Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Beard, Dorothea

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Art


Art; German--History; Expressionism (Art)


This paper is a study of some of the artists associated with the Expressionist movement in Germany. The early years of the twentieth century, usually felt to be the years between 1905 and 1918, were a time of change for artists. The artists in Germany no longer felt that the Impressionists' reflections of nature were enough. It became important to see behind nature, to look more deeply into man's soul. The Expressionists drew from many sources to develop their individual styles. The earliest of these sources was the Primitive art of Africa and Oceania which was being displayed in German museums. Their own German antecedents from the Medieval and Gothic periods had an effect on them also. Both the style and thematic content of Durer and Grunewald were influential. The Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch, along with Van Gogh and Gauguin, influenced the Expressionists regarding color, line and emotionalism. The Jugendstil, with its intricate designs caused some of the Expressionists to adopt the decorative aspects of that group. Other groups whose influences were felt were the Fauves and their use of color and the Cubists and their breaking up of space and faceting. Preceding the formal organizations of Expressionist artists were several independent artists. Among this group were Paula Modersohn-Becker, Christian Rohlfs, Erich Heckel, and Emil Nolde. These people were among the first in the art world to become involved with the human condition and express themselves emotionally. Their work lost the objectivity of earlier periods. Their themes were subjects that would continue to reappear in Expressionist work: religion, nature, and man. The organization of Die Brucke saw the first formal group whose sole intent was to work at their art, to change the world, and to help and encourage each other. Almost a communal life style, the artists of the Brucke were closer than any other group of Expressionist artists. Organized primarily by Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, they took upon themselves the job of making art a tool of social criticism. Through their simple, primitive woodcuts they produced a strong, severe, and angular style. Their painting incorporated the colors of the Fauves and their own predecessors. The combination of harsh, brutal color and angular lines became a vehicle for their emotional expression. With the publication of their Almanac in 1912, the founding of Der Blaue Reiter was official. This group, begun by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky, included August Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky, Gabriele Munter, and Paul Klee. Not as closely knit a group as Die Brucke, Der Blaue Reiter was more concerned with publicizing their work, and explaining it to the world. Their writings are numerous and give an insight into their philosophies, which is lacking in other periods. In addition to the usual influences, children's art played an important part in influencing the style of Der Blaue Reiter artists. Their subject matter included animals, people, architecture, and nature. It was with this group that abstraction began. Through the work of Kandinsky the first non-objective paintings were created. The German Expressionists took much in style and technique from earlier ages, but gave much on their own. Through the work of these artists we gained an emotionally based work, no longer reliant on nature or the realistic reproduction of scenes. Their work is lively, exciting, colorful and spontaneous. Perhaps it is art for art's sake for the first time. The yearning for the -unattainable, the primitivism and mysticism all added to the importance of Expressionist art then and now.


Includes bibliographical references.


120 pages




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