Art: Catching the Jagged Moment

The artist's problem, as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner saw it, was "how to arrest in a few bold strokes a movement, catching the passing moment." To him, in 1900, the paintings in museums were "anemic, bloodless, lifeless studio daubs," while on the streets of Dresden, "life—noisy, colorful, pulsating," cried to be painted. Kirchner was not alone in his ambition, but of all the German expressionists who sprang up before World War I, few are enjoying quite such a vogue as Kirchner today.

Building a Bridge. The son of an engineer in a paper plant, Kirchner studied architecture at his father's insistence, but switched...

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