Artwork of the week for Aug. 10, 2009

street dresden

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Street, Dresden (1908, dated 1907)

(better late than never)
The jarring colors and densely-packed figures of Kirchner’s “Street, Dresden” capture the cacophony and claustrophobia of modern urban life. People dressed in somber black blur into one another as they move through the city, pressing into and out of street cars. Yet, despite the throngs, Kirchner’s canvas conveys a sense of solitude and isolation. Despite the numbers, a city is a lonely, alienating place.

I’ve always been interested in the women in this painting, in particular, in the central placement of the female child. Throughout the history of western art, women have been the object of the male viewer. Urban living allowed women to leave the home. No longer confined to the domestic, the city streets and department stores put women in the public sphere, where they at once exercised new independence and further became the object of the masculine gaze. Look closely at the painting — the few men whose faces are visible stare directly at the women marching unemotionally toward us.

“Street, Dresdan,” part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection, was the subject of my first independent art-history research project in college. This week, after months of waiting, I found out I had won a coveted internship at MoMA (1,000 people applied for approx 20 appointments). Woot! I couldn’t think of a more appropriate Artwork of the week than the painting that launched me into academic art history


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