Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, ‘Portrait of Willem van Vloten’, 1918, Christie's


Dedicated, dated and signed in pencil Herrn Doktor Grisebach in Dankbarkeit/ EL Kirchner/ Juli 18, annotated Handdruck, a very good impression of the second, final state, with wide margins at left and right, trimmed close to the image above and below, as printed and probably the full sheet, the sheet backed, otherwise in good condition, framed.
Image 585 x 270 mm., Sheet 590 x 464 mm.

From the Catalogue:
Gercken records a total of nine impressions of this large portrait print: one of the first state and eight of the second, final state, including the present impression.

'Shortly after Ernst Ludwig Kirchner…was conscripted to fight in World War I…he suffered extreme nervous agitation brought on in part by the horrors of war and in part by alcohol and drug abuse. The artist was discharged from military service and hospitalized in several German asylums. By 1917 Kirchner had become increasingly unstable and was admitted to the respected Bellevue Sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, where he remained until July 1918. After this stay, his health improved – for a time – and the artist continued to live in Switzerland, where he painted, sculpted, and made prints until he committed suicide in 1938.

During and immediately following his time in the Swiss sanatorium, Kirchner made a group of monumental portrait woodcuts that document the doctors and nurses who tended to him, as well as artists, dealers, collectors, and writers who came to see him. One of his first visitors was Willem van Vloten, son of Dutch émigrés who resided in Switzerland. A garden designer and flower enthusiast, van Vloten purchased Kirchner’s painting Yellow Flower (1918; private collection), as well as several woodcuts. In the Gecht print, the abstracted still life to the left of the sitter’s head in fact may be a floral piece or a potted plant. The emphasis on the sitter’s hands may refer to his career as a writer. While the seventeen portrait woodcuts Kirchner created during his stay in Bellevue are often described as calmer and softer than the work from his years in Berlin before the war, the artist’s woodcut technique and style, as evidenced in this portrait, are not so far from his pre-war production. The jagged lines of van Vloten’s face, nervous energy of his hands, and nearly abstracted interior elements in the background retain much of the raw energy of Kirchner’s 1914 street scenes. The artist dedicated this impression to one of his patrons, Dr. Eberhard Grisebach.'

Jay A. Clark, Graphic Modernism: Selections from the Francey and Dr. Martin L. Gecht Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago, 2003, pp. 68.
—Courtesy of Christie's

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Schiefler 304; Dube H 329; Gercken 895

About Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

A leading figure in the early-20th-century German Expressionist group Die Brücke, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner produced paintings, prints, and sculptures that opposed the conventions of academic art. His nudes, landscapes, and scenes of urban life on the eve of World War I are known for their unsettling effects of psychological tension and eroticism, while his powerful, crudely executed black-and-white woodcuts illustrated many books and magazines, including Germany’s leading avant-garde periodical Der Sturm. Albrecht Dürer was a lifelong influence on Kirchner, but painters such as Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh, as well as African and Polynesian art, inspired his use of bright colors, simplified forms, and malevolent, mask-like faces. His art was labeled as “degenerate” by the Nazis in the 1930s, and he would commit suicide in 1937.

German, 1880-1938, Aschaffenburg, Germany, based in Dresden, Germany