Pioneers of Expressionism

The German artist group Die Brücke (The Bridge) formed in 1905. Their anti-bourgeois and anti-academic attitude opposed the established order and classical traditions in the fine arts. Together they sought a new and authentic visual language, drawing inspiration from their emotional life, tribal art and impulsive expression. Their approach made them influential pioneers of Expressionism, the movement that shook the European art world at the beginning of the twentieth century. Their emotional intensity determined their use of simplified forms, high-key colours and seemingly random spatial planes. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff coined the name ‘Die Brücke’ (The Bridge), which probably derives from Friedrich Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883–1885) in which the bridge symbolises a transition between old and new, tradition and future.

City, coast and countryside

Artists Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Mueller, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Karl Schmidt Rottluff were all associated with Die Brücke. Though they were mainly concentrated in and around Dresden and Berlin, in the summer they would leave the city and head for the coast and the countryside, which is documented in their work. As well as painting unspoilt nature and the outdoors, they also made countless female portraits and nudes for which their girlfriends were everyday models. The group’s pivotal figure was Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who carved the group’s manifesto in a 1906 woodcut. The artists spent several years together as a group. By 1913 their drive for individual development was so intense, Die Brücke inevitably disbanded.

Die Brücke and The Bergen School

This exhibition of six prominent Die Brücke artists was selected from the collection of the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg (DE). The works demonstrate the expressiveness, spontaneity and interests common to Die Brücke artists. In the early twentieth century, they were leading a wave of expressionist painting emerging across Europe, including in Bergen. The avant-garde artists that settled here at the turn of the century took on this visual language to develop their own signature style: The Bergen School.


Die Brücke Artists is a collaboration between the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg (DE) and Museum Kranenburgh. The exhibition is made possible in part thanks to an indemnity guarantee awarded by the National Cultural Heritage Agency on behalf of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.