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American Drama 565

Expressionist Art Gallery

Expressionism in drama and art was a movement that offered a critique of modern decadence and rejected traditional methods of representing objective reality. Instead, expressionists exaggerated and distorted aspects of the outside world in order to "express" subjective moods and feelings. In other words, their landscapes and portraits were actually "mindscapes." In American drama, Eugene O'Neill, Elmer Rice, and Sophie Treadwell are noted for their expressionist plays. Thriving from about 1910 to 1925, expressionism continues to be an important influence on experimental theatre and art.

Here is more information on expressionism in the arts.

Dutch post-impressionist Vincent Van Gogh used vibrant colors and curving lines to convey the energy and intense emotion advocated by the later expressionist artists. They also admired the emotional impact of the serene colors and simplification of form in paintings by artists like German Paula Modersohn-Becker.

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(Left) Vincent Van Gogh, "Starry Night" 1889

(Right) Paula Modersohn-Becker, "Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace" 1906

Independent Expressionists:
Projecting existential anxieties into a blood-red landscape, "The Scream" (or "The Cry") by Norwegian Edvard Munch was an icon of the expressionist movement.


Edvard Munch, "The Scream" 1893

The prints by German Kathe Kollwitz express intense feelings about the horrors of war and the need for compassion and solidarity.

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Kathe Kollwitz, (left) "Widows and Orphans" 1919 and (right) "The Mothers" 1921/22


Kathe Kollwitz, "Self-Portrait with Hand on Forehead" 1910

Die Brucke (The Bridge):
This group of expressionists from Dresden, Germany often used angular distortions and color to suggest their aversion for modern, post-industrial society (Ernst Kirchner) or to convey their preference for a kind of primal innocence in nature (Otto Muller). They believed that their social criticism of the ugliness of modern life could act as a "bridge" to a new and better future. Hitler labeled these painters (including Grosz, below) "decadent" and banned them from German art galleries.

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(Left) Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, "Two Women in the Street" 1914

(Right) Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, "Self-Portrait as a Soldier" (Selbstbildnis als Soldat) 1915

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Otto Muller, (left) "Zwei Madchen in Grunen Um" 1925 and (right) "Gypsy Lovers"

Note: Muller's name, which in German has an umlaut over

the "u," is variously spelled in English as Muller or Mueller.

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider):
This group of expressionists from Munich, Germany and elsewhere in Europe used symbolic colors to suggest the spiritual transformation of modern society. The famous blue horses of Franz Marc (an animal lover) convey innocence and spirituality, the brownish colors an inwardness. Gabrielle Munter's portrait relies on similar colors and simplified shapes to express her subject's inner self. Russian Wassily Kandinsky's joyous paintings progressed from color-drenched landscapes to the nonobjective study of color itself, which made him an important forerunner of the World War II-era abstract expressionists.

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(Left) Franz Marc, "Two Horses" c. 1912 and (right) Gabriele Munter, " Young Polish Woman" 1909


Wassily Kandinsky, "Autumn in Bavaria" 1908


Wassily Kandinsky, "Farbstudie Quadrate" 1913

["Color Study--Squares with Concentric Rings"]

Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity or New Realism):
Appalled by the horrors of World War I and the economic depression and social dislocation in Germany, this group of expressionists like German Otto Dix painted shocking images of war atrocities. German artist George Grosz's simplified forms and colors express negative feelings about the decadence--prostitution, etc.--of urban life.


Otto Dix, "Lichtsignale" (The Flare) 1917

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Georg Grosz, (left) "Metropolis" 1917 and (right) "Lovesick Man" 1916

More Information on Expressionism in the Arts

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