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Exhibition “Farbenmensch Kirchner”, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

The exhibition is devoted to the Brücke painter and one of the most avant-garde painters of the 20th century, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, also called the “colour man”.

One is greeted by his image of the lady in yellow, “Dodo” reclining on her red stool. It is very impressive the way it has been hung and lit, so beautifully set in scene, which alone was worth the visit, as it is normally not so well presented.

Sitzende Dame, Dodo - Kirchner-Dodo-copyright-Bayerische-Staatsgemälde-Sammlungen-Sammlung-Moderne-Kunst-in-der-Pinakothek-der-Moderne-in-Munich

Sitzende Dame, Dodo – Kirchner-Dodo-copyright-Bayerische-Staatsgemälde-Sammlungen-Sammlung-Moderne-Kunst-in-der-Pinakothek-der-Moderne-in-Munich

Nudes, bathers, dance and vibrant street scenes in Berlin before WWI were his subjects which were rendered in sharp contours and bold colour contrasts.

The exhibition, based on intensive art-technological investigation of his expressionistic work, is a joint venture of the Doerner Institute of the Bavarian State Collection of Painting, the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design, the Kirchner Museum in Davos and the Swiss Institute of Art Research, Zurich.

It was interesting to see his well known images alongside xray, infrared and ultraviolet images of the underdrawings. I specially enjoyed his sketchbooks and the images of his underdrawings. Together with the photographs, sketchbooks, prints and the revealing underdrawings one could gain an insight into his working process. He apparently investigated his subjects from different points of view and with many media and materials before embarking on a painting. Despite the immediacy and spontaneity of his lines one surprisingly discovers his precise planning process which can be specially seen in his sketches. He never left the house without his sketchbook but sketched into his canvas with a brush and faint tones of grey. The revealed underpaintings were actually a new outlook into his otherwise very brightly coloured work.

Zirkusreiterin - Kirchner-Circus-copyright-Bayerische-Staatsgemäldesammlungen-Sammlung-Moderne-Kunst-in-der-Pinakothek-der-Moderne-Munich

Zirkusreiterin – Kirchner-Circus-copyright-Bayerische-Staatsgemäldesammlungen-Sammlung-Moderne-Kunst-in-der-Pinakothek-der-Moderne-Munich

The exhibition also highlights a critique of his own work. He overpainted many compositions before he was satisfied and also painted on the rear of many rejected canvases, creating many “reversos”.

Kirchner also reflected very intensely on colour theory, investigating the brilliance of colours. The colours were matt and as he had refrained from any varnishing, no yellowing had taken place over time, presenting the viewer the original brilliance. He also interestingly mixed his oils (direct out of the tube) with wax, which enhanced the brilliance even more.

The exhibition of some 90 images includes the 19 paintings owned by the Pinakothek and many on loan from private collectors and other institutions. It was an interesting opportunity to see how he had planned his work and investigated colours before embarking on painting. It is well curated.

My only bit of criticism is that the “reversos”, the image of the reverse side of the paintings were hung too low and couldn’t be perused comfortably. This also applied to two signs about the underpaintings, which were hung not only too low, but also too far away to be able to be read without stooping over the exhibits and perhaps setting off the alarms.

On the way back I reflected on how important it is to take one’s sketchbook along and to sketch on a daily basis. I was bemused to realise that I preferred his wonderful sketches and his underpaintings to his very colourful paintings. The underpaintings were almost “tender” and very investigative.

The entrance on Wednesdays is free of charge so it is ideal for a walk-in during your lunch-break.

Where is it?: Pinakothek der Moderne – Barerstrasse 40 in Munich

When is it?: 22.05. 2014 – 31.08 2014

Call: +49 (0)89 23805 360
Sonia Böning is a jewellery designer and artist running her jewellery and art space in Munich.

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