Press information on the acquisition of the painting "Atelierszene" verso: "Steine” by Erich Heckel

03 November 2017

Acquisition of the painting “Atelierszene”, verso: “Steine” by Erich Heckel

A valuable addition has been made to the Albertinum in the form of a major work by Erich Heckel (1883–1970), one of the most important figures in German Expressionism and a co-founder of the “Brücke” group of artists in Dresden. The painting “Atelierszene” (Studio Scene, 1910/11) had previously been on display as a loan for eight years, since 2009. It has now been secured for Dresden. The painting was acquired thanks to the committed cooperation of various sponsors: there was support from the Federal Republic of Germany, represented by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media; the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States; the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation, the Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung with Ostsächsische Sparkasse Dresden, and the State of Saxony.

The acquisition is of particular significance to the Albertinum because, until now, the collections did not include any painting by a member of the “Brücke” artists from the 1910 to 1911 period which was so striking in style or demonstrated their radically simplified Expressionist vocabulary of form. Moreover, only few paintings by Heckel exist in which the bold lines and the two-dimensional figures, inspired by woodcuts, are set out with such formal rigour. At the same time, the “Atelierszene” came as a twin pack along with a remarkable still life from a later stage in Heckel’s work: “Steine” (Stones, 1939), which is on the reverse of the painting. In 1939, the artist discarded the figural scene, painting it over in white and turning the painting around. On the canvas this gave him, he painted “Steine”, a close-up still life on the beach.
Views about paintings change: the image which was of less importance to Heckel himself in 1939 has since become that of greater importance again. After Heckel’s death, the painting was given on loan by the artist’s estate to Schleswig-Holsteinisches Landesmuseum at Schloss Gottorf in Schleswig. It was there that the previously hidden “Atelierszene” was revealed in 1985/86. The canvas, with its landscape-format still life, was turned around, and from then on the portrait-format studio scene was presented as the front of the painting once again.
The “Atelierszene” is the first time the Albertinum collections have included a picture of the legendary spot where Erich Heckel and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painted their models and female friends: Kirchner’s studio at Berliner Strasse 80 in Friedrichstadt, Dresden: an almost mythical site of avant-garde art production during those years. Kirchner’s studio was decorated with pieces made by the young artists, their ornamentation based on non-European objets d’art and household items. Inspired by their vocabulary of form, the artists studied them at the collections of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Dresden, which had grown particularly in the colonial context.
The consistently two-dimensional “collective style” of the “Brücke”, as critics of the time described it, decisively broke with academic conventions and was a novelty. Paintings of this kind were welcomed by insiders but met with head-shaking and incredulity by many at the time. Today, paintings such as Erich Heckel’s “Atelierszene” are established in the canon of international art history. This new acquisition rounds off the permanent exhibition with a work of outstanding quality.

In the words of Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters, “Erich Heckel’s ‘Atelierszene’ is rightly considered one of the major works of German Expressionism. The painting came about in 1910/11 at the height of the ‘Brücke’ artists’ movement, co-founded by Heckel in 1905. Its vocabulary of form and expressive, bright colours make this piece one of the best examples of the Brücke style of that period, characterised by simplified shapes, an emphasis on planes and the defamiliarisation of the image field. The purchase of this work is thus a valuable addition not only for Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden but for German museums as a whole.”

Britta Kaiser-Schuster, departmental head of the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States, comments: “As a co-founder of the ‘Brücke’ artists’ group which came about in Dresden in 1905, Erich Heckel is one of German Expressionism’s central figures. Until now, there has been no work at Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden representing the peak period of this important group of artists. It is a great pleasure to us that the Kulturstiftung der Länder has been able to help fill in this yawning gap which has existed since the National Socialist confiscations of art in 1937. Heckel’s ‘Atelierszene´ is not only an important late example of the Expressionism of the Brücke but also captures the central place which the artists’ group occupied: the studio of E. L. Kirchner.”

Martin Hoernes, Secretary General of the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung
, says: “Over what are now more than 30 years of patronage, the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung has shown its commitment to Erich Heckel’s work many times. Following support for exhibitions and the acquisition of the tempera painting ‘Am Neckar’ for Tübingen City Museum, now the oil painting ‘Atelierszene´ will in future give visitors to Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden an insight into the artist’s studio.”

Friedrich-Wilhelm von Rauch, Managing Director of Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung, comments: “The ‘Brücke’ founder Erich Heckel, who grew up in Döbeln and Chemnitz, is one of Saxony’s biggest artistic personages. This is one reason why Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung is delighted to have played a part in acquiring the ‘Atelierszene’ along with Ostsächsische Sparkasse Dresden and associated foundations. Since the 1990s, the foundation and the Sparkasse have been helping the SKD purchase paintings and run exhibitions and cultural education projects; since 2006, the Sparkasse financial group has been firmly established as the main sponsor of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen.”

Marion Ackermann, Director General of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, says: “The studio scene brings the stylistic and thematic topoi of German Expressionism to a head. For our work today, it is of great interest to reflect the interactions between European and non-European art which can be examined in this picture.
I would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to the State of Saxony and our long-standing partners and supporters: their intensive efforts have enabled us to constantly extend the collection of ‘Brücke’ artists which is so important to Dresden, and to make the Albertinum an important magnet for visitors and professionals from all over the world.”

Hilke Wagner, Director of the Albertinum, comments: “In Dresden, until now the Albertinum’s collection lacked any works from the heyday of the ‘Brücke’, around 1910. The quality of the painting and the thematic links which can be found in it are an extremely valuable addition to the presentation of our collection. The Expressionism room is at the heart of the Albertinum.”

Eva-Maria Stange, Saxon Minister of State for Science and the Arts, says: “I am absolutely delighted that joint efforts by various public and private stakeholders and sponsors have made it possible to acquire this painting. It has found a good home at Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD), not only because of the subject it depicts. This joint commitment to supporting the arts, also involving the SKD itself and the State of Saxony, has become a laudable democratic matter of course for us.”

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