What is Expressionism?

What is Expressionism?

Expressionism is the term used to describe an art movement of the early 20th century  from 1905 to 1920 that was most prominent in Germany and Austria. The aims of an Expressionist were to express emotions through the use of vivid colours and strong, distorted lines, rather than capturing a likeness or reality. Their work was characterized by intense, violent, and non-naturalistic colours, painted in a textural manner.

The first group of Expressionists, formed by  artist’s Ernst Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff  was called Die Brucke (The Bridge) in 1905. The other major Expressionist group who I felt is the better known group of expressionist was called Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Artists in this group included Wassily Kandinsky, Max Beckmann, Emil Nolde, and Egon Schiele.

One of my favourite expressionist artists is Marc Chagall who was also a cubist artist. In his paintings, he often painted violinists because he played the violin himself and also in memory of his uncle, who also played. He was also famous for his paintings of Russian-Jewish villages. One of his works  I and the Village

Wassily Kandinsky was also a favourite expressionist artist of mine, I felt his work was influential to my work, here is one of my favourite pieces Murnau St with women

Expressionism is the opposite of Impressionism, which emphasised painting what the artist observed. Interestingly Vincent van Gogh’s work had a lot of influence on artists who are now classified as Expressionists.

If you want to try painting in expressionist style here’s how –

 Distort Reality in Your Expressionist Painting

Step 1 - Consider how you would like the viewer of your painting to feel as they look at it. Make this decision before beginning the painting, because this will change the way you paint. The expressionist style dictates to the viewer how the painting should be viewed.

Step 2 - Use the appropriate colours for your intentions. If you want the viewer to be saddened by your painting, choose a lot of blue tones. If you want to emphasize how beautiful a woman is, choose the brightest possible colours for her eyes and hair.

Step 3 - Draw attention to a certain object or person by making the figure larger or smaller than it would be in reality. For example, if the painting were about a single father dealing with the burden of a child, shrink the father to a child's height and enlarge the child to a grown man's height to emphasize the emotional direction.

Step 4 - Do not adhere to the laws of physics in your painting. If there is something you deem spiritual, have it float a little. If a person desperately reaches for something unattainable, have the person's arms stretch abnormally. Consider Munch's The Scream. Physics is distorted throughout the painting for a purpose.

Step 5 - Use different kinds of brush strokes to influence the viewer. For particularly violent parts of a scene, paint with thick brush strokes that dry raised up from the canvas and barely blend colours together. For particularly serene parts of a scene, paint with soft, smooth brush strokes that blend all neighbouring colours together seamlessly. Painting tips from a contributor to ehow

Posted: Friday 12 February 2010


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