Bathers Beneath Trees, Fehmarn

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German, 1880-1938)
Oil on canvas 
59-1/2 x 47-1/2 in. (151.1 x 120.7 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© (for works by E. L. Kirchner) by Ingeborg & Dr. Wolfgang Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern 
On View

For this scene of nudes in a landscape, Kirchner reimagined the Baltic island of Fehmarn as a lush, tropical paradise. A founding member of the German Expressionist collective Die Brücke (The Bridge), Kirchner drew inspiration for his fractured forms and brash palette from both the “primitive” nonwestern art he encountered in Germany’s anthropological museums and the Post-Impressionist French pictures recently exhibited at galleries in Berlin and Dresden. Here Kirchner’s slashing brushstrokes betray a debt to Cézanne, while green and orange flesh tones suggest the influence of Van Gogh. But the determining inspiration seems to have come from Gauguin, whose conjuring of a premodern paradise in the pictures he painted on the island of Tahiti during the 1890s encouraged Kirchner to envision the considerably less distant and exotic island of Fehmarn where the German painter spent his summer holidays as a land of “South Sea opulence.”


Estate of the artist in 1938;
Estate of artist’s wife, Erna Kirchner until 1945;
Basle Art Museum (maintaining estate) 1945/46-1954;
Brothers of artist, Biberach, Germany, 1954-1955;
[Roman Norbert Ketterer, Lago di Lugano, Switzerland (executor of artist’s estate), 1955-1969];
The Norton Simon Foundation, 1969-1994, transferred to;
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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