Hello and welcome to the History of modern art series! Today we’ll take a closer look at the Expressionism movement!

Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas.

Expressionist artists sought to express meaning or emotional experience rather than physical reality. Expressionism was developed as an avant-garde style before the First World War. It remained popular during the Weimar Republic,particularly in Berlin. The style extended to a wide range of the arts, including painting, literature, theatre, dance, film, architecture and music.

August Macke - Blick in eine Gasse

August Macke – Blick in eine Gasse

The term is sometimes suggestive of emotional angst. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias Grünewald and El Greco are sometimes termed expressionist, though in practice the term is applied mainly to 20th-century works.

The Expressionist emphasis on individual perspective has been characterized as a reaction to positivism and other artistic styles such as naturalism and impressionism.

While the word expressionist was used in the modern sense as early as 1850, its origin is sometimes traced to paintings exhibited in 1901 in Paris by an obscure artist Julien-Auguste Hervé, which he called Expressionismes.

Wassily Kandinsky - Composition VI

Wassily Kandinsky – Composition VI

Though an alternate view is that the term was coined by the Czech art historian Antonin Matějček in 1910, as the opposite of impressionism:

An Expressionist wishes, above all, to express himself… (an Expressionist rejects) immediate perception and builds on more complex psychic structures… Impressions and mental images that pass through mental peoples soul as through a filter which rids them of all substantial accretions to produce their clear essence […and] are assimilated and condense into more general forms, into types, which he transcribes through simple short-hand formulae and symbols.

Expressionism is notoriously difficult to define, in part because it “overlapped with other major ‘isms’ of the modernist period: with Futurism, Vorticism, Cubism, Surrealism and Dada.

Franz Marc - Horse in a Landscape

Franz Marc – Horse in a Landscape

Richard Murphy also comments: “the search for an all-inclusive definition is problematic to the extent that the most challenging expressionists such as Kafka, Gottfried Benn and Döblin were simultaneous the most vociferous “anti-expressionists.”

Expressionist artists sought to portray emotions and subjective interpretations. It was not important to reproduce an aesthetically pleasing impression of the artistic subject matter, they felt, but rather to represent vivid emotional reactions by powerful colours and dynamic compositions. Kandinsky, the main artist of Der Blaue Reiter group, believed that with simple colours and shapes the spectator could perceive the moods and feelings in the paintings, a theory that encouraged him towards increased abstraction.

Wassily Kandinsky - Composition VII

Wassily Kandinsky – Composition VII

After World War II, figurative expressionism influenced worldwide a large number of artists and styles. Also the Expressionist movement included other types of culture, including dance, sculpture, cinema and theatre, which are not in the scope of this article!

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Brandenburger Tor

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Brandenburger Tor

Cawen Alvar - Sokea soittoniekka

Cawen Alvar – Sokea soittoniekka

August Macke - Lady in a Green Jacket

August Macke – Lady in a Green Jacket

August Macke - Kairouan

August Macke – Kairouan

August Macke - Farewell

August Macke – Farewell

Franz Marc - The Fate of the Animals

Franz Marc – The Fate of the Animals

Franz Marc - Rehe im Walde

Franz Marc – Rehe im Walde

Franz Marc - Haystacks in the Snow

Franz Marc – Haystacks in the Snow

Franz Marc - Fighting Forms

Franz Marc – Fighting Forms

Franz Marc - Die großen blauen Pferde

Franz Marc – Die großen blauen Pferde

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Nollendorfplatz

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Nollendorfplatz

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

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This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

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