Artist research: The Fauvist movement and German Expressionism

Updated on 22 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and some contents).

17 November 2016. The period of Fauvism (The Art Story, n.d.(a)) was a brief interlude in the history of painting, lasting a mere nine years between 1899 and 1908. Initially inspired by (post)-Impressionist painters Van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin and Cézanne, pupils of symbolist painter Gustave Moreau established a group following common interests led by Henri Matisse. Their main interest was in using intense and pure colour in the transportation of emotion while ignoring aspects of perspective and thus proved groundbreaking for the emergence of Expressionism and means of abstraction. Colour was no longer used in a purely representational way, but was chosen to transport emotion in an overall strong, balanced composition. The most influential work of art belonging to this period is “Le Bonheur de Vivre” by Henri Matisse (1869-1954, France) (The Barnes Foundation, 2017). Other well-known examples are “The Mountains at Collioure”painted by André Derain during a holiday with Matisse in 1905 (National Gallery of Art, 2017) or “Le Viaduc de l’Estaque” by Cubist-to-be Georges Braque (1882-1963, France) (video discussion by Harris and Zucker, n.d.).

Fauvism was to provide the initial spark also for German Expressionism, a movement lasting from 1905 until about 1937 (Museum of Modern Art, n.d.(a)). Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Wassily Kandinsky were some of the founding fathers of the movement, which emerged more or less simultaneously in Dresden and Munich (Encyclopaedia of Art History, n.d.). The members of the group shared a humanistic worldview and “ambivalent attitude towards modernity” (Museum of Modern Art (n.d.(a)), thus was not only an artistic endeavour like Fauvism: besides striving for a means of making visible the emotions felt by the artist while painting th emovement reflected an all-encompassing position borne by a number sub-movements (Encyclopaedia of Art History, n.d.) such as “Die Brücke”, “Der Blaue Reiter” and somewhat later “Die Neue Sachlichkeit” (Museum of Modern Art (n.d.(a)) within the 20th century. Over the many decades of its existence, a great number of artists were members of German Expressionism, who before that and/or after its end were representatives of other art movements as well. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), for example, was a founding member of the “Die Brücke” group (1905-1913) (The Art Story, n.d.(b)), which was pioneering in leading the development of painting in Germany towards Expressionism. A good example of Kirchner’s style is “Snow Over Davos” (Fig. 1).

kirchner_-_davos_im_schnee
Figure 1.Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: “Snow Over Davos”, n.d., ?. Source: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Among Kirchner’s “Die Brücke” colleagues were e.g. Erich Heckel (1883-1970), who contributed a large selection of prints (Museum of Modern Art, n.d.(b)) or Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), see e.g. “Village Square” painted in 1919 (The Athenaeum, n.d.). Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc were the pioneers of the loose “Blauer Reiter” group (The Art Story, n.d.(c)), which ended, when Marc and colleague August Macke died during World War I.
Fluctuation seems to have characterized the movement of German Expressionism overall, reflecting the troubled times in the first half of the 20th century. It was then only another cruel twist of fate that the movement as a whole should in the end fall victim to the Nazi regime, which in its notorious “degenerate art” campaign either destroyed or sold the works of art “in exchange for foreign currency”. The expulsion from the Prussian Academy of Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), one of the most influential formative forces of the humanistic momentum within German Expressionism (Awad, 2011), appears to mark the imminent end of “official” German Expressionism. Many artists either emigrated or decided to continue working in seclusion, thereby continuing to exert their influence on the development of painting either via non-public channels or else from outside Germany (Museum of Modern Art (n.d.(a)).

References:

Awad, P. (2011) Käthe Kollwitz and The German Expressionists [blog] [online]. Peter Awad, Tennessee, 8 May. Available at: http://perspectiveandstyle.blogspot.co.at/2011/05/kathe-kollwitz-and-german.html [Accessed 17 November 2016]

Collins, N. (n.d.) German Expressionism [online]. Visual Arts Encyclopedia, Cork. Available at: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/german-expressionism.htm [Accessed 17 November 2016]

Harris, B. and Zucker, S. (n.d.) Braque, The Viaduct at L’Estaque
[online]. Khan Academy. Available at: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/early-abstraction/cubism/v/braque-le-viaduc-l-estaque-the-viaduct-at-l-estaque-1908 [Accessed 22 March 2017]

Kirchner, E.L. (n.d.) Snow over Davos [repro from art book] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kirchner_-_Davos_im_Schnee.jpg [Accessed 22 March 2017]

Museum of Modern Art (n.d.(a)) German Expressionism [online]. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Available at: https://www.moma.org/s/ge/curated_ge/ [Accessed 17 November 2016]

Museum of Modern Art (n.d.(b)) Erich Heckel [image collection] [online]. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Available at: https://www.moma.org/artists/2569 [Accessed 17 November 2016]

National Gallery of Art (2017) Mountains at Collioure [online]. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Available at: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.61250.html [Accessed 22 March 2017]

The Art Story (n.d.(a)) Fauvism [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-fauvism.htm [Accessed 17 November 2016]

The Art Story (n.d.(b)) Die Brücke [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-die-brucke.htm [Accessed 17 November 2016]

The Art Story (n.d.(c)) Der Blaue Reiter [online]. The Art Story, New York. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-der-blaue-reiter.htm [Accessed 17 November 2016]

The Barnes Foundation (2017) Art Collection. Henri Matisse. Le Bonheur de Vivre [online]. The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. Available at: http://www.barnesfoundation.org/collections/art-collection/object/7199/le-bonheur-de-vivre-also-called-the-joy-of-life?searchTxt=Le+Bonheur+de+vivre&rNo=2 [Accessed 22 March 2017]

The Athenaeum (n.d.) Village Square. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff [online]. National Gallery, Prague. Available at: http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=65156 [Accessed 22 March 2017]

 

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