Sale: 514 / Evening Sale, Dec. 11. 2020 in Munich Lot 219

 
219
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Frau mit Ziege, 1938.
Oil on canvas
Estimate:
€ 250,000 - 350,000

 
$ 292,500 - 409,500

+
Lot description
Frau mit Ziege. 1938.
Oil on canvas.
Gordon 1022. Signed and dated in lower left. Verso of the canvas signed and inscribed "Zwei Tänzerinnen" (referring to a different work). Verso also with the estate stamp of the Kunstmuseum Basel (Lugt 1570 b) and twice with the registration number "Da/Bl 7". 60 x 70 cm (23.6 x 27.5 in).

• Rediscovery of painting long believed to be lost: In 1938 Kirchner painted "Frau mit Ziege" over his work "Zwei Tänzerinnen" from 1927/29.
• One of the last three works by the great expressionist (catalog raisonné Gordon).
• From the artist's estate.
• Privately-owned for more than 45 years.
• In 1972 on the cover of the catalog of the exhibition at Galerie Großhennig
.

This work is documented at the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Archive, Wichtrach/Bern.

PROVENANCE: From the artist's estate (Davos 1938, Kunstmuseum Basel 1946, verso of the canvas with a hand-numbered estate stamp).
Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett Roman Norbert Ketterer, Munich (1954).
Galerie Wilhelm Grosshennig, Düsseldorf (verso of the stretcher with the gallery label).
Private collection (acquired from aforementioned, presumably in 1972).
Ever since family-owned.

EXHIBITION: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Galerie Wilhelm Großhennig, Düsseldorf, May to August 1972 (cover picture with title "Mädchen mit Ziegen").

LITERATURE: Hans Delfs, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Der gesamte Briefwechsel "Die absolute Wahrheit, so wie ich sie fühle", Zürich 2010, nos. 3482, 3509.

Called up: December 11, 2020 - ca. 17.33 h +/- 20 min.

Essay
Refuge in Switzerland: Kirchner in Davos
From 1917 on E. L. Kirchner traveled to Davos for health reasons on several occasions, and eventually decided to settle in Switzerland for good in 1923. From then on the artist and his partner Erna Schilling, called "Frau Kirchner", lived in the "Wildbodenhaus" at the entrance to the Sertig Valley. In clear seclusion, the couple lived a simple life with only a few amenities. After the relocation the artist noted in his journal: "Our new house is a real pleasure for us. We will live there well and in great order. This should really become a turning point in my life. Everything has to be brought into clear order and that house should be furnished as simple as possible, but also beautiful and intimate. " (Davos diary, 1923). During these years in chosen exile in Switzerland, Kirchner worked with an impressive creativity, making prints, drawings, watercolors, paintings and even wooden sculptures and pieces of furniture for his own home. He observed the unsettling events in his home country Germany in the 1930s from a safe distance: the disastrous economic situation, the political rise of the National Socialists and Hitler's takeover, the destructive German cultural policies and the resulting discrimination and dismissal of numerous artists and museum directors, and finally also the defamation of his own work. In the summer of 1937, a large part of modern works of art, including 639 works by E. L. Kirchner (of which more than 54 paintings), was confiscated from German museums and presented as "degenerate art" in a traveling exhibition until 1941. Some were illegally sold abroad or even destroyed.

