Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Naked girls talking to each other

by Frauke Maria Petry


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner belongs to the Dresden group 'Brücke'. The artists of Expressionism (from Latin expressio: 'expression') attached great importance to painting according to feeling. They fought for a new beginning in society and were primarily concerned with the free human being. To this end, they allowed underage nudes between 1909 and 1911.


The painting "Naked Girls Conversing" corresponds to the first meeting between the models Marcella and Senta in the Dresden studio. The two nudes appear uncertain and passive. In a hunched posture, limbs entwined over their sexual characteristics, they sit on a red cushion. Typical of the childlike bridge iconography, the view is from above, making the neckless torsos with narrow abdomens appear unstable. The color palette of the work includes primarily bright primary and contrasting secondary colors. The background is abstract and deformed.

In the children's models, the artists saw an uninfluenced, original nature in the style of primitive art. On this basis, the 9- to 15-year-old girls represented the 'pure woman' for them.


The paintings do not imply a voyeuristic look. The sensual appeal is broken by the unrealistic coloring with dark outlines and angular shapes. Thematically, shame about one's own body as an insecurity towards adolescent sexuality takes center stage here. The intention is the rediscovery of erotic corporeality, which goes hand in hand with the simultaneous emancipation of the - according to the bourgeois view asexual - woman.


From this point of view, the picture could be evaluated positively. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that some artists had sexual relations with underage girls. The question of pedophilia remains open.


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Naked girls talking to each other

Oil on canvas, 1910, 75 cm x 100 cm, Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf