nude in the Modern art &
Contemporary Art

The Nude in Modern & Contemporary Art

The presentation "The nudes in the Modern art & Contemporary Art" shows how the nude as an expression of inner moods and feelings, it became one of the most popular and frequent motifs of the German Expressionists. One focus of our booth is a group of previously unseen large-format drawings by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner from 1914. What began in the early 20th century developed into a more abstract depiction of the naked human being in contemporary art - this development is exemplified by contemporary positions.

The nude as an independent representation in art began with Impressionism. The French Impressionists detached the depiction of the naked human body from a specific, predetermined theme and created it as an independent motif. The model was often known, which, as in the early days - with Praxiteles - could lead to heated discussions. They raised the nude became a genre of their own, painting both male and female naked people in the studio and outdoors.

The triumphal march of the nude as an independent representation had begun and became one of the most popular and frequent motifs in Expressionism, as an expression of inner moods and feelings. Whether standing, sitting, kneeling, lying down with legs and arms stretched or bent, in the studio or outdoors, as a resting model or involved in a movement, as bathers or dancers: naked women and naked men populated the creative fantasies of artists, inspiring them to drawings, prints, watercolors, paintings and sculptures, as well as photographs.

Text: Excerpt from the text "EXPRESSIV! The Nude Modern Art" by Alexandra Henze

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fotografien um 1929 (Brücke Museum, Berlin)
Source: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Das fotografische Werk, ed. by Roland Scotti, Kirchner Museum Davos, Benteli 2005, pp. 210-211

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
- the Brücke artists

The artists around Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and the master himself elevated the "bathers", i.e. nude depictions in the open air, to one of the most popular themes of their art and made regular trips from Dresden to the neighboring Moritzburg ponds, and later from Berlin to the island of Fehmarn with its typical round stones on the beach, where the female companions and girlfriends leaned against or sat on them.

The image of people in the great outdoors was to accompany Kirchner throughout his life, for even after moving to Davos, the artist continued to produce pictures of naked women by the stream and in the forest using all the techniques available to him. The artist was certainly inspired by Cézanne's famous "Bathers" and the works of Gauguin and the Fauves in France.

Kirchner remained faithful to this theme throughout his life and, even later in Davos, he repeatedly depicted and photographed his partner Erna and visiting female friends naked in the open air and indoors, either individually or together.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Bathing Women and Children

Oil on canvas
130 x 110 cm
Gordon 0825


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, photographs from around 1929.
Source: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Das fotografische Werk, edited by Roland Scotti, Kirchner Museum Davos, Benteli 2005, pp. 210-211

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fotografien, in: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Das fotografische Werk, edited by Roland Scotti, Kirchner Museum Davos, Benteli 2005.

After a whole century, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's important painting "Nude Woman Climbing from the Mountain (Erna)" will be on display exclusively at TEFAF 2024 for the first time since 1922.

The artwork was last shown in 1922 at the Kunstsalon Schames in Frankfurt on the occasion of the major Kirchner exhibition "Swiss Works by E.L. Kirchner".

It was not until 1975 that Roman Norbert Ketterer discovered the canvas hidden behind another painting. He separated the two paintings and had "Nude Woman Climbing from the Mountain (Erna)" stretched on a new frame.

The painting shows Erna Kirchner in a Davos landscape, when Kirchner painted bathing scenes in nature for the first time again after a visit to the dancer Nina Hard in Davos in 1921. This is an important moment in Kirchner's work, linking the Davos period with the motifs of the early Brücke years.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
- "Viertelstunden-nude"

The Expressionists of the artists' group "Brücke" developed the so-called "quarter-hournude", which shaped and revolutionized the method of representation. Instead of remaining in one position for hours on end, the artists had to hold still for a maximum of 15 minutes, capturing the outlines on paper in a few, concise strokes and lines. This led to a rapid working method and a sketch-like representation. Details could no longer be worked out, shading was replaced by a "nervous" zig-zag hatching. Graphic and color elaboration was shifted to the studio and later completed from memory.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Six large-format drawings created in 1914
(more details, click on "enlarge")


Heckel, Mueller, Pechstein & Nolde
- nude Representations

At the beginning of the last century, the so-called "Lebensreform" movement also spread in Germany, promoting healthy food and clothing, as well as health-promoting outdoor activities and physical exercise, which had a strong impact on the way artists worked.

In doing so, they completely turned their backs on conventional academic ideas and chose a free world for free artists and free models. They opted for nudism, which they captured in every possible facet on paper, canvas and as sculpture.

Erich Heckel
Child and Naked Woman‍‍

Oil on canvas
69 x 79.7 cm
Recto: "Landschaft bei Prerow"
Hüneke 1911-15


Georg Tappert
- Dancer Betty

Georg Tappert had found a preferred model for himself in his partner and dancer Betty. The Berlin painter and graphic artist was one of the founders of the "Neue Secession" in the spring of 1910. Hermann Max Pechstein, then Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff moved shortly afterwards from Dresden to Berlin, which became the center of all expressionist art before and after the First World War.

