Expressionism first came about in poetry and painting, and was first noticed in Germany around the start of the 20th century. It’s a thoroughly modern movement, and the aim of the movement in all its forms is to present the world from a subjective perspective. This means that the point of view in expressionistic art is entirely subjective, and often distorts reality to suit the wishes of the abstract Expressionist artist. The movement is also heavily dominated by emotional output. The creative response is therefore often viewed as being tied to the artist’s emotional state.
The form became popular in Germany, and has particularly strong links to Berlin. Overall, German Expressionism art has a general feeling of anxiety and despair around much of the work.
Many sculptors use the style, for example one famous sculptor involved in the movement was Ernst Barlach. The movement even spread into the cinema, especially just before the First World War. The expressionist style was obvious in movies such as Nosferatu, Metropolis and The Last Laugh. This Expressionist mood has also been noticed in contemporary movies, such as much of David Lynch’s work.
Expressionism is said to have been created as a reaction to the dehumanising effect of industrialisation. This hints at the subjectivity of the specialist movement. Essentially, abstract Expressionist artists rejected realism. Emotions and responses to the environment characterise all aspects of Expressionist work.
With the style originating in the early 20th century, there was a huge explosion of Expressionist artists using the visual form. These included many famous names, some of which have come to be iconic including Edvard Munch.
For example, Kandinsky is generally seen as an Expressionist artist. Another famous Expressionist artist from the United Kingdom was Francis Bacon, who, alongside Lucien Freud, is seen as a leading light of the specialist arena. These were mainly abstract expressionist artists.