The Expressionist artists’ group "Die Brücke" (The Bridge) was founded in 1905 in Dresden by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976) and the painter Fritz Bleyl (1880-1966). Other artists joined over the following years, although in addition to the founding members, only Max Pechstein (1881-1955) and Otto Mueller (1874-1930) and to a lesser extent, Emil Nolde (1867-1956) influenced the group’s development. Inspired by German Romanticism, the Brücke was conceived as an artistic colony, searching for friendship and recognition outside of bourgeois society. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff coined the group’s name. He believed that it was appropriately ambiguous, and suggested a connecting path, which would express the programmatic potential for the regeneration of Expressionist art.
In contrast with the Blauer Reiter, the Brücke lacked a comprehensive art theoretical framework. Its manifesto, a call to the youth of the future, was limited to two sentences, and its programme was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s work. The Brücke developed a unified painting style, which served as an expression of their communal way of life. It was characterised by a spontaneous and fluid style - applied in broad sweeps, and complementary colour contrasts. The Brücke artists’ preference for portraying angular figures and simplified objects, was connected with their enthusiasm for African art, and found an appropriate medium in the woodcut. Whilst their style was primarily shaped by Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner had a decided influence on subject matter.
The group frequently portrayed figures in natural landscapes and paradisiacal nudes. The group’s aim was to create authenticity outside industrialisation. This focus shifted to the city, following the group’s relocation to Berlin in 1911, and the artists explored this subject in various ways, developing more individual styles. The increasing distance between the Brücke artists, led to the group’s dissolution in 1913.