date of birth: 1883
place of birth: Döbeln/Sachsen
date of death: 1970
Erich Heckel was born on 31 July in Döbeln in Saxony. After leaving school he started studying architecture in Dresden in 1904. One year later he joined up with his fellow students Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff to found Die Brücke (The Bridge) group of artists, of which he was the manager. Hermann Max Pechstein, Otto Mueller and Emil Nolde later joined the association. Heckel initially focussed on various printing techniques, in particular, such as the woodcut, lithograph and etching. He developed his own style at an early stage. The young artist frequently spent the summers with Kirchner and Pechstein in the company of girlfriends and models at the lakes around Moritzburg up until 1910. During such trips the artists concentrated especially on the expressive depiction of the nude in natural surroundings. He also regularly stayed in Dangast on the North Sea with Schmidt-Rottluff. Through working together closely, the members of the Brücke had a strong influence on each other that led to similar pictorial compositions.
In 1911 Heckel moved to Berlin where he took over Otto Muellers studio. He met other influential artists of the period such as Franz Marc and August Macke who visited him there. In 1912 he decorated the interior of the chapel for the Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne together with Kirchner. The Brücke group of artists disbanded in May 1913 and Heckel held the first dedicated exhibition of his work at Fritz Gurlitts in Berlin. He worked as an ambulance man in World War I and served in Flanders from 1915 until 1918 where he met Max Beckmann and James Ensor. After the war Heckel returned to Berlin. He played an active role in the Workers Council for Art and became a member of the November Group. During this period he spent the summers largely in the little village of Osterholz on the Flensburg Firth. In 1923 the most important exhibition of Heckels graphic works up until then was held at the gallery of the influential art dealer and publisher, Israel Ber Neumann. At the same time the artist painted the frescoes Stages of Life in the Anger Museum in Erfurt using the secco technique.
During the next few years Heckel travelled to the Alps, the South of France, northern Spain and Italy. In 1937 a total of 729 of the artists works were removed from German museums and confiscated. Heckel was also included in the Degenerate Art exhibition. In 1944 Heckels studio in Belin was destroyed during an air raid and a large number of his works were lost, especially drawings and printing blocks. Heckel subsequently decided to settle in Hemmenhofen on Lake Constance where Otto Dix also lived. After the first two monographs on Heckels work appeared in 1948 he received a teaching post one year later at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) in Karlsruhe that he held for six years. In 1953, to mark Erich Heckels 70th birthday and, ten years later his 80th, solo exhibitions were staged in a number of towns in Germany. In addition, the artist received numerous honours and awards: the Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1956), the Kunstpreis der Stadt Berlin (Berlin Art Prize; 1957) and that of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (1961).
Erich Heckel died on 27 January 1970 in Radolfzell on Lake Constance.