August 6, 2011

Kirchner and the Pink Lady's Arm Candy

Hey there gender blenders,

I was recently involved in a gallery talk series at my local art museum, which brought View of Basel and the Rhine by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to my attention.

View of Basel and the Rhine
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Take a look at the pink lady's arm candy. Is that man or lady candy? Are we talking blueberry or strawberry flavor? Mixed berries? I think yes.

There is something about the slumped shoulders, the too big clothes, and the soft and rounded features that exudes gender ambiguity. I don't know what Kirchner intended, but I'll admit he probably didn't really intend genderqueerness necessarily. However, the painting exhibits a lot of ambiguity, so what I'm noticing isn't that far fetched. I mean, what is that animal? A horse-dog? What time of day is it? Why is the water all choppy? If it is about to storm why are the people not in a hurry to get inside? What angle is the light coming from? And the people aren't very defined either, especially their expressions. The pink on the sidewalk is really puzzling as well. One of the gallery talk participants suggested that it represents shadow.

What do you think? Does the same figure that I keep coming back to fascinate you too? If so, is it for the same reason--because his/her gender is hard to read? What do you think of the colors?


  1. Loved this analysis! I'm an art geek and the way you put art history and gender theory together I'm essentially having a nerdgasm.

    Totally agree that the figure on the right is very androgynous. Whether that was Kirchner's intention or not, it's nice to see gender ambiguity wherever we find it. That's kind of the queer experience, isn't it? Finding ourselves, hidden in the open.

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's funny because when I said something about it during our practice run, a lot of the other presenters didn't see it. At the time I was at a loss about how to explain, as it seemed so obvious to me. I literally could not take my eyes off of him/her.