Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Couple in the room

by Laura Gerstmann


Everyone knows the famous street scenes of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Expressive and with gloomy colorfulness, he depicted the Berlin nightlife with its coquettes, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. Dark tones, pointed forms and fierce lines of force were now form-giving. With hectic brushstrokes he interlocked the pictorial motifs. Kirchner reacted with increasing nervousness to the capital and the colorful hustle and bustle within it. 

One of the lesser known works from this period is the painting "Couple in the Room". And also in this picture Kirchner thematizes love for sale. In a room, presumably that of a brothel, is a prostitute, dressed only in a negligee, and the suitor. Both figures extend over the entire foreground and only dimly reveal what is in the background - a round table - a window - a curtain. 


An intimate moment, where it is expected that tenderness will be exchanged. Here, however, it is not. Especially since at that time prostitution was still forbidden in Berlin. With her posture and gaze, the woman turns away from the visitor - her left arm behind her back, her right to her chest. The man, on the other hand, reaches for her like a commodity. He grabs her arm and pulls at her lace nightgown. An oppressive feeling is created, as the viewer is deliberately left in ignorance of what is actually happening here.


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Couple in the room

Oil on canvas, 1912, 95 x 85 cm, Albertinum, Galerie Neue Meister in Dresden

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