Bathers Beneath Trees, Fehmarn
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German, 1880-1938)
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.”


  • Artist Name: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German, 1880-1938)
  • Title: Bathers Beneath Trees, Fehmarn
  • Date: 1913
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 59-1/2 x 47-1/2 in. (151.1 x 120.7 cm)
  • Credit Line: Norton Simon Art Foundation
  • Accession Number: M.1994.1.P
  • Copyright: © (for works by E. L. Kirchner) by Ingeborg & Dr. Wolfgang Henze-Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern

Object Information

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.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

  • Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, 2000-03-12 to 2000-07-02
  • Grohmann, Will, E. L. Kirchner, p. 96
  • Gordon, Donald E., Ernst Ludwig Kirchner,no. 357 p. 371
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum,1989, p. 179
  • Ketterer, R. N., Moderne Kunst VI,no. 40 p. 71
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best,2010, cat. 645 p. 322
  • Jill Lloyd and Janis Staggs, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner,2019, Fig. 18 p. 46, p. 48; p. 48 (ill)
  • Apollonio, Umberto, "Die Brücke" e la cultura dell'espressionismo,no. 42
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Head of a Woman Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 1909
Seated Female Nudes Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 1913-1914
Trees in Autumn Ernst Ludwig Kirchner c. 1906

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