woodcut technique brings with it an economy of line that brings a simplicity of form coupled with the high contrast of black ink on white paper. This same simplicity returns in the later paintings in the exhibition.