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A Homecoming
Deutsche Bank Gives Kirchner Painting to Museum Folkwang



It’s one of the most important Classic Modernist works in the Deutsche Bank CollectionErnst Ludwig Kirchner’s painting Rhätische Bahn. Things have now come full circle: the work has been given over to Museum Folkwang in Essen on permanent loan. Kirchner’s Expressionist landscape, whose checkered fate is closely linked to German art history, returns to the museum in which it was on display in the 1920s.

Kirchner painted Rhätische Bahn in 1917 during a stay in a hospital in Davos where he was recuperating from the consequences of his traumatic war experiences. In a square format and expressive colors, he painted a train standing in a sharp bend. A solitary human figure can be seen in front of it. The painting impressively reflects the artist’s psychological state, depicting his attempt to find a new sense of stability during his isolation. Karl Ernst Osthaus, a banker and one of Kirchner’s most important sponsors, purchased the work the year it was executed. After Osthaus’s death in 1921, the City of Essen bought his collection for Museum Folkwang, whose commitment to progressive Modernist art was recognized internationally at the time. During the Nazi period, the outstanding collection fell victim to government-ordered plundering. In 1937, more than 1,400 works were deemed “degenerate art” and confiscated, including Rhätische Bahn. In 1940, the painting went on the international art market via Galerie Ferdinand Möller in Berlin. Deutsche Bank acquired Kirchner’s masterpiece in 1986. Today it is one of eight paintings, drawings, and prints by the artist in the corporate collection.

Back in 2010, the painting returned to the Folkswang for an exhibition. With loans from across the globe, The world’s most beautiful museum, as it was described by Paul J. Sachs, the American art historian and co-founder of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, was reconstructing its lost collection. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Deutsche Bank on the Rhine and Ruhr, Deutsche Bank has now provided the work to the museum on permanent loan. Here it will find an ideal place between two other Expressionist masterpieces by Kirchner, Der rote Turm in Halle (1915) and Kaffeetisch (1923/24). The homecoming of Rhätische Bahn is being celebrated with a cabinet exhibition. The show, entitled Expressionist Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection, takes up the thematic thread of Kirchner’s unique landscape and presents Rhätische Bahn together with his late watercolor Davos im Winter (1924) and his painting Die Berge Weissfluh und Schafgrind (1921). The presentation also includes important works by Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff from the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Expressionist Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection
3/26 – 5/4/2014
Museum Folkwang, Essen




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