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Erich Heckel

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Erich Heckel was one of the charter members of Die Brücke founded in Dresden in 1905. Their meetings took place in a former butchershop and Heckel served as Treasurer and Secretary responsible for its organization. He was a close friend of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff who he met in highschool in 1901. Both studied architecture at the Technical Academy in Dresden but left their studies after founding Die Brucke. In 1909, he took a long sojourn to Italy. In the Fall of 1911, Die Brucke moved to Berlin where they met most of the painters of the avant-garde but in 1913, the group disbanded. After seeing the Futurist exhibition in April 1912, Heckel's style became Prismatic, organized in a series of triangular planes. He volunteered for service in WWI, but was deemed unfit to serve and instead worked as a medic in Flanders along with other artists. Heckel was able to continue working on his art during the war years, especially his graphics. His specialty was interior scenes that express melancholy and loneliness. His subjects are usually outsiders like circus performers and madmen in anxious or fearful situations.

Heckel produced his first woodcut in 1904. He made 460 woodcuts, almost 200 etchings and 400 lithographs. Most of these works were executed between 1903-23. Heckel especially loved the color woodcut despite the fact that this medium was quite laborious because each block had to sawed apart and inked separately. Heckel frequently used irregularly shaped formats and often refers to his paintings in his graphics. His graphic output declined in the 1920s but resumed after WWII.

In 1937, The Nazis deemed his art "Degenerate." 729 works were expelled from German museums. In January 1944, his studio was bombed and all of his blocks and plates were destroyed. He later moved to Lake Constance where he took up graphics again but these later works are overshadowed by the genius of his early works.