Erich Heckel (1883, Döbeln – 1970, Radolfzell by Lake Constance) began studying architecture in Dresden in 1904, where he met Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Fritz Bleyl. In 1905, he broke off his studies and decided to pursue an autodidactic career as an artist. In the month of June 1905, he founded the artists' group Die Brücke in Dresden with Kirchner, Beyl, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.
In 1937, Heckel's works were banned from exhibition in Germany. During the "Degenerate Art" campaign, many of his works fell victim to mass-incinerations and destruction conducted at the time. In 1944, Heckel found refuge in Hemmenhofen by Lake Constance. After the end of the war, he received various invitations to return to Berlin and to take up a teaching post at the Hochschule der Künste, he refused and remained in Hemmenhofen until the end of his life.
Erich Heckel's early style displays influences from Vincent van Gogh and French Post-Impressionism. From 1908 onwards, a transition to two-dimensional painting can be detected. Around 1910, a new discernable style, characterized by rough, angular forms and an intense use of colour, was developed by the group; Heckel abandoned this new style after the dissolution of the Brücke. In printmaking, Heckel displayed a high level of independence early on, and a selection of his woodcuts are now considered to be among the strongest achievements of German Expressionism.
After World War I, a naturalistic Classicism developed in Heckel's works, characterized by a predominantly light colour palette. The landscape watercolour became the preferred genre of the artist, and he produced numerous city and harbour paintings during that time. Nonetheless, he continuously devoted himself to nudes on the beach, a theme that occupied the artist’s work until the 1930s.