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A painting of a semi-recumbent woman in three panels.

In the center panel, the painting shows a dark-haired woman partially reclining; she is wearing a loose green top, her right elbow supports her on white pillows, her right leg is bent at the knee clothed in black highlighted with red stripe at the top and along the bottom of the picture plane. The background is a patterned orange square edged in black. A single figure stands on the edge of the left panel, holding a pot containing a small flowering shrub. The right panel shows a blue vase containing three sunflowers.

Gallery Text

A founding member of the expressionist group Brücke, Heckel depicts his fiancée, the dancer Siddi Riha, propped up against pillows and covered by a large throw, convalescing after a long illness. Although the figure recalls an exotic odalisque, its surroundings reflect the bohemian interiors inhabited by many expressionist artists. The African textile that serves as a backdrop was a gift from the artist’s brother, while the wooden figure to the far left and the vase with sunflowers are also inspired by tribal art, and are most likely examples of Heckel’s own roughly hewn wooden sculpture. In this ornamental studio surrounding, the convalescent’s thin frame and angular physiognomy — which appears as if it, too, were carved from wood — also evoke the spirit of the Gothic. The tripartite format suggests a relationship to the medieval altarpiece in the Christian tradition, while the large size of the three combined canvases lends the private interior space public proportions.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Erich Heckel, German (Döbeln, Germany 1883 - 1970 Radolfzell, Germany)
To the Convalescent Woman (Triptych)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Zur Genesung der kranken Frau (Triptychon)
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1440, Modern and Contemporary Art, Secessionism: Munich, Vienna, Berlin
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
framed: 98.7 x 244.8 x 4.4 cm (38 7/8 x 96 3/8 x 1 3/4 in.)
left panel: 80.7 x 70.3 cm (31 3/4 x 27 11/16 in.)
center panel: 81.3 x 70.5 cm (32 x 27 3/4 in.)
right panel: 80.5 x 70.3 cm (31 11/16 x 27 11/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: on center panel at u.l.: E Heckel 13
  • label: on upper stretcher at l., ink on paper, typewritten: NY 1951 // Erich Heckel // Convalescent, triptych // BUCHHOLZ GALLERY // Curt Valentin // 32 East 57St., NYC
  • label: upper stretcher, at r., ink on paper: 1301 (crossed out)
  • stamp: upper, left and right stretchers, ink: MUSEUM // FOLKWANG // ESSEN
  • inscription: verso at u.l., oil, handwritten, in artist's hand: Erich Heckel
  • label: lower stretcher, at l., ink on paper: 741 (crossed out)
  • inscription: on lower stretcher at r., ink: Stiftung Dr. Kaesbach (upside down)


Recorded Ownership History
Dr. Walter Kaesbach, Mönchengladbach, sold?; to Museum Folkwang Essen, 1930, removed from the collection by the National Socialist (Nazi) authorities, 1937, sold; [Buchholz Gallery, New York], sold; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1950.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Edmée Busch Greenough Fund
© Erich Heckel / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Germany
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Perry T. Rathbone, In Memory of Curt Valentin 1902-1954: An Exhibition of Modern Masterpieces Lent by American Museums, exh. cat. (New York, NY, 1954), n.p., cat. 9, ill. (b/w)
  • Peter Selz, German Expressionist Painting, University of California Press (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1957), p. 137, plate 46, ill.
  • Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 410, repr. p. 408 as fig. 3 [all three parts of triptych]
  • Expressionism: A German Intuition 1905-1920, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (New York, 1980), pp. 110-111, cat. 96, ill. (b/w)
  • Christos M. Joachimides, Norman Rosenthal, and Wieland Schmied, ed., German Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1905-1985, exh. cat., Prestel Verlag (Munich and London, 1985), p. 24, fig. 5, ill. (b/w)
  • Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press, 1985). With an essay by John Coolidge and a preface by John M. Rosenfield. To accompany the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum, Oct 21 1985 - Jan 5 1986, p. 47, fig. 35, ill. (color)
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • M. M. Moeller, ed., Die großen Expressionisten: Meisterwerke und Künstlerleben, Dumant Buchverlag (Cologne, 2000), p. 31, color illus.
  • Sabrina Abate Detmar, "Drei Beispiele von Frauendarstellung in Bildern des Primitivismus : Paul Gauguins "Poèmes barbares", 1896, Erich Heckels "Genesende", 1913 und Emil Noldes "Mulattin", 1913" (2004)
  • Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), pp. 168-169
  • Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 202, ill.
  • Mary Ann Wilkinson, Erich Heckel's Woman (Portrait of the Artist's Wife), Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, 2009), p. 59, fig. 3, ill (b&w)
  • "Das schoenste Museum der Welt" Museum Folkwang bis 1933, exh. cat., Steidl and Edition Folkwang (Essen, 2010), pp. 86, 350, 359, fig. 31, ill. (color)
  • Hermann Gerlinger and Thomas Bauer-Friedrich, Inspiration des Fremden: Die Brücke-Maler und die aussereuropäische Kunst, exh. cat., Sandstein Verlag (Halle, Germany, 2016), p. 61, fig. 3, ill. (color)

Exhibition History

  • In Memory of Curt Valentin 1902-1954: An Exhibition of Modern Masterpieces Lent by American Museums, Curt Valentin Gallery, 10/05/1954 - 10/30/1954
  • Expressionism: A German Intuition, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 11/14/1980 - 01/18/1981; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 02/19/1981 - 04/26/1981
  • "The Most Beautiful Museum in the World" Museum Folkwang until 1933, Museum Folkwang Essen, Essen, 03/20/2010 - 07/25/2010
  • Erich Heckel - Setting Out and Tradition. A Retrospective, Brücke-Museum Berlin, Berlin (Dahlem), 09/19/2010 - 01/16/2011
  • 32Q: 1440 Secessionism: Munich, Vienna, Berlin (Expressionism), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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Verification Level

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