Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Before the Red Curtain belongs to a set of watercolours of female nudes in indoor settings executed by Heckel at the former studio of the painter Otto Müller at number 60 of the Mommsenstrasse in Berlin, which he had occupied since autumn 1911. The young woman sits on a crude handmade stool in front of some curtains with figurative designs that fall diagonally, creating an inverted V shape. The nakedness of the model, her pose with slightly titled head and isolated position in the middle of the room help create a melancholic and sentimental atmosphere. The décor of the studio, which serves as a backdrop to this composition, was created by the artist under the influence of the primitive art of the ethnographic collections he had seen in the Dresden and Berlin museums. The influence of primitive art is also apparent in the angular forms of the model, the scheme of which is repeated in other similar watercolours, as well as in the oil painting Two Girls before a Red Curtain, of 1912.
The sensation of a fragmented, angular space created by the oblique lines of the curtains in contrast to the circular motifs of the pattern is heightened by the uneven application of the watercolours which, as Valeriano Bozal points out, “allows the viewer to appreciate ‘breathing spaces’ that infuse the whole image with a violent dynamism,” as a result of which “what is a technical device becomes a stylistic and semantic factor.”