Thursday, 5 December 2013

German Expressionism

German Expressionism was a world-wide movement in poetry, theatre, literature, film and the arts in the first quarter of the 20th century. Although it was present everywhere, it is usually referred to as German because its origins lay there. It struggled to find an international platform until it was almost 'out of fashion' and when artists were already looking forward to other 20th century artistic movements. The reason it did not reach the rest of Europe was mainly due to the isolation of Germany during WW1 and the fact that noone wanted anything to do with Germany or their philosophy. In the same way that Romanticism came to be out of frustration from the objectivity of Neoclassicism, Expressionism came to be out of frustration from previous styles. It cannot be said that it was a reaction to the objectivity of Impressionism because Impressionism was inherently subjective. What could have caused the frustration perhaps is that Impressionism only offered a subjective view on the image or impression you gather from something - the expressionists wanted to paint their subjective emotions. The emotions portrayed in Expressionism are largely coined as 'angst' and although that is a fair point there is far larger scope of emotion portrayed throughout the movement. Mostly though, it has an air of negativity.

Paula Becker,
Early Expressionist
Self Portrait, 1906
Clearly influenced by Cezanne and Gauguin. This is an example of 'Freikorpskultur' which means 'Free Body Culture'. Artists such as Becker rejected 'superficial' modernism in favour for what she sat as authentic and agreed with the philosophy of 'primitivism'.

Reclining Mother and Child, 1906
The model is a peasant woman. This is perhaps to show her affection for her step-child or maybe her wish for a child. Unfortunately she died a year later days after childbirth.

Child with Goldfish, 1906
The expressionists and other artists believed that 'primitivism' found in a child, insane person or savage was the best way to represent freedom in art.

Fritz Bleyl, 
Die Brucke Poster, 1906
Die Brucke was a group of Expressionist painters formed in 1905. Comparisons are made between these and the Fauves. They both portrayed intense emotion through unnaturalistic colour and had an interest in 'primitivism'.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 
Bathers at Moritzburg, 1909-26
Influenced by Picasso's Demoiselles D'avignon.

Self Portrait with Model, 1910
Strong, unrealistic colours. The overbearing tone of red is perhaps meant to represent to the scolding look of the figure at the back.

Negro Dance, 1911

Self Portrait with Missing Hand, 1915
If I was to guess what this was about my guess would be the war. The clothes look like something an army general would wear and his hand a comment on the barbarity of war. My lecturer also teaches us a Critical Concepts course so he can't help but throw out there that he's got a fear of castration. This is according to Freud's theory - whereby men are apparently scared of their fathers and want to overpower them (e.g kill them and have their way with their mother as outlined in the Oedipus Complex). This would explain the picture of him (maybe) behind him, without a willy. Also very Van Gogh like and makes us think he might be a bit mental.

Kandinsky, Phalanx Poster 1901
The Phalanx was another art group formed in 1901. It was opposed to old traditions in painting and was to pave the way for the rest of 'em.

Cossacks, 1910-11
This has apparently got a sense of apocalypse to it. The idea that expression can be represented in colour is taken quite symbolically here by the use of the Rainbow - a 'cosmic battle in the sky'.

Blue Rider Group Almanac, 1912
Another group he was part of. From 1911-14 the Blue Riders were set up in anger over a rejection of Kandinsky's artwork at an exhibition. 

The Motley Life, 1907
This is a tapestry-like painting. The fact that it's been painted in that way evokes a sense that we are looking in on a middle aged scene, or another realm. The idea is, that they don't care about the objective world we live in today. There going about doing their own thing.

Franz Marc 
Der Tiger, 1912
Animals represented a purer world than human civilisation. It's got a slight cubist composition about it and unrealistic colours.

Gabriele Munter, Still Life with St. George, 1911
The Patron Saint of Bavaria.

Ludwig Meidner, Apocalyptic Landscape, 1913
Reminds me a lot of El Greco's View of Toledo

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