Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976)

Karl Schmidt was born in Rottluff near Chemnitz in 1884 and met Erich Heckel at grammar school in Chemnitz in 1902. Their first literary and artistic interests lead both of them to join the debating society "Vulkan". Karl Schmidt began studying architecture at the polytechnical university of Dresden in 1905. Through Heckel he got to know Fritz Bleyl and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. In the same year they founded the artists’s association "Brücke". Karl Schmidt added to his surname the name of the place where he was born to call himself Schmidt-Rottluff from then on. In 1906 he abandoned his courses to devote himself completely to painting. Rosa Schapire, an art historian from Hamburg, became the groups most important patron and the Hamburg lawyer Gustav Schiefler began collecting Schmidt-Rottluff's graphic work.. Between the years of 1907 and 1912 Schmidt-Rottluff regularly spent his summers at Dangast, north of the town of Oldenburg, sometimes accompanied by Heckel. A substantial number of his paintings, watercolours and graphic works were executed in the tranquil seclusion of the lonely costal region. His strong inclination to withdraw to the remote scenery of the North Sea and Baltic characterizes Schmidt-Rottluff's artistic personality and makes him the loner of the "Brücke" group. His move to Berlin in 1911 brought him in contact with current tendencies of the international avantgarde. Cubism, Futurism and African tribal art worked as a stimulus for his own art from 1912 onwards. In the same year he took part in the "Sonderbund Ausstellung" in Cologne. From this point on he was in vibrant artisitc exchange with Lionel Feininger. After the disbanding of the "Brücke" in 1913 Schmidt-Rottluff developed a monumental and stylised artistic vocabulary.

The artist spent the summer of 1914 in Hohwacht at the coast of Holstein. He was drafted for military service in Russia and Lithuanina in 1915 where he only produced woodcuts and wooden sculptures. In 1918 he returned to Berlin and married Emy Frisch. His late-expressionist Work of the 1920s was dominated by watercolours and paintings. Up to the early 1930s he still spent his summers at the Baltic coast. He travelled to Italy, Paris, Dalmatia and to Ticino.. He became a member of the Prussian Academy in 1931, but abandoned it again in 1933. Defamed as a "degenerate" artist he was prohibited from exhibiting in 1936 and from painting at all in 1941. In 1943 his studio in Berlin was bombed. Schmidt-Rottluff chose to live in exile in Rumbke at the Leba-Lake in Pomerania and later returned to Rottluff. He was rehabilitated as an artist in 1947 when he was asked to become a professor at the academy of fine arts in Berlin. Numerous honours and exhibitions of his work were part of his last years. At the age of 92 Karl Schmidt-Rottluff died in Berlin. His bequest came to the "Brücke" as the "Karl and Emy Schmidt-Rottluff Foundation".

 


 

 

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Deichdurchbruch, 1910