Hand and Head: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Self-Portrait as Soldier
Expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Self-Portrait as Soldier (1915) is one of the best-known self-portraits of the modern classical period. With its sharp foreground focus on the uniformed artist's bloody amputated hand, the painting has long been interpreted as a vehement protest against war, specifically World War I and Kirchner's participation in it. Peter Springer's innovative study presents a convincing alternative reading of Kirchner's epochal work. Springer sees in it, not a harsh condemnation of militarism, but a marked ambivalence in the artist's attitude toward war. This new reading of the painting grows out of Springer's assessment of its imagery in relation to patronage, gender relations, and national identity--and particularly to propaganda and satire.
Using Kirchner's letters and other documentation, much of it only recently available, Springer reconstructs the years of Kirchner's military service. He juxtaposes a range of visual contexts that include traditions of self-portraiture, depictions of prosthetic devices, and propaganda accounts of German soldiers hacking off the hands of Belgian and French children. He then considers Kirchner in relation to Albrecht Dürer and to theoretical arguments on the relative dominance of hand and mind in the pictorial arts that invoke the image of "Raphael without hands." Nearly 100 illustrations superbly complement the text.
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Adolphe Willette Albrecht Dürer Alfred Döblin amputated art historians artist Berlin Berlin/Munich/Cologne/Zurich catalogue 1979–198o Biallowons Botho Brücke creative crisis Davos death Degenerate Art depiction deutschen Dube E. L. Kirchner Egon Schiele Ernst Ludwig Kirchner exemplary sufferer expressionist fact Fehr female nude Francisque Poulbot Frankfurt am Main Friedrich Gercken German Gordon Graef Günter Brus hand and head Heine Hendrik Goltzius Henze Hesse-Frielinghaus 1974 horror Ibid illustration interpretation Jena Ketterer Kirch Kirchner and Schiefler Kirchner to Schiefler Kirchner wrote Kirchner's paintings Kirchner's Self-Portrait Kunst Lothar Grisebach 1968 Lovis Corinth Lucius Grisebach Max Beckmann mental metaphor military monument motif Munich Murnau Museum mutilated ner's º º Osthaus painter Panofsky picture Pierrot Plate portrait propaganda Raphael without hands reference right hand Sauerbruch Schiefler 1990 Schlemihl cycle Schwarzkogler Selbstbildnis self-mutilation Self-Portrait as Soldier severed hand stump symbol theme Thomas Theodor Heine uniform victim Werk woodcuts