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Three bathers



Ernst Ludwig Kirchner


06 May 1880 - 15 Jun 1938


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.


Alternative title

Drei Badende



Media category


Materials used

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

Accession number


Artist information

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Works in the collection


Shown in 14 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Kunstsalon Ludwig Schames, 1916, Frankfurt am Main/Germany, Exhibited October 1916

Paul Multhaupt, pre 27 Mar 1928, Düsseldorf/Germany, Erkrath, near Düsseldorf

Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Düsseldorf, 27 Mar 1928-26 Aug 1937, Düsseldorf/Germany, Gift of Paul Multhaupt 27 March 1928. Confiscated by the German Reich as "Degenerate Art" from the Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Düsseldorf on 26 August 1937. Number 2046 on the National Socialist inventory, label verso. Not exhibited in the "Degenerate Art" exhibition. Stored at Schönhausen Palace, Berlin (storage of "useable" works of art) from August 1938 until 8 December 1939. Purchased by Karl Buchholz, 8 December 1939.

Buchholz Gallery Curt Valentin, 08 Dec 1939-1951, New York/New York/United States of America, Berlin dealer Karl Buchholz, was one of the four main art dealers granted permission by the German Reich to sell confiscated works of "Degenerate Art" on the international art market. In 1940 the painting was shipped to Buchholz’s New York gallery, run by Curt Valentin, inventory no. NY1957. In 1951 the gallery was renamed the Curt Valentin Gallery.

Curt Valentin Gallery, 1951-Jun 1955, New York/New York/United States of America, Purchased by Mr and Mrs Frederick Zimmermann, June 1955 from the 'Closing exhibition. Sculpture, paintings and drawings'.

Mr & Mrs Frederick Zimmermann, Jun 1955-circa 1969, New York/New York/United States of America, Frederick Zimmermann (USA 1906-67). Loaned by Mrs Dorothy Zimmermann to 'Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: a retrospective exhibition' at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 20 March - 27 April 1969. Touring exhibition, exhibited in Boston only.

Galerie Melki, 1973, Paris/France, Inventory no. 2073

Fischer Fine Art Ltd, pre 1984, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Fischer Fine Art 1984. Inventory no. F 10.714

Referenced in 26 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.). 138

Stephanie Barron and Wolf-Dieter Dube (Editors), German expressionism: art and society, Milan, 1997, 170, 171 (colour illus.). 19

Lothar-Günther Buchheim, Die Künstlergemeinschaft "Brücke", Feldafing, 1956, (illus.). fig.167

Busch-Reisinger Museum, Kirchner, Cambridge, 1950. no catalogue numbers, as 'Bathers'

Edmund Capon AM, OBE and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'The Foundation', pg. 12-13, Sydney, 1984, 12, 13 (colour illus.).

Edmund Capon AM, OBE, 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. 35

Curt Valentin Gallery, Lehmbruck and his contemporaries, New York, 1951. 22, as 'Bathers'

Curt Valentin Gallery, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, New York, 1952, (illus.). 7, as 'Bathers'

Curt Valentin Gallery, Closing exhibition. Sculpture, paintings and drawings, New York, 1955, (illus.). 52, as 'Bathers'

Lorenz Dittmann, Magdalena Moeller, Armin Zweite and Hubertus Froning, German expressionism: the colours of desire, Sydney, 1989, 62 (colour illus.). 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: a retrospective exhibition, Boston, 1968, 72 (illus.). 39

Donald Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 'Berlin', pg.90-106, Cambridge, 1968, 90, 92, 106, 317 (illus.). plate 53, 356

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 55 (colour illus.).

Kunstsalon Ludwig Schames, Arbeiten von EL Kirchner, Frankfurt am Main, 1916. no catalogue numbers

Susan Lee (Editor), Art investigator, 'New Visions' - German Expressionism: Die Brücke', pg. 178-79, 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

Karin Schick, Vibrant metropolis / Idyllic nature. Kirchner - The Berlin years, '"Happiness in a quiet corner": Kirchner on Fehmarn', pg. 32-45, Munich, 2017, 39, 129, 160 (colour illus.). 41

Katja Terlau, 1937. Die Aktion "Entartete Kunst" in Düsseldorf, 'Die Beschlagnahme von Gemälden und Bildwerken/ The confiscation of paintings and sculptures', pg.26-41, Dusseldorf, 2017, 28, 29 (colour illus.). 1937. The "Degenerate Art" Campaign in Düsseldorf

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