Art History Lab

Capturing Emotion: The Legacy of German Expressionism Art

German Expressionism Art: A Brief History

Art has always been a medium of creative expression. Over the centuries, various art movements have emerged, each marking a significant milestone in the evolution of art history.

One such movement that became popular in the early 20th century was German Expressionism Art.

Origin and Characteristics of German Expressionism Art

The German Expressionism Art movement emerged during the early 20th century, in response to the growing interest in internal emotions and feelings. German Expressionists believed in imitating reality through simple forms, vivid colors, and expressive gestures.

They sought to evoke an emotional response from the viewer through their paintings. The defining characteristics of German Expressionism Art are the use of bold brushwork, simplified forms, and vivid colors.

The art form was heavily influenced by the works of Vincent Van Gogh, who used bright, bold colors to express his emotions. Other notable artists who influenced German Expressionism include Edvard Munch, who is famous for his painting “The Scream,” and Matthias Grunewald, a German religious artist who is considered to be the precursor of German Expressionism Art.

Evolution of German Expressionism Art

The principles of German Expressionism Art remained largely unchanged throughout its evolution. What changed, however, was the way in which the artists produced their artwork.

With the advent of new technology and mediums, German Expressionists began using new forms of expression to convey their message. In the mid-twentieth century, modern Expressionism emerged, which sought to refine the principles of German Expressionism even further.

Modern Expressionists used a variety of mediums to produce their works, including oil paint, printmaking, sculpture, and photography.

Pioneers of German Expressionism Art

The early pioneers of German Expressionism Art were Matthias Grunewald and the Worpswede Group.

Matthias Grunewald and Early Influences

Matthias Grunewald was a German religious artist during the Renaissance period. His works were highly emotional and focused on the passion of Christ.

Grunewald’s paintings were characterized by their intense colors, dramatic movements, and highly expressive rendering. Grunewald’s works heavily influenced the early Expressionists, who sought to mimic his use of color and emotion.

Vincent Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night” is said to be heavily influenced by Grunewald’s paintings. Another notable artist who was influenced by Grunewald was Edvard Munch.

Munch’s most famous painting, “The Scream,” is a powerful and emotional work that has become an icon of the Expressionist movement. Munch, like Grunewald, was highly focused on the emotional impact of his work and sought to convey that through his use of color and form.

Worpswede School and Other Notable Artists

The Worpswede Group was a collective of artists that formed in Germany in the early 20th century. The group focused on capturing the essence of the natural world and used a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, and printmaking, to convey their message.

Notable artists in the Worpswede Group included Otto Modersohn, Fritz Mackensen, Hans Ende, and Paula Modersohn-Becker. The group was heavily influenced by the works of Matthias Grunewald and sought to emulate his use of color and emotion.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck and Ernst Barlach were two other notable artists who played a significant role in the Expressionist movement. Both artists explored the human form in their work and sought to convey the emotional state of their subjects through their use of form and expression.

German neo-Expressionists emerged in the mid-twentieth century and sought to refine the principles of German Expressionism even further. Neo-Expressionists like Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer focused on incorporating German history and culture into their work.


German Expressionism Art emerged in the early 20th century as a response to the growing interest in internal emotions and feelings. The movement sought to imitate reality through simple forms, vivid colors, and expressive gestures.

Though the principles of German Expressionism Art remained largely unchanged throughout its evolution, its artists sought to refine their message through the use of new mediums and techniques. Today, the legacy of German Expressionism Art lives on through its continued influence on modern art movements.

German Expressionism was not confined to one particular art movement. Over the years, many artists in Germany embraced Expressionism and incorporated it into their work.

In this article, we will explore three German art movements that embraced Expressionism, as well as notable paintings from the era.

Die Brcke

Die Brcke (The Bridge) was an art movement that originated in Dresden in 1905. The group was founded by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, along with Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Emil Nolde, Erich Heckel, and Otto Mueller.

Together, they sought to revolutionize contemporary art by eschewing traditional academic training and embracing primitive art.

Die Brcke artists avoided painting classical subjects and instead chose to depict contemporary urbanscapes, which they believed were more representative of modern life. They used bright colors and thick brushstrokes to convey their message, and often drew inspiration from African, Oceanic, and tribal art.

One of the notable paintings from the

Die Brcke movement is “Street, Berlin,” by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The painting, completed in 1913, depicts a busy street in the heart of Berlin.

Kirchner uses bright, bold colors to convey the energy and chaos of the city, while thick brushstrokes and jagged lines add an element of tension and unease.

Der Blaue Reiter

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) was an art movement that originated in Munich in 1911. The group was founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, who sought to explore the spiritual qualities of art through symbolic representations of abstract forms and colors.

Der Blaue Reiter artists believed that art should transcend the physical world and convey a sense of the divine. They used color symbolism to evoke emotions in the viewer, with blue representing the spiritual and red representing the physical.

