Ernst Barlach
Philipp Bauknecht
Pizzi Cannella
Erich Heckel
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Berthold Müller-Oerlinghausen
Emil NOlde
Max Pechstein
Christian Rohlfs
George Tappert
Fritz winter
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Dance & Music


TEFAF Maastricht 2023
Booth 474

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Singer at the piano

Oil on canvas
120 x 150 cm

Since its creation in 1930, the painting Singer at the Piano has been the subject of controversy and was rejected in museum circles at the time of its creation because of its "new style".

In an article published in the Frankfurter Zeitung by Count Baudissin, the Nazi successor to Ernst Gosebach at the Museum Folkwang Essen, the author frightens private collectors and also artists with the threat of tracking down the worst degenerations of art in their private hiding places, confiscating them, ordering their surrender and also making their prior destruction a punishable offense.

As a reaction and out of fear for his paintings, Ernst Ludwig Kichner wrote to his friend Carl Hageman, then owner of the painting Singer at the Piano, with the urgent request to send the work back to him.

The letter is on the one hand testimony to Kirchner's fears of the Nazi regime, a circumstance that according to research at least partly to blame for the suicide of the artist, on the other hand, the letter contains a remarkable description of the painting, which is exemplary for Kirchner "new style", which characterized his late work.

Excerpt from the letter dated October 2, 1936:

Dear Doctor,

[...] After this clipping [newspaper article] it might be good after all if you gave me back the singer on the piano. Simply rolled in reel unclamped from the frame.

It would be very painful for me if this picture, which contains a completely new observation of nature and in which I succeeded in capturing and forming the feeling that one has when one enters a room where a singer is singing at the piano and the listeners are listening spellbound, in the semi-darkness of such a room the figures deform.

Since every single form is born out of the overall composition and is in harmony with it, one cannot, of course, take out a single one and criticize it for itself, just as one cannot take out a word from a sentence and put it down for itself without destroying the whole meaning. But this is done again and again with pictures and from this then the non-understanding etc. follows.

I cannot believe that my work can be defamed into a dishonest and fraudulent one, when I have worked on it all my life with diligence and dedication and have fought against the excesses and imitations for 25 years just as the gentlemen are doing today.

[...] That life in my old age would still be so difficult after all the hard things I have already had to go through. I have only wanted the best and so many people have learned to see the world in a new, happy light through my work.

Many warm regards to you and Miss Dinkgräve

Your EL Kirchner

Philipp Baukecht

Aelplerkirchweihtanz (peasant dance) 

Oil on canvas
128 x 118 cm

What is a "Kirchweih"?

In a narrower sense, the Kirchweih is the annual commemorative festival of the dedication of the church, which often coincides with the feast day of the church patron (patrocinium). In the Middle Ages and early modern times, the Kirchweih was one of the most important local festivals; in the course of modern times, it was partly mixed with other festivals or festive occasions (Alpabzug, harvest thanksgiving, grape harvest, slaughter festival, Schützenfest). In the German-speaking part of Switzerland the Kirchweih is known as Chilbi or Kilbi, in the French-speaking part as kermesse, bénichon, vogue or fête patronale, in Ticino as sagre.

Source: Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (HLS).

The paintings of the painter Philipp Bauknecht (1884-1933), whose life and work are closely connected with the high alpine climatic health resort Davos, are characterized by a powerful colorfulness and compositional informality. This is where his artistic work began; after attending the carpentry school in Nuremberg and studying at the Königliche Kunstgewerbefachschule in Stuttgart, Bauknecht had to move to Davos in 1910 due to tuberculosis, where he remained until his death in 1933.

He experienced both the sophisticated spa town, which was characterized by rich and intellectual sanatorium guests, as well as the rugged mountain landscape and the hard working world of the rural population. Both are reflected in his paintings, watercolors and woodcuts.

Landscape and everyday rural life become in his works the direct expression of originality and elementary human feelings and actions.

Bauknecht's art, however, is far from an idealization of life in the mountains; rather, it shows a tendency towards the grotesque, bony and unhinged exaggeration of the rural population. His coarse depiction of people can be understood in the context of the critical Expressionism of the 1920s, as expressed, for example, in the disillusionist image of man by an Otto Dix, George Grosz or Max Beckmann.

Bauknecht also maintained personal contact with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in Davos and exhibited together with the older and clearly better-known Expressionist. However, the ascetic Bauknecht fell out with the brilliant Kirchner after only a few years, apparently taking offense at his bohemian lifestyle.

