His Most Famous Painting (Marzella) – Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a German ‘Expressionist’ painter & printmaker, was born on May 6, 1880 in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria. He studied architecture at the Königliche Technische Hochschule (a technical university) of Dresden. Kirchner was one of the founder members of the group ‘Die Brucke (The Bridge)’ with two of his friends, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel. All of them wanted to avoid and stay away from existing creative traditions. They charted a new road, leading to fresh ideas and the novel modes of artistic expression, while cutting through the gap between the old & the new as well. “Marzella” is one such revolutionary work of Ernst.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was known for his energetic and emotive works, differentiated by an audacious use of colors, the vigor, and angular moulds. One of the most famous paintings of Kirchner is his oil on canvass work, “Marzella” (1909-10). Marzella, in reality, was one of the daughters of an artist’s widow. Kirchner painted her both, clothed and nude. “Marzella” displays a nude Marzella sitting with an intense gaze of an adult with her lips and nails painted provocatively red. Despite the childlike lasciviousness and its naive eroticism, Marzella was made to look like a ‘subject,’ more than the ‘object,’ of male gaze.

“Marzella” also displayed the new technique, which the members of ‘Die Brucke’ were working on. In this technique, the artists sketched at a rapid pace to capture the soul of their subject in their natural pose, ensuring optimal spontaneity. Tribal artifacts & carved wooden sculptures from Africa and the Pacific Islands heavily influenced Ernst’s creativity. He was fascinated by the inflated angular contours & unrealistic colors, which is perhaps most discernible in his woodcuts and sculptures. For Ludwig, his nude and tribal art were both, the signs of true desire for regeneration and renewal.

In 1911, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner settled in Berlin and founded a private art school, MIUM-Institut, together with Max Pechstein, with the aim of promoting the modern teachings of painting. The venture did not last long and ended the following year. In the year 1913, Kirchner came out with a book titled “Chronik der Brücke (Brücke chronicle),” which eventually led to the dissolution of the group. Kirchner had his first solo exhibition at the Essen Folkwang Museum. At the outbreak of the WW1, he volunteered for the army, but left it soon enough and suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1917, Kirchner moved to Frauenkirch near Davos and was also appointed as the member of Prussian Academy of Fine Arts. In 1937, Nazi’s forcibly took his resignation and declared his art as “degenerate,” seizing most of his works. The psychic trauma of these circumstances and the onset of illness weakened the artist. On June 15, 1938, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner committed suicide, leaving “Marzella” as a bright mark in the world of twentieth century ‘Expressionism.’