Die Brücke portfolio, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff

Print, 1908, 55,7x41,5 cm, Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design

Badende am Strand

Oil on canvas, 1921, 112 x 98 cm, Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design

The painting Bathers on the Beach was created by the German expressionist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), and acquired by the DNB Savings Bank Foundation’s art collection earlier this year. The work was unveiled at the National Gallery in Oslo on 5 May, where it can now be viewed together with the other German expressionists on loan to the museum by the foundation.

Together with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and others, Schmidt-Rottluff founded the artist group Die Brücke in 1905. The group disbanded in 1913, but has nevertheless gained an important place in art history since then. Schmidt-Rottluff and the group’s other members are often referred to as German expressionists, and their idiom is characterised by a bold painterly style and a vibrant palette.

Bathers on the Beach is an unusually large and very fine example of Schmidt-Rottluff’s mature expressive style. The picture is included in the DNB Savings Bank Foundation’s initiative to build up a representative collection of the German expressionists. Before this project began there were no paintings by these artists accessible to the public in Norway. This was chiefly due to the fact that from the end of the 19th century and far into the 20th the Norwegian art scene was mainly oriented towards France, and German art was deliberately overlooked. By building up this collection the foundation also creates a broader context for appraising Edvard Munch's oeuvre. Munch was closely linked to German art and German traditions; not only was he an important forerunner and source of inspiration for the German expressionists, he was inspired by them in return.

This painting is particularly relevant in a Norwegian context as well because it was just this type of work that was shown at an important exhibition of new German art in Kunstnernes Hus in 1932. The exhibition was of decisive importance for the young Norwegian modernists of the 1930s, such as Bjarne Engebret, Sigurd Winge and Gert Jynge. We can see clear traces of this in their pictures from the years immediately following the exhibition, which there are many fine examples of in the National Gallery’s own collection.

OWG