image, 13 x 15 1/8in (33 x 38.4cm)
Bequest of Ruth S. Magurn
In this beautiful lithograph printed on yellow paper, Kirchner turns his attention to Blankenese, a busy port city on the River Elbe near Hamburg. Two large clouds of dark, black ink sit on either side of the composition. They appear, at first, to be patches of fog or plumes of smoke from the steamships in the harbor, but are, in fact, trees near the riverbank. One can just make out the trunk of the large tree at the left. Together, they frame the composition: the water of the Elbe extends out from the bank, past a number of small craft at anchor or tied to the shore, to a large ship with a single smoke stack on the distant horizon. Though clearly representational, the print could easily be read as an abstract, formal exercise balancing line and tone. The large, black forms of the trees framing the composition are nearly flat while the small sailboats in the harbor are described with a few quick lines that look like simple, gestural marks. This is a print that foreshadows the coming of nonrepresentational art just a few years later.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German, b.1880, d.1938)