expressionism modernism

One more time with feeling: Expressionism


Expressionism. We hear this term a lot, and surely know some aspects of it. But let’s get a bit deeper into the origins and the concept behind one of the strongest art movements of the 20th century. Let’s start from the basics.

Expressionism based on the idea of transmitting feelings, emotions, and all sorts of energy through an art work. For the more detailed picture, let’s turn to this amazing video, which says it all with simple, yet accurate words.


So now we know the backbone of the Expressionism. It’s high time to add some specific strokes to its portrayal.

Expressionism emerged and bloomed as a result of the first horrific world wide disaster – the war. People felt deeply damaged by the consequences, at the same time realizing that the new times were coming. The new age of mechanisms and scientific revolution was coming and sometimes it was hard to grasp all the changes. In such environment people turned to feelings and their inner worlds. Expressionism was one of the first movements to imply the cult of personality into an art world also making emphasis on the process of creating art. Just like we saw in the video, Pollock was one of the leading names in Expressionism (in the U.S. it was particularly popular movement) and the process of creating a painting was just as important as a result. In fact, Pollock claimed to be a bit of a shaman, and his dripping technique was a result of an artist being in a mystical ecstatic trance. On the example of Jackson Pollock we can see the connection that emerged between the image of an artist and his works of art.

Though it was not totally necessary to put on a bewitching act to create a fulfilling expressionist work. Sometimes you just need to create a whole new theory. That’s precisely what Wassily Kandinsky did. In addition to his creative pursuits he developed a theoretical base for the viewers to rely on. He described the relations between the objects on his paintings and the meaning of colors.

Expressionism was quite wide spread, but sometimes it was hard to distinguish it from such post-war movements as Surrealism, Dada, and Futurism. But occasionally you just know that this is it, just like with Edward Munch’s The Scream. One glance at this picture is enough to feel the anxiety, fear, and distress of the scene; not to mention the title itself. Expressionism was quite an honest movement, often implying social criticism and daring the rules of society. Expressionists included a lot of outcasts in their works, people who were consumed by the urbanization and capitalism, thosе who could not bare the pressure of the changing state of things. German artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, for instance, put two ladies of the night into the center of the attention in his painting. The acidic colors,angular brushstrokes – all of those artistical devices were to depict the wild atmosphere of a Berlin’s nightlife and were very rebellious at the time.

Expressionism was not limited to paintings only; it continued to open up new vistas in cinematography, literature, music, and architecture. And this art movement proceeded its triumphal march until the pop art came around, but this is the whole other story.

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