Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Pantomime Reimann I
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Pantomime Reimann I
Watercolour, black chalk and pencil on drawing paper 46.1 x 58.8 cm Framed under glass. Unsigned. Inscribed 'Scene' in pencil lower right. The rectangular Basler estate stamp "NACHLASS EL KIRCHNER" (Lugt 1570 b) verso lower left and with the handwritten ink entry "III/Be 8". - Vibrant, intense colours. The paper slightly browned with minor marginal defects and old traces of folds resp. creases. The estate stamp verso rubbed.
The fact that, throughout his life, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was fascinated by the disreputable but also colourful life of bars, cafes and theatres no longer merits any extensive comment today. However, when serious consideration is devoted to his sketches, drawings, prints and, not least, his paintings, gaps still remain regarding the interpretation and identification of his subjects. For example: who is Hans Reimann? How did Kirchner meet the young writer, who was born in Leipzig in 1889, and discover “Pantomime eines jungen Dichters”, a piece that may have been just in the process of being staged? Kirchner seems to have been delighted with the provocative story, and with three woodcuts, which are related to the presumably grotesque plot like chapter headings, he began to illustrate scenes with suggestions for a (not published) programme: “Begegnung”, “Die Rache der Tänzerin” and “Kopf der Pantomime” (Gercken 634-636; see comparative illus. 1 and 2). The plot seems to have culminated in the female dancer's revenge. At any rate there are additional drawings and watercolours in which Kirchner deals with this climactic scene, after which the dancer forces her antagonist, presumably the mime, to the ground with clearly erotic intentions and attacks him (see the sheet of the same size depicting the scene “Pantomime Reimann II”). Finally, there is a painting entitled “Pantomime Reimann”, dated to 1912 in the catalogue raisonné by Donald Gordon (G 227). In this work Kirchner once again stages a scene of the female dancer's dominance over her fellow actor, who cowers on the ground.
However, in the present watercolour, Kirchner seems to be illustrating the beginning of the story: with a sweeping gesture, a man wearing a dark suit and hat and placed in a set-like architecture greets two approaching figures, presumably the female dancer and her escort. The escort takes on the role of an observer at the margins of Kirchner's other illustrated scenes from the play. In brushstrokes that are rapid for Kirchner, almost hectic, the artist captures the theatre which has been darkened for the first scene, the “Begegnung”; the stage and auditorium have been laid out with pink, blue and green tones in watercolour and then accentuated with black crayon.
In the summer of 1918, after Kirchner sent a number of prints to Gustav Schiefler, who was compiling the catalogue of his printed oeuvre, one of the questions he asked the artist was: “Pantomime Reimann? Illustration for what text? Short story? Brochure? Published where?” - Kirchner answered immediately: “Pantomime of a young poet. Made for the programme. Unpublished.” From this brief dialogue, cited from the correspondence between Kirchner and Schiefler published by Wolfgang Henze in 1990 (p. 106), we neither gain any further information about the theatrical piece nor do we learn anything decisive about its author! Hans Reimann would have been very young in 1912/1913 and his play directly anarchic. It was not until 1919 that the writer would publish the satirical magazine “Der Drache” in Leipzig, continuing his literary engagement in this context and in other periodicals. Thus we do not know how Kirchner and Reimann met - whether they even met at all?
Or is everything just an invention - an invention of Kirchner, just like he invented his street scenes, his encounters in dance salons and cafes, usually occupying the elaborately staged settings with multiple versions of the sisters Erna and Gerda Schilling and then, to top it all off, also placing himself in the scene? It would not be the first time.
This work ist registered in the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Archiv Wichtrach/Bern.
With a confirmation of authenticity from Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione d'Italia, dated 14 July 1976 (copy)
Estate of the artist (Davos 1938, Kunstmuseum Basel 1946, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett Roman Norbert Ketterer 1954); Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin (1968); Sotheby's London, Impressionist and modern paintings and sculpture, watercolours and drawings, auction 2/3 April 1974, lot 151 with illus.; Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg, auction 206, 6 June 1975, lot 932 with colour illus.; Galerie Koch, Lübeck (1975); in private collection since, North Rhine-Westphalia, family possession, estate
Wolfgang Henze, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gustav Schiefler, Briefwechsel 1910-1935/1938, Stuttgart/Zürich 1990, cf. no. 92, p.106 (concerning the woodcuts "Pantomime Reimann"); cf. in general Will Grohmann, Das Werk Ernst Ludwig Kirchners, München 1926 resp. id., Kirchner-Zeichnungen, Dresden 1925; Simmons Sherwin, The Dancer's Revenge: Dance/Pantomime and the Emergence of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Fantasy Pictures, 1912-15, in: Dance Chronicle, vol. 41, no. 2, University of Oregon 2017, p. 1-61, notably p. 33 - 35 f., with colour illus. 12