Portrait of David Müller

Accession Number

Portrait of David Müller

Ernst Kirchner

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
woodcut on paper

18 in x 14 in (45.72 cm x 35.56 cm);13 ⅜ in x 11 ⅝ in (33.97 cm x 29.53 cm);22 ⅛ in x 18 ⅛ in (56.2 cm x 46.04 cm);18 15/16 in x 14 15/16 in (48.1 cm x 37.94 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Kirchner was a founding member of the early Expressionist group Die Brücke, meaning “the bridge” in German, a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche’s notion of the human being as a transitional consciousness (or bridge) between the animal and the divine. The German Expressionists, setting themselves in conscious opposition to Impressionism’s emphasis on external, surface realities, sought to reveal the inner, spiritual core of humanity. Die Brücke artists revived the archaic tradition of woodblock prints, perceiving in the medium’s crude, simple means a uniquely authentic and direct form of artistic expression.
After briefly fighting in the war as an “unwilling volunteer,” Kirchner was discharged due to serious physical and mental breakdown; in 1917 he emigrated to Switzerland to continue his recovery. Kirchner settled in Devos on a farm owned by the Müller family. The artist formed a deep bond with the Müllers, especially their son David, whose portrait this is. In it Kirchner evokes an intensity of feeling—both his own and the sitter’s—with a dramatic, intricate surface that balances dense masses of paper-thin lines with flat areas of black and white.

Subject matter
Following the First World War, Kirchner and his wife left their native Germany and settled on a Swiss farm in Davos owned by the Müller family. It was with their son David, pictured here, that the artist formed a deep, lifelong friendship. In this portrait we see the influence of primitive art, inspiring to many of the Expressionists, in the conical head and mask-like face.

Physical Description
Portrait head with landscape in background.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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modern and contemporary art

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& Author Notes

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