Erich Heckel was born in 1883 in Dobeln, Saxony. In 1905, he co-founded the collective, Die Brücke (The Bridge) in Dresden, with Ernst Ludwig Kirschner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Heckel studied architecture at the Technical Academy in Dresden, but abandoned his studies after chartering Die Brücke. He traveled to Italy in 1909 and in 1911, he moved to Berlin. Heckel volunteered for service in WWI, but was deemed unfit to serve and continued to work on his art during the war years.
Heckel’s first woodcut was produced in 1904. Altogether, he produced some 460 woodcuts, nearly 200 etchings and 400 lithographs, most of them completed between 1903 and 1923. His subjects were usually outsiders, such as circus performers or madmen. Heckel was particularly partial to color woodcuts, despite the fact that the medium was rather laborious.
The Nazis deemed Heckel’s art “degenerate” and in 1937, over 700 of his works were expelled from German museums. In 1944, his studio was bombed and all of his plates and blocks were destroyed. Some years later, he moved to Lake Constance, where he resumed his work in graphics, but his later efforts were overshadowed by his earlier work.