Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner ~ Fir Trees

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painted Fir Trees in 1925. Kirchner is probably best known for having started the German group Die Brucke in 1905 with four others. Die Brücke promoted the freedom of artistic expression attempting to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary art which in turn advanced the cause of  "Expressionist" art. Many people remember Kirchner's work from this period when he painted portraits, nudes, and street scenes as well as interiors of nightclubs. However, his art took a shift thematically when he was sent to Switzerland after having been discharged early from the military during World War I. Although Kirchner visited Berlin and other cities periodically before his death in 1938, he remained in Switzerland for twenty tree years, ultimately becoming a Swiss citizen in 1937. Surrounded by mountains and trees, these parts of nature became the focal point of his art. 

The trees here look to be part of a very cold environment – the blue enveloping the trees and the viewer with a chill. Lowering the temperature even more are the drifts of white, perhaps snow or ice filled clouds. Look carefully though and there seems to be some warmth coming through with the dark red of the lower parts of the tree and brighter red at the top.

At one point Fir Trees was part of a "tree triptych" on the first floor of the Portland Art Museum's Center for Modern and Contemporary Art. It was hung near Andre Derain's Pine Tree and Theo van Doesberg's very cubist Tree. Now it stand alone amongst the other examples of art from 1915 to 1940. It is almost directly across from Karl Hofer's Early Hour our piece of the week for Week 15 – two paintings that evoke a pensive mood for me and perhaps for Kirchner too. There are still six more days to this week to explore that thought.

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