Erich Heckel’s Life during the 1910s and 1920s
During the First World War, Heckel worked as a medic in Flanders from 1915 to 1918, where he met Max Beckmann. During this period, Heckel married Hilda Frieda Georgi, also known as Siddi. After the war, the painter returned to Berlin.
From 1919 Heckel was a (founding) member of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers’ Council for Art) in Berlin. He briefly joined the November Group.
In 1922, he was commissioned through contacts to paint a secco mural cycle in a room in the Angermuseum (Erfurt). It is the only mural by a Brücke artist that has survived to this day.
In the years between 1920 and 1944, the artist traveled frequently to work in a number of Western European countries. Inspired by a wide variety of landscapes, he created a rich oeuvre of diverse watercolors in muted, harmonious tones during this period.
Heckel’s Life during and after National SocialismIn 1937 Heckel was prohibited from exhibiting by the National Socialists. As part of their “Degenerate Art” campaign, 729 of his works were confiscated from German museums. When his Berlin studio was destroyed in 1944, Heckel moved to Hemmenhofen on Lake Constance. After the war, he worked as a professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Karlsruhe from 1949 to 1955. In the years that followed, Erich Heckel was awarded numerous prizes and honors, including the Federal Cross of Merit in 1956 and the Art Prize of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1961.
Erich Heckel died in Radolfzell on Lake Constance on January 27, 1970.
Erich Heckel’s Visual Language
Heckel’s oeuvre is influenced by his way of life. From 1908 onward, the artist left his early impasto work behind him and moved on to a more two-dimensional style. After the dissolution of Die Brücke he began to break up pure color fields and contort shapes. Solid and angular outlines now defined his depictions. This formal change can be attributed to the use of the woodcut as a model. Heckel applied both painting and printmaking techniques to create numerous works.
After the First World War, Heckel developed a classicism that was revealed through his naturalism and the brightening of his color palette. His preferred subject matter continued to be landscapes, portraits, and bathing scenes, but he now incorporated floral still lifes with complex backgrounds. His once vibrant and ecstatic expression of color gave way to a harmonious and gentle figurative depiction.
• Elger, Dietmar (1991) EXPRESSIONISMUS, Cologne: Taschen Verlag GmbH
• Sammlung Sprengel (1982) BRÜCKE, Hanover