Key Dates: 1905-1925
A term used to denote the use of distortion and exaggeration for emotional effect, which first surfaced in the art literature of the early twentieth century. When applied in a stylistic sense, with reference in particular to the use of intense colour, agitated brushstrokes, and disjointed space. Rather than a single style, it was a climate that affected not only the fine arts but also dance, cinema, literature and the theatre.
Expressionism is an artistic style in which the artist attempts to depict not objective reality but rather the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in him. He accomplishes his aim through distortion, exaggeration, primitivism, and fantasy and through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal elements. In a broader sense Expressionism is one of the main currents of art in the later 19th and the 20th centuries, and its qualities of highly subjective, personal, spontaneous self-expression are typical of a wide range of modern artists and art movements.
Unlike Impressionism, its goals were not to reproduce the impression suggested by the surrounding world, but to strongly impose the artist’s own sensibility to the world’s representation. The expressionist artist substitutes to the visual object reality his own image of this object, which he feels as an accurate representation of its real meaning. The search of harmony and forms is not as important as trying to achieve the highest expression intensity, both from the aesthetic point of view and according to idea and human critics.
Expressionism assessed itself mostly in Germany, in 1910. As an international movement, expressionism has also been thought of as inheriting from certain medieval artforms and, more directly, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and the fauvism movement.
The most well known German expressionists are Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Lionel Feininger, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein; the Austrian Oskar Kokoschka, the Czech Alfred Kubin and the Norvegian Edvard Munch are also related to this movement. During his stay in Germany, the Russian Kandinsky was also an expressionism addict.
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