Expressionist paintings are characterized by their raw emotionality, bold colors, and distorted renditions of real-life subject matter. The movement began in Germany during the early 20th Century and quickly spread across the rest of the western world. At a time when industrialization and urban life created, for many, a sense of angst and a loss of spiritual authenticity, the Expressionists sought to convey genuine emotional experience through their works. If you’re an admirer of expressionist paintings artists such as Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel, we invite you to explore the wide array of contemporary expressionist paintings for sale here on Saatchi Art.
Wassily Kandinsky is known for his color system, in which he assigned an emotion and musical note to each color. Abstract works like “Composition 6” (1913) and “On White II” (1923) were intended to be artistic compositions in terms of both painting and music. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a founder of The Bridge German Expressionist group, took a more figurative approach to the movement. He captured the frenzy of modern city life in intensely colored works like “Berlin Street Scene” (1913) and “Street Dresden” (1908). Other artists known for their expressionist paintings and artwork include Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Otto Dix, Franz Marc, Erich Heckel, Max Pechstein, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.
Expressionism originated in Germany and Austria at the turn of the 20th century. The style evolved as artists reacted to newfound industrialization and its dehumanizing effects in their works. Expressionist paintings are characterized by the intense personal emotions artists imbued in their works, be it through vibrant colors or warped, abstracted subjects. Two early artist groups are credited with founding the movement, though they did not associate themselves with the term ‘expressionism.’ In 1905, a group of German artists led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner formed a Die Brucke (The Bridge), an artist’s group that founded the German Expressionist movement. These artists were influenced by Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh, and African art. In 1911, another group of artist’s formed Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) . These groups aimed to depict their subjective, emotional responses rather than objective reality. Artists today continue to work in this tradition.
To create expressionist paintings, artists often incorporated symbols in their works and experimented with exaggerated colors and distorted forms. Arbitrary, clashing colors, intense hues, and organic lines were used to mirror inner emotions in these works. Wassily Kandinsky, for example, is known for assigning a different color to each emotion. In this visual language, red symbolized liveliness, strength, and joy, blue was used to evoke peacefulness, and yellow represented anger. Similarly, each color referred to a musical note. He sought to combine art and music to further express himself. His works were simultaneous symphonies of music and color. Kandinsky also utilized recurring motifs as symbols. His blue horse and rider, for example, represented a move away from realistic representation. Artists today continue to tap into their inner emotions, translating these feelings into vivid works.