by Edvard Munch (1893) which inspired 20th century Expressionists]]
'Expressionism' was a cultural movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the start of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world under an utterly subjective perspective, violently distorting it to obtain an emotional effect and vividly transmit personal moods and ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of "being alive" and emotional experience rather than physical reality.
Expressionism emerged as an 'avant-garde movement' in poetry and painting before the First World War; in the Weimar years was being appreciated by a mass audience, having its popularity peak in Berlin, during the 1920s.
Expressionism is exhibited in many art forms, including: painting, literature, theatre, dance, film, architecture and music. The term often implies emotional angst. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias Grünewald and El Greco can be called expressionist, though in practice, the term is applied mainly to 20th century works.
]] , 1595/1610 has been pointed out to bear a particularly striking resemblance to 20th century expressionism. Historically speaking it is however part of the Mannerist movement.]]
Although it is used as a term of reference, there has never been a distinct movement that called itself "expressionism", apart from the use of the term by Herwarth Walden in his polemic magazine Der Sturm in 1912. The term is usually linked to paintings and graphic work in Germany at the turn of the century which challenged the academic traditions, particularly through the Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter groups. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche played a key role in originating modern expressionism by clarifying and serving as a conduit for previously neglected currents in ancient art.
In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche presented his theory of the ancient dualism between two types of aesthetic experience, namely the Apollonian and the Dionysian; a dualism between the plastic "art of sculpture", of lyrical dream-inspiration, identity (the principium individuationis), order, regularity, and calm repose, and, on the other hand, the non-plastic "art of music", of intoxication, forgetfulness, chaos, and the ecstatic dissolution of identity in the collective. The analogy with the world of the Greek gods typifies the relationship between these extremes: two godsons, incompatible and yet inseparable. According to Nietzsche, both elements are present in any work of art. The basic characteristics of expressionism are Dionysian: bold colours, distorted forms-in-dissolution, two-dimensional, without perspective.
More generally the term refers to art that expresses intense emotion. It is arguable that all artists are expressive but there is a long line of art production in which heavy emphasis is placed on communication through emotion. Such art often occurs during time of social upheaval, and through the tradition of graphic art there is a powerful and moving record of chaos in Europe from the 15th century on the Protestant Reformation, German Peasants' War, Eight Years' War, Spanish Occupation of the Netherlands, the rape, pillage and disaster associated with countless periods of chaos and oppression are presented in the documents of the printmaker. Often the work is unimpressive aesthetically, but almost without exception has the capacity to move the viewer to strong emotions with the drama and often horror of the scenes depicted.
The term was also coined by Czech art historian Antonín 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." (Gordon, 1987)
Some of the movement's leading visual artists in the early 20th century were:
The movement primarily originated in Germany and Austria. There were a number of Expressionist groups in painting, including Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke. The Der Blaue Reiter group was based in Munich and Die Brücke was based originally in Dresden (although some later moved to Berlin). Die Brücke was active for a longer period than Der Blaue Reiter which was only truly together for a year (1912). The Expressionists had many influences, among them Munch, Vincent van Gogh, and African art. They also came to know the work being done by the Fauves in Paris.
Influenced by the Fauves, Expressionism worked with arbitrary colors as well as jarring compositions. In reaction and opposition to French Impressionism which focused on rendering the sheer visual appearance of objects, Expressionist artists sought to capture emotions and subjective interpretations: It was not important to reproduce an aesthetically pleasing impression of the artistic subject matter; the Expressionists focused on capturing vivid emotional reactions through powerful colors and dynamic compositions instead. The leader of Der Blaue Reiter, Kandinsky, would take this a step further. He believed that with simple colors and shapes the spectator could perceive the moods and feelings in the paintings, therefore he made the move to abstraction.
The ideas of German expressionism influenced the work of American artist Marsden Hartley, who met Kandinsky in Germany in 1913. In late 1939, at the beginning of World War II, New York welcomed a great number of leading European artists.
Following World War II Expressionism influenced many young American artists. Norris Embry (1921-1981) studied with Oskar Kokoschka in 1947 and over the next 43 years produced a large body of work grounded in the Expressionist tradition. Norris Embry has been called "the first American German Expressionist". Other American artists of the late 20th and early 21st century have developed distinct movements that are generally considered part of Expressionism. Another prominent artist who came from the German Expressionist "school" was Bremen born Wolfgang Degenhardt. After working as a commercial artist in Bremen he migrated to Australia in 1954 and became quite prominent and sought after in the Hunter Valley region. His paintings captured the spirit of Australian and world issues but presented them in a way which was true to his German Expressionist roots.
American Expressionism and American Figurative Expressionism particularly the Boston figurative expressionism were an integral part of American modernism around the Second World War. ]] Major figurative Boston expressionists included: Karl Zerbe, Hyman Bloom, Jack Levine, David Aronson, Philip Guston. The Boston figurative expressionists post World War II were increasingly marginalized by the development of abstract expressionism centered in New York City.
After World War II, figurative expressionism influenced worldwide a large number of artists and movements. Thomas B. Hess, wrote:
Egon Schiele, Pair of Women (Women embracing each other), 1915.
Expressionism is also used to describe styles in other art forms.
There was also an expressionist movement in film, often referred to as German Expressionism. The most important examples are Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920), Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) and F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922). The term "expressionism" is also sometimes used to refer to stylistic devices that either resemble or draw inspiration from the German Expressionism movement, such as in Film Noir cinematography or in several of the films of Ingmar Bergman. More generally, expressionism can be used to describe to film styles of heightened artifice, such as the technicolor melodramas of Douglas Sirk or the striking sound and visual design in David Lynch's films.
