Artists’ Group Brücke

Alongside paintings by the founding members of the Brücke, namely Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, the Collection Online also features paintings by later Brücke members, that is by Otto Mueller, Max Pechstein, Emil Nolde, Cuno Amiet and Franz Nölken. There are also works by artists who were friends of the Brücke group: Max Kaus, Walter Gramatté, Anton Kerschbaumer, Otto Herbig and Christian Rohlfs. Other artworks from the Brücke-Museum collection will be added in future once works on paper and sculptures have been digitised.

The group of expressionist artists named Brücke was founded in Dresden on 7 June 1905 and dissolved in Berlin on 27 May 1913. Its founding members, the architecture students Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Fritz Bleyl, were self-taught and aimed to revolutionise art together. They were seeking immediate forms of expression far from the academic tradition of painting, and new ways of living and working beyond bourgeois conventions. Brücke’s ‘call to arms’ of 1906 demonstrates this spirit:

“With faith in evolution, in a new generation of creators and appreciators, we call upon all young people to rally. And as young people, who embody the future, we want to free our lives and limbs from the long-established powers of old. Anyone who realises his creative drive directly and genuinely is one of us.”

In painting, the common style of the group was characterised by an animated, expressive brushstroke and, above all, pure, intense colours. Many of these works were preceded by drawings, which were pioneering in their immediacy. Using methods such as the so-called Viertelstundenakte (fifteen-minute drawings), the Brücke artists quickly captured what they saw in their studio or in nature. As an exhibition community, the artists organised around eighty exhibitions during the group’s existence – many of which toured to various German cities. In addition, they marketed themselves and created promotional art, such as catalogues, invitations and posters. These could be quickly reproduced as printed graphic works. The revival of the woodcut, a medium rarely used at the time, also enabled Brücke to inscribe itself artistically into an old German tradition. The members actively solicited sponsors and collectors who supported the group financially as so-called passive members. In return for their contribution, these members received an annual portfolio of graphic works by the artists. Brücke also strived to network with international artists and to recruit new members. After Bleyl resigned as early as 1907, Heckel, Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff formed the firm core of the artist group. They were joined by the following artists: Max Pechstein (1906), Cuno Amiet (1906), Emil Nolde (1906), Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1907), Kees van Dongen (1908), Franz Nölken (1908), Otto Mueller (1910) und Bohumil Kubišta (1911). Some were members for only a short time, while others remained members until the group dissolved.

In 1911, Brücke relocated to Berlin, where the impressions of the big city led its members to develop more individualistic styles. Pechstein left the group in 1912. The chronicle Chronik KG Brücke was intended to demonstrate the unity of the remaining members, both internally, amongst themselves, and externally to their public. However, the joint work on writing the Chronik led to conflicts and in 1913 to the final dissolution of the group.

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Erich Heckel
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Otto Mueller
Max Pechstein
Emil Nolde
Max Kaus
Fritz Bleyl