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Kirchner works on show in Lugano

Paintings by the German expressionist artist and long-time Swiss resident, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, are being shown in a major retrospective of his work at the cantonal art museum in Ticino.

Paintings by the German expressionist artist and long-time Swiss resident, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, are being shown in a major retrospective of his work at the cantonal art museum in Ticino.

The exhibition draws on private collections from Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and museums in the United States, Japan and Australia to present a comprehensive review of Kirchner's life work.

Kirchner was born in Aschaffenburg in 1880 and trained as an architect before turning to painting. The exhibition, which is organised chronologically, begins with the years 1905-06, when Kirchner founded the expressionist group "Die Brücke" in Berlin.

His first masterpieces date back to this period. Whereas harmony is the dominant characteristic of the parallel fauvist movement in France, the clashes of colour common in German pre-war expressionism seem to be a foreboding of an imminent catastrophe.

Kirchner fled to Switzerland when the First World War broke out in 1914, and remained there for the rest of his life. Living in the alpine resort of Davos in eastern Switzerland, Kirchner felt inspired by the mountain scenery which featured in many of his later works.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Kirchner was declared a "degenerate" artist, and the authorities removed about 600 of his works from German museums. Although he attracted followers in Switzerland, such as Albert Müller and Hermann Scherer, and continued to find collectors interested in his works, Kirchner feld increasingly isolated. He committed suicide in 1938.

For the Museo Cantonale d'Arte in Lugano, which attracts large numbers of visitors from neighbouring Italy, the exhibition takes a rare look at an artist from the German-speaking world. It makes no attempt to be comprehensive, but focuses instead on Kirchner's main works. The exhibition is on until July 2.

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