modernism in art

late impressionism through surrealism


readings day 1 (we'll cover Expressionism over 2 days, so I've divided the readings up approximately):

• review SH essay, Expression and modern art

• SH essay, Expressionism, an introduction

• YouTube video, Expressionism (Mary McConnell) -- start at minute 9:00

• SH essay, James Ensor, Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889

• YouTube video, Edward Munch - The Scream (1893)

• SH essay, Expressionism as Nordic?

readings day 2

• SH video, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street, Berlin

• SH essay, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Self-Portrait as a Soldier

• SH essay, Egon Schiele, Seated Male Nude

• SH essay, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Self-Portrait Nude with Amber Necklace

• review SH essay, Primitivism and modern art

• SH essay, Pablo Picasso, Guernica

key terms and concepts: expression as a mode of art (vs. formalism and realism), Expressionism as the art movement, Die Brücke as an Expressionist artist's group, expressive color (vs. decorative color and mimetic color), bourgeoisie (middle classes), proletariat (lower classes), social criticism, primitivism, woodcut printmaking

By now you should be pretty comfortable with the concepts of expression, realism, and formalism as modes of modernist art:  What is the primary aim of each?  How does each use the elements of art (line, shape, color, etc) to achieve its aim?  How does the viewer judge the success of works in each mode?  

The idea and practice of art as expression (with a lower-case ‘e’, meaning an intent to convey powerful emotions through art) stretches all the way back to Ancient times, but ‘modernist’ expressive artists became much more willing to depart from the visual appearances of things in pursuit of more powerful emotional effects.  Be able to analyze in some detail how any of the works below use formal elements (line, shape, brushwork, perspective, color, and so on) to make an emotional impact on viewers (i.e. to 'tell' them how to feel about the subject being represented).  

Expressionism (with a capital ‘E’) is also the name of a group of artistic movements, primarily in Germany, starting around 1905 and lasting well into the 30s and beyond.  The three main Expressionist art groups were Die Brücke, Worpswede, and Der Blaue Reiter. Why was Expressionism (and the emotional condition of angst) particularly associated with and embraced by Northern European artists, writers, film-makers, and philosophers?

Smarthistory pairs Expressionism with Fauvism (in its left-hand menu):  how is this justifiable?  On the other hand, how is Expressionism generally distinguishable from Fauvism?

How does Expressionism react to modernity and modern life (industrialization, technology, cities, capitalism, the bourgeoisie)? How can we see this in the two major themes of early-twentieth century Expressionism:  social criticism and primitivism?

Why do masks and prostitutes so often appear in Expressionist works?

How did the Expressionists, like Gauguin, embrace primitivism? Think about style and techniques (such as woodcut printing) as well as subject matter, and relate to context.

Although it dates much later than the works below, and although Picasso is primarily associated with Cubism, Guernica is one of the most famous examples of expressionist (with a lowercase ‘e’) art, so we also covered it here ....

Ensor, The Entry of Christ into Brussels in 1889, Symbolism/Expressionism, 1888

Munch, The Scream, Expressionism, 1893

Käthe Kollwitz, The Peasants' Revolt, from The Peasant's War print series, etching and drypoint, Expressionism, 1903

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace, Expressionism (Worpswede), 1906

Kirchner, Potsdam Square, Berlin, Expressionism (Die Brücke), 1914

Nolde, The Prophet (woodcut print), Expressionism (Die Brücke), 1913

Picasso, Guernica, Expressionism, 1937