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Live-in studio of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1933–1943)

Living and Working

“Right now I’m very busy with the move – getting the studio ready for the relocation is a colossal task […], but you have to persevere. We have to go through it in good spirits!”

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff to Friedrich Schreiber-Weigand, Head of the Municipal Art Collection Chemnitz, 1933

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff spent more than a decade commuting between the flat he shared with his wife Emy Schmidt-Rottluff (née Frisch) and his studio in Friedenau. After moving to Wilmersdorf in 1933, both living and working spaces were finally under the same roof.

In the same year, the National Socialists seized political power in Germany, and profound changes impacted the art world. Cautiously hopeful at first, Schmidt-Rottluff soon distanced himself from the party’s cultural policy. As part of the 1937 “Degenerate Art” campaign, many of his works were confiscated and vilified, as well as shown in the eponymous propaganda exhibition. His financial circumstances increasingly deteriorated as a result. It became almost impossible for the artist to exhibit and sell his works in public; in fact, from 1941 onwards, he was officially prohibited from doing so. Nevertheless, he continued his artistic endeavours, creating works on paper both in his studio at home and during his lengthy sojourns in Pomerania.

The corner of Bamberger Straße and Güntzelstraße, around 1910, picture postcard, Archive of the Museum Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf

In 1943, air raids completely destroyed Schmidt-Rottluff’s home on Bamberger Straße. Without a place to stay in Berlin, the couple moved into Schmidt-Rottluff’s parents’ house near Chemnitz, where they lived for the rest of the war. They returned to Berlin in late 1946; in the spring of 1947, they once again visited the rubble on Bamberger Straße. The artist could hardly believe his luck: although he thought that all the works in the house were lost, those that had been stored in the cellar were recovered undamaged.

Valentina Bay

Note: Since 2021, the Brücke-Museum has been engaged in the critical reappraisal of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s collection of objects from colonial contexts, which are owned by the Karl and Emy Schmidt-Rottluff Foundation at the Brücke-Museum. You can find more information here.

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