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Expressionism

A more authentic, anxious, and grotesque reality

19051933

A more authentic, anxious, and grotesque reality

It’s been said that every art movement is a rejection of the movement that came before, and that’s certainly true of Expressionism. In the late 1800’s Impressionism swept through Europe, sending artists outside to paint quiet rivers and genteel garden parties. The Impressionists brought subjectivity to art, exploring how perspective and light change how the world appears to us, but their composition and subject matter was as a whole, pastoral, romantic, and generally toothless.

As the 20th century dawned, painting flowers and girls knitting began to seem less relevant. A massive increase in industrialization stripped away folk culture and moved people and money into urban centers. Political tensions would explode into World War 1 within two decades, and Nietzsche’s doubt in the existence of god and the goodness of man mirrored a cultural wave of creeping anxiety. This new world needed a new art.

Expressionism was not an organized movement. There was no core group of artists or dedicated exhibitions like Impressionism. Instead, expressionist art was developed simultaneously by many artists throughout Europe, unified through bold colors and a haunting distortion of the human form. In many ways, the murky unease of Edvard Munch’s Anxiety is the prototypical Expressionist artwork, though James Ensor’s gleeful horror certainly contributed.

In 1905 two art groups laid the psychological underpinnings for Expressionism. Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian immigrant to Germany, founded the art group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) to express spiritual truths and subjective perspectives. The same year, the German artists Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff founded Die Brücke (The Bridge), a group who used woodcut prints and primitive styles to create a more crude, authentic art.

Over the next ten years, artists like Paula Modersohn-Becker and the sex-obsessed Egon Schiele would solidify what is now recognized at the Expressionist visual style — thick paint and heavy brush strokes, human forms, simplified or grotesqueified, but always rendered with feeling.

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Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889

Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889

James Ensor1888
Olive Trees

Olive Trees

Vincent Van Gogh1889
The Assassination

The Assassination

James Ensor1890
The Intrigue

The Intrigue

James Ensor1890
Man of Sorrows

Man of Sorrows

James Ensor1891
Skeletons Fighting over a Hanged Man

Skeletons Fighting over a Hanged Man

James Ensor1891
The Despair of Pierrot

The Despair of Pierrot

James Ensor1892
Self-Portrait, turned slightly to the left

Self-Portrait, turned slightly to the left

Käthe Kollwitz1893
Anxiety

Anxiety

Edvard Munch1894
Puberty

Puberty

Edvard Munch1894-1895
The Day After

The Day After

Edvard Munch1894-1895
The Scream

The Scream

Edvard Munch1895
The Skeleton Painter

The Skeleton Painter

James Ensor1896
Separation

Separation

Edvard Munch1896
The Dangerous Cooks

The Dangerous Cooks

James Ensor1896
Self-portrait — 1897

Self-portrait — 1897

Paula Modersohn-Becker1897
Pregnant Woman with Folded Hands

Pregnant Woman with Folded Hands

Käthe Kollwitz1898-1899
Dance of Life

Dance of Life

Edvard Munch1899-1900
Red and White

Red and White

Edvard Munch1899-1900
Self portrait in front of flowering trees

Self portrait in front of flowering trees

Paula Modersohn-Becker1902
La Vie

La Vie

Pablo Picasso1903
Peasant War print 5: Outbreak

Peasant War print 5: Outbreak

Käthe Kollwitz1903
Four Girls in Åsgårdstrand

Four Girls in Åsgårdstrand

Edvard Munch1903
Working Woman with Blue Shawl

Working Woman with Blue Shawl

Käthe Kollwitz1903
Portrait of George W. Vanderbilt

Portrait of George W. Vanderbilt

James McNeill Whistler1897-1903
The Brooch / Eva Mudocci

The Brooch / Eva Mudocci

Edvard Munch1903
The Old Guitarist

The Old Guitarist

Pablo Picasso1903-1904
Woman Ironing

Woman Ironing

Pablo Picasso1904
Peasant War print 3: Whetting the Scythe

Peasant War print 3: Whetting the Scythe

Käthe Kollwitz1905
After the Concert, at the Fireplace

After the Concert, at the Fireplace

Mikhail Vrubel1905
Portrait of Lee Hoetger with Flowers

Portrait of Lee Hoetger with Flowers

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
Old Woman in the Garden

Old Woman in the Garden

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
Reclining Mother and Child 2

