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Monday, June 30, 2014

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Disclaimer: I do not own a piece of the action here. (Wish I did.)
On our recent jaunt around the rim of western United States, we made one or two forays into the interior. One was to visit the Grand Canyon, the other was to visit the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (not to imply the two are in any way equal). Having never been to Vegas, I was determined to see a first-rate, top-of-the-line, stage show. Inasmuch as the Four Seasons were one of my two favorite musical groups during my teen years (along with the Beach Boys), I insisted upon taking in Jersey Boys. It was of course, a good choice, said to be the number-one ticket on "the strip" (at the Paris Hotel, by the way). If you'd like to follow suit, and don't want to pay well over a hundred bucks per seat, or sit in the upper balcony (where we did) order your tickets early. Each show is pretty much sold out by seven. Whatever the price, it's well worth it, assuming you're over fifty. 
Eastwood and his "boys." The Broadway cast is intact for the film.
1971, directing murder and mayhem.
Just a few days ago I saw the trailer for Jersey Boys (the movie). We plan to see it tonight. I was somewhat startled to notice that it had been directed by Clint Eastwood--startled in that it doesn't seem like a natural fit. He's never directed a musical before in his life. However one of the hallmarks of Jersey Boys (apart from the songs) is the authentic, "Jersey Boys" street language and hardcore street life from which the group originated. The "F-bombs" rain down from the sky like...well...rain. Suffice to say it's not The Sound of Music; so maybe Eastwood shouldn't be such a surprising choice as director. Be that as it may, perhaps the most surprising fact noted in the movie's promo material is that this was Eastwood's thirty-third stint as a film director. That's getting right up there with Hitchcock, John Ford, Michael Curtiz, Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, and a few others from the "factory" days of Hollywood. Yet Eastwood was not of that era. He directed his first film, Play Misty For Me (right), in 1971. If you stretch the definition a little, you could say he came out of "present day" Hollywood, our own era, when movies no longer run off a lockstep assembly line (as TV show still do) but are produced singly, or in sets of two or three.
1955, Revenge of the Creature, Clint Eastwood--just another pretty face in a lab coat.
Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates
Rawhide, 1959.
It wouldn't be going to far to say that Clint Eastwood has become a Hollywood legend. He first came to tinsel town in 1955 at the age of twenty-five. He had a bit part in the "epic" horror film Revenge of the Creature (above) in which he played a lab technician without so much as his name in the credits. He was doing similar gigs in television as well. His first major TV role was as Joe Keeley riding "motorcycle A" in a 1956 episode of Highway Patrol. In 1959, one episode of Maverick earned him 217 episodes of Rawhide (left) in which he played Rowdy Yates. That eventually led to his first lead role in the "spaghetti western," A Fistful of Dollars (below), followed immediately by A Few Dollars More, and finally, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I saw the first one, I didn't bother with the other two. I was never a great fan of westerns, Italian or otherwise, and I must confess at this point, quite apart from his political affiliation, Clint Eastwood is far from being my favorite actor.
For Eastwood, the title was quite literal, as was that of the sequel, A Few Dollars More.
The first appearance of the "lovable" Harry Callahan.
Any movie director will tell you that the very best way to learn filmmaking is by making films, regardless of which side of the camera you're on. All through the 1960s and 70s Eastwood paid his dues, his film persona essentially set in stone--gritty, tough, strong, brave, daring, powerful, and largely silent--"Go ahead, make my day." His portrayals were intelligent, and unlike many leading men, his face aged well in keeping with his screen image. He wasn't "ageless," but close. By the time the opportunity came to direct himself in Play Misty For Me, Eastwood had appeared in a total of 22 of the more than fifty films he has to his credit today.

Dirty Harry with an attitude.
A good director becomes great.
Although Eastwood did not direct his most famous role, in Dirty Harry (and only one of the four sequels). His western directorial jobs, especially his highly memorable The Outlaw Josey Wales (above), proved that he knew his craft and was capable of growing as a director. Though most of Eastwood's mounting list of movies during the 1980s, more and more of which he also directed, could best be considered "good" if not "great, they mostly did well at the box office. Then, in 1986, he hit the jackpot, producing, directing, and starring in the Korean War combat film, Heartbreak Ridge. The film opened to rave reviews among critics. Better still, it was made at the miniscule cost of $15-million, yet scored an astounding $271-million at the box office. It even won an Oscar for best sound.
A dark western...also his last.
Then, in 1992, Eastwood received the highest honor Hollywood can bestow upon a director, an Academy Award for The Unforgiven, which he'd also produced and starred in. The film won three other Oscars as well. It was his final western. Bridges of Madison County with Meryl Streep (bottom) played well in 1992 as have the more than a dozen films he'd directed since. During the past few years, Eastwood has almost (but not quite) given up acting (just four films in the last ten years). He is, after all, 84 years old. Will this year's Jersey Boys be another jewel in his director's crown? If not, he's got another film, waiting in the wings for release in 2015 titled, American Sniper.

