Karl Schmidt-Rottluff

Date/place of birth

1 December 1884 Rottluff near Chemnitz

Day/place of death

10 August 1976 Berlin

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff - Landschaft mit Karren (Landscape with cart)
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff - Landschaft mit Karren (Landscape with cart)

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Karl Schmidt-Rottluff biography

Karl Schmidt-Rotluff fascinated by the foreign

Karl Schmidt-Rotluff was born on 1 December 1884 in Rottluff near Chemnitz to the miller Friedrich Schmidt, choosing to add “Rottluff” to his surname only in 1905. In the same year he started his architecture studies at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden and with artist friends Erich Heckel, Fritz Bleyl and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner founded the famous artist group “Brücke”. In the November of that year the group was able to hold its first exhibition. In 1907 the Hamburg art historian Rosa Schapire joined the group, choosing herself to be a passive member. She became a close friend and supporter of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who painted her portrait twice. Max Pechstein also belonged to the group for a short time but was excluded when his parallel membership of the Berlin Secession was revealed. “Die Brücke” disbanded in 1913 and in the following years, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff was part of various other artist groups.

Development to Expressionist, member of various artist groups

In 1914 Karl Schmidt-Rottluff held his first solo exhibition as a member of the Berlin Free Secession. In the First World War he served as a pioneer in Russia and Lithuania from 1915 to 1918, and shortly after the end of the war, married Emy Frisch. Although Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s early work was still clearly influenced by Impressionism, in the early 1920s he fashioned the expressionist project “Die rote Erde” with Rosa Schapire and Wilhelm Niemeyer. He increasingly distanced himself from the early choice of motifs of Scandinavian and North German landscapes and turned more towards strong geometric forms. In 931 he was appointed at the Preußische Akademie der Künste, but his membership lasted only two years because the infamous director and Nazi opportunist Max von Schilllings forced him to resign. Schmidt-Rottluff took part in the last annual exhibition of the Deutscher Künstlerverbund at the Hamburg Kunstverein in 1936 with two oil paintings.

Painting ban under National Socialism, successful post-war years

1937 was the beginning of a bleak period for Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Hundreds of his works were confiscated in museums, some were destroyed and the painter himself received a paining ban in 1941. He reacted by retiring into his own world, characterised by an extensive collection of ethnological exhibits, mostly from Africa and Oceania which, being fascinated with that which was foreign, Schmidt-Rottluff had collected over his lifetime. In particular, the tribal masks of the indigenous peoples exerted a great attraction on him and served as models for many pictures. When the faces of the people on the streets distorted into hate-filled grimaces, the artist found comfort in the sight if the immobile, always somewhat deformed features of his collection pieces. It was only in September 1942 that a hint of resistance from Karl Schmidt-Rottluff was seen when he accepted the invitation of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and created several landscape paintings at Castle Kreisau, despite the existing painting ban. Unlike Moltke, Schmidt-Rottluff survived the Second World War and in the post-war years was able to build on earlier successes. He participated in the first documenta in Kassel and taught as professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste; he was also a member of the revived Deutscher Künstlerverbund as second CEO.

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff died in Berlin on 10 August 1976, only a few months after his wife Emy.

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff Prices

ArtistArtworkPrice
Karl Schmidt-RottluffLandschaft mit Karren (Landscape with cart)€150.000
Karl Schmidt-RottluffStilleben mit Chicorée€142.800
Karl Schmidt-RottluffOsterstrauss€99.200
Karl Schmidt-RottluffStilleben im Schatten (mit Rhabarber)€89.250
Karl Schmidt-RottluffFarnkraut€78.864
Karl Schmidt-RottluffBlumenstilleben (Flower still-life)€72.000

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