Sale: 547 / Modern Art Day Sale, Dec. 09. 2023 in Munich Lot 442


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Kühe im Herbst, 1924/1926.
Oil on canvas
€ 100,000 - 150,000

$ 105,000 - 157,500

Kühe im Herbst. 1924/1926.
Oil on canvas.
Gordon 788. Signed in lower left. Signed, titled and with the estate stamp of the Kunstmuseum Basel (Lugt 1570 b) and the hand-written registration number "Da/Bm 7a" on the reverse. 60 x 70.5 cm (23.6 x 27.7 in). [CH].

• A particularly expressive example of Kirchner's consistent pursuit of his Davos painting style.
• After nine years in Davos, Kirchner undertook trips to his former German places of work in 1925/26, from which he returned to Davos with restored strength and awareness of his own artistic style.
• The motif, brightly expressive color palette and reduced formal language of this self-confident depiction underscore his uncompromising change in style in the 1920s.
• In a characteristic manner, the trained architect E. L. Kirchner characteristically combines frontal perspective and profile view with a close-up of the subject.
• Directly from the artist's family. Offered on the international auction market for the first time

The work is documented in the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Archive, Wichtrach/Bern.

PROVENANCE: Artist's estate (Davos 1938, Kunstmuseum Basel 1946).
Community of Kirchner's heirs, Biberach (1954).
Walter Köhler Collection, Munich (since 1954, heir after Walter Kirchner (1882-1954), the artist's brother).
Ever since family-owned.

LITERATURE: Donald E. Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Munich/Cambridge (Mass.) 1968, cat. no. 788, p. 380 (fig.).
Hans Delfs, Mario-Andreas von Lüttichau and Roland Scotti, Kirchner, Schmidt-Rottluff, Nolde, Nay .. Briefe an den Sammler und Mäzen Carl Hagemann, Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, no. 475.

"The colored outline is a problem that has not been sufficiently addressed until today. [..] The change of the surface's color when adjacent to a complementary color is also part of this chapter. [..] The colors remain in the surface so much better when they are neighboring colors in the chromatic circle, and I want to have a surface, in spite of the depth effect and everything else."

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, diary entry from October 17, 1925, in: Lothar Grisebach, Davoser Tagebuch, Ostfildern 1997, p. 103.

Called up: December 9, 2023 - ca. 18.30 h +/- 20 min.

Simple life and rural idyll. Kirchner's adopted home in Switzerland

Before he settled in Switzerland for good, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner had visited Davos several times as of 1917. He sought, among other things, medical treatment from Dr. Frédéric Bauer, the head physician of the Davos Park Sanatorium at the time. He also spent the summer of 1918 in the Swiss mountains on "Stafelalp", which he would also make his summer residence in the following years. He enjoyed the simple, rustic life with few amenities. The Alpine landscape, the life of the local peasant families and the bucolic idyll of the villages were important sources of inspiration for Kirchner during these years. The former city dweller, who was used to the hustle and bustle of Dresden and the big city of Berlin with its electric streetcars, automobiles roaring through the paved streets and the fashionably dressed inhabitants, became increasingly fascinated with the rural life in Davos and its slower pace. In a letter from 1919, he declared full of conviction: "The good van de Velde wrote to me asking me to return to modern life. That is out of the question for me. Nor do I regret it. I have a rich field to harvest that I could hardly manage in good health, let alone in the state I am currently in. The world has the same charm everywhere, only the external forms are different. And here one learns to look and explore deeper than in so-called 'modern' life, which is usually so much more shallow in spite of its rich outer form." (Letter to Helene Spengler, July 3, 1919).

Mountain landscape, peasant life, flora and fauna. Favorite motifs of a former city dweller
The subjects of the paintings he created during these years are documents of the extent to which the artist identified with his Swiss surroundings and the peasant life in Davos-Frauenkirch. All in line with the guiding principle of the "Brücke", that is "to take from life the stimulus to create and to subordinate oneself to the experience," every brushstroke of the paintings he created in Switzerland mirror his new life in Davos, the same way that his paintings made up to 1917 were characterized by the particular big-city atmosphere of Berlin, and earlier works from up to 1911 illustrate the progressive artistic creativity of the Dresden years

During these years, Kirchner rented the house "In den Lärchen" in Davos-Frauenkirch in winter and was thus able to experience the seasons and the rhythm of the hard-working farmers' lives, the harsh winters, the hay harvest, the farmers' festivals and also the alpine season in the summer months, when the cows came home to the lush pastures. In the present work, the artist shows the cows peacefully grazing "in autumn". Although the Alpine cattle drives festivities in many Swiss regions are celebrated in September and October, the hard-boiled animals can be kept outside for a large part of the day all year round, even when temperatures drop below freezing. On extended walks in the Davos area, for example on the "Längmatte" and near the "Stafelalp", where the artist used to have a summer home, Kirchner observed the cows at close range and worked up his impressions in photographs, spontaneous drawings and prints, as well as in paintings like the present work. Even a sculpture the artist made of Swiss stone pine (WVZ Henze 1925/02) has survived. In terms of motifs, the horned animals are of great importance to Kirchner in these years and make for an integral part of his oeuvre from the Davos period.

