Expressionism: Term Definition

Expressionism (from expression – expressiveness) – a modernist flow in the West European art, mainly in Germany, the first third of 20th century, prevailing in the specific historical period – into the threshold of the First World War. The ideological basis of expressionism became an individualistic protest against the deformed world, the increasing alienation of the man from the world, a feeling of being without a home, collapse, disintegration of those beginnings, upon which, it seemed, so solidly settled the European culture. The attraction to mysticism and pessimism are characteristic of expressionists.

Artistic methods, characteristic for the expressionism: failure of the illusory space, a tendency toward the planar treatment of objects, the deformation of objects, love for the sharp colorful discords, special coloring, which includes apocalyptical dramatic nature. Artists perceived art as a method of the expression of emotions. In the atmosphere of universal dissatisfaction and uncertainty of tomorrow in Germany at the beginning of our century, expressionism -one of the most contradictory phenomena of European skill was conceived. It expressed the high fervency of the protest of the artist and his deep agitation and the appeal to the vital problems of the present.

This paper will show that the turn to expressionism as the dominant form of art in the modern age has its reasons found in a fundamental shift in the philosophical approaches to art in response to the modern age. This thesis is supported through the paper in demonstrating that the techniques, modes of interpretation, etc, all can be traced back to the basic philosophical principles introduced as a fundamental division point between the Post-Impressionists and Expressionists and the changes that attributed to Expressionism seen as a starting point.

Expressionism is characterized by the principle that comprises the subjective interpretation of reality, which prevailed above the world of the primary sensual emotions, as it was in the first modernist direction – impressionism.

For the expressionist, the “external impression” was displaced by the “expression”. The depiction of the visible was not excluded, but the “soul” must jubilate over the “substance”. Natural forms often were transferred into the rank of symbols; artists’ expressionists attempted to grasp no t only the outer aspect of phenomena, but also their essence. Hence is the tendency of the expressionism to the abstractness, the aggravated and emphasized emotionalism, the mysticism, the fantastic grotesque, and the tragedy. The art of expressionism was constrainedly socially-oriented since it was developed during shrill sociopolitical crises, the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the First World War.

However, it would be erroneous to think that expressionism is only an art movement. Expressionism was the extreme expression of the very essence of the time of those days, the quintessence of the ideology of the pre-war, military, and first postwar years when the entire culture on the eyes was shifted. This shift of cultural values reflected expressionism. Its almost main characteristic consisted in the fact that the object underwent special aesthetical impact, as a result of which the effect of precisely characteristic expressionist deformation was reached. The very important aspect in the object was maximally sharpened, as a result of which the effect of specific expressionist distortion was formed.

In my opinion, although this does not lie on the surface, the classical psychoanalysis of Freud was a phenomenon of expressionism. About this speaks the pathos of the deformation of initial “Victorian” ideas about the happy and cloudless childhood of a man, which Freud converted into the nightmarish sexual drama. In the spirit of expressionism lies the deepest peek into the human soul, in whom nothing bright is located; the gloomy study about the unconscious.