ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Expressionism Facts and History

Updated on April 6, 2014

Expressionism is generally applied to 20th century viewpoints that proclaim the primacy of emotion in all the arts. An expressionist, whether a painter, sculptor, or even an architect, subordinates formal and technical considerations to the communication of intense feeling.

Although some critics have taken expressionism to signify all modern art, it is actually a recurring tendency linked to romanticism and especially congenial to Nordic and Slavic cultures. Modern expressionism in the visual arts, however, can be traced back to developments in France during the 1880s. Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, in reaction against impressionism, deliberately distorted nature for emotional and symbolic purposes. Van Gogh's statement that it was the artist's duty to paint "the fundamental emotions—joy, sorrow, anger, and fear"—became the basic tenet for all subsequent expressionist effort.

At the same time, but influenced by developments in France, the Norwegian Edvard Munch, the Belgian James Ensor, and the Swiss Ferdinand Hodler created images of unusual psychological and spiritual force. Throughout Europe and in all areas of culture, everyday realities were passionately rejected. For inspiration, artists turned to the highly expressive painting of Grünewald and El Greco, to primitive and folk arts, and to the work of children and the insane.


Around 1905, groups began to form that could be called expressionist. The first, the fauves (wild beasts), was French and under the leadership of Matisse. But of the fauves, only Rouault worked consistently as an expressionist, producing some of the most moving religious art of the period. By 1909, fauvism in France had been superseded by the more formal approaches of cubism. In Germany, however, expressionism became so important that it mushroomed into a world outlook covering a variety of religious, revolutionary, and nationalistic aspirations.


Brücke and Blaue Reiter

In the visual arts two groups became famous in Germany, the Brücke (Bridge) and the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider). The first, founded in 1905, included Kirchner, Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff, Pechstein, and Nolde. The second was initiated in 1911 by Kandinsky and Marc, and associated with them were Macke and Klee. In these groups, styles ranged from representationalism to complete abstraction and reflected such diverse sources as medieval woodcuts, African masks, fauvism, and cubism. But their art had a common purpose to reform the world through catharsis and self-revelation "by making visible the invisible."


During the first decades of the 20th century numerous artists in Germany worked with similar ideas. A focal point for their activity was the Sturm (Storm) Gallery in Berlin. Here expressionist work by Kokoschka, Kubin, Feininger, and Chagall was exhibited alongside Italian futurist and Russian constructivist art. It should be stressed that absolute distinctions cannot be made between expressionism and other movements, especially in Germany. The so-called Neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity) of Beckmann, Dix, and Grosz; the "social realism" of Kollwitz; and the Dadaism and surrealism of Arp and Ernst—all were related in various ways to German expressionism.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)