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The Cover
February 18, 1998


JAMA. 1998;279(7):487. doi:10.1001/jama.279.7.487

If, as is generally acknowledged, German Expressionism is one of the major art movements of the 20th century, then surely Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) is one of the major artists of the 20th century. Yet he did not like being called an Expressionist. To be labeled at all was to be bound by limits, which to him was intolerable. As he would later state, his very existence was governed by "the audacious idea of renewing German art." The stimulus for such audacious thinking was apparently an exhibit he saw in Munich at the turn of the century. Although the exhibit was billed as "modern art," Kirchner saw the works as "pale, bloodless, lifeless slices of studio bacon." To him they were only warmed-over ideas of what the 19th century had mistaken for "life." Someone, he thought, needed to paint life as it was in essence: "colorful, flowing, real life in sunshine and excitement." But who? And how? Or where? The answer was not long in coming. "You try it," said some inner urge. And so he did.

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