One of the notable paintings from the

Der Blaue Reiter movement is “Large Blue Horses” by Franz Marc. The painting, completed in 1911, depicts a herd of blue horses in a landscape.

Marc uses primary colors to convey the natural environment and the connection man has with nature.

Die Neue Sachlichkeit

Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity) was an art movement that emerged in Germany in the 1920s. The movement sought to depict the reality of post-war Germany, which was marked by political and social instability.

Artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement were interested in depicting everyday objects and people in a realistic manner, often highlighting the stark contrast between the splendor and squalor of the period. Notable artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement include George Grosz, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, and Christian Schad.

Their works reflected the struggles and sacrifices that German society made during the war and its aftermath. One of the notable paintings from the Neue Sachlichkeit movement is “The Artist’s Parents” by Max Beckmann.

The painting, completed in 1920, depicts Beckmann’s parents standing against a white wall in a sparsely furnished room. The painting is a study in contrasts, with the starkness of the room contrasting with the warmth and familiarity of the subjects.

Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat (1909) by Oskar Kokoschka

“Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat” is a famous wedding picture painted by Oskar Kokoschka in 1909. The painting depicts the newlywed couple in vibrant vitality.

Kokoschka’s use of bold colors and dynamic brushstrokes convey the excitement and admiration of the newlyweds for each other. The painting is an excellent example of Kokoschka’s Expressionist style and the movement’s use of vivid colors and bold brushwork.

Large Blue Horses (1911) by Franz Marc

“Large Blue Horses” is one of Franz Marc’s most famous paintings. The painting features a herd of blue horses in a natural setting, and it is a masterpiece of color symbolism.

Marc used primary colors to convey the emotional connection between man and nature. The blue color of the horses symbolizes the spiritual, while the earthly green of the background represents the natural environment.

Blue-Black Fox (1911) by Franz Marc

“Blue-Black Fox” is another well-known painting by Franz Marc. The painting features a fox in a natural setting and is a symbol of the innocence and beauty of nature.

The painting is an example of Marc’s use of symbolic presentation, where the fox represents the purity and innocence of animals and nature.

Trkisches Caf (1914) by August Macke

“Trkisches Caf” is a painting by August Macke, completed in 1914, depicting a vibrant, colorful scene from Tunis. Macke was influenced by

Die Brcke and the group’s use of bright colors.

In this painting, Macke combines his interest in North African culture with his love of painting interiors. The result is a vibrant and evocative representation of Tunisian life.

The Widow I (1921) by Kthe Kollwitz

“The Widow I” is a painting by Kthe Kollwitz. The painting, completed in 1921, depicts the emotional impact of World War I on German society.

The painting shows a mother, widowed by the war, comforting her children. The painting is an excellent example of Kollwitz’s Expressionist style and her focus on the emotional impact of societal sacrifices.

Fish Magic (1925) by Paul Klee

“Fish Magic” is a landscape painting by Paul Klee, completed in 1925. The painting features bright colors and a unique composition, with the fish becoming the focus of the painting.

Klee’s use of bright colors and unusual compositions made him one of the most innovative and influential artists of his time.

Breakfast of the Birds (1934) by Gabriele Mnter

“Breakfast of the Birds” is a painting by Gabriele Mnter, completed in 1934. The painting features an interior setting with birds eating from a bowl.

The painting is an excellent example of Mnter’s

Die Brcke style, with its focus on confinement, peace, and the use of vibrant colors to portray the freedom and beauty of nature.

Seated Girl (1920) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

“Seated Girl” is a painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, completed in 1920. The painting depicts an adolescent model sitting at a table.

The girl’s posture and psychological isolation are emphasized through Kirchner’s use of thick brushstrokes and muted colors. The painting is an excellent example of Kirchner’s Expressionist style and his focus on capturing the human form in a dynamic and emotional way.


German Expressionism Art remains one of the most important art movements of the 20th century. Artists of this movement embraced Expressionism in various forms and mediums, using their artistic voices to revolutionize contemporary art.

Through their use of color, brushwork, and symbolism, German Expressionists sought to evoke deep emotions and convey a sense of the divine. Their legacy continues to influence contemporary art to this day.

In conclusion, German Expressionism Art, encompassing various art movements such as

Die Brcke,

Der Blaue Reiter, and

Die Neue Sachlichkeit, played a crucial role in the evolution of 20th-century art. These movements embraced Expressionism through vibrant colors, bold brushwork, and symbolic representations, seeking to evoke deep emotions and explore the spiritual and societal aspects of humanity.

Notable paintings from this era, including works by Oskar Kokoschka, Franz Marc, August Macke, and Kthe Kollwitz, exemplify the power of German Expressionism in capturing the essence of human emotion and the tumultuous times in which these artists lived. German Expressionism’s influence on modern art cannot be overstated, and its legacy continues to inspire and shape artistic movements today.

The enduring significance of German Expressionism Art lies in its ability to elicit a profound emotional response from viewers and challenge the boundaries of traditional art forms, reminding us of the power and impact of artistic expression.

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