Nude girl sitting

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Marzella, 1909–1910 Photo: Moderna Museet

“A suggestiveness that can make one crazy”: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s images of Marzella

Digital lecture and conversation

14.10 2021

Sherwin Simmons, Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Oregon, lectures on Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s mentioned portrait of the child model “Marzella” (probably Lina Franziska Fehrmann, born 1900).

The portrait is now on display in the exhibition The Man with the Blue Face. Art historical texts about the painting Marzella (1910) have often emphasized the rapid drawing and the bold colours, as well as the fact that the girl responds to the viewer’s or artist’s gaze, which has been perceived as challenging an objectification. The girl’s prepubertal body has also been interpreted as a projection surface for the Die Brücke artists’ longing for naturalness and undisguisedness. They sought liberation from bourgeois conventions and customs, not least in the sexual sphere, which made the young girl particularly interesting, as her sexuality was still considered unformed.

In recent years, various depictions of “Marzella” have been tried more from the girl’s perspective, which has led many to wonder what it really was like as a child to stay with a group of experimental adults, without parents and siblings. Did she feel safe? Was she happy? And why has the potentially vulnerable situation of this child not been noticed by observers and interpreters of previous generations?

Sherwin Simmons has long researched German expressionism and is the author of a number of research articles, including the acclaimed “A suggestiveness that can make one crazy: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Images of Marzella”. In his lecture, we get a glimpse into a disturbing part of art history that may affect how we in the future relate to one of the most famous works in the collection of Moderna Museet.

The lecture is followed by a conversation between Simmons and Joa Ljungberg, curator of The Man with the Blue Face. There will be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.