What is Expressionism?
• Need to “Express” powerful emotion
• Focus on “Angst” and Individual Anguish
• Importance of Color in Painting
Slogan from the entartete Kunst exhibit, Munich 1937
German Expressionism began as a reaction to the conditions of Wilhelminian Germany; a rejection of the pre-war German bourgeois culture as chronicled in the likes of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. Young intellectuals felt excluded and classless in a complacent, materialistic Germany.
What is Expressionist Art? - Characteristics
Expressionism is an intensely personal art form. The expressionist artist strives to convey his personal feelings about the object painted, rather than merely record his observation of it. Thus, in order to achieve maximum impact on the viewer, representational accuracy is sacrificed (distorted) in favour of (eg) strong outlines and bold colours. Compositions tend to be simpler and more direct, and are often characterized by thick impasto paint, loose, freely applied brushstrokes, and occasional symbolism. The message is all-important.
(Blumen by Emil Nolde)
Art historian Norbert Lynton helped define German Expressionism with this description, "All human action is expressive; a gesture is an intentionally expressive action. All art is expressive - of its author and of the situation in which he works - but some art is intended to move us through visual gestures that transmit, and perhaps give release to, emotions and emotionally charged messages. Such art is expressionist."
• Expressionist Truth was subjective
• New artistic means were needed in order to express these new perspectives and bring audiences beyond the surface
The Expressionist movement was largely inspired by Nietzsche's philosophy of art, which held that the artistic impulse inspired a wondrous vitality - a reawakening of the senses - in the artist himself. In other words, the artist breathes in the basic gestures of creation, which are then expressed in his work. Developed during a period of history that saw Germany undergo severe social, political, and economic dislocation following the country's defeat in World War I.