A Peek into Our Collections: Self-Portrait with Cat

October 23, 2014
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Self-Portrait with Cat, 1920. Oil on commercially woven cotton fabric. Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Museum purchase, BR50.12.

Showcasing the breadth and depth of our collections—from ancient to modern times and across a variety of media—A Peek into Our Collections offers a window on what will be on view when our new facility opens to the public on November 16.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Self-Portrait with Cat, 1920, German, Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum.

The viewer of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Self-Portrait with Cat cannot help but feel watched, not only by the artist’s intense eyes, but also by those of his beloved cat, Boby. The artist painted this work while living near Davos, Switzerland, following a breakdown he suffered during World War I—an illness that he partially feigned to avoid returning to the front. From what became his permanent home in the Swiss Alps, Kirchner kept up with what was happening in Germany, debating details of the history of Brücke—a group of German expressionist artists of which Kirchner was a founding member—and emphasizing his own artistic leadership and autonomy. Self-Portrait with Cat retains the more vigorous paint application of the artist’s prewar years, a style he soon abandoned for large, flat planes of color.

See other highlighted objects here.