A box office success, but Eastwood couldn't
compete with Streep. Eastwood was first choice
for the male lead, but producer Steven
Spielberg's last choice as director.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cornelis de Heem

Still-life with Vegetables, 1658, Cornelis de Heem--good, but not great.
A couple days ago I went on at length regarding the Dutch tradition of the "breakfast still-life." Well, now, it's time for lunch. Just kidding. Shoehorning another Dutch Golden Age "still-lifer," such as Cornelis de Heem, into any such non-existent content category would be silly, at best, and confusing, at worst. My earlier complaint in despair regarding Dutch still-life painters continues to be most valid--there were simply two damned many of them for even the best to stand apart from the crowd. In that regard, one might come to the conclusion that still-life painting must have been one of the easiest arts to master. Technically, especially as practiced by the Dutch during this era, that was definitely not the case. Granted, it may not have taken as much research, planning, and canvas as history painting, nor did it rely on the focused concentration of an apt model as in the case of portraiture. It may not have borne the "on location" demands of landscape painting, yet this more or less "cut and dried" arrangement and rendering of objects and foodstuffs readily at hand did have its own set of distressing problems.

Detail, Still-life with Vegetables (above). It's only when we look at Dutch still-lifes
"up close and personal" that we begin to appreciate subtle differences.
First of all, in painting food, time was of the essence. Left more than a few days, fruit begins to rot. A few more days, flies become a problem. Add another day or two and the wife begins to complain of the smell. Then there's the problem of stray, cats, dogs, rats, mice, and children disturbing the aging arrangement. It's little wonder later still-life painters gravitated toward non-perishable items such as violins, maps, charts, and navigational instruments.

Still Life with Fruit, Flowers, Glasses
and Lobster, 1660s, Jan Davidz
de Heem. Like father like son.
However, in the case of Cornelius de Heem, the original problem with their being such a disturbing number of outstanding artists becomes the main difficulty. There were four generations of de Heem still-life painters, each trained by the previous generation (starting with David de Heem, the Elder, born in 1570) and ending with Cornelius de Heem's son, David Cornelisz de Heem, born in 1663 (below). As if that weren't bad enough, Cornelius de Heem's father, (Jan Davidz de Heem, right) and his uncle (David Davidz de Heem) were still-life painters as were two of his brothers (David de Heem and Jan Janszoon de Heem). As you can see, to add complexity, to confusion, there seems to have been a disturbing lack of creativity when it came to naming children in this family. It's enough to make an art historian's hair turn gray just before falling out.

Still-life with Fruit, David Cornelisz de Heem, the youngest of the clan.
His father taught him well. Luscious, yet barely distinguishable from
the work of his father, uncles, grandfather, or great grandfather.

Still life with Lobster and Nautilus Shell,
Cornelis de Heem.
But that's not all. In the case of this particular family of artists, it wasn't enough that they all had similar names, and painted virtually identical subject matter, with only slight differences in style; it's believed they even went so far as to work on each other's paintings. Moreover, it's not just a matter of who painted what, there is also a disturbing lack of chronological data as to when various works were painted. Add to that a desperate lack of ingenuity when it came to titling their still-lifes. Also, there's little or nothing in the way of self-portraits (or any other kind) to present in differentiating one artist from the other. (There would be too many to display here in any case.) So why, among the plethora of outstanding artists in this family, does Cornelis de Heem stand out? I'm assuming that art critics and historians had, at one time, a good reason for singling him out, but for the life of me, though I've studied and reviewed his work quite closely, I can't see why. 

