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In the summer of 1989, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner lives on the Stafelalp, where he produces numerous striking woodcuts of his neighbors in the Alps. Beginning in October, he rents the house “In den Lärchen” (In the Larches) above Frauenkirch, where he ultimately stays until the fall of 1923. Kirchner and his wife, Erna, initially live on the lower floor only; beginning in January 1919, they then occupy the entire building with three rooms, a kitchen-cum-living room, and a large entrance hall. There is a barn, a garden, a well, and a bee house on the property. He increasingly arranges the house according to his own ideas and discovers a passion for wooden sculptures. He creates a new door with two life-size wooden caryatid figures (now in the collection of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart); he carves chairs, a bed, and a mirror for his wife, as well as everyday objects such as coffee grinders or letter boxes. Until a disagreement in 1923, he had a close relationship with the owners of the house, the Müller family; he produced woodcuts of the six children as well as took photographs of them. In order to be able to produce his prints, he had his own printing press sent to Davos-Frauenkirch from Berlin.
In the early summer of 1920 Kirchner paints this large-format view of the “Haus in den Lärchen”. It features the whitewashed house with the three utility buildings and a masoned garden enclosure. A field of blooming lupines (bellflowers?) and other alpine plants spreads out in the foreground. A steep, sloping green meadow rises in the background that extends all the way to a row of dark mountain fir trees.
Excerpts from Kirchner’s Davos journal (Lothar Grisebach in E. L. Kirchner’s Davoser Tagebuch, published in 1969 by Roman Norbert Ketterer and Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg, Cologne – I Der Tagebuchschreiber, der Künstler und der Mensch Ernst Ludwig Kirchner):
July 14, 1919: Work with the right sense (painting) who can do that. Problem landscape, the delicate slope of the curved hill, sharp and yet not brutal. Two delicate blue bells (bellflowers) at the front, otherwise only colors in green and the blue mountains. It ought to be considered with calm gazes, and yet they are so rare here … and the delicate red of the clover and the violet-blue of the bells (bell flowers). I have to paint that again. I have to make two paintings, one from nature, one freely from my imagination, and with earnest devotion, like the pictures in the Sanitorium in Kreuzlingen.
But both simultaneously, then it has to work. I feel a bit like my strength has been tread on. Oh, to have delicate, fine care, that it grows, this incentive, I miss it so. Always me and always me. Alone, lonely.
July 21, 1919: Lovely afternoon walk nearly all the way to the Krummeralp. How beautiful the meadows are, and the trees have fantastic shapes. Color light blue, violet-gray, rose, all manner of yellows, vermillion and vibrant blue missing. Night heavy and painful, without sleep.
August 4, 1919: I have to draw to the point of frenzy, just draw. Then pick the good ones after a while. The technique is too pleasant. Painted Bobby and the mother cat. Oh, how lovely it must be to do nature in the outdoors again. Maybe this summer. Just work, work, and otherwise think nothing, colors very fresh, like a child gladly give anything beautiful.
August 10, 1919: There are the colors of my imagination before me, yet I have to work very close to nature. I’m looking forward to the fall, when I’ll be all alone. I have slight feelings of anxiety again and don’t know what I’m afraid of.
The Foehn is howling, what will it bring.