About this artwork

This is one of Kirchner's first paintings to depict a stage scene. It shows actors from a Japanese theatre company performing at Dresden's Albert Theatre. Theatre and cabaret scenes were extremely popular among the Brücke expressionist group. The artist's unusual viewpoint, looking down on the actors from a side angle, suggests that he may have seen the play from a theatre box. Kirchner saw an exhibition of Matisse paintings in December 1908, and this painting shows the influence of Matisse's flat areas of anti-naturalistic colour.

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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Kirchner was the leading member of the Brücke (Bridge) expressionist group, which was formed in Dresden in 1905. He settled in Berlin in 1911, and produced many scenes depicting city life, on the streets or in theatres and cabarets. His spiky and aggressive style is instantly recognisable. In addition to making painting and sculpture, Kirchner was one of the twentieth-century's greatest printmakers. He produced a huge body of prints in woodcut, etching and lithography. Kirchner's work was included in the 1937 exhibition of Degenerate 'Art', which caused him great distress. He shot himself the following year.