Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was born in Aschaffenberg, Germany on May 6, 1880. In 1901 He studied architecture in Dresden. While in Dresden, he befriended Erich Heckel, Karl-Schmidt Rottluff, and Fritz Bleyl. They were drawn together by their desire to become painters as well as their dislike of modern painting. They called themselves 'Die Brücke' which described their liking of all revolutionary and rising elements. The group sought inspiration in such painters as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch as well as the primitive arts of the Pacific Islands and Africa.
Kirchner's own artistic development began in the years before 1900 with woodcuts he created. After studying architecture, he studied painting in Munich and was influenced by Art Nouveau styles as well as the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer. In Munich, Kirchner began using bold colors, remniscent of Gauguin, and wild brushstrokes reminsiscent of Van Gogh. The subjects convey the emotional intensity found in the woodcuts of Dürer and Munch.
During World War I, Kirchner entered service and in 1915, he suffered a physical collapse and a nervous breakdown. He moved to a sanitarium near Frankfurt, where he completed five wall frescoes, but was struck by a car and severely injured. In 1918 he moved near Davos, Switzerlan but continued to suffer from depression despite solo shows held in Munich, Hamburg, and New York.
His inclusion in Entartete Kunst, the Nazi's 1937 exhibition of so-called degenerate art, along with the destruction of approximately 600 of his completed works, caused him further adversity. Kirchner committed suicide on June 15, 1938 in Davos.