Expressionist art, deformation of reality

With its origin in Germany in the twentieth century, Expressionism is consolidated as a cultural movement that took important elements shaping its style in different fields, such as dance, theater, fine arts, photography, literature and cinema. , among others, thus being a movement of great diversity

The expressionist movement initially appeared in the field of painting at the same time as the Fauvist movement in France, which is why these two movements are consolidated as the first exponents of the avant-garde.

Main characteristics of expressionism

These are the most representative aspects of expressionist art that allow us to properly understand what this current proposed during its heyday. Expressionist art reveals a strong inclination for the inner vision and deep expression of each of the artists through the works, giving a higher priority to the feelings and emotions of the artist, highlighting the freedom of each individual, loneliness, uses more intense and solid colors in his paintings.

At a general level, the fauvista movement leaves reality aside to go directly to expose expressions that provide a much more subjective sense, as well as to propose new topics that were forbidden to express by then, as is the case of irrationalism, morbid, perversion, sexuality and other subjects that were taboo in the artistic framework.

Birth of expressionist art

It emerged in the early twentieth century in Germany, on the European continent, as one of the movements with the greatest variety of participation in artistic fields, thus having a style that was enjoyed by various artists throughout history. This is how expressionism can be extrapolated in space and time .

The influences received by expressionism were very varied, having contact from the beginning with clear styles such as: medieval art, primitive art, post-impressionism, symbolism, among others such as neo-impressionism and Fauvism in terms of colors and shapes in some of his work.

Expressionism is understood, then, as a kind of deformation of reality from the beginning, which goes in search of subjective expression linked to the emotional nature and the human being in it.

Expressionism classification

During its rise, it was possible to determine two branches of expressionism that were extremely important for the history of art, among which stood out

Abstract expressionism

In this style of expressionism in fields such as the works of painting, sculpture, literature and music, the themes of nature as we see it and of everything that has been created by the human being are left out. It is then when the value and the vision of the inner world appear.

In abstract expressionism the following happens:

-The sense of perspective is abandoned

-Elements like animals, people, houses become abstract

-The famous characters are exchanged for figures made with geometric elements and colors -The aim is to capture the viewer’s attention through symbols

German expressionism

Although expressionist art is spoken of as a movement that has been touring different countries of the European continent, the truth is that it is in Germany where it mainly resides and where it remains most solid.

Characteristics of German expressionism:

To know how German expressionism worked it will be necessary to detail a series of particularities that this current contained in this branch especially. German expressionism had a vision directed especially to a sense related to the social and the political , having elements of classical expressionism such as mysticism, here the artist wishes to materialize the works in representation of torments that affect his spirit properly and even the of the other human beings, he uses extreme colors with which he seeks to symbolize some specific aspect and it is possible to show themes in his works full of pessimism, nonconformity and chaos. Despite the harshness of his works, his source of inspiration focuses on themes such as myths and dreams.

Artistic fields of expressionism

One of the characteristics that most allowed expressionist art to stand out and stay in art history is mainly due to its participation in different artistic fields, among which we find the following:

Expressionist architecture

Expressionism develops in this field in areas such as: Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria. Using structures that were present in decisive situations in history such as the First World War, expressionist architecture had a great influence on the part of modernism, which began as an experimental process for the use of other elements.

Main features: Expressionist architecture is an extremely strong field of the movement that started the creation of works in 1905, covers many more countries throughout the European continent and is notable for the use of new elements in creations. Expressionist architecture is a term chosen to name what is independent architecture through which it seeks to express emotions from rigid and strong elements.

Elements: Among the most important elements that the architecture of this current begins to use, we find brick, glass and steel.

Expressionist sculpture 

As for the field of sculpture, it did not have a specific stamp, but results from different individual techniques that were proposed by several of the artists who sought to express the rigidity of expressionism .

In this sense, the artists who were part of this branch stand out mainly, contributing techniques linked to expressing the deepest feelings of the post-war era , such as anguish, worry, fear, terror and despair, among others. The sculpture looks for creations closer to popular scenes such as the situation of the peasants, everyday moments, the customs of society and always leaving imitation aside to seek greater meaning in their expressions.

Expressionism painting

The painting began to appear in 1905 with content from the post-war era, where the New Subjectivity movement was born defending social techniques .

Main elements: Among the main instruments that shaped expressionism painting are mainly dynamism as an element of creation used in the works, the feeling in its performance as the essence for each of the works and the presence of solid colors, pure and in some cases mixed in the pieces.

Main characteristics of the painting: Likewise, the artists create works that highlight strong particularities that have allowed to consolidate the current in this artistic field, such as the search for expressions from the inner world of each artist , the transmission of emotions, sensations and feelings through the canvases and a strong intention to put aside the realistic world to give another possible focus to the viewer.

Expressionist literature 

Another field of expressionism was literature , in which themes such as war, the city, fear, love, anguish, terror, delirium, madness, nature, among other topics that appeared, began to appear. directly to humans at the time.

