Expressionism- The Spirit of Expressionist ArtArt 12Gerome Mikhail C. Tipan BSED IIISocStudERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER (1880-1938)Davos under Snow, 1923 (oil on canvas)
Definition A term used to denote the use of distortion andexaggeration for emotional effect, which firstsurfaced in the art literature A term that embraces an early 20th centurystyle of art, music and literature that is chargedwith an emotional and spiritual vision of theworld.
The Roots of ExpressionismExpressionism is associated withNorthern Europe in general andGermany in particular.• The Expressionist spirit hasalways existed in the Germanpsyche.• Its embryonic forms can berecognized in the physical andspiritual suffering depicted inGrünewalds‘Crucifixion’ above, in the tortured vision ofMartin Schongauer’s engravingof theTemptation of SaintAnthony below.
• At the end of the 19thcentury, this Expressionistspirit resurfaced in thepaintings of two awkwardand isolated personalities-one was theDutchman, Vincent VanGogh and the other aNorwegian, Edvard Munch.MARTIN SHONGAUER (1448-1491)The Temptation of Saint Anthonycirca.1480 (engraving on copper)
They chose to look inwards to discover a form of‘self-expression’ that offered them an individualvoice in a world that they perceived as bothinsecure and hostile. It was this more subjective search for a personalemotional truth that drove them on andultimately paved the way for the Expressionist artforms of the 20th century that explored the innerlandscape of the soul.
VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)Sunflowers, 1888 (oil on canvas) Paintings like VanGogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ (1888) openedour eyes to the intensity ofexpressive color. He used color toexpress his feelings about asubject, rather than to simplydescribe it. In a letter to his brother Theo heexplained, ‘Instead of trying toreproduce exactly what I seebefore my eyes, I use color morearbitrarily to express myselfforcibly.’ His heightened vision helped toliberated color as an emotionalinstrument in the repertoire of20th century art
EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)The Scream, 1893 (oil, tempera and pastel onboard) Munch’s painting of ‘The Scream’ (1893)was equally influential. It provides uswith a psychological blueprint forExpressionist art: distorted shapes andexaggerated colors that amplify a senseof anxiety and alienation. ‘TheScream’ is Munch’s own voice crying inthe wilderness, a prophetic voice thatdeclares the Expressionist message,fifteen years before the term wasinvented. "I was walking along the road with twofriends. The sun set. I felt a tinge ofmelancholy. Suddenly the sky became abloody red. I stopped, leaned against therailing, dead tired. And I looked at theflaming clouds that hung like blood anda sword over the blue-black fjord andcity. My friends walked on. I stood there,trembling with fright. And I felt a loud,unending scream piercing nature."
Die Brücke (The Bridge) Die Brücke was founded inDresden in 1905 by Ernst LudwigKirchner (1880-1938) , KarlSchmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976),Erich Heckel (1883-1970) andFritz Bleyl (1880-1966). The meaning of the namesuggested they would build DieBrücke (the bridge) from thegreat German artistic pastof Dürer and Grunewald overthe contemporary artisticbourgeoisie to a new and betterfuture.KARL SCHMIDT-ROTTLUFF (1884-1976)‘Madchen aus Kowno’, 1918(woodcut)
They even wrote a manifesto which Kirchner carved in woodproclaiming, Putting our faith in a new generation of creatorsand art lovers, we call upon all youth to unite. And beingyouth, the bearers of the future, we want to wrest from thecomfortably established older generation freedom to live andmove. Anyone who directly and honestly reproduces that forcewhich impels him to create belongs to us. They believed that artists should have total freedom ofexpression, unrestricted by social or artistic conventions. The main artistic form that emerged from this fusion of styleswas the woodcut. The woodcut had been a traditional German print medium fornarrative illustration. When fused with the vocabulary ofprimitive art, the medium became a powerful tool for personalexpression. A modern alterative to this traditional technique was thelinocut, a medium invented by Die Brücke.
EMILE NOLDE (1867-1956)Crucifixion, 1912 (oil on canvas) Emil Nolde, whose painting wasfollowing a similar path to DieBrücke, joined in 1906. Noldes favourite subjects weredark brooding seascapes thatrecalled the landscape of his youthand biblical themes that reflectedhis strict religious upbringing. The central Crucifixion panelabove, obviously based onGrünewalds masterpiece, is aclassic piece Expressionist painting- a stylistic fusion of primitivedrawing with the exaggerated colorof theFauves, held together by aGerman Gothic composition.
Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)AUGUSTE MACKE (1887-1914)‘Girls Under Trees’, 1914 (oil oncanvas)o Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)was not exactly an Expressionistgroup, more a meeting of diversetalents who contributed to thepublication of an almanac DerBlaue Reiter and two exhibitions ofthe same name.o more mystical aspects of the style,particularly its relationship withthe spiritual and supernatural.Primitive art had a certain puritythat set it apart from thematerialism and corruption of thetime - a bridge into the world ofthe spirit as Marc put it.
The aim of Der Blaue Reiter exhibitions was to highlightthe similarities in different approaches to creating art, forexample, finding common ground between the primitiveand the contemporary. They outlined this objective in thecatalogue for the first exhibition, We do not seek topropagate any precise or particular form; our object is toshow, in the variety of the forms represented, how theinner desire of artists realises itself in multiple fashion.
Expressive AbstractionWASSILY KANDINSKY (1866-1944)Composition IV, 1911 (oil on canvas)
Kandinskys painting was moving away from the depiction ofrealistic forms into the more spiritual realms of abstraction. Sincechildhood he had studied music, playing both the piano and cello. He also had a highly developed sense of synaesthetic response(experiencing colors in response to hearing sounds) and herecognized that color could trigger our emotions much in the sameway as music touches our soul. The idea was reinforced by a chance experience in 1908, I wasreturning, immersed in thought from my sketching, when onopening the studio door I was suddenly confronted by a picture ofincandescent beauty. Bewildered, I stopped and stared at it. Thepainting lacked all subject, depicted no identifiable object andwas entirely composed of bright color patches. Finally, Iapproached closer and saw it for what it really was - my ownpainting, standing on its side on the easel.....One thing becameclear to me: that objectiveness, the depiction of objects, neededno place in my paintings, and was indeed harmful to them.
Kandinsky was the first artist to push painting towardstotal abstraction. He is quoted as saying, "Of all the arts,abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands thatyou know how to draw well, that you have a heightenedsensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you bea true poet. This last is essential."
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)Ad Parnassum, 1932 (oil onboard) The Swiss artist Paul Klee tookpart in the second Der BlaueReiter exhibition. He was a talented musician andthe relationship between art andmusic was a driving force in hisart. The title AdParnassum (towards Parnassus)refers to both Mount Parnassus(the home of the Muses - thenine goddesses of the arts inGreek mythology) and Gradus AdParnassum (the Path toParnassus - the name of a classic18th century textbook onmusical counterpoint).
The bold triangle at the top of the picture represents MountParnassus, the orange circle symbolizes the sun and the arch atthe bottom indicates the door to the temple. The mostimportant element of this painting is the way that Klee usescolor to express a musical idea. The underpainted patches ofbackground colors are like the deep base chords of a musicalcomposition while the brighter mosaic-like surface of dots actlike a counterpoint to complete the harmony.
The Expressionist spirit resurfaced inart across the world throughout the20th century: Francis Bacon inBritain, the Abstract Expressionists inthe USA and eventually returning toGermany in the form of Anselm Kieferin the last quarter of the century. Francis Bacon, the British painter,also used the triptych format in hisconvulsive images of post-war angstand abandonment. While personally denying anyExpressionist influence in his art, hiselectrifying version of Pope InnocentX, (again recalling the art of the pastas it was based on the Velázquezpainting of 1650), reinvents theoriginal Expressionist prototype: TheScream by Edvard Munch.FRANCIS BACON (1909-1992)Study after Velazquezs Portrait ofPope Innocent X, 1953 (oil on canvas)
ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER(1880-1938)Nollendorfplatz, 1912(oil oncanvas)The self expression in the artof Vincent Van Gogh and EdvardMunch inspired Expressionist artists inthe 20th century.German Expressionism also drewinspiration from Fauvism, GermanGothic and primitive art.German Expressionism was dividedinto two factions: Die Brücke and DerBlaue ReiterDie Brücke (The Bridge) was anartistic community of youngExpressionist artists in Dresden. Theiraim was to overthrow theconservative traditions of German art.