Erich Heckel - Windmill, 1909 - Image via bpcom

Erich Heckel

Germany 1883 - 1970

Expressionism, Painting, Printmaking

Erich Heckel
Erich Heckel
November 10, 2016
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile:

Considered one of Germany’s most important modern artists, Erich Heckel was a painter and printmaker, as well as the founding member of the influential Expressionist group Die Brücke (The Bridge). Although Heckel was one of the comparatively more reserved members of the group, Erich was still the instrumental conceptual motor of Die Brücke. Alongside Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Heckel found an alternative style away from the popular ideas of Fauvism, Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh and medieval German artists, seeking visuals in mark-makings and bold colors of Expressionism. Influenced by the literature of Dostoevsky and philosophy of Nietzsche, Erich Heckel was one of the key artists that shaped avant-garde thinking into what it is considered to be today.

When the artist moved from Berlin in 1912, Rottluff made work much more similar to Symbolism
Erich Heckel – Two Men at a Table. 1912 – Image via

Architecture and Die Brücke (The Bridge)

Erich Heckel was born in Döbeln, a town in the Free State of Saxony, Germany. He was a son of a railway engineer. Between the years of 1897 and 1904, Erich attended the Realgymnasium in Chemnitz during which time he decided architecture was something he would be interested in studying. With such goals in mind, Heckel started going on lectures at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden. However, he abandoned studies after only three terms[1]. As an alternative interest, Heckel started painting – a hobby that enabled him to meet other, similar-minded artists. He befriended aforementioned Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff and Fritz Bleyl in Dresden, all of which were also interested in architecture. The foursome founded the famous The Bridge group in 1905. During the early days of Die Brücke, the artists centered their visuals around Heckel’s ability to use color, strong outlines and distorted space to achieve a highly emotive effect. In the meantime, Erich worked in the office of the architect Wilhelm Kreis. He left that position in 1907 in order to become a full-time artist, as well as the secretary and treasurer of The Bridge. After moving to Berlin in the year of 1911 alongside the rest of Die Brücke, Heckel became increasingly interested in formal pictorial composition[2]. The overall mood of his artworks became more melancholy and he managed to subdue his previously bright colors. During this time, Erich often focused on themes of illness and introspection, as is the case in his triptych Convalescent Woman from 1913. Keeping that idea in mind, Heckel wanted to make a bridge between traditional neo-romantic German painting and modern expressionist painting. Despite his efforts, it should be noted that The Bridge failed to attract positive attention to their pieces.

Erich Heckel was one of the founding members of Die Brücke group, one of two organizations that shaped the avant-garde movement of Expressionism

Between 1905 and 1970, this artist from Berlin made work that changed avant-garde width=
Erich Heckel – Marschland (Dangast) – 1907 – Image via

Two World Wars and Later Life

Because of internal conflicts, The Bridge group fell apart in 1913. When World War I started, Heckel was classified as unfit for combat, a decision that hurt him deeply. Instead of serving his country on the battle line, Erich volunteered to assist in an ambulance unit stationed in Belgium. He managed to produce artworks throughout the war, making both his paintings and prints despite the circumstances. After 1920, his works became less intense whilst his palette shifted to more pastel colors. His productivity also started to be much lesser as Erich also found interests somewhere else. In 1937, the Nazis officially denounced his work, labeling it as degenerate and therefore harmful to the Geman public. More than 700 items of his art were confiscated from German museums and much of them were destroyed by the Nazis. After World War II came to an end, Heckel lived at Gaienhofen near Lake Constance. He was teaching at the Karlsruhe Academy until the year of 1955, now seen as a pioneer of German modern art. He continued painting until the moment of his death at Radolfzell in 1970. Interestingly, the last decade of his career was marked by a keen interest in etchings as he made more than two hundred of them during the last nine years of his life[3].

After World War I, Erich Heckel created artworks that were much less intense and dynamic than his earlier paintings and prints

Kirchner Rottluff's biography from 1911 moved the style of Expressionism down the path of modern works
Erich Heckel – Park Landscape – Image via

How Crucial is Erich Heckel?

