Many dramatic paintings from the leading German expressionist, E.L. Kirchner, are brought together in Washington before travelling to London's Royal Academy.
The war took a terrible toll on Kirchner in this self-portrait
The first two decades of the twentieth century were a dramatic time for modern art.
In Paris, the wild colours of the Fauve gave way to the sharp angles of the Cubists.
And a parallel movement took place in Germany, where a deeply rooted expressionist tradition told hold.
Ernst Kirchner, the founder of the Die Brucke group in Dresden in 1905, was a leading light in German expressionism.
Kirchner's Berlin street scenes showed the excitement of the City
In contrast to the Fauves, die Brucke - the name refers to the bridge between spirituality and life - was darker in mood and more extreme in colours.
Kirchner's early work emphasised a rich sexuality, with many nudes based on his lover Dodo and the younger girl Franzi.
It is a revelation to see his easy facility in woodcut and crayon as well as oil painting.
And his wooden sculptures, modelled on Polynesian art, also show a surprising sensuality. Like Picasso, he was influenced by the sharp sculptural lines of these masks.
Move to Berlin
In 1911, Kirchner moved to Berlin, the vibrant capital of the growing German Empire.
Here he painted his most famous series of paintings, street scenes in unreal colours and distorted perspective, reflecting the chaos and excitement of urban life, with well-dressed men and coquettish women.
His use of colour became even more dramatic during the First World War, which profoundly affected Kirchner.
He was drafted into the Army as an artilleryman, but invalidated out with a nervous breakdown and became addicted to morphine.
His lacerating self-portrait as a soldier, and his later self-portrait with a cat, show the pain of the wartime experience that affected a generation.
Frank sexuality and dramatic colours
Kirchner eventually moved to Davos, Switzerland, after the war, where he continued to paint at a slower rate.
During the Nazi era, his paintings were condemned as degenerate, and some were burned.
He committed suicide in 1938, fearing that the Nazi takeover of Austria would lead to a move on Switzerland.
Surprisingly, this is the first major Kirchner show in America for 30 years, and it sits very well in the National Gallery's strikingly modern East Wing, where its modern art collection is housed.
Kirchner's frank sexuality and fascination with the seductive pull of big city life may not be to the taste of all Americans, especially in the sombre moment of a war with Iraq.
But the show should prove even more popular in London, where the Expressionists recently had another good run at the Royal Academy.
The Kirchner retrospective can be seen at London's Royal Academy of Art from 28 June to 21 September.