The term "Expressionism" first emerged around 1910 as a way to classify new types of art that emphasized emotional impact over descriptive accuracy.

c. 1905 - 1914

Beginner's guide

Though many artists of the early twentieth century can accurately be called Expressionists, two groups that developed in Germany, Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), are among the best known and help to define the style.

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Nazi looting: Egon Schiele’s <em>Portrait of Wally</em>
Nazi looting: Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Wally

This portrait is one of thousands stolen by the Nazis, and its story shows that the madness didn’t end with WWII.

Expressionism, an introduction
Expressionism, an introduction

Not a term chosen by the artists, it describes art that emphasized the emotional impact over descriptive accuracy.

Vasily Kandinsky, <em>Klänge (Sounds)</em>
Vasily Kandinsky, Klänge (Sounds)

Kandinsky’s work of “total art” combines both abstract and representational images with rhythmic, mystical poetry.

Emil Nolde, <em>Young Couple</em>
Emil Nolde, Young Couple

In a series of multicolored prints, Nolde captured the awkward experience of watching a couple fight in public.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, <em>Street, Berlin</em>
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street, Berlin

Kirchner’s claustrophobic city scene reflects on a culture where everything is for sale.

Egon Schiele, <em>Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait)</em>
Egon Schiele, Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait)

The body’s expressive contortions reflect sculptural tradition, but Schiele used it to express the interior self.

Egon Schiele, <em>The Hermits</em>
Egon Schiele, The Hermits

Is Schiele’s haunted figure meant to be a famed Austrian artist or Jesus Christ—or both?

Alexej von Jawlensky, <em>Young Girl in a Flowered Hat</em>
Alexej von Jawlensky, Young Girl in a Flowered Hat

Jawlensky rejected the principles of his arts education in order to embrace Expressionism at its most extreme.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, <em>Street, Dresden</em>
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street, Dresden

Kirchner defines his city with only the figures: there is not a building in view.

Vasily Kandinsky, <em>Improvisation 28</em> (second version)
Vasily Kandinsky, Improvisation 28 (second version)

What would this painting sound like? Yes, you read that right – this canvas blurs the lines between senses.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, <em>Self-Portrait As a Soldier</em>
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Self-Portrait As a Soldier

Kirchner is rendered unable to create or destroy in this nightmarish wartime painting.

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