As one of the founding artists of 'Die Brücke' group in 1905, Kirchner is essential to the history of German expressionism, a movement he virtually personifies. Trained in Munich and Dresden, he was attracted to neo-impressionism, van Gogh and tribal artefacts, combining influences from all three in his searingly emotional paintings, drawings and prints. His woodcuts and woodcarvings combine traditional German folk forms with more primitive instincts. His oil paintings, ranging from ambitiously large to intimate in scale, equally show the effects of ethnographic research. The nudes in 'Three bathers' resemble the artist's painted carvings, echoing in turn the sculpted Eves of medieval art as well as African and Pacific statuary. Wearing lipstick and a look of enervation, these Berlin day-trippers huddle defensively in the Baltic waves. Uncannily presaging the coming blitzkrieg, the figures also predict the artist's own deteriorating health. Conscripted in 1915, Kirchner was discharged six months later with tuberculosis.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
Collection highlights tour Three bathers
Drei Badende Feldafing
oil on canvas
197.5 x 147.5 cm stretcher; 215.2 x 165.0 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Purchase 1984
Shown in 11 exhibitions
Kirchner, Galerie Ludwig Schames, Germany, Oct 1916–Oct 1916
Kirchner: first American retrospective exhibition of oils, watercolours, prints, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 08 Dec 1950–12 Jan 1951
Lehmbruck and his contemporaries, Curt Valentin Gallery, New York, 24 Sep 1951–13 Oct 1951
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner:
- Curt Valentin Gallery, New York 16 Apr 1952–10 May 1952
- Museo d'Arte Moderna della Città di Lugano, Switzerland 19 Mar 2000–02 Jul 2000
Closing exhibition, Curt Valentin Gallery, New York, 08 Jun 1955–Jun 1955
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: a retrospective exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 20 Mar 1969–27 Apr 1969
Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Sep 1986–23 Nov 1986
German expressionism: the colours of desire:
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 11 Oct 1989–10 Dec 1989
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 20 Dec 1989–18 Feb 1990
Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994
German expressionism: art and society, Palazzo Grassi S.p.a., Venice, 06 Sep 1997–11 Jan 1998
(NGA collection display), National Gallery of Australia, Parkes, 01 May 2010–31 Aug 2010
Galerie Ludwig Schames, 1916, Frankfurt am Main/Germany, Exhibited October 1916
Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Düsseldorf, pre 1937, Dusseldorf/Germany, Confiscated 26 August 1937
Buchholz Gallery, circa 1939-1951, New York/New York/United States of America, Email from Prof. Dr. Uwe Fleckner, Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar, Universität Hamburg, 27 August 2011. 'I could figure out that your painting was confiscated at the Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Düsseldorf on 26 August 1937. It was not listed in the official confiscation records, but the fact of its confiscation is stated in the Düsseldorf museum's papers. The painting has not been in the "Degenerate Art" show of 1937, the label 2046 (verso painting) would have been composed by 5 figures if this would have been the case! It is likely that 2046 is the inventory no. of the Curt Valentin Gallery (so that Valentin would have got it ca.1939, because we know that no. 2045, a work by Dix, went to the gallery at that date).'; Loaned by Buchholz Gallery to 'Kirchner: first American retrospective exhibition of oils, watercolours, prints' at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, 8 December 1950 - 12 January 1951.
Curt Valentin Gallery, 1951-Jun 1955, New York/New York/United States of America, Purchased by Mr and Mrs Zimmermann, June 1955 from the 'Closing exhibition'.
Mr & Mrs Frederick Zimmermann, Jun 1955-circa 1969, New York/New York/United States of America, Loaned by Mrs Zimmermann to 'Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: a Retrospective Exhibition' at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1969
Fischer Fine Art Ltd, pre 28 Sep 1984, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Fischer Fine Art 1984
Referenced in 23 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Great gifts, great patrons: an exhibition celebrating private patronage of the Gallery, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986, cover (illus.). cat.no. 138
Stephanie Barron and Wolf-Dieter Dube (Editors), German expressionism: art and society, Milan, 1997, 170, 171 (colour illus.). cat.no. 19
Lothar-Günther Buchheim, Die Künstlergemeinschaft "Brücke", Feldafing, 1956, (illus.). fig.167
Busch-Reisinger Museum, Kirchner, Cambridge, 1950. no catalogue numbers, titled 'Bathers'
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'The Foundation', pg. 12-13, Sydney, 1984, 12, 13 (colour illus.).
Edmund Capon, Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Annual Report 1997, Sydney, 1997, 11 (colour illus.).
Rudy Chiappini, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 'Eine Kritische Betrachtung der Gesellschaft im Zerfall', pg. 43-62, Lugano, 2000, cover (colour illus.), 56, 57 (colour illus.), 72. cat.no. 35
Curt Valentin Gallery, Closing exhibition, New York, 1955, (illus.). cat.no. 52, as 'Bathers'
Curt Valentin Gallery, Lehmbruck and his contemporaries, New York, 1951. cat.no. 22, as 'Bathers'
Curt Valentin Gallery, Kirchner, New York, 1952, (illus.). cat.no. 7, as 'Bathers'
Lorenz Dittmann, Magdalena Moeller, Armin Zweite and Hubertus Froning, German expressionism: the colours of desire, Sydney, 1989, 62 (colour illus.). cat.no. 23
Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 52, 53 (colour illus.).
Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 148, 149 (colour illus.).
Robert Goldwater, Primitivism in modern painting, New York, 1938. fig.13
Donald Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 'Berlin', pg.90-106, Cambridge, 1968, 90, 92, 106, 317 (illus.). plate 53, cat.no. 356
Donald Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: a retrospective exhibition, Boston, 1968, 72 (illus.). cat.no. 39
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 55 (colour illus.).
Susan Lee (Editor), Art investigator, 'New Visions' - German Expressionism: Die Brücke', pg. 178-79, Port Melbourne, 1998, 179 (colour illus.).
Elwyn Lynn, The Weekend Australian, 'Nature versus humanity', Sydney, 01 Sep 1984-02 Sep 1984.
Franz Roh, German art in the 20th century, London, 1968, 54 (illus.). as 'Feldafing', Collection Buchheim
Michael Wardell, Look, 'Foundation building', pg.14-17, Sydney, Sep 2004, 14 (colour illus.).
Deborah Wye, Kirchner and the Berlin street, 'Kirchner's working process: The street scenes', pg.67-81, New York, 2008, 77, 78 (colour illus.). fig.35