Festoon with Fruits and Flowers,
Cornelis de Heem. The hanging still-life was
less common than its languishing cousins
and presaged the popularity of 19th-century
"fool the eye" still-life genre.
Although all of the family's work is good, none of it seems particularly better than the rest. In fact, except for their longevity, their family name, and the adequacy of their skills, I can't even see that the members of this family really stood apart from the dozens, perhaps hundreds of other Dutch still-life painters working at the time. All of which serves to underline why still-lifes were held in such low esteem by the Dutch art community of the 17th-century. They were simply a commodity, little different from the foodstuffs they depicted. They were barely considered art. Their subject matter was nothing if not mundane. Their content and its compositional elements were formulaic. Therefore, they were cheap to produce and relatively inexpensive to sell, as much as anything because they were in such tremendous supply. The de Heem family, in effect, ran one of many still-life factories, churning them out by the dozens. Today, we value such works because of their age, their artists' technical skills, their decorative qualities. Most important, however, is the insight they provide into a time and place and lifestyle quite foreign and obscure to our present day existence. Now, what's for lunch.

Vanitas Still-life with Musical Instruments, 1661, Cornelis de Heem. Painted during the final years of his life, the artist began moving away from fruits and vegetable toward the more eternal still-life content.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Las Vegas Architecture

The worst of the worst. I won't identify it, but I probably don't need to.
Copyright, Jim Lane
So over the top, they named it twice.
Yes, that's a rollercoaster wrapping its
tentacles around the mass (or mess).
WOW! Las Vegas architecture--now there's an oxymoron if there every was one. Some would equate it to Walt Disney Architecture. Others would cringe at the two words even being used in the same sentence. Such people would fall into two categories, those that have been to Las Vegas and actually experienced the city firsthand and those who have only absorbed the stereotypes--gaudy, imitative, overdrawn, outrageous, congested, uncoordinated, ridiculously expensive, ludicrous, hideous, or (to make a long list short) just plain ugly. A couple months ago, my wife and I fell into the first category, we spent two days and three nights there. Some of the stereotype is "spot-on." But virtually ever city I've ever visited has it's ugly architecture. Detractors might counter, yes, but Vegas seems to glorify in it. They don't call it "sin city" for nothing. And from an architectural point of view, the biggest sins are not the gambling, the prostitution, the gluttony, the drunkenness, and adultery, but the discordant architectural venues designers have amassed for such things in such a small area.
Though horrendous on the outside, Inside, many of the hotels are immodestly
attractive. Except for the comically illusionary floor, this Renaissance
hallway could pass for the real thing in Italy.

One of the top excursions in Las Vegas.
Every city has its redeeming values, and while Vegas might well be considered to have come up short in this regard, they are, nonetheless, quite present if you know what to look for. For me personally, in having been there, perhaps the most surprising factor I noticed is that the city is so lower-middle-class, both in its patronage and in the architecture designed to appeal to such people. The media and the chamber of commerce both portray the city as ultra-sophisticated, chic, tastefully luxurious, and, above all discrete ("What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas"). Virtually all of that is bogus. The number one most popular tourist activity in Vegas (apart from eating, drinking, and gambling) is not a nudie floorshow, not a Broadway musical production, not a helicopter tour of Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon. No, it's a guided excursion via armored personnel carrier to a place in the desert where (for a steep price) one can fire live ammunition using various types of assault weapons from machine guns to grenade launchers. Also near the top of that list is a similar excursion where you can learn to play with full-size, heavy-duty, earth-moving equipment. (They should move this one to "the strip.") And not far below that is a no-holds-barred ATV romp over the desert sands. None of those are ultra-sophisticated, chic, or tasteful. They're straight from redneck heaven. Mostly, that's the case for the architecture as well.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Camelot it was not.
We stayed in faux medieval grandeur at a high-rise castle (above) that would have embarrassed Walt Disney. Coddling childhood fantasies is fine, but Las Vegas architecture is at its worst when it delves into adult fantasies, trying to be something it's not. All the Eiffel towers in the world are not going to bring Paris to the Nevada desert. Leave Venice in Italy. Luxor should remain in Egypt. Hollywood should be left...okay, there's little sacred about Hollywood. MGM is okay. Unfortunately, these ridiculous attempts at adult make-believe include about three-fourths of the Vegas hotels and casinos.

The Wynn, probably my favorite example of Las Vegas at its best.
Las Vegas is at its best when its high-rise hotels and sleek casinos look and feel like what they are--21st-century masses of soaring glass and steel. The Wynn (above, and its recently added spawn, the Encore) are excellent examples. The Wynn is said to be the most expensive building of any kind ever built--$2.7 BILLION (half of that likely for air conditioning). In contrast, the nearby Bellagio (fountains and all) cost a measly $1.6 billion. I can't say much for the hotel, but the fountains are nice, as is its art gallery. The older, but well-kept, Mirage (below), with its dual towers, featuring their crowning murals along with  its domed tropical garden is a close second to the Wynn insofar as tasteful, charming, and most of all, restful opulence is concerned.

