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Related: abstract expressionism - German expressionism - art

The term expressionism often implies emotional angst - the number of cheerful expressionist works is relatively small. [Apr 2006]

Preceded by: impressionism

Followed by: pop art

Matthies Grunewald, The Temptation of Saint Anthony (Detail from Panel from Isenheim Altarpiece), 1515 (expressionism avant la lettre)

Blue Horse (1911) - Franz Marc

On White II (1923) - Wassily Kandinsky [Image link]


Expressionism is the tendency of an artist to distort reality for emotional effect. Expressionism is exhibited in many art forms, including painting, literature, film, architecture and music. Additionally, the term often implies emotional angst - the number of cheerful expressionist works is relatively small.

In this 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. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism [Apr 2005]

Origin of the term

The term was coined by Czech art historian Antonin Matėjček in 1910 as the opposite of impressionism:

"An Expressionist wishes, above all, to express himself [sic]....[An Expressionist rejects] immediate perception and builds on more complex psychic structures....Impressions and mental images pass through his 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)
--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism [Apr 2005]

No manifesto

There was never a group of artists that called themselves Expressionists. The movement is primarily German. The Blaue Reiter was based in Munich and Die Brucke was based originally in Dresden ( although some later moved to Berlin). Die Brucke was active for a longer period than 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. It is important to realize that although the Fauves and the Expressionists both used bright colours, they used them for distinct purposes. The Fauves hoped to achieve beauty, while the Expressionists hoped to achieve emotion through them. The importance of color was its expressive power, no longer was the subject the medium which led to drama or sentiment in the work of art, but it was the use of color and lines that were the expressive and powerful means. The Blaue Reiter "leader", 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 important jump to Abstraction, changing 20th century art. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism [Apr 2005]

Abstract expressionism [...]

[Google gallery]

Autumn Rhythm (1950) - Jackson Pollock

Abstract expressionism was an American post-World War II art movement. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence and also the one that put New York City at the center of the art world, a role formerly filled by Paris. It was followed by Pop art which re-introduced playfulness which was sorely lacking in Abstract expressionism. [Apr 2006]

German expressionism (film) [...]

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) - Robert Wiene [Amazon.com]

Expressionist architecture

Unidentified photograph of Einstein Tower (1921) - Erich Mendelsohn

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 interior for Max Reinhardt is also sometimes cited. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism#In_other_media [Jan 2006]

Expressionism as Dionysian art

In search of faultlines.

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 a world of the mind, of order, of regularity and polishedness and a world of intoxication, chaos, ecstacy. The Apollonian represented the rationally conceived ideal, whereas the Dionysian represented artistic conception proper, originating from man's subconscious. 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 colors, distorted forms, painted in a careless manner, two-dimensional, without perspective, and based on feelings (the child) rather than rational thought (the adult). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism [May 2006]

See also: Nietzsche - dualism - Expressionism - literature - Dionysian - Apollian

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