Bathers Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Bathers is one of a number of Kirchner paintings based on this theme, though there is a great variety in how the artist depicts the figures across the different pieces.

This painting places three figures in the foreground, one of whom is say down with her back to us. The other two are stood up, facing the viewer. They are both looking across to the right hand side as we look at the picture. Behind them is a bright and colourful landscape scene, cropped aggressively so that we only just see a small element of sky and some tall trees. A small stream trickles down the left hand side of the composition and the overall feeling is one of nature and primitive humanity. Kirchner produced a number of African-influenced sculptures and appears to bring them to life in this multi-figure portrait.

The bathers are completed in long brushstrokes of orange and yellow along with just a few touches of green around their shoulders that is the same colour used elsewhere in the scene. Typically Kirchner would stick to a small palette for his paintings and concentrate more on expressing his emotions that trying to create realistic reproductions of what he could see. He then makes use of lighter tones of pink to create rock faces which provide the main part of the backdrop behind the bathers. The method of producing the trees is consistent with several of his landscape paintings, reducing them to fairly simple, almost childlike combinations of shapes.

Kirchner was a key member of a strand of the German Expressionist movement and this overall umbrella of related styles brought together influences from global art as well as some techniques from local German artists from the past. Their fusion would inspire many in the 21st century, particularly in terms of avoiding academic training as well as allowing their ideas to run free without concerning themselves too much with supposed artistic principles from previous generations. The entire 20th century was full of international artists who understood the techniques of the great masters but were highly motivated in bringing about a new artistic direction which allowed a wider set of techniques and ideas.

This painting is dated at around 1923-1927 and can now be found in the collection of the Kunstmuseum in The Hague, Netherlands. You will find a great selection of paintings from Dutch and European artists here, with many famous names to be found here including Egon Schiele, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. The Netherlands more generally hosts some of the finest collections in the world which matches the critically important contributions made by Dutch, Flemish and Belgian artists ever since the Northern Renaissance, though covering a great variety of different styles and movements. The Bathers is one of Kirchner's finest portrait paintings, and one of a number on this particular theme.