Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express meaning or emotional experience rather than physical reality.
Expressionism was developed as an avant-garde style before the First World War. It remained popular during the Weimar Republic, particularly in Berlin. The style extended to a wide range of the arts, including painting, literature, theatre, dance, film, architecture and music.
The term is sometimes suggestive of emotional angst. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias Grünewald and El Greco are sometimes termed expressionist, though in practice the term is applied mainly to 20th-century works. The Expressionist emphasis on individual perspective has been characterized as a reaction to positivism and other artistic styles such as Naturalism and Impressionism.
• Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
All his paintings are autobiographical. Emotional colours and brushwork. Distorted form and colour to convey inner feelings.
• Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Expert in the emotional use of colour in painting; but more Symbolist than Expressionist. Developed Synthetism and helped to develop Cloisonnism.
• Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
Neurotic Norwegian painter, emotionally scarred in early life. Most of his greatest works were completed before his nervous breakdown in 1908.
• Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)
Began as a Worpswede painter of sentimental rural scenes before developing her unique primitivist style of expressionist painting, notably portraiture.
• Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
Swiss symbolist painter often seen as a precursor of expressionist art.
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