The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas rises like a crown jewel from the desert floor.
A restful respite on "The Strip."
The Mirage's domed tropical paradise.

Las Vegas City Hall.
I've raged on at some length about the worst offenders the city has to offer. Some of the better, more interesting, more creative works of the architect's art have nothing to do with hotels of gaming. In addition to the Wynn and the Mirage mentioned above, Las Vegas' city hall is quite attractive, even somewhat daring, walking the fine line between postmodern refinement and Las Vegas glitz. And speaking of creative daring, the world-renown Frank Gehry has an almost whimsical work that suggests his building may have warped and almost melted in the hot desert sun--the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health operated by the prestigious Cleveland Clinic.

The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
No one can accuse architect, Frank Gehry, of not having a sense of humor.
As is often the case with Gehry's designs, the Ruvo Center looks better from the inside.
Las Vegas architecture has come a long way since the early 1950s when air-conditioning
made it all possible. At least the city remembers its roots, as "kitschy" as they may be.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Willem Claeszoon Heda

Breakfast with a Crab, Willem Claeszoon Heda
What did you have for breakfast this morning? I haven't had breakfast yet so I can't answer that. In any case, I'm a "big breakfast person." Nutritionist say that's a good thing; cereal manufacturers call it the most important meal of the day. We just returned not long ago from 42 days on the road touring the west, eating breakfast in a wide range of forms, flavors, and establishments from cheap continental buffets in cheap, anything but continental motels, to lavish spreads such as that served by the Queen Mary, permanently docked at Long Beach, California. Prices ranged from zero to well over thirty dollars. Menus ranged from cold hard-boil eggs to delicate (and delicious) French and Danish pastries. "Gourmet" fare involved waffles you made yourself (as opposed to the frozen kind).
Still-life with Nautilus, 1654, Willem Claeszoon Heda. 
By the 1650s, Heda's palette had warmed somewhat...if not his breakfast palate.  
Food has changed a lot over the centuries, not so much the content as the countenance--what it looks like. When I was a child there was a lot of warm cereal served for breakfast, oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Maypo, Coco-wheat, etc. I can't tell you the last time I had a bowl of warm oatmeal (instant) and I came to hate most of the rest of the wallpaper paste derivatives. That was a mere fifty or sixty years ago. Five hundred years ago, judging from the breakfast still-lifes of Dutch painters such as Willem Claeszoon Heda, breakfast would have taken not just a strong appetite but a pretty strong stomach as well. Judging from his Breakfast with a Crab (top, love that title. I've had a few like that) seafood, being a staple in the food chain of the Dutch seafaring country, also extended to the breakfast table. Oysters were also a popular breakfast food. Not a sign of a Pop Tart.

Still-life, 1649, Willem Claeszoon, Heda. The ham seems a bit fatty.
If you've never heard of Willem Heda, don't concern yourself, he was a still-life painter from the great Golden Age of Dutch painting during the 17th-century. The reason you've probably never heard of him is that there were so damned many painters from this period of rampant prosperity in the Netherlands and the other "low countries." Moreover, another reason you've likely never encountered his name is the extreme specialization such a large group of professional artist engendered. At the top of the lot were history painters, followed by portrait painters (like Rembrandt), landscape painters (such as the van Ruisdaels), flower painters (this was Holland, remember) and finally, near the bottom of the hierarchy, came still-life painters. Though uniformly excellent artists, they were looked down upon by the Dutch art world as rather inconsequential due to their mundane subject matter. Even at that the specialization wasn't complete. There were vanitas still life painters (more concerned with still-death than still-life) breakfast painters (including Heda) and even late breakfast painters, presumably what we'd call a "brunch," in which the menu was somewhat broader (as if it could get any broader than crab for breakfast).

Breakfast Table with Blackberry Pie, 1631, Willem Claeszoon Heda

Blackberry Pie (detail), the type of realism
Dutch still-life painters gloried in producing.
As is obvious in looking at his paintings, Heda was quite good, one of the best at what he did. Born in 1593, he died around 1682, at almost ninety years of age (though his last dated works came in the 1660s, possibly due to failing eyesight). Eating crab for breakfast must have some health benefits. Judging from the content of his work, half-peeled lemons were common on the Dutch breakfast table (for the seafood, no doubt) as were various baked goods, fruit, olives, and wines. Notice there are no eggs, no milk, no oatmeal, no pancakes, no yogurt, no OJ, no jams nor jellies, though I did see some ham and apparently blackberry pie quite acceptable.