Kirchner's journey through Germany in 1925/26
The work can be dated to around 1924/1926. Kirchner may have begun it in 1924 and only completed it in 1926 - after his so-called "Journey through Germany" in 1925/26. In the winter of 1925/26, Kirchner traveled to Frankfurt am Main, Chemnitz, Dresden and finally to Berlin, then returned to Davos for a while before setting off on another trip to Dresden in June 1926. During his stay, Kirchner saw the extensive collection of his friend and patron Carl Hagemann for the first time, visited the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, the "Galerie der Moderne" at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, the most important art museums in Berlin and the "Internationale Kunstausstellung" in Dresden, and also became acquainted with the dancers Mary Wigman and Gret Palucca and their modern dance.

Even before the trip, Kirchner already had a benevolent and self-confident view of his artistic accomplishments: "I am beginning to see what matters. I see why and what my painting wants and is. There is no compulsion, nothing deliberate in it, and yet it is different from nature. But it would be wrong to say that I paint out of sensation alone. Naturally, I use the experience from earlier works quite consciously for the following ones. I believe that I enrich the doctrine of art with a few new sentences." (E. L. Kirchner, September 1, 1925, in: Lothar Grisebach (ed.), E. L. Kirchners Davoser Tagebuch, Stuttgart 1997, no. 161, p. 82) And even after his return from Germany, his head full of new impressions and ideas of the avant-garde, Kirchner was certain that he had taken the right path with regard to modernism: "The trips were very instructive for me, although I did not gain any artistic inspiration from them, but I saw my place and the justification for why my work is so highly valued over there. Among the modern artists working today, my work really does take first place in terms of its seriousness, freedom and individuality. [..] What is much more important is that my work is far and wide enough to allow for its further development, and today I can clearly see my path ahead of me." (E. L. Kirchner, September 26, 1926, in: ibid., no. 185, p. 108)

Focus on form, color and perspective
In the present painting "Kühe im Herbst", his modern artistic style is evident in a common rural motif. Kirchner portrays the friendly animals in three different views and positions, grazing from the side, with their mouths open and facing the viewer from the front, thus already filling a large part of the image area. He is not interested in depicting the idyllic mountain world of Davos, and instead put focus on a modern invention of form, new pictorial ideas and perspectives and a bold use of color. As can be seen in other works from these years, Kirchner developed a characteristic two-tone color scheme for his motifs. Just as the bodies of the cows are modeled in a strong violet and a deep blue-green, Kirchner uses only clear, strong colors for his depiction of light and shadow, as in, for example, his famous "Selbstportrait" (1925/26, Collection E. W. Kornfeld, Bern/Davos) instead of mixing the color in darker and lighter tones. While his work and the earlier works of the "Brücke" artists made in Dresden and Berlin focused on the expressive and immediate expression of what they saw and experienced in dynamic, animated strokes, almost nervous lines, shimmering contours and sometimes sharp, angular forms, Kirchner's work of the 1920s, and again in the 1930s in Davos, underwent significant stylistic and formal developments. The starting point was still the experience of nature, but Kirchner found his way to a more two-dimensional style of painting and attained his very own form of abstraction, which took impressive shape in the work offered here and which was absolutely formative for his later works of the 1930s. [CH]


Buyer's premium and taxation for Ernst Ludwig Kirchner "Kühe im Herbst"
This lot can be purchased subject to differential or regular taxation.

Differential taxation:
Hammer price up to 800,000 €: herefrom 32 % premium.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 800,000 € is subject to a premium of 27 % and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 800,000 €.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 4,000,000 € is subject to a premium of 22 % and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 4,000,000 €.
The buyer's premium contains VAT, however, it is not shown.

Regular taxation:
Hammer price up to 800,000 €: herefrom 27 % premium.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 800,000 € is subject to a premium of 21% and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 800,000 €.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 4,000,000 € is subject to a premium of 15% and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 4,000,000 €.
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