Expressionism (1910-1930)

 Expressionism is famous as an European cultural movement of the 1910-1930 years, which also includes Literature, Music, Theater and Architecture.

Ludwig Meidner, Paysage apocalyptique, 1913.
Ludwig Meidner, Paysage apocalyptique, 1913.

Image source: http://histoiredesarts.canalblog.com/albums/art_contemporain/photos/25324372-ludwig_meidner__paysage_apocalyptique__1913.html

The Beginnings

The first Expressionist Art Style was born in France with the Fauves (‘wild beasts, savages’) so called because of the expressive violence of color. A second group was founded in Germany: Die Brücke (‘The Bridge’). With the turn of the century in Europe, changes in artistic styles erupted as a response to important changes in the society. Artists reflected the psychological disruption brought by these sudden developments with an emotional and psychological rendering of things.


 Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), 1872, Impressionism painting
Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), 1872- Impressionism painting.

Image source: https://atlasofplaces.com/painting/la-lumiere/

Expressionist Architecture

Expressionism spreaded simultaneously in various towns across Germany as a reacrion to the sense of anxiety about humanity’s increasingly discordant relationship with the environment and increasing loss of feelings of authenticity and spirituality. The political and social problems also influenced the architecture.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Friedrichstraße Skyscraper Project, Berlin-Mitte, 1921
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Friedrichstraße Skyscraper Project, Berlin-Mitte, 1921.

Image source: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-arthistory/chapter/modern-architecture/

Expressionism Features

It is through this concern for intensive expression that individual styles generally gained the mark of Expressionism. Here are the main features of an Impressionist artist:

  • Conception of architecture as a work of art;
  • Distortion of form for an emotional effect;
  • Themes of natural romantic phenomena;
  • Uses creative potential of artisan craftsmanship.
Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Hafenbahn im Winter, 1906.
Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Hafenbahn im Winter, 1906.

Image source: https://www.christies.com/features/German-Expressionism-an-essential-guide-8874-1.aspx 

Erich Mendelson

Erich Mendelson was a German architect and a pioneer of modern design. Starting with a sculptural and emotional approach, he became more closer to the International Style. He is well known for his Expressionist architecture in the 1920s, as well as for including dynamism in his works for department stores and cinemas.

Erich Mendelsohn, portrait.

Image source: https://www.pinterest.it/pin/464152305337464930/

Einstein Tower, Potsdam,  Germany (1924), Mendelshon
Einstein Tower, Potsdam,  Germany (1924), Mendelshon.

Image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torre_Einstein

Expressionist Painting

Impressionist painters sought only to depict nature expressing their feelings about what they saw. It was a  more individual, personal kind of art. The roots of Expressionist art can be traced back to the wonderful landscapes by Turner.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Stormy Sea with Blazing Wreck, c.1835–40.
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Stormy Sea with Blazing Wreck, c.1835–40.

Image source: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-stormy-sea-with-blazing-wreck-n04658

The Scream, by Munch is an autobiographical experience of a scream piercing through nature while on a walk. His mind was not in a normal state, Munch depicts a style that can destroy human being. The continuous curves of art nouveau tell a subjective linear fusion obliged upon nature. But man is part of nature, and absorption into such a totality liquidates the individual.

The scream, Edward Munch, 1893.
The scream, Edward Munch, 1893.

Image source: https://www.edvardmunch.org/the-scream.jsp

Expressionist Cinema

Expressionist films were born out of Germany’s isolation. The films’ were approved by an international audience. Many European producers had begun trying the absurd and unique aesthetics of German cinema. Expressionist films wanted to convey the inner experience of its subjects. Here are famous examples:

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) directed by Fritz Lang;
  • Nosferatu (1922) directed by  Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau;
  • Metropolis (1926) directed by Fritz Lang.
    Original 1927 theatrical release poster.
    Original 1927 theatrical release poster.

    Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/84568447@N00/38344371834

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Expressionism

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