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Index by Period

Expressionism
(1890 - 1920s)

Those of us who bemoan the fact that painting in the last quarter of the 20th Century is no longer on the cutting edge of art might wax nostalgic for the first quarter of this century when painting was nothing if not reactionary. Just as Impressionism in the previous century had been a reaction to the French Academy and state-sponsored classicism, there sprang any number of styles and movements in the upheaving first twenty-five years of this century in reaction to Impressionism and Realism.

The Germans seemed to be the most discontent. In addition to Dada, there came Expressionism (not to be confused with Abstract Expressionism which was largely an American phenomena). Expressionism as a style was itself split into at least three different movements, and that was just in Germany. In France, they were called the Fauves (wild beasts). In German Expressionism there was Die Brücke (The Bridge), Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), and finally Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity). Though very different in form, they all tried to communicate the inner feelings of the artist through paint.

Artists involved in these various German movements include Emil Nolde, Wassily Kandinsky, and Max Beckmann, while in France the Fauves worshipped van Gogh and Gauguin through the work of Henri Matisse and André Derain. In the meantime, also in France, Picasso and Braque were drawing inspiration from Cézanne in their expressionistic exploration of Cubism. All these styles, movements, and sub-movements were like a powder keg just waiting to explode, which is almost literally what happened with the horrendous cataclysm of World War I and its effect upon the European art world.

contributed by Lane, Jim


19 December 1997

Die Brücke (1905 - 1913)
German expressionist art movement, founded by Kirchner, Schmidt-Rottluff, and Heckel, lasting from 1905 to 1913. Influenced by the art of Jugendstil (the German equivalent of art nouveau), van Gogh, and the primitive sculpture of Africa and the South Seas, the Brücke group developed an art of fervent emotionalism.

Der Blaue Reiter (1911 - 1914)
Der Blaue Reiter was an art movement started in Europe just after the turn of the century, led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. The artists who took part were considered to be the pioneers of abstract art, and their work was characterised by exuberant colour and profoundly felt emotionalism. Coming from a number of European countries, the painters, writers, poets, and composers who joined Der Blaue Reiter dedicated themselves to the search for a common spiritual basis in a new international culture.

Neue Sachlichkeit (1918-1933)
A group of German artists in the 1920s, led by Otto Dix and George Grosz, whose works were executed in a realistic style (in contrast to the prevailing styles of Expressionism and Abstraction) and who reflected what was characterised as the resignation and cynicism of the post-World War I period in Germany.

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