Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

In this, one of his many self-portraits, Kirchner, with his beloved cat Boby, eyes the viewer warily. An avid commentator on his own work after World War I — in diaries, correspondence, and even publicly under a pseudonym — Kirchner contributed to the legend of his wartime experience as a soldier. He had suffered a breakdown during the war, and is now known to have partially feigned illness to avoid returning to the front. To recuperate, he eventually left Germany permanently for rural Frauenkirch, near Davos, Switzerland, in 1917. Despite his self-imposed isolation in the mountains, Kirchner kept abreast of developments in Germany, debating details of the history of Brücke and consistently emphasizing his own artistic leadership and autonomy. Thickly painted on a red-and-white checkered cloth — a rare example of a work by Kirchner on an unconventional support — Self-Portrait with Cat retains the more vigorous paint application of the artist’s prewar years, a style he soon abandoned for large, flat planes of color.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
BR50.12
People
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, German (Aschaffenburg am Main, Germany 1880 - 1938 Davos, Switzerland)
Title
Self-Portrait with Cat
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Selbstporträt mit Katze
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1920
Culture
German
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/304414
Location
Level 1, Room 1500, Modern and Contemporary Art, Art in Germany Between the Wars
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on commercially woven cotton fabric
Dimensions
120.6 x 80 cm (47 1/2 x 31 1/2 in.)
framed: 140.5 x 101 x 9 cm (55 5/16 x 39 3/4 x 3 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: in oil at l.l.: E L Kirchner
Provenance
Folkwang Museum, Essen, by 1929, removed from the collection by the National Socialist (Nazi) authorities, 1937 (EK 3689), sold; [Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin], sold; to Kurt Feldhäusser, Berlin,by inheritance; Marie Feldhäusser, Brooklyn (1945-c. 1949) sold; [E. Weyhe Gallery, New York], sold; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, February 1950.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Museum purchase
Accession Year
1950
Object Number
BR50.12
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Perry T. Rathbone, European Masters of Our Time, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1957), p. 19, fig. 78, ill. (b/w)

Edward B. Henning, Fifty Years of Modern Art 1916-1966, exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH, 1966), unpaginated, cat. 11, ill. (b/w)

Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 410

Expressionism: A German Intuition 1905-1920, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (New York, 1980), p. 140, cat. 143, ill. (b/w)

Charles Werner Haxthausen, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), pp. 11, 31, repr. p. 31

Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 375, p. 314, repr.

Peter Nisbet and Emilie Norris, Busch-Reisinger Museum: History and Holdings, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1991), p. 62, ill.

Harvard University Art Museums, Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Klee, Winter, Kirchner 1927-1934, exh. cat., Cantz'sche Druckerei (Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 2001), p. 93, fig. no. 6

Bernhard Mendes Bürgi, ed., Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Mountain Life: The Early Years in Davos 1917-1926, exh. cat., Hatje Cantz Verlag (Ostfildern-Ruit, 2003), cat. no. 26, color ill.

Jill Lloyd, ed., Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1880-1938, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art (Washington, 2003), cat. no. 179

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), p. 170

"Das schoenste Museum der Welt" Museum Folkwang bis 1933, exh. cat., Steidl and Edition Folkwang (Essen, 2010), pp. 214-216

Ich bin den friedlichen Burgern zu modern: Aus Eberhard Grisebachs Briefwechsel mit seinen Malerfreunden, Verlag Scheidegger & Spiess (Zurich, 2010), p. 204, p. 240, fig. 29, ill.

Exhibition History

European Masters of Our Time, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 10/10/1957 - 11/17/1957

Fifty Years of Modern Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 06/06/1966 - 07/31/1966

Works from the 20th Century Collection of the Busch-Reisinger, Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 09/23/1980 - 10/24/1980

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

Deutsche Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts aus dem Busch-Reisinger Museum, Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, 10/23/1982 - 01/16/1983; Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin 30, 02/10/1983 - 04/17/1983; Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, 05/08/1983 - 06/26/1983

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 03/02/2003 - 06/01/2003

32Q: 1500 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Expressionism-Interwar), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu