Die Brücke 1905 – 1913

The Künstlergruppe Brücke was founded on 7 June 1905 in Dresden by four architecture students: They were united by a common aim to break new boundaries in art

They were self-taught as artists, their only training from private drawing lessons They nevertheless acted as a group immediately, seeing themselves as pioneers who would change the world from its very basis and revive art In their first manifesto, which they called a Programm (1906), they named the impulses behind their work: faith in the future, the strength of youth, the value of directness and authenticity, and the rejection of the older forces of the establishment Although the use of pure colour and a more two-dimensional treatment of subject-matter had obvious similarities with Fauvist art, and in particular that of Henri Matisse, whose work the group saw at an exhibition in Berlin in 1908, the artists of Die Brücke aimed to encompass all life, rather than just the field of art, with their radical stance

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Die Brücke is sometimes compared to the Fauves Both movements shared interests in primitivist art Both shared an interest in the expressing of extreme emotion through high-keyed color that was very often non-naturalistic Both movements employed a drawing technique that was crude, and both groups shared an antipathy to complete abstraction The Die Brücke artists’ emotionally agitated paintings of city streets and sexually charged events transpiring in country settings make their French counterparts, the Fauves, seem tame by comparison

The founding members of Die Brücke in 1905 were four Jugendstil architecture students: Fritz Bleyl (1880–1966), Erich Heckel (1883–1970), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938) and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884–1976) They met through the Königliche Technische Hochschule (technical university) of Dresden, where Kirchner and Bleyl began studying in 1901 and became close friends in their first term They discussed art together and also studied nature, having a radical outlook in common Kirchner continued studies in Munich 1903–1904, returning to Dresden in 1905 to complete his degree The institution provided a wide range of studies in addition to architecture, such as freehand drawing, perspective drawing and the historical study of art The name “Die Brücke” was intended to “symbolize the link, or bridge, they would form with art of the future”

French academician and art specialist, Maurice Rheims mentions Frédéric Fiebig as the only Latvian painter who was really part of Die Brücke expressionist movement, although he was not necessarily conscious of it

As part of the affirmation of their national heritage, they revived older media, particularly woodcut prints The group developed a common style based on vivid color, emotional tension, violent imagery, and an influence from primitivism After first concentrating exclusively on urban subject matter, the group ventured into southern Germany on expeditions arranged by Mueller and produced more nudes and arcadian images They invented the printmaking technique of linocut, although they at first described them as traditional woodcuts, which they also made

The group members initially “isolated” themselves in a working-class neighborhood of Dresden, aiming thereby to reject their own bourgeois backgrounds Erich Heckel was able to obtain an empty butcher’s shop on the Berlinerstrasse in Friedrichstadt for their use as a studio