Between his unique pieces which eventually became symbols of Expressionism and his socialist artists’ organizations which marked a vital moment of German art history, Erich Heckel is an unavoidable name when discussions about avant-garde take place. His contributions came at a crucial time when the visuals of modern art were emerging as an accepted form of creativity, whilst Expressionism became one of the most pivotal movements in all of the avant-garde. Sure, Wassily Kandinsky may be what they call the poster boy of this movement – and deservedly so, by the way – but it’s a big question if Expressionism and the remainder of modern art would take the same course if Heckel’s paintings and prints were taken out of the equation.


  1. Mossinger, I., Richter, A., Tiedeke, V., Erich Heckel, Kerber Verlag, 2012
  2. Moeller, M., Erich Heckel, Der Stille Expressionist, Hirmer Verlag GmbH, 2009
  3. Adam, A., Erich Heckel: 1968, Woodcuts, Etchings, Lithographs, Allan Frumkin Gallery, 1968

Featured image: Erich Heckel – Windmill, 1909 (detail) – Image via
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017Wege des Expressionismus. Gemälde und Graphik der Künstlergruppe BrückeBrücke Museum, Berlin Group
2017Was das Bild zur Kunst macht. Die SammlungKunsthalle zu Kiel, Kiel Group
2016Erich Heckel Und Otto Mueller: Gemälde, Arbeiten Auf PapierGalerie Weick, Dusseldorf Group
2016Expression und Leidenschaft: Kunst aus dem 20. JahrhundertGalerie Neher GmbH & Co. KG, Essen Group
2016Erich Heckel. 120 WerkeMuseum Gunzenhauser, Chemnitz Solo
2016Dada Afrika. Dialog mit dem FremdenBerlinische Galerie, Berlin Group
2016Recent AcquisitionsGalerie St. Etienne, New York City, NY Group
2016Die Sammlung Im SommerKunsthalle in Emden, Emden Group
2016Aufbruch in FarbeErnst Barlach Haus, Hamburg Group
2016Deutscher Expressionismus Und Klassische ModerneGalerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach, Bern Group
2016Überblick 2016Galerie Remmert und Barth, Dusseldorf Group
2016Expressionistische DruckgraphikGalerie Eugen Lendl, Graz Group
2016Farbenrausch Meisterwerke Des Deutschen ExpressionismusStadtgalerie Klagenfurt, Klagenfurt Group
2015Mein Bild, mein Raum & ich Part IGalerie Vayhinger, Radolfzell Group
2015Impressions. Five Centuries of WoodcutsThe National Gallery Oslo, Oslo Group
2015An Eye for Excellence: Twenty Years of CollectingThe Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA Group
2015Picasso. Registros alemanesMuseo Picasso Málaga, Málaga Group
2015Ein Fest fürs Auge. Buchheims ExpressionistenKunsthalle in Emden, Emden Group
2015Open WaterGalerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf Group
2015War and Angst: German ExpressionismThe Contemporary Museum Honolulu, Honolulu, HI Group
2015Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents of German and Russian Art, 1907-1917Neue Galerie New York, New York City, NY Group
2015Künstler der GalerieGalerie Remmert und Barth, Dusseldorf Group
2015Neuerwerbungen Frühjahr 2015Galerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf Group
2015Jahrhundertzeichen. Tel Aviv Museum of Art visits BerlinMartin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin Group
2015Encounters With MusicKitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener, ON Group
2015Land Und Leute. Streifzüge Durch Eine Hamburger PrivatsammlungErnst Barlach Haus, Hamburg Group
2015Kraft der Linie: Graphik des ExpressionismusStädtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim Group
2014kriegszeit. erich heckel 1914-1918Kunstmuseum des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt, Halle, Saale Solo
2014Zwischen Dix und MuellerAurel Scheibler, Berlin Group
2014Malen: naß in naßGalerie Remmert und Barth, Dusseldorf Group
2014Von 1900 bis heuteVon der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal Group
2014Twilight Of Mankind The "brücke" Artists And The Life Reform MovementGalerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach, Bern Group
