A leading painter of Die Brücke (The Bridge), a German Expressionist group formed in Dresden in 1905, Kirchner pursued an art of pure, raw emotion, while advocating a revolutionary approach based on complete freedom from social and aesthetic norms. Focusing on the psychology of modern life, he began painting street scenes, cabarets, and circus performers. He enhanced this painting's deliberately crude appearance by painting on coarse canvas and leaving the surface unvarnished.
Despite serving in the German army during World War I, Kirchner became a principal target of the Nazis' systematic assault against so-called "degenerate art." During the 1930s, 639 works by Kirchner were removed from German museums and either destroyed or sold to foreign collectors and museums. The year after the Nazis organized the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich, Kirchner committed suicide.