In the years 1912-1913, the voluptuous dancer Betty was his preferred model, an overwhelming experience for Tappert, which he depicted in all techniques - drawing, watercolor, woodcut, etching, lithography and photography. The series of around ten large-format paintings achieve an intensity in their depiction of the exuberant attitude to life in Berlin at the time that can only be compared with the series of street scenes - albeit with a different intention - by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Georg Tappert
Girl at the Table (Betty with Fan)

Oil on canvas
109.5 x 91.5 cm
Wietek 147


George Grosz
- Eva as wife and model

George Grosz also captured his wife Eva in a series of nudes. This series is part of an intensive and fruitful exploration of the subject during the artist's time away from Germany in America, where he had already moved in early 1933.

Grosz had been familiar with nude drawing and painting since his training: The more or less naked body, often with just a hat, stockings or shoes, often appears in the artist's earlier satirical, social and socio-critical works, among other things. The big city motifs that were so popular in Berlin at the beginning of the 20th century, such as street scenes, revues, ballets, but also fairgrounds and other places of entertainment, served as models for some of the artist's early masterpieces.

George Grosz
Self-portrait with Nude

Oil on canvas
72 x 58 cm


George Grosz in his studio in America, video still from: Life's Fine in the Labyrinth - George Grosz in America, A Film by Norbert Bunge, Christine Fischer-Defoy (1991/92)

But what motivated Grosz during his stay in America to focus on the subject of nude in several hundred works on paper and paintings?

The fact that he had a patient and inspiring model at his disposal was certainly decisive: his own wife Eva, whom he met for the first time in 1918 and whom he married in 1920. Alone or together with her sister Lotte, she fired the artist's imagination and appears in a wide variety of poses indoors and outdoors, often with props or in combination with a self-portrait in drawings, watercolors, mixed media and paintings. Grosz always preferred voluptuous forms, although he certainly exaggerated them in his depictions and adapted them to his artistic ideas.

The abundance of colorful versions created in America is striking: Nude drawings were already created in Germany, but since the move to America there is a whole series of several hundred watercolors and mixed media in which special attention is paid to the elaboration of individual features, so that Eva can be clearly identified as a model.

Karl Hartung
- Amorphous forms

In abstraction, too, there was a confrontation with nude. Karl Hartung worked in a "field of tension" between non-representational form and the reproduction of reality, in which he explored the various possibilities of abstraction.

The first abstract sculpture was created as early as 1935, but more or less representational depictions can still be found in his work to the end. Depictions of reduced human figures and animals as well as amorphous forms provide an insight into the artist's working methods, who constantly questioned himself and his work and frequently revisited and re-examined motifs.

George Baselitz
- Tête-á-tête

Right up to the present day, "nude" has been an attractive subject for artists. In "La nuit mit Marie", for example, Georg Baselitz presents an exposed woman and a man with his trousers down in typical "upside down" style. The technique of the black and white linocut underpins the couple's nocturnal tête-á-tête, which is illuminated by a candle placed on the woman's skirt.

Georg Baselitz
La nuit mit Marie (The night with Marie)

202 x 150 cm on 228 x 170 cm
Exemplar 2/6


Markus Lüpertz
- Man & Nature

"Et in Arcadia ego" - under this motto of longing, artists have been creating idylls of harmony between man and nature for centuries. Markus Lüpertz has also been searching for Arcadia for decades - that utopian place of perfection, freedom and immortality, the landscape that Markus Lüpertz chose for his important cycle of the same name and in which he gathered a whole series of figures from ancient mythology to bear witness to the human condition.

Markus Lüpertz
Arcadia - Circe

Mixed media on paper
186 x 150 cm. 195 x 164 x 5 cm
(incl. artist's frame)


Jürgen Brodwolf
- Tubenfiguren

The tube figures, which were triggered by the sight of a squeezed out and strangely deformed, figurative-looking tube of paint in the painting studio, are still part of his artwork today. The found object can be seen as a further development of the ready-made. Over the years, he has continued to develop the use of the tube figure. In 1965, for example, he created the first figure boxes, which are box-like works containing various tube figures. From 1972, the artist created figures in a larger format by shaping the figures out of lead and thus no longer being bound to the prescribed tube size.

The "tube figures" have been used and further developed again and again since then, mostly creating female bodies that penetrate the space. The figures are formed in human size from lead, like the work "Lead Figure".

Jürgen Brodwolf
Untitled - lead figure

Molded lead sheet
150 x 32 x 21.5 cm


Jürgen Brodwolf, Untitled - lead figure, 1978, 3d scan

Giovanni Manfredini
- Full body prints

Characteristic of the figurative depictions are negative prints of individual body parts or the entire body, which have enlivened the artist's work since 1995. The examination of fire and his own body is closely linked to the severe burns Manfredini suffered as a child.

Rather than using traditional painting tools such as brushes and paint, chalk, charcoal or pencil, Manfredini pressed his chest, arms, legs and face against the soot-covered surfaces and rolled them off in order to immortalize images of his own body, reminiscent of photographs or X-rays, either as a whole or in fragmentary form. The black layer of soot is freed from the dark particles by whole body prints or parts of it. Under the darkness, the bright light reappears. Manfredini presses the face, torso, arms, hands and legs onto the blackened surface and creates a "negative impression" that has become so typical of his work.

After further reworking, usually with fingers but also with real brushes, the works are heavily varnished, which ensures their preservation and conservation.

Giovanni Manfredini
Senzatitolo. Untitled
2009 (86082)

Mixed media on wood
200 x 150 cm