people, terms, and concepts: Expressionism, social criticism, primitivism, the apocalypse (apocalyptic imagery), the Epoch of the Great Spiritual, color vibrations
This topic examines how early-twentieth century artists developed formal tools to intensify their emotional expression and use their works for social criticism.
• What is the difference between modern Expressionism and expression in art before the Modern period? (For example, what is the difference between Caravaggio’s approach to expression and Munch’s?)
• What are the two main things that early-twentieth century Expressionist artists tended to express? Where have we seen these themes before in the nineteenth century?
• For all the works below, be able to say what the artist is trying to express and how the artist uses form (color, line, brushwork, space, etc.) to express that content more powerfully than s/he could using traditional naturalism.
Paula Modersohn-Becker, Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace, German Expressionism, 1906
What is Modersohn-Becker trying to express here? How is that content relevant to the work’s context? How does she use form as well as subject matter to express this content?
Kandinsky, Improvisation no. 28 (second version), Russian Expressionism, 1912
How do Kandinsky’s paintings of the 1910s illustrate the apocalypse and help lead humankind to the new Epoch of the Great Spiritual? What apocalyptic subject matter is (barely) visible here? Why does Kandinsky go abstract and primarily use ‘color vibrations’ to express his spiritual content?
Kirchner, Street: Berlin, German Expressionism, 1913
What is Kirchner trying to express here? How is that content relevant to the work’s context? How does he use form (color, line, brushwork, space, etc.) to express this content more powerfully than he could using traditional naturalism?
Munch, The Scream, Norwegian Expressionism, 1893
What is Munch trying to express here? How does he use form (color, line, brushwork, space, etc.) to express this feeling more powerfully than he could using traditional naturalism?