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Die Brücke

Die Brücke Collage

Started: 1905

Ended: 1913

"Whoever renders directly and authentically that which impels him to create is one of us."

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Signature

Summary of Die Brücke

Progenitors of the movement later known as German Expressionism, Die Brücke formed in Dresden in 1905 as a bohemian collective of artists in staunch opposition to the older, established bourgeois social order of Germany. Their art confronted feelings of alienation from the modern world by reaching back to pre-academic forms of expression including woodcut prints, carved wooden sculptures, and "primitive" modes of painting. This quest for authentic emotion led to an expressive style characterized by heightened color and a direct, simplified approach to form.

Key Ideas

Die Brücke is typically seen as the fountainhead of German Expressionism, chronologically the first of two groups (the other being Der Blaue Reiter) that pushed German modern art onto the international avant-garde scene.
None of the four founding members of Die Brücke, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, had received any formal education in the visual arts. They stressed the value of youth and intuition in escaping the intellectual cul-de-sac of academic thought focused on copying earlier models.
The name Die Brücke was chosen to indicate the group's desire to "bridge" the past and present. From the past, they chose to reassert Germany's rich artistic history, taking inspiration from the print and painting techniques of Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, and Lucas Cranach the Elder. Developing the modern example of expressive colorists like Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and Henri Matisse, sharp and sometimes violently clashing colors are often used in Die Brücke painting to jolt the viewer into the experience of a particular emotion.
For the artists of Die Brücke, escaping the academy was part of a larger mission to escape the strictures of modern middle-class life. Nudity and explorations of free sexuality in their work (in domestic interiors and in nature) are often contrasted with images of the city, where human interaction is uncomfortably negotiated through prescribed social attitudes.
Detail from Kirchner's <i>Street with Red Streetwalker</i> (1914-25)

Describing “the years 1911-14 [as] .. one of the loneliest times of my life, during which an agonizing restlessness drove me out onto the streets day and night,” Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painted alienated street scenes. Their expressive angst epitomized Die Brücke.

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