( Originally Published 1955 )
A type of painting, sculpture or graphic art in which the artist tries through suggestive distortion of form, color, space and other naturalistic qualities to destroy the external reality of a given situation and get at its "truth" or emotional essence. It is not descriptive or visual but analytical and internal, intended to penetrate the form or object so that the artist can lose himself in it and thus identify with something greater or more powerful than himself. This projection may take the form of identification with the vastness of nature, a city, God, some monstrous being, a kindly animal or a simple peasant. Unlike the Impressionist with his interest in light and movement for their own sake, the Expressionist uses light for the sake of drama and to penetrate form, while movement serves to create emotional projection and a sensation of violence. Basically, then, Expressionism is emotive and soulsearching where Impressionism and Cubism are either descriptive or analytical. It is primarily a Central European movement emerging from Germany and Austria, but there are many non-Germanic Expressionists, e.g., Rouault. There are three basic types of Expressionism: the Brucke formulation stemming from Van Gogh, African sculpture and Fauvism which results in distorted but still representational and tangible forms; the Blue Rider or abstract variety, which stems more from Gauguin, Delaunay and folk art and results in a rhythmic, even musical expression in which form penetrates form and color penetrates color; and the Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, which is representational but very intense in mood and clinical in detail. The Brucke artists include Kirchner, Nolde, Pechstein, Mueller, Schmidt-Rottluff; the Blue Rider group gives us Marc, Kandinsky, Klee, Campendonk, Jawlensky and, in certain respects, Feininger, among others; in the New Objectivity category are Otto Dix, George Grosz, the early Max Beckmann, and a number of lesser figures. Independent figurative or representational Expressionists in Germany and Austria include Kokoschka, Klimt, Modersohn-Becker, and many others. Outside of this geographical area we find Rouault, Soutine, and Edvard Munch; the latter, along with Ensor and Hodler, marks the transition between Symbolism and Expressionism. Still another movement, known as Abstract Expressionism, has recently arisen in the United States; it may be described as a combination of Expressionism and Surrealism in their abstract forms with a touch of Dada. It includes Pollock, Gorky and a good many more.