The last decades of the 19th century and the early 20th century were prolific in artistic movements.
As realistic painting became more distant, new art movements known as avant-gardes emerged during those years. Among them, we find Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Dadaism, and Expressionism, which is the movement we're here to talk about on our Canvas by Numbers blog.
Characteristics of Expressionist Painting
While Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, known for "The Scream," is considered the precursor of Expressionist painting, the movement itself originated in Germany in the early 20th century.
Like other artistic currents, Expressionism was heavily influenced by the historical pessimism of the time: alienation, mass culture, the darker side of modernization, and, of course, World War I and the interwar period.
Expressionist artists, dominated by existential anguish, sought to capture the subjective and distorted reality, delving deep into the individual's emotions.
Expressionist paintings reflected the inner tragedy of the artist, conveying this conflict through a bold color palette and distorted brushstrokes.
Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter
One cannot discuss German Expressionism without mentioning two movements: Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter.
Die Brücke (The Bridge)
This group was founded in 1905 in the German city of Dresden. Their intention was to lay the foundations of the artistic movement that would later be known as Expressionist painting.
Die Brücke members were influenced by German Gothic art, African art, and Russian literature, and their preferred theme was nature, represented instinctively and spontaneously. These Expressionists were contemporaries of the French Fauvists and shared their rejection of Impressionism and Realism, although not their artistic purpose.
Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)
Born in Munich in 1911, Der Blaue Reiter shared with the previous group their opposition to Impressionism and positivism. However, they distinguished themselves with a strong spiritualism and a preference for abstract forms since, for them, it was the viewer who gave meaning to the artwork.
The group disbanded after World War I (1914-1918) due to the death of some of its members in the conflict.
Prominent Expressionist Painters
Although Expressionism was a diverse movement, all its artists shared the subjective distortion of reality as a way to reflect their existential anguish. Therefore, the most representative painters of the movement include:
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Kirchner was the founding figure of the Die Brücke movement, and his work evolved towards nude figures and the representation of Berlin city life. His expressionist style was characterized by arbitrary use of color and strong simplification.
The paintings of Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky featured a wide range of colors and harmonious geometry. He led the Der Blaue Reiter group, and his most famous work is "Houses in Munich."
Münter, who had a relationship with Kandinsky, created several emotionally charged expressionist landscapes. Her works are characterized by bright and clear colors, as well as simple lines.
Franz Marc, a member of Der Blaue Reiter, is considered one of the foremost representatives of German Expressionism. Unfortunately, he died while fighting on the French front during World War I.
Marc's artworks consist of colorful portraits of animals, filled with emotion and symbolism. Two of his most well-known paintings are "The Blue Horse" and "The Yellow Cow," representing masculinity and femininity, respectively.
Would you like to paint an Expressionist artwork?
At Canvas by Numbers, we are driven by the desire to see how people with no painting experience can create a masterpiece with their own hands. That's why we use the paint-by-numbers system: a canvas with the design divided into numbered sections and a painting kit with all the necessary materials, so you only need to apply the indicated color to the corresponding section.
Take a look at our selection of Expressionist paintings, click on your favorite, and get started!