The writers of the expressionist movement focused on the criticism of bourgeois society that was then at the time, as well as the alienation of the individual during the industrial era, family repression, militarism, among other complex areas. For his part, the writer as an artist of expressionist literature seeks to exhibit the deformed reality with an essence marked from an interior focal point where he brings out subjective emotions and feelings of the human being.

Characteristics of Literature: The field of literature of the expressionist current was characterized because in it, artists did not limit themselves to what reality offered them, but always explored further to enrich their works, in addition to the same The writer did not mind exposing the viewer to the deepest, most hateful and most terrible phases of his being. The writer also avoids capturing analyzes alluding to real situations, so he goes in other ways linked to topics such as the macabre, the perverse, sexuality and eroticism, death, disease, the sinister and other strong areas for the epic that use was not prohibited.

Expressionist narrative

He looks for new ways to capture the current reality in the cultural context of what was the industrial stage, as well as social evolution. The narrators of expressionism seek to take elements such as the simultaneity with a deep style of each of the artists.

Expressionist poetry

The themes of expressionist poetry, on the other hand, had very diverse contents, however they were mainly based on the reality of urbanity, touching themes with perverse, grotesque, desolate, apocalyptic characteristics, among others. They used a penetrating content, without fear leaving aside the rules of syntactics.

Expressionist theater

Drama and the performing arts proper of theater seek to set aside reality, naturalism and imitation of what the outside world is, seeking to express the essence of things, which manifested the intention of seeking a subjective vision on the part of the spectator . The theater for this stage was intended to be used as a mediator between life, the new ideals that were emerging, philosophy and morality.

Expressionist music

 One of the fields that most stands out for expressionism is music, which receives much of the importance of the movement. This field looks for ways to create new musical languages, letting the notes of the instruments flow freely without the composer intervening in the process.

Expressionist dance

As for expressionist dance, the search for artistic manifestations begins with new forms of expression that contained themes such as freedom with large and elongated body movements. The self-expression of the body, the relationship with space and expression take on substantial importance.

Expressionist cinema 

Only until after the First World War did expressionism appear as a movement in the cinema, so it appears when the current was ending and the New Objectivity began. The main characteristics of expressionist cinema focused on the expressiveness of human emotions, the formal distortions and elements that had been developed by the expressionist theater.

Artists with their most important works of the expressionist movement

These are the most representative artists of expressionist art and the works they contributed to the movement , which have marked an important part of art history and world history:

Edvard Munch (from 1863 to 1944)

The German-born artist is the most important representative of the entire expressionist movement of the time , where as one of the leaders, he maintains a clear definition of what expressionism was in important works such as: The Scream, The burial chamber and The dying girl, among others.

These were works that mainly expressed sensations and feelings such as melancholy and symbolism of each of the elements that were present on the canvas. His works also show somber aspects with muted and neutral colors that give rise to a sad and funeral scene.

James Ensor (from the year 1860 to 1949)

One of the main characteristics that highlighted this artist was the application to his works of comic elements and with ridiculous touches that were expressed with feelings that distress and approach human beings. This allowed him to use other elements of color in his works, counting on light tones and much warmer. The work that stands out the most is ‘The amazement of the Wouse camera’.

His style is wrapped by the use of masks and visionary elements that he usually interprets and creates as animated beings within the works.

Emil Nolde (from the year 1867 to 1956)

He stands out mainly for his sense of inspiration in the subjective, being one of the expressionists who most sustained himself by the leadership and tendency of the expressionist movement . The work for which the artist is most recognized was called ‘El entierro y Moscaros’

Georges Rouault (from the year 1871 to 1958)

The artist who not only belonged to the expressionist movement but also participated in the fauvista movement , touched mainly on religious themes with a high content towards the themes of Christianity.

His works have themes charged with feelings, being one of his most important qualities. Among his main works we find the following: ‘The judge and the old king’, ‘The divine face’, ‘Head of Christ’ and ‘Crucifixion’.

Each of the feelings that the artist intends to express is enclosed by masses that compact the colors with thick black lilies. His works are solidly charged with sensations and emotions.

Amedeo Modigliani (from the year 1884 to 1920)

Coming from Italy, the artist is mainly influenced by the Florentine and Venetian masters from whom he manages to obtain important instruments that allowed him to put his own touch within expressionist art in a particular and very personal way . Mainly stood out in the area of ​​sculpture. The most important work of this artist was ‘Seated Nude’

It was after his death that the artist began to become increasingly noticeable within the expressionist movement.

Oskar Kokoschka (from the year 1886 to 1980)

This artist from Austria brings his field of painting to a kind of imagination of a literary nature where he picks up his youthful writings representing his works on canvas.

His works focused mainly on creating landscapes. Among the most important works of the expressionist painter we find the following : ‘The Bride of the Wind’, ‘Amsterdam’, ‘Marseille Post’ and ‘Professor Forel’. However, the works of this artist also have other elements and styles different from those initially proposed, since he also painted psychological portraits that were far from the similarity with the physicist of those who modeled for his works, so that the essence leaned towards the internal leaving aside external reality.

by Abdullah Sam
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