The Loam Pit

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Mina de arcilla

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig

Aschaffenburg, 1880 - Frauenkirch, 1938

The Loam Pit, ca. 1906

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed lower left: ''E. L. Kirchner''. Heritage stamp from the artist on reverse side: ''Dre/ Aa 5''.
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid

Oil on cardboard

54 x 74 cm


Artwork history

  • Estate of the artist

  • Roman Norbert Ketterer Collection

  • R. N. Ketterer Gallery, Campione d’Italia

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1964

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

1960 - 1961

Meisterwerke des Deutschen Expressionismus, Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen; Hannover, Kunstverein; La Haya, Gemeentemuseum; Colonia, Wallraf-Richartz Museum; Zúrich, Kunsthaus Zürich, n. 2


L'Espressionismo. Pittura, scultura, architettura, Florencia, Palazzo Strozzi, n. 169


E. L. Kirchner und Rot-Blau, Basilea, Kunsthalle Basel, n. 6


Künstler der Brücke. Gemälde der Dresdener Jahre 1905-1910, Berlín, Brücke-Museum, n. 14


Moderne Kunst aus der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen, n. 34


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Graphik 50. Städtische Kunstausstellung, Villingen-Schwenningen, Beethovenhaus, n. 1

1979 - 1980

Post-Impressionism. Cross-Currents in European Painting, Londres, Royal Academy of Arts, n. 253


Post-Impressionism. Cross-Currents in European Painting, Washington (DC), National Gallery of Art, n. 187

1990 - 1991

Espressionismo. Capolavori della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza da Van Gogh a Klee, Roma, Palazzo Ruspoli, n. 25

1998 - 1999

Masterworks from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Tokio, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; Takaoka, Takaoka Art Museum; Nagoya, Matsuzaka Art Museum; Sendai, Miyagi Museum of Art, n. 86, p. 192

1999 - 2000

Del impresionismo a la vanguardia en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Barcelona, Centre Cultural Caixa Catalunya, p. 156


Del impresionismo a la vanguardia en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, México, DF, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, p. 134

2000 - 2001

La Révolte de la couleur. De l'impressionnisme aux Avant-gardes. Chefs-d'oeuvre de la Collection Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bruselas, Musée d'Ixelles, n. 33, pp. 102-104


Brücke. El nacimiento del expresionismo alemán, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza - Fundación Caja Madrid, n. 50, lám. p. 131


El naixement de l'expressionisme alemany. Brücke, Barcelona, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, n. 41, lám. p. 107

2005 - 2006

Brücke. Die Geburt des deutschen Expressionismus, Berlín, Brücke-Museum, n. 51, lám. p. 158

2012 - 2013

Im Farbenrausch. Munch, Matisse und die Expressionisten, Essen, Museum Folkwang, n. 62, p. 293, lám. p. 129


Sisley, Kandinsky, Hopper. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, p. 114, lám. p. 115

2017 - 2018

Scenarios. From Monet to Estes. From Trouville to Nueva York. Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra, 16 March 2017-14 January 2018. p. 44-45.

  • -Grohmann, Will: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. New York, Arts, 1961, p. 90, lám.

  • -Ketterer, Roman Norbert: Moderne Kunst. [Auction Cat.]. Campione d’Italia, R.N. Ketterer, 1963.

  • -Gordon, Donald E.: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1968 [Ed. al.: Munich, Prestel, 1968], n. 15, pp. 48-50, 267, lám.

  • -Kiel, Hanna: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection of Modern Paintings. Castagnola, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, 1974, pp. 65-66, lám.

  • -Vergo, Peter: Twentieth-century German Painting: the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. London, Sotheby’s Publications, 1992, n. 43, pp. 180-181, lám.

  • -Harrison, C., Frascina F. y Perry, G.: Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction. The Early Twentieth Century. New Haven (CT) – London, 1993, p. 65, lám.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 2, p. 354, lám. p. 355 [ Sheet by Peter Vergo]

  • -Alarcó, P. y Borobia, M. (eds.): Guía de la colección. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 291, lám.

  • -Im Farbenrausch. Munch, Matisse und die Expressionisten. Von Lüttichau, Mario-Andreas y Gianfreda, Sandra (eds.). [Exhib. Cat.]. Essen, Museum Folkwang, 2012.

  • -Kaspers, Asja: “Aufbruch zur Farbe”. Essen 2012, pp. 118-119, cit. p. 119.

  • -Sisley, Kandinsky, Hopper. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, 2013,  p. 114, lám. p. 115 (Exhib. Cat.).

  • -Scenarios. From Monet to Estes. From Trouville to Nueva York. Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra,  2017, p. 44-45. (Exhib. Cat.) [Sheet by Peter Vergo]

Expert report

This painting has always been known in German as Die Lehmgrube and is thus entitled in Donald Gordon’s oeuvre-catalogue of Kirchner’s paintings, but the title is not the artist’s own. Like many of Kirchner’s early works, it remains otherwise undocumented and, although it probably depicts a scene in the immediate vicinity of Dresden, it has not proved possible to identify the exact location. It is likely that the picture belongs to a group of plein-air paintings done in and around the Saxon capital during spring-summer 1906. However, the dating of Kirchner’s earliest Dresden paintings is fraught with difficulties and, in the absence of any significant number of documented works, suggested dates of 1906 and 1907 must be regarded as at best tentative, being based principally on stylistic criteria.

Gordon, in attempting to construct a convincing chronology of the artist’s early paintings, has discussed at length the question of the formative influences to which Kirchner responded. Of these, perhaps the most significant was the art of Van Gogh, shown in Germany on a number of occasions during the early years of the century, notably at the Galerie Arnold in Dresden in 1905. Kirchner, like the other artists of theBrücke group, could scarcely have been immune to the effect of such events taking place on his own doorstep. He was also, almost certainly, familiar with the Dutch artist’s work in illustration. His personal library, sent for auction in 1951, was found to contain two copies of Julius Meier-Graefe’s influential and richly illustrated three-volume Entwicklungsgeschichte der modernen Kunst, containing reproductions of paintings by Van Gogh and other “modern” artists The impact of these works on the development of Kirchner’s style is seen clearly in The Loam Pit, with its strident colour contrasts, loose brushwork and heavy impasto.

Another founder member of the Brücke, the architect Fritz Bleyl, later confirmed that the young Dresden artists also regularly devoured the latest illustrated magazines in their search for new sources of inspiration. Among the most important of these was the German periodical Kunst und Künstler, the first issue of which appeared in 1903 and which contained numerous illustrations of works by neo- and post-Impressionist artists, including Cézanne, van Gogh, Pissarro and Signac. By 1908, however, the influence of French neo- and post-Impressionism on Kirchner had begun significantly to diminish, to be replaced by a flatter, more abbreviated style which owes much to the impact of Munch’s art. Kirchner probably became acquainted with the Norwegian artist’s work through the Munch exhibition shown in Dresden in February 1906 but was, as Gordon notes, at that date “not yet able to enlarge upon the more expressive aspects of post-Impressionist art.” His interest in Munch must have been rekindled by the exhibition he saw at the Berlin Secession in autumn 1908, which included several recent paintings.

Peter Vergo