With the death of Willem Heda and those like him, still-life painting declined in popularity for some time until the French painter, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, brought new life to the still-life genre a hundred years later. Again in the 19th-century, as subject matter veered away from foodstuffs toward the other accouterments of daily life, still-life painting once more began to hang on the walls of the well-to-do. With this renewal of interest, came a similar renewal of interest in the work of those from the past who had done it so well, the lowly troupe of Dutch painting specialists, like Heda. We can thank them for so faithfully recording, for the benefit of generations to come, how fortunate we are in having omelets, waffles, bacon, corn flakes, and croissants served today on our breakfast tables. Mm...making me hungry.

Still-life with Lobster, Willem Claeszoon Heda. Lobster for breakfast anyone?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Art and Jesus--the Second Coming

The Last Judgment, 1534-41, Michelangelo
As dramatic as Christ's resurrection or his ascension into heaven might appear to be in the hands of some of the most talented artists to ever wield a brush, there is one more event in the story of Jesus Christ which easily overpowers all the others. I'm talking about the last judgment, Christ's glorious second coming, bright lights, clouds of angels in chorus, trumpets trumpeting, and God himself in the presence of his Son returning to judge sinners and claim his followers. As we think about the last judgment, we're tempted to think first and foremost of what's often considered simply the Last Judgment, (above) Michelangelo's massive, monumental fresco behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Now restored to its original brilliant colors, it is a fitting encore to his story of Genesis on the ceiling. But impressive as it may be, it was neither the first or the last attempt by artists to depict what may, in fact, be so enormously powerful, and of such epic proportions, as to be "undepictable."
Universal Judgment, 1303, Giotto
But that didn't keep Giotto from trying with only meager success in 1303, though he titled it Universal Judgment. As so often happens in art, certainly then and sometimes even  now, the requisite skills of even the best artists were not sufficiently developed to allow for an adequately organized composition or depiction of an event encompassing such massive scale.

Last Judgment, 1431, Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico also tried in 1431 with only slightly more success. Unlike Giotto's, his composition is certainly well-organized to the point of appearing stilted and staged. The artist seems to have been quite unsure just what to do with the central opening in his composition., leaving its strangely empty. As a result, the figure of Christ just above is nearly lost in the "multitude of heavenly hosts."

The Last Judgment, 1446-62, Rogier van der Weyden
The a detail figure of Christ as
seen by Rogier van der Weyden
 in his Last Supper (above)
In the North of Europe, around 1446-62, Rogier van der Weyden had only nine wooden panels upon which to inadequately make his attempt to depict a last judgment. His figure of Christ, however, is suitably dominant, if somewhat enigmatic. Northern Renaissance figures tended to be modeled based upon observations of  actual human proportions, little influenced by antique Greek and Roman sculpture coming to light almost daily in the South. Thus, Van der Weyden's figure of Christ seems rather frail and effete as He sits precariously balanced on a rainbow. His returning Christ appears serene, thoughtful, somewhat symbolic as compared to Michelangelo's powerful, judgmental, perhaps  even vengeful returning Christ (below, left).
The Last Judgment, Duomo, Florence, 1572, Giorgio Vasari
Christ from Michelangelo's Last Supper (detail)
The Italian Renaissance artist and biographer, Giorgio Vasari, was the first to begin to get a handle on the subject of the last judgment, but of course, he had an entire dome to fresco, that of the cathedral in Florence, Italy (above). When Michelangelo tackled the subject between 1534 an 1541 (top), he, of course, had only one wall. And though it was a BIG wall, he was forced into the horrifying decision to destroy part of his famous ceiling to make more room for his concept. In contrast with van der Weyden's rather delicate image of Christ (above, right), Michelangelo's Jesus (left), while certainly powerful looking, always struck me as being somewhat overweight. At very least, the head seems out of proportion to the body. However, given Michelangelo's innate sense of human proportions, it's doubtful the ponderous mass was unintentional.
The Last Judgment, 1560, Jean Cousin
Michelangelo's Last Judgment was, in fact, SO powerful and intimidating it was more than twenty years before any other major artist attempted to paint the subject. The French artist Jean Cousin (above), in 1560 attempted to "out-Michelangelo" Michelangelo with his gigantic rendering which, in its dark, confusing multiplicity of images is simply too much of a good thing. And finally, our old friend, Tintoretto, seems to be trying to depict the entire population of the world brought to heel in his last judgment which he chose to title, Paradise (below), perhaps hoping to avoid comparison to the great Michelangelo. This image below is only a small portion of his massive painting.

