Oil on canvas, 1911, 92x54,6cm, Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design

Erich Heckel (1883-1970) was one of the founders of the artist group Die Brücke in Dresden in 1905, along with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, among others.

In brief, one can say that the works of the Brücke artists are characterised by strong, pure colours and a rough and gesticulating painting method. They were inspired by “primitive” art and were also particularly interested in the works of Edvard Munch.

The period in which this picture was painted is considered the highlight of Heckel’s artistic production, and he was living in Berlin at this time. The picture is one of an important series of motifs for Heckel, where he depicts interiors with figures playing music. The angular idiom and the dry, bright palette on the course canvas are very typical of his works from the Berlin period.

The Die Brücke group was disbanded in 1913, yet most of the artists continued to work within an expressionistic idiom, and their significance for the expressionism of later generations is considerable and can hardly be exaggerated.


Badende am Waldteich

Oil on canvas, 1909, 82,2 x 96,2 cm, Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design

With its bright, fresh palette and spontaneous, intuitive brushwork the painting Bathers at the Forest Pond is characteristic not only of Heckel, but of the entire Die Brücke group’s form of Expressionism during this period.

Aside from depicting the urbanised life of the big city, representations of naked human figures in nature, or bathing scenes as they are often called, is a key motif of the German Expressionists. This picture was painted in the summer of 1910, when Heckel lived and worked near the lakes in Moritzburg – together with his artist friends Pechstein and Kirchner – on the outskirts of Dresden.

This work was formerly included in a significant German collection, the so-called Hagemann Collection. Carl Hagemann was a German businessman who began collecting art around 1900, and who soon concentrated on the German Expressionists (with whom he also became good friends). Hagemann had planned to donate his large collection to a German museum, but this was never realized due to the cultural politics of the Nazis. When he died in 1940 the collection was preserved and hidden in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt by the museum’s director at the time, Holzinger. The collection survived the war and was exhibited in its entirety in Städel in 1948. Since then many of the works in the collection have been loaned to various German museums. For the past ten years,Bathers at the Forest Pondhas been on view at Museum Folkwang in Essen, which has an excellent collection of German Expressionists. In February 2015 the DNB Savings Bank Foundation acquired the picture in an auction in London– and it can soon be examined at close range at the National Gallery in Oslo.