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German Expressionism

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GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM STYLES: EARLY INFLUENCES

Early Influences

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Another key influence came from the abstracting tendencies of the bold, poster-like forms and flat patterning in Art Nouveau or Jugendstil (literally, the “young style”) design. Many Expressionists experimented with that style very early in their careers and used it as a springboard toward their own boldly flattened but more jarringly distorted and emotionally provocative style.
Although the Expressionists rejected the moribund, state-sanctioned stylistic conventions and subjects that dominated German visual culture at the turn of the 20th century, they did take inspiration from several more avant-garde trends of the previous generation. In addition to the formative influence of the boldly colorful, inward-looking approach pioneered in the 1890s by European Post-Impressionists such as the French artist Paul Gauguin, the Dutch Vincent van Gogh, and the Norwegian Edvard Munch, the example of several German and Austrian artists helped pave the way for the Expressionists. Max Klinger, for example, played a crucial role by emphasizing the suitability of black-and-white printmaking for exploring the darker side of life and artistic imagination.
<i>Going Under</i>

Max Klinger

Going Under

1884

For Klinger, black-and-white printmaking was an ideal medium for exploring what he called the "dark side of life." Here, he imagines the final moments of a woman who can see no other option but suicide. Klinger's emphasis on elemental and psychological themes had a profound influence on the Expressionist generation that followed him in Germany.
<i>March of the Weavers</i>

Käthe Kollwitz

March of the Weavers

(1893–1897, published c. 1931)

This etching, from her cycle Weaver's Revolt, marks Kollwitz's early turn toward socially committed printmaking. The print is based on Gerhart Hauptmann's play The Weavers, about an uprising of oppressed workers in Silesia in 1844. Her later works addressed contemporary social issues without the historical veneer.
<i>Virgin in the Tree</i>

Paul Klee

Virgin in the Tree

1903

Klee's print expresses a yearning for social change and freedom from the stale conventions of academic art. Here, he offers a grotesque parody of idealized or allegorical female nudes, a theme beloved at state-sponsored academies and by middle-class philistines.
<i>From Grodek</i> from <i>Small Woodcuts</i>

Emil Orlik

From Grodek from Small Woodcuts

1920 (prints executed 1896-1899)

This woodcut shows two Jews in Grodek, a small town on the fringe of the Habsburg Monarchy and a place seemingly untouched by modernization. Orlik exhibited with the Vienna Secession, traveled to Japan, and then taught printmaking in Berlin. His students included George Grosz and Hannah Höch.
Bulldog Poster for the periodical <i>Simplicissimus</i>

Thomas Theodor Heine

Bulldog Poster for the periodical Simplicissimus

1896

The snarling bulldog in this advertising poster became the mascot for Simplicissimus, Wilhelmine Germany's leading humor magazine. Unfettered by bourgeois norms, Simplicissimus attacked the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of German society, thereby opening new possibilities for later artists.
<i>The Kiss</i> (plate, facing page 116) from the periodical <i>Pan</i>, vol. IV, no. 2 (Jul–Aug–Sept 1898)

Peter Behrens

The Kiss (plate, facing page 116) from the periodical Pan, vol. IV, no. 2 (Jul–Aug–Sept 1898)

(1898)

In this iconic image of Jugendstil design, two androgynous figures are locked in a timeless kiss amidst decorative whiplash swirls of hair.
Poster for the 1st Exhibition of the

Vasily Kandinsky

Poster for the 1st Exhibition of the "Phalanx"

(1901)

This poster, for an exhibition in Munich of the progressive Phalanx artists' group, demonstrates Kandinsky's masterful synthesis of the flattened, decorative Jugendstil approaches with Byzantine and Greco-Roman motifs and elegant typography. Kandinsky was a founding member of the Phalanx group, which organized 12 exhibitions of modern art between 1901 and 1904.
<i>The Night - Large Version</i>

Vasily Kandinsky

The Night - Large Version

(1903)

Woodcut helped reveal new spatial and conceptual possibilities to Kandinsky. This early example retains an illustrational quality derived from Jugendstil and Russian folk art, a quality he sometimes enhanced by printing jewel-like colors in conjunction with broad areas of black.
<i>Chestnut Tree in the Moonlight</i>

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Chestnut Tree in the Moonlight

(1904)

Early in his career, Kirchner was indebted to the evocative, nearly abstract flat planes of Symbolist painting and the decorative exuberance of Jugendstil design. Three nude, moonlit figures run in an energetic dance toward the trees, hinting at the themes that would play a central role in his oeuvre.
<i>The Park</i>

Gustav Klimt

The Park

1910 or earlier

A canopy of leaves fills almost the entire square-shaped canvas; only the trunks at the very bottom indicate that this is a landscape painting. Like the glittering tesserae of a Byzantine mosaic, leaves disintegrate on the flickering surface of this painting, creating a nearly unrecognizable scene of color. Klimt's rejection of naturalism and his creation of a new expressive vocabulary profoundly influenced Expressionists in Vienna.
<i>Rider and Sailboat</i> (postcard)

Oskar Kokoschka

Rider and Sailboat (postcard)

(1907)

Kokoschka evokes a faraway world of childlike wonder in this postcard, which combines the flattened planes and unconventional perspective of Jugendstil with brilliant colors based on central European peasant art. Soon thereafter, Kokoschka would reject charming decorative surfaces in favor of potently charged expression.
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