ExpressionismThose 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