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Bathers Beneath Trees, Fehmarn

Bathers Beneath Trees, Fehmarn, 1913

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
German, 1880-1938
Oil on canvas
59-1/2 x 47-1/2 in. (151.1 x 120.7 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© (for works by E. L. Kirchner) by Ingeborg & Dr. Wolfgang Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern

On view

For this scene of nudes in a landscape, Kirchner reimagined the island of Fehmarn as a lush, tropical paradise. A founding member of the German Expressionist collective Die Brücke (The Bridge), Kirchner drew inspiration for his fractured forms and bold palette from the so-called “primitive” nonwestern art he encountered in Germany’s anthropological museums as well as French Post-Impressionist pictures exhibited in Berlin and Dresden. Here, Kirchner’s slashing brushstrokes betray a debt to Cézanne, while green and orange flesh tones suggest the influence of Van Gogh. But the determining inspiration seems to have come from Gauguin. His paintings of Tahiti in the 1890s present the island as a premodern paradise, inspiring Kirchner to describe the Baltic island where he spent his summer vacations as a land of “South Sea opulence.”

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