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Expressionism

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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James Ensor

Grim fandango

1860-1949

Edvard Munch

Living in Berlin with the angels of fear and death

1863-1944

Käthe Kollwitz

Printmaker - Social Activist

1867-1945

Armand Henrion

Yes, he only paints clowns

1875-1958

Paula Modersohn-Becker

Why do Expressionists die young?

1876-1907

Wenzel Hablik

The architect of invisible cities

1881-1934

Egon Schiele

Genius dead at 28

1890-1918
Self-Portrait, turned slightly to the left

Self-Portrait, turned slightly to the left

Käthe Kollwitz1893
Anxiety

Anxiety

Edvard Munch1894
The Scream

The Scream

Edvard Munch1895
Puberty

Puberty

Edvard Munch1894-1895
The Day After

The Day After

Edvard Munch1894-1895
Separation

Separation

Edvard Munch1896
Self-portrait — 1897

Self-portrait — 1897

Paula Modersohn-Becker1897
Pregnant Woman with Folded Hands

Pregnant Woman with Folded Hands

Käthe Kollwitz1898-1899
Red and White

Red and White

Edvard Munch1899-1900
Dance of Life

Dance of Life

Edvard Munch1899-1900
Self portrait in front of flowering trees

Self portrait in front of flowering trees

Paula Modersohn-Becker1902
Four Girls in Åsgårdstrand

Four Girls in Åsgårdstrand

Edvard Munch1903
The Brooch / Eva Mudocci

The Brooch / Eva Mudocci

Edvard Munch1903
Working Woman with Blue Shawl

Working Woman with Blue Shawl

Käthe Kollwitz1903
After the Concert, at the Fireplace

After the Concert, at the Fireplace

Mikhail Vrubel1905
Self Portrait — 1906

Self Portrait — 1906

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
Child with Crane

Child with Crane

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906
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
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
Joys of Life

Joys of Life

Wenzel Hablik1904-1907
Figure Ashore

Figure Ashore

Wenzel Hablik1904-1907
Self Portrait — 1907

Self Portrait — 1907

Paula Modersohn-Becker1906-1907
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
Peasant War print 1: The Tiller

Peasant War print 1: The Tiller

Käthe Kollwitz1907
Giulia Leonardi

Giulia Leonardi

Ferdinand Hodler1910
Giulia Leonardi

Giulia Leonardi

Ferdinand Hodler1910
Woman with Homunculus

Woman with Homunculus

Egon Schiele1910
Portrait of Olga Merson

Portrait of Olga Merson

Henri Matisse1910
A Tree in Late Autumn

A Tree in Late Autumn

Egon Schiele1911
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
Houses with Laundry (Seeburg)

Houses with Laundry (Seeburg)

Egon Schiele1914
Windows

Windows

Egon Schiele1914
Lovers

Lovers

Egon Schiele1914
Krumau on the Moldova

Krumau on the Moldova

Egon Schiele1914
Portrait of Emma Schmidt-Müller

Portrait of Emma Schmidt-Müller

Ferdinand Hodler1915
Portrait of Edith, The Artist's Wife

Portrait of Edith, The Artist's Wife

Egon Schiele1915
Portrait of Edith Schiele with Striped Dress

Portrait of Edith Schiele with Striped Dress

Egon Schiele1915
Two Spanish Girls

Two Spanish Girls

Marie Laurencin1915
Josef Müller

Josef Müller

Ferdinand Hodler1916
The Embrace

The Embrace

Egon Schiele1917
Lying Woman

Lying Woman

Egon Schiele1917

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

Delight in Existence!

Wenzel Hablik1920