Expressionism . Artistic current that seeks the expression of the author’s feelings and emotions rather than the representation of objective reality. It reveals the pessimistic side of life generated by the historical circumstances of the moment. The hidden face of modernization, alignment, isolation, massification, was evident in large cities and artists believed that they should capture the most intimate feelings of the human being. Existential anguish is the main engine of its aesthetics.


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  • 1 Emergence
  • 2 Social fund
  • 3 Painting
    • 1 Die Brücke (The Bridge)
    • 2 Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)
  • 4 Literature
    • 1 Representatives
  • 5 Cinema
  • 6 Theater
  • 7 Music
  • 8 Sources


It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century , in accordance with French Fauvism and reflected the desire to give the viewer a vision of the artist’s feelings. It received its name in 1911 on the occasion of the exhibition of the Berlin Secession, in which the Fauvist paintings of Matisse and his French companions, as well as some of Pablo Picasso’s pre-Cubist works, were exhibited .

In 1914 the group of German painters in Dresden and Berlin from 1911 and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), formed in 1912 in Munich , around a almanac, led by Kandinsky and Marc, were also labeled as expressionists .

Expressionism is understood as an accentuation or deformation of reality in order to adequately express the values ​​that it is intended to put into evidence, and it manifested itself as a partial reaction to Impressionism .

Social fund

The social background of expressionism lies in the anarchic protest of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois intelligentsia against the scourges of capitalism ; his aesthetic conception is extreme subjectivism.

“We must forget all laws, only our soul is a true reflection of the universe”

Oskar_Kokoschka .

“The expressionist believes only in the reality created by himself despite all other reality of life”

Kasimir Edschmid .

The primacy of form over content, of the individual over the social, of the irrational over the logical, has made expressionism a decadent, formalist trend. In their works, the Expressionists completely misrepresent the real world, viewing it only as a pretext to capture their unbalanced feelings and shape them objectively. Hence his inclination to the extraordinarily grotesque, to mix the planes of representation, to disfigure objects, etc.


A pictorial current that was born as a movement at the beginning of the 20th century ( 1905 – 1925 ), mainly in Germany, although it also appears in other European countries, linked to French Fauvism as an expressive and emotional art that is diametrically opposed to Impressionism .

After the end of the First World War , this pictorial trend was followed by other trends such as Constructivism , the new objectivity, informalism and, later, the so-called “new savages” and photorealism.

The most characteristic elements of expressionist works of art are color, dynamism and feeling. The fundamental thing for the painters of the beginning of the century was not to reflect the world in a realistic and faithful way – just contrary to the impressionists – but, above all, to break the forms.

The primary objective of the Expressionists was to convey their deepest emotions and feelings. In fact, in any black and white reproduction of an expressionist painting, you can sense that energy and that emotion that underlies all his works.

This artistic trend was championed by well-known painters such as August Macke , Paul Klee or Franz Marc , who belonged to different groups such as Die Brücke (The Bridge) or Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) – founded by Kandinsky and Marc -, thanks to the which was the transition from expressionism to abstraction possible. Kandinsk and was the one who gave the group its name. His favorite motifs were horses and his favorite color was blue.

Die Brücke (The Bridge)

Its founders were Ernst Ludwig Kirchner , Fritz Bleyl , Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff , all of them students of Architecture , who were later joined by Emil Nolde and Max Hermann Pechstein in 1906 and Otto Müller in 1910 . The fauvista Van Dongen also joined them and acted as an intermediary with his French companions.

The intention of the group was to attract any revolutionary element that wanted to join, this was expressed in a letter addressed to Nolde; his greatest interest was to destroy the old conventions, just as it was being done in France .

According to Kirchner, no rules could be set and inspiration should flow freely and give immediate expression to the artist’s emotional pressures; they are less concerned with the formal aspects, a fact that separated them from the Fauvism of Matisse and Braque . For the Germans, content was more important than form.

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)

Unlike El Puente, the artists of the Blue Rider felt the need to modulate a more controlled language to broadcast their messages. They published books and organized exhibitions. They developed a spiritual art, in which they reduced naturalism to abstraction.

They shared certain attitudes with the expressionists of El Puente but tended more to a purification of the instincts and what they wanted was to capture the spiritual essence of reality; in this sense their attitudes were more refined and speculative.

Its maximum representatives were Wasily Kandinsky and Franz Marc its founders; the rest of the group is made up of Macke, Javlensky and Paul Klee .

Kandinsky arrived in Munich in 1896 from Moscow , in 1909 he was appointed president of the New Munich Association of Artists, where he organized two exhibitions, in the years 1909 and 1910 , to present the work of the Fauvists and early Cubists. In the catalog prepared for the second exhibition, he begins to present his theory of art, which will culminate, two years later, with the publication of his book On the spiritual in Art .

