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Karl Schmidt-Rottluff | Expressionist painter

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976) was a German expressionist painter and printmaker.
He was one of the four founders of the artist group Die Brücke.

Life and work

Schmidt-Rottluff was born in Rottluff, nowadays a district of Chemnitz, on 1 December 1884.
He attended the humanistische gymnasium (classics-oriented secondary school) in Chemnitz, where he befriended Erich Heckel.
He enrolled in architecture at the Sächsische Technische Hochschule in Dresden in 1905, following in Heckel's footsteps, but gave up after one term.

Whilst he was there, however, Erich Heckel introduced him to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Fritz Bleyl.
They all passionately shared similar artistic interests and used architecture as a front to study art.
They founded Die Brücke in Dresden on 7 June 1905, with the aim of creating a style that was uncompromising and which renounced all traditions.
Its first exhibition opened in Leipzig in November of the same year.

In 1906, Schmidt added his native town of Rottluff to his surname.
He spent the summer of that year on the island of Alsen with Emil Nolde, where he convinced him to join Die Brücke.
Being known as a loner of the group, Schmidt-Rottluff spent the summers on the coast at Dangast, near Bremen from 1907 to 1912.

From 1905 to 1911, during the group's Dresden stay, Schmidt-Rottluff and his fellow group members followed a similar path of development, and were heavily influenced by the styles of Art Nouveau and Neo-impressionism.
Schmidt-Rottluff’s works stood out from his peers because of their balance of composition and simple form, which together served to exaggerate their flatness.
He spent 1910 painting some of his most infamous landscape works that received recognition and fame.
In December 1911, he and the other members of Die Brücke moved from Dresden to Berlin.

The group was dissolved in 1913, largely due to the artist's independent moves to Berlin and a systemic shift in artistic direction from each individual member.
Schmidt-Rottluff began to adopt more subdued coloring and placed greater emphasis in his pictures on draughtsmanship, which featured dark, contrasting lines between shapes rather than juxtaposing colors, which had previously been the norm.
Around 1909 he was instrumental in reviving the woodcut as a beloved and usable medium.
From 1912 to 1920, he adopted a much more angular style in his woodcuts and experimented with carved wood sculptures.

Schmidt-Rottluff served as a soldier on the Eastern Front from 1915 until 1918, but these experiences never heavily reflected in his artwork.
At the end of the war he became a member of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst in Berlin, which was an anti-academic, socialist movement of German artists during the German Revolution of 1918-19.
Schmidt-Rottluff’s angular, contrasting style became more colorful and looser in the early 1920s, and by the mid-1920s he began to evolve into flat shapes with gentle outlines.
Through this development he remained committed to landscape painting as a whole.

The rewards and honors Schmidt-Rottluff received after World War I, as Expressionism gained recognition in Germany, were stripped from him after the rise to power of the Nazi Party.
He was expelled from the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1933, two years after his admission.

In 1937, 608 of Schmidt-Rottluff's paintings were seized from museums by the Nazis and several of them shown in exhibitions of "degenerate art".
By 1941, he had been expelled from the painters guild and banned from painting.
Much of his work was lost in the destruction of his Berlin studio in World War II, where he briefly returned to Rottluff afterwards to recover.
His reputation was gradually rehabilitated after the war.

In 1947, Schmidt-Rottluff was appointed professor at the University of Arts in Berlin-Charlottenburg, where he would go on to have a great influence on the new generation of German artists.
An endowment made by him in 1964 provided the basis for the Brücke Museum in West Berlin, which opened in 1967 as a repository of works by members of the group.
He was a prolific artist, with 300 woodcuts, 105 lithographs, 70 etchings, and 78 commercial prints described in Rosa Schapire's Catalogue raisonné.
He died in Berlin on 10 August 1976. | Source: © Wikipedia

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976) è stato un pittore ed incisore espressionista Tedesco; è stato uno dei quattro fondatori del gruppo artistico Die Brücke.
Karl Schmidt nacque a Rottluff, vicino a Chemnitz in Sassonia, il 1º dicembre 1884 e si fece chiamare Schmidt-Rottluff dal 1905.

Studiò architettura a Dresda dove, con i compagni di studio Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl ed Erich Heckel, fondò il gruppo Die Brücke (Il ponte), uno dei primi nuclei dell'espressionismo tedesco, la cui prima mostra si tenne nel 1905 a Dresda.
Fu lo stesso Schmidt-Rottluff a proporre questo nome per il gruppo, che intendeva gettare un ponte per avvicinare tutti gli elementi artistici allora in fermento.
Nel 1906 conobbe Emil Nolde, in visita a Dresda per accudire la moglie malata, e lo invitò a partecipare alle loro esposizioni.

In questi anni i soggetti tipici delle opere di Schmidt-Rottluff sono i paesaggi e i ritratti.
Partendo da modi parzialmente impressionisti, lo stile si accentua emotivamente attraverso l'uso di colori puri; attratto dalla tecnica della litografia, la composizione appare semplificata, con forme sintetiche, spigolose e monumentali.

In quest'evoluzione si rintracciano influenze di Vincent van Gogh, di Edvard Munch, dell'arte primitiva e dell'arte africana.
Nel 1911 si trasferì con gli altri componenti del gruppo Die Brücke a Berlino, dove attraverso Lyonel Feininger si avvicinò al cubismo; partecipò anche a mostre della Secessione di Berlino del Blaue Reiter, finché nel 1913 il gruppo Die Brücke si sciolse.

Anche in quegli anni i soggetti principali di Schmidt-Rottluff sono la natura ed il paesaggio, resi con forme e colori dal ritmo estremamente vitale.
Gli elementi essenziali sono messi a fuoco in modo semplice ed allo stesso tempo possente, senza interessi a problematiche psicologiche e ad abbandoni lirici.
In questo periodo si dedicò marginalmente anche alla scultura, cercando in essa il mezzo espressivo più diretto per tradurre plasticamente la sua aspirazione al primitivo e al monumentale.

I premi e gli onori che Schmidt-Rottluff ricevette dopo la prima guerra mondiale, quando l'espressionismo ottenne il riconoscimento in Germania, gli furono tolti dopo l'ascesa al potere del partito nazista.
Fu espulso dall'Accademia delle arti prussiana nel 1933, due anni dopo la sua ammissione.
Nel 1937, 608 dipinti di Schmidt-Rottluff furono sequestrati dai musei dai nazisti e molti di loro furono esposti in mostre di "arte degenerata".
Nel 1941 fu espulso dalla corporazione dei pittori e bandito dalla pittura.
Gran parte del suo lavoro andò perduto nella distruzione del suo studio di Berlino durante la seconda guerra mondiale, dove in seguito tornò brevemente a Rottluff per riprendersi.
La sua reputazione fu gradualmente riabilitata dopo la guerra.

Riprese a dipingere opere in cui la semplificazione della composizione continua ad essere l'elemento principale.
Nel 1947 fu nominato professore alla Scuola di Belle Arti di Berlino.
Morì il 10 agosto 1976 a Berlino. | Fonte: © Wikipedia