Life, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Lise Gujer
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Lise Gujer
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265 x 289 cm
Physical Description
Woven wool
Inventory Number
Acquired in 1966 as a gift from Margarete Wempe on the occasion of the reopening of the Städel Museum; formerly Carl Hagemann Collection
On display, 1st upper level, Modern Art, room 12


About the Work

An allegory on life as a tapestry: the colourful multi-figured scene shows a mountain landscape with two paths laid out symmetrically. On the left, we see a shepherd scene with a dog and other animals, on the right, the ages of man from young to old. In the lower part, four couples symbolise different forms of life. The artist juxtaposes a modern, urban-looking dancing couple with a peasant couple dressed in folkloristic costumes. Four women squat in between, two naturally naked, two wearing lushly patterned garments. The whole depiction lives from its strong colour contrasts and a clear arrangement of its pictorial elements across the surface.

In 1927, his friend and patron Carl Hagemann commissioned Kirchner to design a tapestry for his Frankfurt home. Numerous letters and several sketches document the creative process. At the end of the same year or beginning of the next, Lise Gujer wove the carpet according to Kirchner's instructions as a door curtain with a central opening, which was then closed in 1932. This transformed the woven work into a tapestry made wider by two narrow, predominantly black stripes. Kirchner's painting drew on his involvement with the art of weaving. The style of his paintings created from the mid-1920s onwards is therefore also referred to as his "carpet style".

About the Acquisition

From 1900 onwards, the Frankfurt chemist and industrialist Carl Hagemann (1867‒1940) assembled one of the most important private collections of modern art. It included numerous paintings, drawings, watercolours and prints, especially by members of the artist group “Die Brücke”. After Carl Hagemann died in an accident during the Second World War, the then Städel director Ernst Holzinger arranged for Hagemann’s heirs to evacuate his collection with the museum’s collection. In gratitude, the family donated almost all of the works on paper to the Städel Museum in 1948. Further donations and permanent loans as well as purchases of paintings and watercolours from the Hagemann estate helped to compensate for the losses the museum had suffered in 1937 as part of the Nazi’s “Degenerate Art” campaign. Today, the Hagemann Collection forms the core of the Städel museum’s Expressionist collection.

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