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Expressionism

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Denise K. McTighe

ASAG Journal

February 4, 2021

Expressionism (c.1905-1920) was a period of intense colors and abstraction where the artist’s psyche and emotional world was one of the major themes that exposed the existential angst humanity was experiencing with the world. The art was not to come directly from the artist’s psyche, as opposed to an external view of reality.

 

Let's learn about some artists and their work...

Egon Schiele Self-Portrait

Egon Schiele (1890 –1918) was an Austrian Expressionist painter. During his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Schiele became bored and disillusioned by the conservative and rigid approach of the institution and left to pursue his artistic visions in the unconventional.

He sought out the mentorship of Gustav Klimt, and soon after sinewy, defiant and writhing human forms began to emerge from his canvasses. These beguiling creatures are almost taunting the pursuit of perfection of the human form in art with their twisted limbs, raw sexuality and exaggerated emaciated proportions- becoming his own personal rebels. Just a few months after Klimt died of the Spanish Flu Schiele himself was also taken by this plague.

The 1912 Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant (oil and body colour on wood) is one of Egon Schiele’s most famous works (Fig 1). Despite his mistrust in the formal institution of art, the composition is of remarkable symmetry and balance, with the dark elements beautifully defined by the brighter background, and the strange beauty of the face accessorized by the sudden bursts of the red flowers adorning his figure.

Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant, !912(oil and body colour on wood) Vienna, Austria

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Fig 1. Self-Portrait with Physalis, 1912
Egon Schiele, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hermann Max Pechstein Self-Portrait with Pipe and Hat, 1918, Oil on Canvas

Hermann Max Pechstein-(1881-1855) was a German Expressionist and of the artist collective Die Brücke, the Berlin Sezession, the Neue Sezession (which he helped to found, along with Georg Tappert), and Der Blaue Reiter. He also published regularly in the art and literary weekly Der Sturm before the first world war. We see him in a self-portrait below (Fig 2).

Pechstein led an eventful life. After his forced departure in 1914 from the German occupied Palua Islands by the Japanese invasion of the region, he was then imprisoned by them at Nagusaki. After his release in 1915 he travelled throughout Asia and the US until he was drafted to the war by the German government, only to be returned to Berlin after he suffered a breakdown on the western front in 1917.His art was exhibited extensively throughout the 1920s. In 1932, Pechstein received the State Prize of the German Government.However due to his social and political commentary, the Nazis forced him to resign from his teaching position at the Berlin Academy in 1933, and removed over three hundred of his works from public collections, and forbade him to exhibit. Six of Pechstein’s paintings hung in the infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition of 1937.

During the final years of the Second World War, Pechstein was drafted into a labor detail and was held captive in Russia. Upon his release in 1945, he returned to Berlin, where he received a teaching post at its College of Free Arts.

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Fig 2. Self-Portrait with Pipe and Hat, 1918
Credit: Wikiart
https://www.wikiart.org/en/max-pechstein/self-portrait-with-pipe-and-hat-1918

'Love and Pain' aka 'Vampire' (1895) by Edvard Munch

'Love and Pain' aka 'Vampire' (1895)
Oil on Canvas
by Edvard Munch 🇳🇴

'Love and Pain' by Edvard Munch more commonly known as 'Vampire', deemed that by Polish poet and anarchist Stanislaw Przybyszewski, a central figure in Berlin’s artist circles, depicts a deeply melancholy and macabre embrace of a woman with flaming locks bent over a man in dark garbs (Fig 3). The pair are enveloped by a shadow and appear almost as one continuous form, with only the scarce illumination of skin and a pallid anonymous face, against the cavernous back drop. Although Munch perhaps painted it as an allegory for the trials and emotional revelations that love entails, many observers saw it as a vision of a vampire in mid feast. The most popular opinion is that the woman holds the title of the Vampire as she bends over the man teeth plunging into his neck.

Munch made many creations of the work we now know as Vampire between 1893-95, with varying intensity of hues and brushstrokes, but it maintained the integrity and symmetry and with little deviation from the original composition.

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Fig 3. Love and Pain (1895) by Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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