In 1912 , when he resigned from his position in the Association, he founded together with Marc El Jinete Azul. The name derives from Kandinsky’s love for riders and Marc’s love for horses. The group will end up dispersing with the war, in which Macke and Marc died. The first two exhibitions of the Blue Rider were of graphic work and drawings.

In 1913 they were invited to participate in an international exhibition in Berlin called The Berlin Autumn Show . His poetry was defined as a lyrical expressionism, in which evasion was not directed towards the wild world but towards the spiritual of nature and the inner world.

For Kandinsky, the path of painting had to be from the heavy material reality to the abstraction of pure vision, with color as a medium, for this reason he developed an entire complex theory of color. In La Pintura como arte arte , a 1913 book , he maintains that painting is already a separate entity, a world in itself, a new form of being, which acts on the viewer through sight and provokes profound experiences in it. spiritual.

Years before, in 1910 , Kandinsky had made the first abstract watercolors.

For Klee, the artist had to integrate into the forces of nature and act as a medium, so that his creations came to be accepted in the same way that the phenomena of nature are accepted. Unlike Kandinsky, Klee was convinced that art can capture the creative sense of nature, and therefore rejected absolute abstraction.

Formally, Klee was initially influenced, like Macke, by Delaunay’s cubism and his optical law of simultaneous contrasts, at the same time that he was the first artist to enter the domains of the unconscious that Freud and Jung were beginning to study.

After the dissolution of the group, in 1919 , Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus School in Weimar , a school of design and architecture, whose teachers were the most famous teachers of constructive expressionism, where men such as Feininger , Klee or Kandinsky taught .

After the First World War in Germany, Expressionist Realism develops, a movement in which artists separate themselves from abstraction, reflecting on figurative art and rejecting any activity that does not attend to the problems of the pressing reality of the post-war period. They embody this group Otto Dix , George Grosz , Max Beckmann and the sculptor Barlach.


Also in expressionist literature they appear as prominent themes, just as in painting, war, the city, fragmentation, fear, the loss of individual identity and the end of the world (apocalypse). However, we cannot ignore themes such as madness, love, delirium and, of course, nature.

The bourgeois aesthetic is relegated to an “aesthetics of ugliness”. No other movement to date had bet in the same way on deformity, disease and madness as the reason for their works. Like any other movement of any other time, Expressionism does not have well defined limits either and, therefore, its definition depends on the point of view taken.

In the field of literature, then, the so-called “expressionist decade” calls the peak period of the movement; that is, the period between 1910 and 1920 . The eruption of World War II supposes a strong rupture, as much in the tones as in the topics, particularly, in the field of expressionist poetry.

While some literary authors (for example, the futurist authors) considered war as a devastating and renewing force that would end bourgeois society, on the other hand, the image of the conflict took on negative overtones from the hand of many other poets who captured the horrors of war in his works. And it is not surprising, since many of them had lived, on the front line and in their own flesh, the desolation of war.


  • Stefan George
  • Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Hugo Von Hofmannsthal


With the appearance of the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1919 , Robert Wiene became one of the first directors to introduce clearly expressionist elements into film. In this medium, symbolism is reached through the sets, the lights, the costumes and the interpretation of the characters, elements that aspired to show a distorted view of reality through the large screen.

Initially, German silent cinema was fully linked to expressionism with directors such as Fritz Lang, Friedrich Murnau, Paul Leni and Paul Wegener, among others. Some of the most representative works of this period were: Nosferatu , Metropolis , The Three Lights , The Last (“Der Letzte Mann”, also known as The Last Laughter ), and The Will of Dr. Mabuse .

The excess was associated with a type of horror and fantastic cinema, which conditioned its development. Some later works were made on the stage of sound cinema, for example, M, the Düsseldorf vampire , another film by Fritz Lang.

However, in the most modern cinematography, its most significant representatives such as Orson Welles and Andrzej Wajda incorporated a much more mature aesthetic and far from excessive theatricalism.

In Spain , you can find some films influenced by several of these directors, although very few of them were successful. Especially singular is the contribution of Madrid’s Edgar Neville with his film The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks, where there was a team of German decorators who worked on some expressionist films.


The influence of cinema on Expressionist theater was evident from the first moments, also using the scenery and clothing of the actors as instruments at the service of dramatic works that overcome the conformity of conventional theatrical representations. The author, the actor and the public must share the inner vision of the former, reaching a mystical tone that accentuates the mimicry.

Its most prominent representative appears after the First World War : Ernst Toller . Later, authors such as Bertolt Brecht would be influenced by this movement .


The Blue Horseman in his first issue published the works of the three composers: Arnold Schönberg , Alban Berg and Anton von Webern , a trio that formed the so-called Second Vienna School . In the trajectory of these musicians we find a fully expressionist presence in Berg’s Lulú or Wozzeck Operas , and in the monodramas Die Erwartung and Die Glückliche Hand .


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