date of birth: 1884
place of birth: Rottluff bei Chemnitz
date of death: 1976
Karl Schmidt was born on 1 December 1884 in Rottluff near Chemnitz. He became a friend of Erich Heckels in 1902. In 1905 he started studing architecture in Dresden and, together with his three fellow students Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl and Erich Heckel, co-founded the Brücke (The Bridge) group of artists that was to play a pioneering role in the development of Expressionism in Germany. Inspired by his fellow artists Schmidt-Rottluff began to discover the woodcut for himself - a technique that was to gain a special significance for the Brücke group. In 1906, the First Annual Brücke Portfolio appeared. Schmidt-Rottluff also worked intensively on lithography. In his Expressionist pictures he succeeds in freeing himself from Impressionism and Jugendstil. The painter gave his colours an intense luminosity; his pictures exude their own unique strength and monumentality. Until 1912 Schmidt-Rottluff spent his summers in Dangast on the North Sea together with Erich Heckel and Hermann Max Pechstein. In 1907 he met the art historian Rosa Schapire in Hamburg who was to champion the artist for the rest of her life and who compiled the catalogue raisonné of his graphic ouvre. After moving to Berlin in 1911 his close artistic cooperation with the Brücke artists came to an end. Schmidt-Rottluff developed an increasingly reduced, geometric formal language. During his military service in World War I Schmidt-Rottluffs use of the woodcut reached its height. The artist produced a cycle of religious woodcuts in which he came to terms with the attrocities of war. This is considered the masterpiece of his graphic work. After the war Schmidt-Rottluff returned to Berlin and drew inspiration from African sculpture in particular. Periods spent in Pomerania, on Lake ?ebsko, in Ticino, the Taunus and further away in Rome prompted him to paint still lifes and landscapes. In the mid 1920s he no longer worked on woodcuts and etchings, preferring instead to work with oil and watercolour as well as in pen-and-ink from 1927 onwards. In 1937 his works were shown in the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich; 608 works of his were removed from German museums and Schmidt-Rottluff was banned from painting during World War II. In 1947 he was appointed professor at the University of Arts in West Berlin. Putting years of defamation behind him, the artist found a new sense of freedom and a renewed optimism that is reflected not only in his typical landscape compositions but also in impressive still lifes. The motifs of his late work follow on from his Expressionist phase; its use of colour becomes more differentiated and his art more sober and austere. In 1956 Schmidt-Rottluff was awarded the Pour le Mérite order for his artistic ouvre. On his initiative the Brücke Museum in Berlin was opened in 1967. In the years to come Schmidt-Rottluff was revered as one of the most important German Expressionist artists. The artist died on 10 August 1976 in Berlin. The works of art in his estate were formed into the Karl and Emy Schmidt-Rottluff Foundation and passed on to the Brücke Museum.