Exhibition text: Philipp Bauknecht - Davoser Bergwelten im Expressionismus, Kirchner Museum Davos, November 23, 2014 - April 19, 2015.

International Art Exhibition, Dresden June to September 1926
Photo: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1926 (Kirchner Museum Davos)

Philipp Bauknecht vs. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

In 1919/1920 Bauknecht met Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who was four years his senior. After a brief stay in 1917, he moved into the farmhouse "In den Lärchen" in Davos Frauenkirch a year later. As early as the 1920s, the discussion about the stylistic and spatial proximity to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner influenced the assessment and status of Bauknecht's works, which was probably also triggered by the "Exhibition of New German Art" in the Stuttgart Art Summer of 1924 and the "International Art" exhibition in Dresden in 1926. In both presentations, the works of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Philipp Bauknecht hung in close proximity to each other, resembling each other in their themes and preoccupation with the typical Davos high mountain landscape. [...]

Bauknecht's importance is evident from numerous exhibition participations during his lifetime and from a historical quotation from a review in the Schwäbischer Kurier of 1924. In the magazine, Bauknecht was effusively described as an outstanding expressionist artist of greater inventiveness than his fellow painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - also based in Davos. This brought the Kirchner supporters on the scene, who in turn championed Kirchner. Bauknecht himself commented in handwriting in the margins of the above-mentioned exhibition review of 1924:

"When two create in the same age, in the same area and under the same living conditions, one cannot well speak of influence." Kirchner, for his part, presented his relationship to Bauknecht in different ways and was at pains to emphasize his own achievements in a positive light above all. It seems unusual, however, that he owned paintings by Bauknecht, personally advocated his participation in the International Art Fair in Dresden in 1926, and even after the final disagreement with Malter, expressed himself positively about his art.

Text from: Philipp Bauknecht, Expressionist in Davos. 1884-1933, ed. by Drs. Gioia Smid, 2002, pp. 64-68.

Photograph of a peasant dance on the upper floor of the house in the larches with self-portrait (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner) on the left, 1919/20

Source: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Das Fotografische Werk, ed. by Roland Scotti, Kirchner Museum Davos, 2005, p. 117.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Country dance

Oil on canvas
30 x 25 cm

The photograph above as part of the photographic work of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, shows a peasant dance in the artist's house in Davos and dates from exactly the same time as the small oil painting that Kirchner realized in 1919/20.

Kirchner in the early 1920s occasionally invited peasants to dance in your house. The music for this was played by a peasant band; now and then Kirchner's gramophone was also used. Kirchner often captured the motif of the peasant dance in drawings and prints.

Source: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Das Fotografische Werk, ed. by Roland Scotti, Kirchner Museum Davos, 2005, p. 294 (fig.86).‍

Totentanz: Revival of Mary Wigman's "Totentanz II" at the Theater Osnabrück Source: / Photo: Jörg Landsberg

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Dance of Death

Oil on canvas
110 x 149 cm

Who is Mary Wigman?

The dancer, choreographer and dance teacher Mary Wigman (Hanover 1886 - 1973 Berlin), a Laban student, founded her own school in Dresden in 1920, where she created a new style, the "Absolute Dance". This is a dance without a plot, in which therefore no story is told, in which rather rhythmically mental states are danced, mostly - gloomy - visions, parables and dream stories. As a direct expression of the human condition up to the liberation itself of music and rhythm, it finally even becomes a pure moving image in space without reference to time.

Today first great impression at Mary Wigman. I feel the parallel as it expresses itself in the dances in the movements of the masses, which strengthen the single movement by number. It is infinitely stimulating and delightful to draw these body movements. I will paint large pictures of them.

Yes, what we suspected has become reality after all. The new art is here. Mary Wigman uses much of the modern imagery unconsciously, and the creation of a modern concept of beauty is just as much at work in her dances as it is in my paintings.

‍Excerptfrom the diary of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, January 30, 1926

"The graves open and release their dead": with these words, the famous protagonist of expressive dance Mary Wigman describes her 1926 dance piece "Totentanz II" (Dance of Death II), which was reconstructed by the Theater Osnabrück in 2017 and staged again. Painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner attended Mary Wigman's rehearsals in Dresden and, in addition to numerous sketches, created the outstanding painting "Totentanz," which impressively illuminates the close connection between modern dance and expressionist painting.

