Die Brucke

What is Die Brucke?

Die Brücke is a group of German Expressionist painters, some of whom lived together for many years and exhibited together. They are best known for their depictions of everyday life in the years following World War I, and their depictions of carnival. Many of them were already best-known in their day for their paintings, and contributed to the burgeoning alternative art world.

While primarily known for their painting, they revived the art of German woodcut and printmaking as well.

History of Die Brucke

The original members began painting late in 1905 and were soon joined by others, including Nolde, Heckel, and his friend A. W. Zweibrücken (1879-1926). Many were artists, but also theater workers, builders, and sailors; Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff were both shipbuilders. In the fall of 1906 they began an artists’ colony in Weimar, with the aim of making a contribution to the aesthetic revitalization of Germany. Their motives were the same as those of many of the Impressionists—the focus was on life and the world, and not on art history or trends in Europe. Their first show, in 1907, was the exhibition Die Brücke und der Blick zur Tropenze, showing their growing personal style, with bold colors and a trend toward a flattened form.

Notable Die Brucke Artists

Fritz Bleyl (1880-1966)

Fritz Bleyl was born in Amstetten in southern Austria and apprenticed in a Stuttgart paint factory. At 19 he won first prize in a painting competition in Vienna. When a friend brought him to Berlin to show his artwork, the young painter decided he could make a living out of painting. His first exhibit opened the door for him as a painter, and he soon became the leading expressionist in Dresden.

His paintings often show drunken men, drunk girls, and male and female nudes. He preferred quiet, ordinary things, such as rows of blocks, exposed brick, a barrel, a train and tram, and a brick wall. In the 1920s, he was briefly considered to be Hitler’s favorite artist.

His images were toned with vibrant yellow ochres and browns and bejeweled with red. His unique style recalled Italian Renaissance painting and turned his naturalistic images into Renaissance masterpieces. His Neo-Renaissance landscapes and seascapes were also used to mark the stages of his life.

Ernst Kirchner (1880-1938)

Ernst Kirchner was born in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria in 1880 and attended the Königliche Technische Hochschule (Royal Technical University) in Dresden before setting up a studio in 1900.

Kirchner’s father was a cooper, and the young painter grew up with factory life at the farm he was born on. He and his parents were members of a small, Protestant sect in southern Germany.

He exhibited his first large paintings at the 1906 Salon d’Automne and at the 1910 Exposition Universelle.

Erich Heckel (1883-1970)

Erich Heckel was born in 1883 in Döbeln, then part of Saxony. He studied architecture in Dresden, where he met the other founding members of Die Brucke.

Erich Heckel was an early member of Die Brücke, becoming its president in 1913. He also became known as “Mr. Symbolism.” His “Emblemata” series of posters, mostly unsigned, gave his name to “heckelgenuss.” The series, consisting of twelve prints with floral and fruit patterns, has been seen as a reflection of the so-called “New Objectivity” style of Modernist Art. Ernst Kirchner Ernst Kirchner’s paintings and lithographs, full of color and bold use of form, were initially done in tempera but later used a variety of mediums including, graphite and lithography. He created two series of about fifty lithographic works with photographic components: the “Emblemata” series and the “Eve” series.

Emil Nolde (1867-1956)

Emil Nolde was born in Luckenwalde, West Prussia in 1867. He was an amateur landscape artist, and after moving to Berlin in 1906, he studied art at the Städel. During this period, he began painting female nudes, which established his style. He was friends with writers in the Weimar Republic, including Bertolt Brecht and Friedrich von Schiller.