Ernst Ludwig Kirchner as his own Critic: The Artist’s Statements as Stratagems of Self–Promotion

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This article shows how Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938), one of the most important German artists of the twentieth century, attempted control over his own reception by effectively functioning, to use today’s parlance, as a ‘spin doctor’, who managed to manipulate the art media in a variety of ways. It considers Kirchner’s adoption of the pseudonym ‘Louis de Marsalle’ to produce statements about his work. Such a textual technique, however dubious and problematic, points to Kirchner’s understanding of the importance of self-marketing. Kirchner was highly conscious that the western canon of ‘great’ art was an ongoing construct. As this construction process was particularly active in Germany in the Wilhelmine and Weimar eras when visual culture was being re-examined in terms of its patriotic and propagandist potential, he attempted through his pseudonymous voice to make some timely interventions in this art historical process. By writing a Brücke group history and later harnessing a flourishing art magazine culture, which had already served many avant-garde figures in the publication of creeds and manifestoes, he endeavoured to elevate his own status by associating himself with acknowledged canonical figures, while disavowing more contemporary influences. His statements were often underpinned by a need to characterize the differences between ‘Latin’ and ‘Teutonic’ visual culture, carefully promoting the latter as a means of shifting the critical focus away from the ‘School of Paris’. Kirchner’s statements are revealed as an ingenious method of endorsing himself as a contemporary German master in an international context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-420
Number of pages15
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Issue number4
Early online date1 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • Marsalle Louis de
  • French critic
  • pseudonym
  • Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig
  • Genius
  • self-promotion
  • history
  • manipulation
  • strategist
  • Pechstein, Hermann Max


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