Paradise, 1588, Tintoretto. Juxtaposing his painting next to that of Michelangelo's
Last Judgment presents us with an interesting opportunity to compare
Renaissance classicism with the Mannerist pretensions that followed.
This is the final posting in the Art and Jesus series. I hope I've not offended anyone in writing from a Christian perspective. Given the topic, art and religion are virtually inseparable. The entire series (in slightly abbreviated form) can be seen below, available on YouTube.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Erich Heckel

White House in Dangast, 1908, Erich Heckel--too "over the top" for my tastes.
Although I'm probably more tolerant of avant-garde art than most people, it's not unexpected, I suppose, for a writer such as myself, familiar with a very broad range of creative expression down through the centuries, to come upon work of which I'm not quite fond. Sometimes, my reaction goes well beyond that. Likewise, I have several artists whose work I dislike with varying degrees of intensity. But I have very few broad categories or styles which fall into that realm. One that does, however, is German Expressionism. When you talk about this period and style, you're necessarily referring primarily to two movements, Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brucke. Although I fully understand their seminal importance in the development of Abstract Expressionism in America, neither German movement has ever "moved" me. I find their brushwork and color usage quite "over the top" and their content is, at best, boring--heavily laden with unflattering, barely recognizable portraits, distressing landscapes, and desperately distorted figure studies. Not to exemplify Adolph Hitler as a man or as an art critic, but he labeled this entire era of German art (the first two or three decades of the 20th-century) as "degenerate." I don't know that I would go that far, but I do see where he was coming from.
Heckel at the Easel, ca. 1907,
Ernest Ludwig Kirchner. Compare
it to Heckel's painting at right.
Man at a Young Age, ca. 1907,
Erich Heckel.  It's not officially a self-
portrait, but can there be any doubt?.
Erich Heckel was one of the four founders of Die Brucke (the bridge) around 1907, along with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (left), Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, and Fritz Bleyl. They and Heckel were all architectural students at the Dresden Polytechnic Institute, and far more interested in painting than drafting. Their idol was the Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch. Unlike Kandinsky's Munich-based Der Blaue Reiter (the blue rider), which lasted little more than a year, Die Brucke was a smaller group, but much better organized. As a result, it had a far greater impact on German Expressionism and that which was to follow after both world wars. Erich Heckel was, in effect, the "secretary" for the group, and likely the primary factor in both its longevity and influence. He promoted their work and organized their shows. And though their first, in a lamp factory showroom, was something of a 'bust," later shows in conjunction with the Erich Richter Gallery in Dresden, were much more popular, if no less controversial (below).
Franzi Reclining, 1910, Erich Heckel, a woodcut used as a poster to promote a
Die Brucke show, but confiscated by Dresden police.
Erich Heckel, Self-portrait, 1919
Heckel was born in 1883, in Döbeln, Saxony, the son of a railway engineer. At the time, young men with an artistic bent were frequently channeled into architectural training as opposed to the turbulent life of a painter. Heckel, Kirchner, and the others preferred turbulence to turrets. Though they may have briefly held "day jobs" as draftsmen, their real life was in painting. And if life as a painter wasn't desperate enough, these were desperate times on the streets of pre-WW I Germany as well. Had it not been for that war and the next one, Abstract Expressionism might well have come to Germany thirty years before it came to the streets of New York. Though Kandinsky was toying with pure, non-representational abstraction around that time (and merely toying with it), few of his German colleagues were willing to go that for--to jettison all recognizable content in favor of purely elemental design. 
Lying Girl, 1913, Erich Heckel. Matisse would have loved this one.
Erich Heckel was one of Hitler's favorite degenerates. His work was banned from public display in 1937, confiscated from the walls of museums a few years later, and by 1944 most of his woodblocks and etching plates had been destroyed. To add insult to injury, Heckel's studio was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during the war. Except for a few paintings, which had been in his private belongings, or in the hands of foreign collectors, the vast majority of his surviving work was done after Hitler had been declared "degenerate" in 1945, and during Heckel's retirement in Gaienhofen, Germany, where he taught and painted until his death in 1970.

In 1994, the Germans turned Heckel's Landscape Near Dresden, dating from 1910, into a postage stamp. From "degenerate" to Bundespost in just sixty long years.