Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (May 6, 1880 - June 15, 1938) was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the artists group Die Brücke or "The Bridge."
Born in Aschaffenberg, Germany, Kirchner studied architecture in Dresden beginning in 1901. While in Dresden, he befriended three other young architecture students, Erich Heckel, Karl-Schmidt Rottluff, and Fritz Bleyl. This young group was drawn together by their desire to become painters as well as their dislike of modern painting. They began calling themselves Die Brücke which described their liking of "all revolutionary and surging elements". The group sought inspiration in such painters as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch as well as the primitive arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands.
Kirchner own artistic development began with woodcuts he created in the years before 1900. After studying architecture, he studied painting in Munich and was influenced there by Art Nouveau styles as well as the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer. In Munich, Kirchner's style of painting developed as he began using bold colors, remniscent of Gauguin, and wild brushstrokes reminsiscent of Van Gogh. The portrayal of subjects conveys the emotional intensity found in the woodcuts of Dürer and Munch.
With the onset of World War I, Kirchner entered service and in 1915, he suffered a nervous breakdown. He moved to Switzerland to convelesce, but continued to suffer from depression.
By 1937, the Third Reich denounced most modern artists in Germany as enemies of the state. Artists in the modern styles including expressionism, impressionism, cubism, and the like, were condemned as being degenerate and their works were seized and sometimes destroyed. Kirchner's works were among many destroyed.
Kirchner committed suicide in 1938 in Davos, Switzerland.