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Cover: Berlin Street Scene - Ludwig Kirchner 1919

Kirchner is regarded as the leading personality among the Brücke artists. He was the one to suggest the formation of the circle in 1905, and it was his Chronicle, written in 1915, that caused the break-up of the group after eight fruitful years. He was born in Aschaffenburg on 6 May 1880, and had a typical middle-class background. His father, Ernst Kirchner, was an engineer working at a paper factory. In 1887 the family moved to Perlen, near Lucerne, and in 1890 they finally settled down in Chemnitz, where his father had been given a lecturership in paper research at the local Academy of Trade and Industry. Kirchner started to draw at quite an early age and even developed some talent in this area, though after leaving grammar school in spring 1901, he followed his father's wish and took up architecture at the Saxon Institute of Technology in Dresden. It was during his first term that he met Bleyl, who became his friend and shared his passionate interest in liberal art. Although both of them pas­sed their degree in engineering in 1905, they had spent most of their time painting and drawing.

In Berlin Street Scene two clients are depicted. One is facing the viewer, one is facing the prostitutes. The model for the clients was probably the artist's friend, Otto Mueller, but it could be possible too that Kirchner depicted himself. The models for the two prostitutes are the sisters Erna and Gerad Schilling. The women are seen wearing very colourful clothing with elaborate lace collars and high-fashion hats. In the background one can see a busy street. On the street are a hackney carriage and the sign of the tram line 15, which at that time drove over the central stations of Berlin like Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate. They are looking at the two men provocatively. The clients’ reaction to this is giving them their attention or looking away. Kirchner often depicted prostitutes and their relationship to their clients. This was not meant as social criticism but rather an attempt to depict his idea of a new independent type of woman Kirchner noted:

“The street scenes developed in the years from 1911 to 1914. It was one of the loneliest times in my life, in which I wandered through the long streets full of people and wagons through day and night in agonizing unrest”

 

Expressionism Diemar Elger