In literature the novels of Franz Kafka are often described as expressionist. Expressionist poetry also flourished mainly in the German-speaking countries. The most influential expressionist poets were Georg Trakl, Georg Heym, Ernst Stadler, Gottfried Benn and August Stramm.
In the theatre, there was a concentrated Expressionist movement in early 20th century German theatre of which Georg Kaiser and Ernst Toller were the most famous playwrights. Other notable expressionist dramatists included Reinhard Sorge, Walter Hasenclever, Hans Henny Jahnn, and Arnolt Bronnen. They looked back to Swedish playwright August Strindberg and German actor and dramatist Frank Wedekind as precursors of their dramaturgical experiments.
Oskar Kokoschka's 1909 playlet, Murderer, The Hope of Women is often called the first expressionist drama. In it, an unnamed man and woman struggle for dominance. The Man brands the woman; she stabs and imprisons him. He frees himself and she falls dead at his touch. As the play ends, he slaughters all around him (in the words of the text) "like mosquitoes." The extreme simplification of characters to mythic types, choral effects, declamatory dialogue and heightened intensity all would become characteristic of later expressionist plays. It is noteworthy that the young Paul Hindemith created an operatic version of this play, to shocking effect in the music world.
Expressionist plays often dramatize the spiritual awakening and sufferings of their protagonists, and are referred to as Stationendramen (station plays), modeled on the episodic presentation of the suffering and death of Jesus in the Stations of the Cross. August Strindberg had pioneered this form with his autobiographical trilogy To Damascus.
The plays often dramatize the struggle against bourgeois values and established authority, often personified in the figure of the Father. In Sorge's The Beggar, (Der Bettler), the young hero's mentally ill father raves about the prospect of mining the riches of Mars; he is finally poisoned by his son. In Bronnen's Parricide (Vatermord), the son stabs his tyranncial father to death, only to have to fend off the frenzied sexual overtures of his mother.
In expressionist drama, the speech is heightened, whether expansive and rhapsodic, or clipped and telegraphic. Director Leopold Jessner became famous for his expressionistic productions, often unfolding on the stark, steeply raked flights of stairs that quickly became his trademark. In the 1920s, expressionism enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the American theatre, including plays by Eugene O'Neill (The Hairy Ape, The Emperor Jones and The Great God Brown), Sophie Treadwell (Machinal) and Elmer Rice (The Adding Machine).
In music, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern and Alban Berg, the members of the Second Viennese School, wrote pieces described as expressionist (Schoenberg also made expressionist paintings). Other composers who followed them, such as Ernst Krenek, are often considered as a part of the expressionist movement in music. What distinguished these composers from their contemporaries such as Maurice Ravel, George Gershwin and Igor Stravinsky is that expressionist composers self-consciously used atonality to free their artform from the traditional tonality. They also sought to express the subconscious, the 'inner necessity' and suffering through their highly dissonant musical language. Erwartung and Die Glückliche Hand, by Schoenberg, and Wozzeck, an opera by Alban Berg (based on the play Woyzeck by Georg Büchner), are examples of expressionist works.
]] In architecture, two specific buildings are identified as expressionist: Bruno Taut's Glass Pavilion at the Cologne Werkbund Exhibition (1914), and Erich Mendelsohn's Einstein Tower in Potsdam, Germany completed in 1921. Hans Poelzig's Berlin theatre (Grosse Schauspielhaus) interior for Max Reinhardt is also sometimes cited. The influential architectural critic and historian, Sigfried Giedion in his book Space, Time and Architecture (1941) dismissed Expressionist architecture as a side show in the development of functionalism. In Mexico, in 1953, German émigré Mathias Goeritz, published the "Arquitectura Emocional" (Emotional architecture) manifesto where he declared that "architecture's principal function is emotion."  Modern Mexican architect Luis Barragán adopted the term that influenced his work. The two of them collaborated in the project Torres de Satélite (1957-58) guided by Goeritz's principles of Arquitectura Emocional. It was only in the 1970s that expressionism in architecture came to be re-evaluated in a more positive light.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Expressionist paintings|
|Look up expressionism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Expressionism is an art and cultural movement of the 20th century. Expressionist artists try to express a feeling with what they create. Colours and shapes are not used in a way people see them, but as the artist feels them.
Expressionism emerged as an 'avant-garde movement' in poetry and painting before the First World War. In the Weimar years it was appreciated by a mass audience, reaching its popularity peak in Berlin, during the 1920s.
Expressionism presents the world as utterly subjective: how the artist feels it, not how it is scientifically. The art looks to get an emotional effect, and transmits personal moods and ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of "being alive" and emotional experience rather than physical reality.
Expressionism is exhibited in many art forms, including: painting, literature, theatre, dance, film, architecture and music. The term often implies emotional angst. In a general sense, painters such El Greco can be called expressionist, though in practice, the term is applied mainly to 20th century works.
Typical modern expressionists are Edvard Munch (The Scream), August Macke, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Marc Chagall, and others. The first World War, with its many young men who died, left deep impressions on the artists' minds.
Portrait of Eduard Kosmack by Egon Schiele
Rehe im Walde by Franz Marc
To the Unknown
To the unknown voice, by Kandinsky 1915.
Clouds in Finland by Konrad Krzyżanowski, 1908