Monday, March 30, 2009
Five Women on the Street by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
"On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock." - Thomas Jefferson
This quote accompanies a really odd painting that I just had to find out more about: Five Women on the Street by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. I was in the office today for some odd reason, well research related, and I went ahead and looked at the painting for today from A Year in Art. When I saw this painting, I could not for the life of me figure out what shouted out "March," but for some reason the editors thought to include this for the month.
Kirchner was a German expressionist painter from the earlier part of the last century, and he apparently did a number of painting of the Berlin streets and women, this painting being one of the more famous/important ones. This painting from 1913 was also labeled as one of the 100 Greatest Painting by a 1980 BBC series. According to online sources, his paintings contained "grotesque distortions [that] mock[ed] the mannered artificiality of Berlin society." And the short bio wrote that 600 of his painting were confiscated by Nazi officials before he committed suicide in 1938.
The women are supposed to represent Berlin street-walkers. For more information about the series, click here. According to artdaily, "With Five Women on the Street (1913), Kirchner has placed the prostitutes in a space that resembles a stage, relating them to dancers in a revue. Lined up rhythmically, these figures, in their proliferation, also reference the abundance of streetwalkers in Berlin at that time." In this way, his painting seems to relate to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in that both paintings are taking "prostitutes" and putting them in new settings to make us re-evaluate aesthetics of gender, body, and the "subject" of art. So, even though I never really heard about Kirchner, I am happy to know some info now.