Overview of Expressionism

Overview of Expressionism

Top 5 Expressionists with a Brief Overview of Expressionism

Expressionism is one of the most innovative, evocative, and powerful artistic movements known to man. Rooted in Symbolism, Fauvism, and Post-Impressionism, Expressionism is an international tendency considered rather incoherent as an art movement.

Its influence was particularly notable at the beginning of the twentieth century and gained attention through its strong colors, thick brush strokes, and emotional angst conveyed in images.

Expressionism refers to art in which the representation of reality is distorted to express an emotional experience. Colorful, bold brushstrokes and figurative subject matter characterize expressionism—which is directly opposed to impressionism.

Top 5 Expressionism Artists

Combining the objective with the subjective, Expressionism paints a large swath of feelings into its depictions. It’s an art to embrace the emotions and forge ahead.

Many artists, known as Expressionists, have embraced Expressionism techniques in their work, heightening their emotional responses to subject matter in favor of presenting a strictly objective interpretation. They are associated with using artificial color palettes, energetic brushstrokes, and exaggerated textures in their works.

Let’s have a look at the top 5 Expressionist artists whose work you will love to zoom into.

Jackson Pollock: The Face of Abstract Expressionism

Jackson Pollock is a major name in abstract expressionism and is known as the greatest painter alive during his lifetime. He created chaotic and intense smears of color with a drip technique- the extreme form of expressionism.

Pollock’s style involved the controlled use of randomness using techniques like dripping, pouring and splattering. Rather than working with a paintbrush to create his famous web-like patterns, he poured and spread the paint directly onto the canvas while it was on the floor. It was chaotic but never random! His paintings portray his emotional turbulence and anxious mind.

Image courtesy: A New Lease of Life for Jackson Pollock’s Mural | Apollo Magazine (apollo-magazine.com)

There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was. It was a fine compliment. Only he didn’t know it Jackson Pollock

Wassily Kandinsky: Founder of Der Blaue Reiter

Kandinsky was the most influential Russian artist to develop Expressionism, and he co-founded the Munich branch of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). World-renowned for his extraordinary abilities in color harmony, he had a physical sensitivity to specific colors, which he was able to both hear and see.

The style of Wassily Kandinsky’s work evolved to geometric and abstracted from realistic and organic. Kandinsky believed that color could be analyzed independently of any context or external references. This idea is at odds with the traditional theory that art must be figurative.

His painting of style shifted from impressionism to Expressionism which is visible in his painting ‘Blue Rider.’ It’s a beautiful combination of bold coloration, heavy impasto, and slightly rough brush strokes.

Image courtesy: Composition IV, 1911 – Wassily Kandinsky – WikiArt.org

Everything starts from a dot.

Mark Rothko: Creator of Blocks of Paint

Mark Rothko was one of the most famous abstract expressionists. Although he is often grouped with abstract expressionists, Mark Rothko’s style was much different. He would diffuse paint over his canvas instead of the gestural brushstrokes of the niche.

Rothko created large blocks of paint on top of each other and painted backdrops with bright colors that contrast. In his works, the artist has abandoned figurative forms in favor of large expanses of color. He wanted people to feel several emotions when they saw his work by translating their mood into the painting.

Hazy-colored squares and rectangles on large canvases express pure emotion; they envelop the viewer into an intense, sensory atmosphere. All his life, Rothko advocated for personal authenticity and social reform.

Image courtesy: Green and Maroon | The Phillips Collection

A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer

Edvard Munch: Creator of the ‘Scream’

Edvard Munch is a Norwegian painter, one of the most famous in history.  Although the subject matter of his work varies greatly, he is best known for his “Scream” painting which has become an icon of Expressionist art.

Munch is known for painting several essential paintings that expressed some of the most significant issues of his day, such as illness, sex, and religion. His experiences fueled his paintings. And, because of this, they also carried a specific power to help people deal with their own psychological or emotional situations. He was known for his use of intense colors, semi-abstract forms, and mysterious subject matter.

Image courtesy: The Scream, 1893 by Edvard Munch

The camera will never compete with the brush and palette until such time as photography can be taken to Heaven or Hell.

Clyfford Still: First-Generation Abstract Expressionist

Clyfford Still was one of the most influential modern abstract artists. He’s known for being one of the first artists to embrace non-representational artwork truly. Clyfford Still created work that blurred the line between abstract and figurative art. His ability to combine both influences set him apart from other artists in the New York School.

Clyfford created beautiful, huge color-field paintings that often depict nature. However, his relationship with the landscape is conflicted. Sometimes he dominates it through his work, and sometimes nature dominates him. The significant pieces of his later years are characterized by large expanses of intense color that contrast with more minor, low fields of color. He used this technique to express both the vitality and the mortality of all living things.

Image courtesy: Clyfford Still, PH-379 (1950-K-No. 1), 1950 · SFMOMA

I never wanted the color to be color. I never wanted the texture to be texture or images to become shapes. I wanted them all to fuse into a living spirit

The Bottom Line…

Art is never created in a vacuum. If you look at the artwork of any era, you will see that it is heavily influenced by the events and thoughts of that era. Expressionism was no different.

Comment ( 1 )

  • Varun

    Excellent article. Thank you

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