In This posting I am going to be discussing the revolutionary art of Expressionism which emerged in Germany at the beginning of the 20th Century. There are certain similarities with Cubism elongated figures sharp triangular forms and a search away from representation to abstraction which would be achieved by Kandinsky and others.
Norbert Wolf in his description of Expressionism highlights the contribution of Erich Heckel who did much to help the group financially. In Pechstein asleep of 1910 he displays the art of Expressionism.
” Erich Heckel tended more strongly in sentimentality and melancholy than any other Brucke artist, in view of the Idyllic landscapes and human images that dominated his work”. .
” The Brushwork is no longer as furious as immediately after the founding of the Brucke in 1905 and in the following storm and stress period to 1909 instead the frontal figure is rendered in expressive flat-planers with intrinsic power and grandeur”..
Wolf continues to comment on Heckel’s D’Oeuvre .
” A general disciplining of Painterly means, a tectonic composition and striking figurative formulae now become Heckel’s prime aims”. .
” Emotional Expression continued to play a key role, but combined with well- considered rationally controlled form Heckel also addressed the problem of spatial depth in this period”. .
Wolf continues to explore the work of Heckel in the Painting the glass day of 1913.
” The fields of saturated colour were bounded by black contours , the figures simplified and cursorily reduced the prevailing mood carefree and reflecting the romantic yearning for a harmonious unity of man and nature”..
” For Heckel the year 1911 brought new insights , although the Female nude in the studio or outdoors remained his central theme , his approach to the subsequent works changed decisively under the influence of Cubism and futurism”. .
Wolf having suggested the influences of Cubism and futurism now discusses pictorial space the splitting and altering of shapes and forms which dominated Cezanne’s work as well as the Cubists.
” The Pictorial space suffused with brilliant light robs things of material mass , the colour range conveys an icy frozen glassy quasi spiritualised effect”..
Wolf now comes to discuss the driving force of the Die Brucke and that was Ernst Ludwig Kirchner a mesmeric painter who would lead the way into the development of expressionism with its altered indistinguishable shapes and abstract forms.
” He (Kirchner) was already intriqued with post-impressionism whikle still a student of Architecture in Dresden”..
Kirchner and the other Expressionists were amazed at the Fauvists who had a great impression on the young German artists who also used bright sharp colours but it was the great Post Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh who used a palette knife to paste paint on the canvass who was their greatest Influence.
” Now it was the agitated brushwork of Van Gogh that left a deep impression on the 4 ( Kirchner , Heckel Schmidtt- Rottluff and Beyl). In 1908-9 the Fauves electrified the young German artists above all Henri Matisse”. .
” Kirchner marvelled at Matisse’s brilliant flat-colour fields and began to adapt them to his own approach in untried experiments. in view of this involvement it becomes clear why Kirchner should have been primarily interested in the aesthetic decorative aspects of Matisse’s art”. .
Wolf shows how with Kirchner’s leadership of the group he was able to develop different styles.
” In the midst of the formal turbulence and agitation of the Brucke repertoire of which he was a pioneer Kirchner nevertheless continually concentrated on a stylisation of the Planar composition”. .
” The motifs are arranged on a diagonal , leading from the lower left to the upper right smooth homogenously opaque colour areas limited to a few intense hues including a dominant green and closed contours lend a graceful rhythm to the composition”. .
Wolf comments approvingly of the Potsdamer Platz which Kirchner painted during this famous period when he was painting with all the brilliance he could muster.
” The Monumental Potsdamer Platz is justly celebrated in art History as an illustrious icon of German big city expressionism”. .
” The combination of forms round and pointed posses clear sexual connotations. the street is suffused by a noxious green which as Roland Marx has aid fans out in a cold light bon a wet asphalt overflowing the banks between pavement and traffic Island”. .
Wolf describes his sojurn in Switzerland and the development of his art while he was there.
” In Switzerland his art developed from renderings of his forbidden Alpine realm in a monumental expressionist idiom to experiments in Cubist form inspired by Picasso”. .
“In a portrait of Rosa Schapiro of 1911 Schmidt- Rottluff was not only the youngest Brucke artist but the only one who retained the most autonomy during his membership of the Group”. .
In conclusion Norbert Wolf considers how Schmidt- Rottluff uses heavy impasto in all of his compositions.
” Schmidt-Rottluff’s beginnings around 1905 were marked by monumental impressionism rapidly executed in heavy Impasto with an excited expressive touch inspired by Van Gogh and often making use of the palette knife”. .
” The composition is half length format filling depiction of the artist’s friend seated in an Armchair. the predominant gradations and the green of the dress set a complementary contrast to and amplify the light red”. .
This concludes the first part of my exploration ionto the Expressionist artists of the Die Brucke group Ernst Ludwig Kirchner , Erich Heckel and Karl Schmiodt-Rotluff.
- EXPRESSIONISM:NORBERT WOLF TASCHEN BOOKS. PG.44