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Posted on : December 28, 2008 Author : the-artists.org
Expressionism is the art of the emotive. It is a type of art provoked by the consciousness of the tensions and forces that surround modern humankind. The inevitability of world war, the new power of capitalism, the rise of industrialization - all of these things weighed greatly on the minds of men at the beginning of the century, especially in Germany. During the early 20th-century Northern European art movement in Germany (circa 1905-1925), artists such as Rouault, Schiele, and Kokoschka, painted in this manner.

The Scream by Edvard Munch


The word expressionist was first used in 1850, mostly to describe the paintings where an artist’s strong emotions were clearly depicted. The popularity of Expressionism increased even more with Julien Auguste Herve’s abstract painting entitled ‘Expressionismes’. It was Antonin Matejcek, a Czech art historian, who defined Expressionism as the opposite of Impressionism.

This particular form of abstract art was believed to have been formalized when a group of German artists founded the Die Brucke in 1905. The organization, which is founded by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, became the foundation of the German Expressionist movement. Six years later, it had inspired many young artists who in turn, founded Der Blaue Reiter in Munich.1 Since then, Expressionism became a widely recognized form of modern art.

View of Toledo by El Greco

As an Art Form

Expressionism is defined as an artistic style wherein the artist doesn’t depict objective reality in his works. Rather, he attaches his own emotions and personal responses to them. This is normally achieved through exaggeration, distortion, fantasy, and primitivism, or by the use of vivid, violent, jarring, or dynamic representation of formal elements.2

This modern art form is highly associated to Baroque, although many modern artists, historians, and critics beg to disagree. Alberto Arbasino, an Italian writer, essayist, and art critic, stated that Baroque is much more well-mannered than Expressionism.

On White II by Wassily Kandinsky

Famous Artists

One of the most notable modern artists of Expressionism is Vincent Van Gogh3, a Dutch painter who lived from 1853 to 1890. He is believed to have started Expressionism in the manner that many other notable artists followed. Other very good examples of Expressionist artists are Edvard Munch, Paul Klee, Max Beckmann, and Henry Moore. Pablo Picasso is also believed to have used this abstract art form in his masterpieces as well.

Fighting Forms by Franz Marc

Famous Works

There are many Expressionism paintings that were made very popular then and now. For one, Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ (1893) had inspired many modern artists during the 20th century. But do note that there are a handful of abstract arts and paintings that can be unmistakably identified as Expressionist, which were very popular way before Munch. Among them are Wassily Kandinsky’s ‘On White II’ (1923) and Franz Marc’s ‘Fighting Forms’ (1914). Another very notable Expressionism painting is the one created by El Greco entitled ‘View of Toledo’. His work is regarded to have the most striking resemblance to 20th century Expressionism.


1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism#Origin_of_the_term

2 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/198740/Expressionism

3 http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/e/expressionism

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