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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.


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Alternative title

Drei Badende Feldafing



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


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Works in the collection


Shown in 12 exhibitions

Exhibition history


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

Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Düsseldorf, pre 26 Aug 1937, Dusseldorf/Germany, Confiscated as "Degenerate Art" on 26 August 1937, no. 2046 on the National Socialist inventory, label verso. Not exhibited in the "Degenerate Art" exhibition. Stored at Schönhausen Castle, Berlin from August 1938 until December 1939. Purchased by Karl Buchholz December 1939.

Buchholz Gallery Curt Valentin, Dec 1939-1951, New York/New York/United States of America, German dealer, Karl Buchholz was one of the four main dealers granted permission by the Reich to sell confiscated works of "Degenerate Art". 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. 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. 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 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 28 Sep 1984, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Fischer Fine Art 1984

Referenced in 25 publications


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

Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 148, 149 (colour illus.).

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 52, 53 (colour illus.).

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

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986, cover (illus.). 138

Unknown (Editor), Vibrant Metropolis / Idyllic Nature. Kirchner – The Berlin Years, Munich, 2017, (colour illus.).

Unknown, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: a retrospective exhibition, Boston, 1968, 72 (illus.). 39

Unknown, Die Künstlergemeinschaft "Brücke", Feldafing, 1956, (illus.). fig.167

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

Unknown, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, New York, 1952, (illus.). 7, as 'Bathers'

Unknown, Lehmbruck and his contemporaries, New York, 1951. 22, as 'Bathers'

Unknown, Kirchner, Cambridge, 1950. no catalogue numbers, titled 'Bathers'

Unknown, Primitivism in modern painting, New York, 1938. fig.13

Unknown, Arbeiten von E.L. Kirchner, Frankfurt am Main, 1916. no catalogue numbers

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

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

Unknown, Kirchner and the Berlin street, 'Kirchner's working process: The street scenes', pg.67-81, New York, 2008, 77, 78 (colour illus.). fig.35

Susan Lee (Editor), Art investigator, 'New Visions' - German Expressionism: Die Brücke', pg. 178-79, Port Melbourne, 1998, 179 (colour illus.).

Edmund Capon, Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Annual Report 1997, Sydney, 1997, 11 (colour illus.).

Unknown and Unknown (Editors), German expressionism: art and society, Milan, 1997, 170, 171 (colour illus.). 19

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Great gifts, great patrons: an exhibition celebrating private patronage of the Gallery, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers

Unknown, Unknown, Unknown and Unknown, German expressionism: the colours of desire, Sydney, 1989, 62 (colour illus.). 23