Der Krankenwarter

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig, 1917 til 1918

Oil on canvas, 80,3x70,2 cm, The National Museum

In the painting DerKrankenwärter (The Nurse) from 1917-18 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner has depicted a nurse in the clinic where he stayed while receiving treatment. Kirchner was admitted to a sanatorium after having suffered a nervous breakdown in 1915 when he enlisted in the army as a volunteer soldier at the outbreak of the First World War.

The picture is related both in artistic form and the choice of motif with several of Edvard Munch’s contemporary works. It is particularly interesting, perhaps, to view the work in connection with certain pictures from Munch’s so-called Bedroomseries from around 1920. The kinship can be seen in the expressive, gestural painterly means, as well as in the picture’s composition and structure.

As a biographical parallel it is also tempting to mention Munch’s mental breakdown in 1908, and his subsequent stay in the nerve clinic in Copenhagen, where he also made pictures of the people who treatet him.