2014Visual Weimar, 1919–1933Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, VT Group
2014Shattered IllusionsStaatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe Group
2014Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937Neue Galerie New York, New York City, NY Group
2014Kiel ablaze! the rapture of colorKunsthalle zu Kiel, Kiel Group
2014Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik des 20. JahrhundertsGalerie Remmert und Barth, Dusseldorf Group
2014Modern German Prints and Drawings from the Kainen CollectionThe National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Group
2014Muse und ModellGalerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf Group
2013Erich HeckelGalerie Schrade, Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe Solo
2013Erich Heckel: Landschaften • Menschen • StilllebenGalerie Neher GmbH & Co. KG, EssenSolo
2013Erich HeckelGalerie Schrade, Schloss Mochental, Schloß Mochental Solo
2013Frühling 2014 Kunst aus dem 20. JahrhundertGalerie Neher GmbH & Co. KG, Essen Group
2013From Munch To SlettemarkBergen Kunstmuseum, Bergen Group
2013And Some Thoughts on the Current Art MarketGalerie St. Etienne, New York City, NY Group
2013Wenn Wünsche wahr werdenKunsthalle in Emden, Emden Group
2013Munch & German ExpressionismDavid Tunick, Inc., New York City, NY Group
2013On Paper Ii Auf PapierHubertus Melsheimer Kunsthandel, Cologne Group
2013Face TimeGalerie St. Etienne, New York City, NY Group
20131913: The Year of ModernismPrinceton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ Group
2013Appassionata. Die Sammlung Selinka Im DialogKunstmuseum Ravensburg, Ravensburg Group
2013Neuerwerbungen FrÜhjahr 2013Galerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf Group
2013German Expressionism 1900-1930Neue Galerie New York, New York City, NY Group
2013Xylon Societé Internationale Des Graveurs Sur BoisStädtische Galerie Offenburg, Offenburg Group
2013The Painted HumanHubertus Melsheimer Kunsthandel, Cologne Group
2013LandscapesGalerie Haas AG, Zurich Group
2012erich heckel: kraft der linieStiftung Moritzburg, Halle, Saale Solo
2012Der Nackte MannLentos Kunstmuseum Linz, Linz Group
2012Künstler Der BrückeGalerie Nierendorf, Berlin Group
2012ExpressionsSara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere Group
2012And Some Thoughts on the Current Art MarketGalerie St. Etienne, New York City, NYGroup
2012The Small SizeHubertus Melsheimer Kunsthandel, Cologne Group
2012Die BruckeMusee de Grenoble, Grenoble Group
2012Gemälde der „Brücke“Brücke Museum, Berlin Group
2012Il mar Baltico delle Avanguardie (1890-1930)Museo d´Arte Moderna di Ascona, Ascona Group
2012O Mensch!Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach, Bern Group
2011Aquarelle von Erich HeckelBrücke Museum, Berlin Solo
2011Erich Heckel Engadiner Landschaften, walz kunsthandel, Überlingen Solo
2011Erich Heckel: Gemälde-Aquarelle-DruckgraphikGalerie Weick, Dusseldorf Solo
20115. Graphik BiennaleGalerie Dorn, Stuttgart Group
2011Aus Dem Kabinett 22Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin Group
2011Private Passions Sammeln in MannheimStädtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim Group
2011Grafiken der klassischen ModerneGalerie Überlingen, Überlingen Group
2011Sprung In Die ModerneGalerie Barthelmess & Wischnewski, Berlin Group
2011Focus on the Collection: Expressionist LandscapeSaint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO Group
2011The Lady and the TrampGalerie St. Etienne, New York City, NY Group
2011Meisterwerke des ExpressionismusGalerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf Group
2011Aus Dem Kabinett 21Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin Group
2011Das Große WelttheaterErnst Barlach Museum, Wedel Group
2011ExpressionismusGalerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold, Riehen Group
201150 Meisterwerke. Das Kunstmuseum Bochum zu Gast in HeilbronnKunsthalle Vogelmann, Heilbronn Group
