Thursday, May 28, 2009

Man is a Bridge and Not an End

Nietzsche said "What is great in man is this: that he is a bridge and not an end."
The writer's words may have been one influencing factor on the early German expressionists calling themselves the Brucke- the Bridge. Of the four of them, Fritz Bleyl is the only one the Portland Art Museum has no work to represent. The Gordon Gilkey center has numerous woodblock prints by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and there are some impressive pieces by Erich Heckel as well, such as Young Girl of 1913, seen here.
The four of them set out to change things in Dresden by becoming a bridge from the past to the future. They began by working communally and sharing a studio, an idea they shared with William Morris, the British author and designer whose utopian philosophy appealed to the artists.
Kirchner said in the 1913 'Chronicle of the Artists' Group Brucke', "We were motivated by a totally naive pure need to bring art and life into harmony with each other."
Instead of a studio with models, people from all walks of life came to the shared space to hang out, and be themselves. The artists drew them as such, Kirchner wrote in a diary in 1925 "The studio became home for the people we drew. Life was absorbed directly and abundantly in drawings."
The earliest Kircher you can see at the Portland Art Museum, if it is on the wall when you visit, is Dancer with Raised Skirt of 1910.
Only 5 years into their collaboration and done in the same year as their first Dresden exhibition, the dancer represents Kirchner's new style. The artists had repeatedly visited the African and Oceanic collections of the city's museum 'fur Volkerkunde' around that time and were adopting a new vocabulary for themselves. In this woodcut of a cabaret dancer with her knickers showing I get a feeling for Kirchner's thick broad brushstrokes to come- as seen in the Tree, our piece of the week, painted 15 years later.

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