Reclining Mother and Child 2

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
Peasant War print 4: Seizing Weapons

Peasant War print 4: Seizing Weapons

Käthe Kollwitz1906
Sitting Girl and Nude

Sitting Girl and Nude

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
Italian woman with a plate in her raised hand

Italian woman with a plate in her raised hand

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
Self Portrait — 1906

Self Portrait — 1906

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
Child with Crane

Child with Crane

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
Figure Ashore

Figure Ashore

Wenzel Hablik1904-1907
Peasant War print 1: The Tiller

Peasant War print 1: The Tiller

Käthe Kollwitz1907
Paula Modersohn-BeckerPortrait of Paula Modersohn-Becker

Paula Modersohn-Becker

Why do Expressionists die young?

1876-1907
Self Portrait — 1907

Self Portrait — 1907

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906-1907
Jealousy

Jealousy

Edvard Munch1907
Peasant War print 6: Battlefield

Peasant War print 6: Battlefield

Käthe Kollwitz1907
Self-portrait with hat and veil

Self-portrait with hat and veil

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906-1907
Self-portrait with a camellia branch

Self-portrait with a camellia branch

Paula Modersohn-Becker1907
Still life: child's head with white cloth

Still life: child's head with white cloth

Paula Modersohn-Becker1907
Joys of Life

Joys of Life

Wenzel Hablik1904-1907
Peasant War print 2: Raped

Peasant War print 2: Raped

Käthe Kollwitz1907-1908
Peasant War print 7: The Prisoners

Peasant War print 7: The Prisoners

Käthe Kollwitz1908
Giulia Leonardi

Giulia Leonardi

Ferdinand Hodler1910
Woman with Homunculus

Woman with Homunculus

Egon Schiele1910
Portrait of Olga Merson

Portrait of Olga Merson

Henri Matisse1910
Giulia Leonardi

Giulia Leonardi

Ferdinand Hodler1910
A Tree in Late Autumn

A Tree in Late Autumn

Egon Schiele1911
Self-portrait

Self-portrait

Kazimir Malevich1910-1911
Self-Portrait with Physalis

Self-Portrait with Physalis

Egon Schiele1912
Portrait of Wally Neuzil

Portrait of Wally Neuzil

Egon Schiele1912
Cardinal and Nun (Caress)

Cardinal and Nun (Caress)

Egon Schiele1912
Self Portrait with Lowered Head

Self Portrait with Lowered Head

Egon Schiele1912
Wally in Red Blouse with Raised Knees

Wally in Red Blouse with Raised Knees

Egon Schiele1913
Krumau on the Moldova

Krumau on the Moldova

Egon Schiele1914
Houses with Laundry (Seeburg)

Houses with Laundry (Seeburg)

Egon Schiele1914
Windows

Windows

Egon Schiele1914
Lovers

Lovers

Egon Schiele1914
Portrait of Emma Schmidt-Müller

Portrait of Emma Schmidt-Müller

Ferdinand Hodler1915
Portrait of Edith Schiele with Striped Dress

Portrait of Edith Schiele with Striped Dress

Egon Schiele1915
Portrait of Edith, The Artist's Wife

Portrait of Edith, The Artist's Wife

Egon Schiele1915
Two Spanish Girls

Two Spanish Girls

Marie Laurencin1915
Josef Müller

Josef Müller

Ferdinand Hodler1916
Lying Woman

Lying Woman

Egon Schiele1917
The Embrace

The Embrace

Egon Schiele1917
Egon SchielePortrait of Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele

Genius dead at 28

1890-1918
City With Animals

City With Animals

Max Ernst1919

Come and join the struggle against all things negative and corrupting.

