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Heavy Red expressionism artwork by Wassily Kandinsky

Heavy Red

Influencers Vincent van Gogh
Edvard Munch
Egon Schiele

(Top Image: “Weiches Hart” by Wassily Kandinsky)

Expressionism, an art movement that arose in the early twentieth century, emphasized feeling and subjective perception above objective reality. The movement reached its peak in Berlin around 1920, forever changing the world of art with the works of popular Expressionist artists.


Expressionist art began in Berlin, Germany; however, the origins of the movement can be traced back to ancient Northern European thought and aesthetic preferences. Major themes of expressionism include the suffering of man and the variation between perceived reality and truth. Many Expressionist paintings feature religious themes, such as Grunewald’s Crucifixion, but others, like Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, focus on landscapes, buildings and still life. In 1905, several German Expressionists united in Dresden, Germany to form the Expressionist group known as Die Brucke, or The Bridge. The Bridge was so named because the group intended to create a bridge between the rich, internal world of their faith and self-expression through art. Expressionism took on the themes of angst and suffering found throughout various religious narratives, Christianity in particular. These artists were inspired by early Expressionists, such as Munch and van Gogh. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Munch’s The Scream remain two of the most influential paintings for Expressionist art around the world. Another major theme of the art movement revolved around expressing the internal soul in a unique and interesting way. Expressionists of the day believed that everyone saw the world in a different way, and individual perception of beauty was equally if not more important than objective standards of beauty. The movement was largely a response to the trend of other artists to paint things precisely as they appeared with very limited freedom for interpretation. Expressionists played with lighting, shadows, and even form to create a style that was truly unique and challenged common perceptions of reality. Gustav Klimt was another of the most notable Expressionists, using Abstract Expressionism to communicate his own perception of the world. His pieces were characterized by gold hues and mosaic representations of people, places and animals, as exemplified in The Kiss and The Tree of Life.


Fun Facts

  • Munch is famously quoted as saying that he wanted to stop “painting interiors and women knitting,” which is why he painted The Scream.
  • Vincent van Gogh, one of the world’s most famous Expressionists, suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy.
  • The Expressionist movement extended into dance, literature, sculpture, and drama.

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Some Examples of Artwork

The Sun expressionism artwork by Edvard Munch

The Sun

In the Rain 1912 expressionism artwork by Franz Marc

In the Rain 1912

Three Cats 1913 expressionism artwork by Franz Marc

Three Cats 1913