2011Frühjahr 2011Galerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf Group
201140 Jahre Galerie DornGalerie Dorn, Stuttgart Group
2011Expressionisten IIGalerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach, Bern Group
2010Erich Heckel. Aufbruch und Tradition. Eine RetrospektiveBrücke Museum, Berlin Solo
2010Erich Heckel: vom Aquarell zum GemäldeKunsthalle in Emden, Emden Solo
2010ERICH HECKEL: Expression und EmpfindungGalerie Neher GmbH & Co. KG, Essen Solo
2010Erich Heckel: Der stille ExpressionistStiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen, Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig Solo
2010Aus Dem Kabinett 20Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin Group
2010Ein Blick auf Fränzi und MarcellaSprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover Group
2010Lebenslust und TotentanzKunsthalle Krems, Krems Group
2010Recent AcquisitionsGalerie St. Etienne, New York City, NY Group
2010Sachsen am MeerGalerie Döbele GmbH, Dresden Group
2010Expressionismus, insbesondere BrückeGalerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold, Riehen Group
2010On PaperHubertus Melsheimer Kunsthandel, Cologne Group
2010KünstlerreisenKulturzentrum Schloss Bonndorf, Bonndorf Group
2010Bij Ensor op bezoekKunstmuseum Aan Zee, OostendeGroup
2009Erich Heckel. AquarelleKunstmuseum des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt, Halle, Saale Solo
2009Erich Heckel. Der stille Expressionist. Aquarelle aus 60 JahrenLyonel Feininger Galerie, Quedlinburg Solo
2009Erich Heckel: Graphische Werke aus dem SaarlandmuseumModerne Galerie & Studiogalerie, Saarbrücken Solo
2008Erich HeckelGalerie Döbele GmbH, Dresden Solo
2008Erich Heckel: Aquarelle und GraphikGalerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold, Riehen Solo
2007Erich Heckel: Aquarelle von 1917 bis 1962Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach, Bern Solo
2006Erich HeckelGalerie Dube-Heynig, Munich Solo
2006Erich Heckel an der OstseeStädtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen, Bietigheim-Bissingen Solo
2006Erich Heckel an der OstseeBrücke Museum, Berlin Solo
2002Erich HeckelGalerie Dube-Heynig, Munich Solo
2002Erich Heckel: Frühe DruckgraphikMuseum Folkwang Essen, Essen Solo
2002Erich HeckelGalerie Schloss Mochental, Schloß Mochental Solo
2002Erich HeckelGalerie Schrade, Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe Solo
2000Erich HeckelGalerie Dube-Heynig, Munich Solo
2000Erich Heckel: Zeichnungen der Frankreich-Reisen 1926 und 1929Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach, Bern Solo
1996Erich HeckelGalerie Utermann, Dortmund Solo
1994Erich Heckel: Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, DruckgraphikBündner Kunstmuseum Chur, Chur Solo
1989Erich HeckelNassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden Solo
1983Erich Heckel; Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und GraphikHaus der Kunst München, Munich Solo
1983Erich Heckel; Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und GraphikMuseum Folkwang Essen, Essen Solo
1982Erich Heckel: Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und DruckgrafikKunstverein Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg Solo
1976Erich Heckel: ZeichnungenKunsthalle Tübingen, Tübingen Solo
1972Erich HeckelGalerie Vömel, Dusseldorf Solo
1971Erich Heckel, 1883-1970: Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings, GraphicsNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON Solo
1965Erich Heckel: eine Auswahl von Aquarellen und HandzeichnungenGalerie Günther Franke, Munich Solo
1964Erich Heckel „Bilder aus dem Alstertal“Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg Solo
1955Erich HeckelGalerie St. Etienne, New York City, NY Solo
1953Erich Heckel : Graphik 1907-1952Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim Solo
1950Erich HeckelBadischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe Solo
1917Erich HeckelKölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne Solo