Die Brücke

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Group of German Expressionist artists founded in Dresden in 1905 and disbanded in Berlin in 1913. The founders were four architecture students at the Dresden Technical School: Fritz Bleyl (1880–1966), Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (Bleyl dropped out in 1906 and other artists joined from time to time, including Max Pechstein in 1906, Emil Nolde temporarily in 1906–7, and Otto Müller (1874–1930) in 1911). The name was chosen by Schmidt-Rottluff and indicated the members' faith in the art of the future, towards which their own work was to serve as a bridge. Their aims were vague, but in essence they were in revolt against passionless middle-class conventions and wished to create a radically new style of painting that would be in tune with modern life. Their subjects were mainly landscapes and figure compositions (a favourite theme being nudes in the open air); these were treated in an emotional style characterized by strong (and often unnaturalistic) colour and simplified, energetic, angular forms. Although there is some kinship of spirit with Fauvism (founded in the same year), notably in the bold colour and sense of spontaneity, the work of the Brücke artists was markedly different in feeling and technique: in place of exuberance there was restlessness and anxiety, and in place of French sophistication there was the crude vigour of artists who had had almost no professional training as painters. They were influenced not only by late medieval German art, which is often extremely intense emotionally, but also by primitive art, of which the Museum of Ethnology in Dresden had a substantial collection. By 1911 all the members of Die Brücke had moved to Berlin, where there was a more vigorous cultural scene. They were now beginning to achieve national recognition (they promoted their work in more than twenty exhibitions), but they were also losing their group identity as their individual styles emerged more clearly. The personal rifts that had been present from the beginning became more intense and led to the dissolution of the group in 1913, but by this time it had given a powerful impetus to Expressionism in Germany. See also Blaue Reiter; woodcut.

Subjects: Art.

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