Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Two Women with Washbasin; The Sisters, 1913
Executed in 1913, the painting shows the sisters Erna and Gerda Schilling decked out in classy manner, with a washbasin; the setting is the artist’s first Berlin studio. Gerda, wearing a pink dress, has draped herself on her seat with her legs crossed. Her softer physiognomy and characteristic braids wound up in buns over her ears distinguish her from her sister Erna, who is immersing her hands in a round washbowl.
When Kirchner made Erna’s and Gerda’s acquaintance, they were working in a nightclub as dancers. Their faces are made up in mask-like manner with marked eyelash wreaths and red lips. In keeping with the fashions of the time, their elaborate costumes feature the large, bright white standing collars also encountered in Kirchner’s famous Berlin street scenes with cocottes. The fact that the two women are in the artists’ studio and not in some établissement, for example, is revealed by the red plush chair and the chequered cushion behind Gerda, both of which also turn up in other studio scenes by Kirchner.