"Immediate expression" or "pure moving image in space" are expressions of Mary Wigman's concept of dance which are close to Kirchner's ideas. Wigman's concept of dance includes practically the entire theory of the "Brücke" artists in their program of 1906 and the second Kirchner's theories on his "New Style" that began in 1925.

picture description
The "Dance of the Dead" by Mary Wigman had as a special feature that it was danced with masks. In front of the row of the dead, an animal-like masked figure with pronounced breasts but bearded mask appears in green on the right. The counter figure danced by Mary Wigman appears on the left in a striped robe, crouching with arms raised and quite human features, as if she does not yet fully belong in the realm of the dead.

Kirchner rhythms the row of the dead strictly parallel in a rear plane as constants, which formally continue in the dance floor below in front in the opposite direction just as strictly parallel. In a plane in front, the human and the animal-hellish figures appear on the right and left as the variables as the basic principles fighting each other. For the rear plane Kirchner uses a strong but rather harmonious red-blue tone, for the two figures on the front plane a feathery green over a naked body for the animal-hellish figure and an expressive but dignified black-and-yellow striped robe for the human figure.

A thoroughly expressionist painting of a dance scene, also expressionist, still in Kirchner's Davos "carpet style," in which the color planes are interwoven as if into a carpet-like surface. In the dark and light blue contour and air shadows of the figures and their stylization, however, Kirchner's "New Style" is already indicated.

Dance of Death II, 1926
Historical photograph of Dance of Death by Mary Wigman by Ursula Richter.

Dance of Death II, 1926
Historical photograph of Dance of Death by Mary Wigman by Ursula Richter.

In 1926, "Totentanz II" was premiered in Königsberg. In 2017, Theater Osnabrück reconstructed the Dances of Death, which formed the prelude to the three-part dance evening Danse Macabre.

Source: Theater Osnabrück / Youtube

Emil Nolde

Death as a dancer

21 x 26 on 57 x 45,8 cm

A dance of death is usually understood as representations of people of different status and age who are confronted with the personification of death and thus realize that they must die. The essential characteristic is the communal experience, which is often expressed in the hierarchical arrangement of the individual scenes from the highest-ranking representatives of society to the lowest: everyone is affected, no one can escape death and the responsibility for his sins.

In the etching "Death as a Dancer" Emil Nolde (1867-1956) follows this tradition of depicting the dance of death, but stages it in a refined and perfidious way by depicting the camouflage of death as a youthfully beautiful nude dancer with long flowing hair - this in a circle of watching, quite aged gentlemen, who perhaps do not even notice the skeleton of death shining through the beautiful delicate body.

One suspects what will happen when the dance comes to an end....

Fritz Winter

Rhythms I.

Graphite and colored paper crayons
50 x 70 cm

Fritz Winter (1905-1976) was a Bauhaus student of Paul Klee and made his German contribution to the "abstraction création" of the 1930s in a balancing act between Klee, Naum Gabo and the abstracting large formats of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (during long stays in Davos). After war and imprisonment from 1939 to 1949, he became one of the most important representatives of abstraction in the 1950s and 1960s, at the latest since his highly regarded appearance at the first documenta in 1955.

Again and again he found new, also musical themes, which he varied in long series of experiments. In the process, rather lyrical phases alternated with more expressive ones. The individual work, like the one at hand, is therefore not a random result of the moment but always part of a series in which the artist checked his theme for its validity.

The worldwide abstraction of the 1950s and 1960s, which seems so light-footed and accidental to us today, was - on the contrary - a valid and essential statement of art as a speechless world language in reaction to world war, nuclear war and the Holocaust, hard-won against the various figurative tendencies. At the latest in the crisis year 1948, when any hope of peace perished in the Cold War, the artists world-wide learned this speechlessness, which led to the purest of all art languages.

Fritz Winter's composition in front of Blue and Yellow (1955) on the occasion of the first Dokumenta 1955.

Both images:

Galerie Henze & Ketterer

TEFAF Maastricht 2023

March 11-19, 2023
Booth 474

Our presentation includes other works by the following artists:

Ernst Barlach
Philipp Bauknecht
Pizzi Cannella
Erich Heckel
Emil Nolde
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Georg Tappert
Max Pechstein
Berthold Müller-Oerlinghausen
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Fritz Winter