Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Zwei Bauern im Gespräch
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Zwei Bauern im Gespräch
Gouache, India ink and carpenter's pencil over pencil on smooth white light card 50 x 38.2 cm Framed under glass. Inscribed '16 Zwei Bauern i. Gespräch' by the artist in pencil verso lower right. Red estate stamp "NACHLASS E.L. KIRCHNER" (Lugt Suppl. 1570b) verso lower left corner, therein signed "A Da/Bc 1" in black ink. - In fine condition with vibrant colours.
In this fine and boldly colourful gouache from the early Davos period, Kirchner depicts what he himself describes as two “Bauern im Gespräch”. The farmers stand opposite one another and almost fill the sheet; compositionally they belong to the figural “pairings” that can be observed quite often in Kirchner's work. This allows the depiction to concentrate on the relationship between the central figures - in terms of form and content. The farmers are both obviously wearing not their working clothes but a very fine outfit with a stiff, tall hat and a suit. The two are characterised very differently: the gesture of the figure in profile on the left suggests he is speaking energetically, while the one on the right, with the long meerschaum pipe, seems more contemplative and is listening. Lost in thought, the circular blue clouds of smoke rise up above the figure. The surroundings are only very summarily suggested. Both men are standing on a path and perhaps in front of a door, whose dark opening is visible; the distinctive contours of a black cat can be seen in the background on the left. What is striking in terms of technique is not just the bold drawing done in thick pencil and swirling sketchily around the figures independently of the colours, but also the many little watery pockets distributed across the surface - accepting the outlines left behind by their drying. The paper selected by the artist did not absorb the liquid paint, its ground repelled it. This combination and Kirchner's playing with the chance elements of the medium produce a special vitality. And it testifies to the fact that he worked rapidly, in keeping with his restless temperament.
As an artist who became completely absorbed with his new rural surroundings, Kirchner was fascinated by the alpine world around him as well as its traditions and proud people. The context of the motif on our sheet, featuring two peasants in “Sunday dress”, follows directly when we consider that Kirchner had already begun to occupy himself with monumental designs for paintings of precisely this theme early on in Davos. In the autumn of 1921 he had already mentioned the painting “Dimanche l'après-midi sur l'Alpe” (Gordon 711, whereabouts unknown) in a letter to Nele van de Velde. Two other monumental, panorama-like versions of this theme would follow before 1925: “Alpsonntag” and “Sonntag der Bergbauern” (Gordon 734, 735). Since 1920 he had also formulated preliminary versions in numerous woodcuts thematising people's work as well as leisure.
Comparative illustration: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Alpsonntag. 1920. Woodcut (Dube H 420 II)
From: Eberhard W. Kornfeld, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Bern 1979, p. 171
This work is registered in the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Archiv Wichtrach/Bern.
Estate of the artist (Davos 1938, Kunstmuseum Basel 1946); Private collection Berlin; Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, 16th auction, 1952, cat. no. 1544 (without illus.); Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett Roman Norbert Ketterer, 33rd auction Moderne Kunst, 29/30 May 1959, cat. no. 389 with illus. plate 52; Galerie Großhennig, Düsseldorf (1959); Private collection since, Rhineland, family possession
Cf. Eberhard W. Kornfeld, Die drei grossen Bauernbilder, in: idem, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Nachzeichnung seines Lebens, Bern 1979, pp. 185 ff.