The ideal of the simple life. Davos idyll
Artistically, the 1930s, the last years of his life, are characterized by a clear turn to landscape motifs and depictions that show the simple, idyllic, but also labor-intensive life in Davos. In addition to the atmospheric landscapes with the Alpine panorama, he also captured herds of sheep, Davos houses, farmers harvesting hay and fetching water, Kirchner's own four walls and this intimate depiction of a Davos peasant woman driving two goats in front of her.
In this work the artist stands very close to the depicted event, placing animals and female figure at its center. The background takes on the role of a backdrop that structures and dynamizes the scene through the creek’s flow direction.
While the moonlit water contrasts brightly with the dark surroundings and the strong shadows of the figures, Kirchner creates a complementary contrast to the green grass with the red clover planted on the rocks.
A secret hidden for 82 years comes to light
But the intimate, bucolic scene, which is one of the last three paintings created immediately before Kirchner's suicide in the spring or summer of 1938, hides a great secret. The title "Two Dancers", which the artist painted in large curved letters on the back of the canvas, suggests that Kirchner might have overpainted an older painting with the depiction of the woman with goats. An X-ray examination carried out a few weeks ago not only confirms this assumption, it reveals a dynamic, sophisticated composition of a dance scene and thus provides the basis for a clear classification: The work that was overpainted in spring 1938 is the painting "Zwei tanzende Frauenakte" (Two Dancing Female Nudes) mentioned in the catalog raisonné for the late 1920s (Gordon 904), and described as "Location unknown" in 1968. The dancers must have been in the artist's possession for at least 10 years before Kirchner painted over them with the work offered here in 1938. The illustration in the catalog raisonné also reveals that the artist must have made a photograph of the work, which was then used for the publication of the catalog raisonné in the 1960s.
E. L. Kirchner and the dance
The hidden depiction once more delivers proof of the important role the dance played in Kirchner's work. During his time in Dresden around 1909/10, his interest and fascination for dance found its way into his multi-faceted oeuvre in the form of drawings, prints and paintings of dancing couples. Dance will ultimately occupy him in his artistic creation until his death. In the 1920s, however, Kirchner dealt particularly intensively with questions regarding movement. When Kirchner first met his long-time partner Erna Schilling she was a nightclub dancer in Berlin, and Kirchner also became acquainted with dancers famous at that time. In 1921, the dancer Nina Hard visited him in his house "In den Lärchen" in Davos-Frauenkirch. In 1926 he met the famous expressive dancer Mary Wigman and her former student Gret Palucca in Dresden, who also made a guest appearance in Davos in 1930. Movement as a pictorial motif now played an extremely important role in Kirchner's artistic work. He studied different motion sequences with great enthusiasm, photographing and sketching them to eventually capture them on the canvas. In 1925 Kirchner was also commissioned to paint a mural in the newly founded Folkwang Museum.
Like other works from these years, the work rediscovered here not only contains an enormous measure of modernity and the rousing joie-de-vivre of the 1920s in terms of form and expression, the motion itself also places the work in the Roaring Twenties. A time in which the new free dance as well as fast, expressive dances like the Shimmy, the Charleston or the Lindy Hop are expressions of an unprecedented evolution and liberation on the dance floor and consequently also in society.
Turning away from the world
However, by the late 1930s the artist was basically through with all of this. Berlin with its dance halls, variety shows and theaters seemed more distant than ever. Kirchner considered applying for Swiss citizenship. He more and more he withdrew into seclusion in Davos, because the increasing power of the National Socialists, as well as the defamation and the removal of his works from over 50 German museums clearly troubled him. He was expelled from the Prussian Academy of the Arts; in Switzerland his works had not yet been met with the success that he had worked for so hard over so many years in his home country. His already unstable mental health took a turn for the worse in 1938. There is evidence that he destroyed some printing blocks and sculptures he had made by hand at this time. In this light it is little surprising that Kirchner also decided to paint over a painting from an apparently long gone period of his life. Davos is now much closer to him than the fun-loving dance of the two female nudes in the overpainted picture.
"I hope that my work will become more mature and better over the years" (Kirchner, 1938)
In a few letters from December 1937 and January 1938, Kirchner mentions that he was working on smaller pictures: "We are now slowly snowing in. It's always such a beautiful event. Nature is so calm, the snow falls slowly, covering everything . [..] I am now working on smaller pictures. It also has its charm. " (to Carl Hagemann, December 5, 1937). This could also refer to the work offered here, which, like some other works from these last months, differs from other pictures made at that time, for its almost square format (cf. Gordon 1020-1023). In his art creation during these last difficult months Kirchner seemed to have more and more concentrated on nature and the people in his immediate vicinity. In mid-March Kirchner wrote to the then director of the Detroit Institute of Arts: "Up here you go back to more naturalistic things. [..] I plan to make a series of works depicting the life of mountain farmers this summer. I want to try and make it as intense as possible." (March 15, 1938). Accordingly, it is very likely that this work was not made before the the spring of 1938 - possibly just a few weeks before Kirchner's death. The almost idyllic scene of a farmer driving the goats home in the evening, rendered in the usual dynamic manner, can be understood as Kirchner's late homage to the so familiar and much treasured simple life in Davos. With exciting, expressive forms, strong contours, a balanced and yet unusual composition, rich and bold color contrasts, the most important German expressionist painted over his artistic past in the truest sense of the word - and perhaps in the sense of a new beginning. [CH]
 


Buyer's premium, taxation and resale right apportionment for Ernst Ludwig Kirchner "Frau mit Ziege"
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Differential taxation:
Hammer prices up to € 500,000: 32 % buyer's premium
Hammer prices above € 500,000: for the share up to € 500,000: 32%, for the share above € 500,000: 27% buyer's premium
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Regular taxation:
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Resale right apportionment:
Objects made by artists who have not died at least 70 years ago are subject to a resale right apportionment of 2.4% including statutory sales tax.