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Two Wounded Men

John L. Zeller, MD, PhD
JAMA. 2008;300(17):1974. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.554.
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In their first manifesto Programm, the members of Die Brücke (“The Bridge”) identified the impulses that prompted their work: faith in the future, the strength of youth, the value of authenticity, and the rejection of the establishment. From its outset, this Künstlergruppe struggled to bridge the chasm between art and life—beyond the mere presentation of an object on canvas to the presentation of that object as a unique expression of the artist's own emotion. Inseparable from this artistic zeal, the writings of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky were likewise important to the rationale of their art, providing the philosophical demand for totality. Self-taught painters, they adapted their architectural principles to the canvas. Excited by the works of Gauguin, van Gogh, Munch, and Matisse, they fashioned their canvases bold and colorful. They flattened the monumental forms, crammed images into tight, airless spaces—promoting a sense of tension. Influenced by the angulated forms of African and Oceanic art, they conveyed deep expression in a few well-placed angles, even without color. In 1906, they held their first group exhibition in the showrooms of a lamp factory in Dresden and thereafter gained access to the leading art galleries throughout Germany, becoming a force central to the development of Expressionism.

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Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Two Wounded Men, 1914, German. Woodcut on laid paper. 67.3 × 47.9 cm; image 41.9 × 27.8 cm. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada (http://national.gallery.ca), Ottawa, Ontario. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society, New York, New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany. Photograph © National Gallery of Canada.

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