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The trauma of the war and the fact he was declared unfit for active service plunged Kirchner into a deep physical and mental crisis that led him to voluntary retirement in Switzerland in 1917. The artist took refuge in the mountains by the village of Frauenkirch , near Davos , where his painting underwent a transformation and became filled with new themes.
In summer 1918 Kirchner rented an alpine cabin in Staffelalp, by Frauenkirch , where he painted the present Alpine Kitchen .With a very distorted perspective, the painting shows a room decorated in rustic style as he described it in a letter to the architect Henry van de Velde: “The rooms up here are most unusual, the gaps in the walls filled in with moss, and a wonderful pot-bellied stove [...].”
Although, according to Roman Norbert Ketterer , the administrator of Kirchner’s Estate, the figure by the table is the artist himself preparing a lithographic stone in the kitchen of his Swiss chalet overlooking the Tinsehorn , Peter Vergo believes it is Erna, the artist’s companion at the time.