Delight in Existence!

Wenzel Hablik1920
The Marchesa Casati

The Marchesa Casati

Romaine Brooks1920
The Violet Hat

The Violet Hat

Sigrid Hjertén1923
Malay Woman

Malay Woman

Irma Stern1924
Portrait of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher

Portrait of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher

Irma Stern1925
Young Woman Combing Her Hair

Young Woman Combing Her Hair

María Blanchard1925
Self-Portrait at the Age of Nine

Self-Portrait at the Age of Nine

Arshile Gorky1928
Degenerate Madonna

Degenerate Madonna

Alice Neel1930
Woman from Brittany

Woman from Brittany

María Blanchard1928-1930
Wenzel HablikPortrait of Wenzel Hablik

Wenzel Hablik

The architect of invisible cities

1881-1934
Hill Scene

Hill Scene

Amrita Sher-Gil1938
Young Arab

Young Arab

Irma Stern1942
Portrait of Freda Feldman in Basuto Hat

Portrait of Freda Feldman in Basuto Hat

Irma Stern1943
Marsden HartleyPortrait of Marsden Hartley

Marsden Hartley

Spirituality comes first, cult status second

1877-1943
Edvard MunchPortrait of Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

Living in Berlin with the angels of fear and death

1863-1944
Stella, Lady Bailey

Stella, Lady Bailey

Irma Stern1944
Käthe KollwitzPortrait of Käthe Kollwitz

Käthe Kollwitz

Printmaker & social activist

1867-1945
James Ensor

James Ensor

Grim fandango

1860-1949
Study for a Portrait

Study for a Portrait

Francis Bacon1952
Portrait of Willem de Kooning

Portrait of Willem de Kooning

Elaine de Kooning1952
Leo Castelli

Leo Castelli

Elaine de Kooning1954
Portrait of Conrad Fried

Portrait of Conrad Fried

Elaine de Kooning1954
Armand HenrionPortrait of Armand Henrion

Armand Henrion

Yes, he only paints clowns

1875-1958
Al Jeeran fi Salam (Neighbors in Peace)

Al Jeeran fi Salam (Neighbors in Peace)

Tahia Halim1958
The Dervishes

The Dervishes

Tahia Halim1958
The night before the wedding

The night before the wedding

Tahia Halim1959
Girls on a Felucca

Girls on a Felucca

Tahia Halim1960
The Loft Dwellers

The Loft Dwellers

Elaine de Kooning1961
Portrait of Merce Cunningham

Portrait of Merce Cunningham

Elaine de Kooning1962
The Burghers of Amsterdam Avenue

The Burghers of Amsterdam Avenue

Elaine de Kooning1963
The Boatman

The Boatman

Tahia Halim1964
The Happiness of Nubia

The Happiness of Nubia

Tahia Halim1965
Irma SternPortrait of Irma Stern

Irma Stern

Look at me

1894-1966
Three Nubians

Three Nubians

Tahia Halim1970
Jackie Curtis and Ritta Redd

Jackie Curtis and Ritta Redd

Alice Neel1970
A Song for the Nile

A Song for the Nile

Tahia Halim1970
Untitled

Untitled

Tahia Halim1970
Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

The man who ate the world's art

1881-1973
The Lute Player

The Lute Player

Tahia Halim1975
Face of a Nubian Girl

Face of a Nubian Girl

Tahia Halim1975
Victoria and The Cat

Victoria and The Cat

Alice Neel1981
Mother and Child (Nancy and Olivia)

Mother and Child (Nancy and Olivia)

Alice Neel1982
Alice NeelPortrait of Alice Neel

Alice Neel

The unblinking anxiety of modern life

1900-1984
Francis BaconPortrait of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

The never-ending scream

1909-1992

Next movement: FuturismBlood, speed and violence.

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