Raphael Kirchner

1875 Vienna – New York 1917

  • Visage de femme dans un cercle Portrait of a woman in a circle

  • Ink with white highlights in thick paper, 1901 Signed on the lower left RAPHAEL KIRCHNER Related work : Dell’Aquila, no. D.27/1-1, p.174

  • Size

    36.4 x 12.4 cm

  • Provenance

    Private collection, Paris

  • Literature

    Antonio and Pia Dell’Aquila, Raphael Kirchner and his postcard, Bari, 1996

“The Kirchner Girls” are famous all around the world. The born Vienna Raphael Kirchner created postcards illustrating Fin-de-Siècle women, sensuous, genuine and playful, that were largely distributed. He first studied in Vienna at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, where he followed the Spezialschule für Historienmalerei held by Christian Griepenkerl, also known as Egon Schiele was studying in. At 22 years’ old, close to the Viennese Secession, he designed his first poster and illustrated a publicity album published by Gerlach & Schenk – the editor of Ver Sacrum, the official journal of the Secession. Following the Secession artists such as Koloman Moser and Joseph Hoffman, Kirchner started creating images for postcard. A prestigious postcard collection was published in 1897 by Philipp & Kramer in Vienna, and that contributed to the success of this new format in Austria and Europe. The first series of postcard produced by Kirchner gained a great popularity, and were reprinted numerous times. Suddenly, at the top of his success, Kirchner decided to leave Vienna for Paris. Probably to exhibit at La Plume, which organized in 1900 an exhibition dedicated to postcard. The poster announcing the show was also designed by Kirchner him-self.

Pursuing his life in Montmartre, Kirchner’s style evolved, mixing in a unique way French Art Nouveau with Vienna Jugendstil. Inspired by Parisian dancers in cabaret, and the fashion style of the city, his “girls” became more sophisticated and mysterious. Kirchner often represented woman playing with men, such as in the Marionette series in which women controlled men like puppets. In the present drawing In a brothel, even if the man is grabbing the girl, she smiles as she was laughing at the situation. With Montmartre dancers showing their legs and black stockings, Kirchner depicted women wearing the same stockings, charged with eroticism, and it offered the artist a strong graphic sign – with the line of the legs highlighted by these black contour – which he used regularly. With these compositions focusing all our attention towards the woman, Kirchner invented the first Pin-up: the postcards were collected by soldiers during WWI, offering images of fascinating creature. Always the same, and always different, the “Kirchner Girls” broke the conventions: these women display their sensuality without any embarrassment. Although inspired by symbolist muses, they incarnated the modern woman of the 20th century.

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