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Entries in German Expressionism (5)


Karl Schmidt-Rottluff: Boldly Dissonant Colors

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff - Houses at Night - 1912 - Oil on canvas - 37 5/8 x 34 1/2" (95.6 x 87.4 cm) - Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (click photo for larger image)German Expressionist painter Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976) was one of the founders of Die Brücke (The Bridge), the first phase of German Expressionism. 

The artists of Die Brücke typically preferred to portray scenes of urban life, but Schmidt-Rottluff is particularly known for his rural landscapes. Although he initially painted in an Impressionist style, his mature work is characterized by flat areas of boldly dissonant colors. In 1911 Schmidt-Rottluff, with his fellow Die Brücke members, moved to Berlin, where he painted works with more angular, geometric forms and distorted space, revealing his new interest in Cubism and African sculpture.

After WWI Schmidt-Rottluff became increasingly interested in religious themes. During the 1920s Schmidt-Rottluff’s work became more subdued and harmonious, losing much of its former vigor and integrity. When the Nazis gained power in Germany, he was forbidden to paint. After WWII he taught art and resumed painting, although he never regained the power of his early works.

To learn more about Schmidt-Rottluff and German Expressionism, take What About Art? founder Dr. Jill Kiefer’s class on Modern Movements, beginning Saturday May 1st at the Bethany Arts Community. You can learn more and register HERE.


Max Pechstein

Max Pechstein - Seated Nude - 1910 - Oil on canvas - Nationalgalerie, Berlin (click photo for larger image)Painter and printmaker Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955) is most known for his nudes and landscapes. Pechstein was a leading member of the first phase of German Expressionism known as Die Brücke (The Bridge). 

Earlier in his career he was working in an impressionist style. However, his association with the members of Die Brücke and his exposure to the works of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) led Pechstein to begin to use vigorous brush strokes and jarring combinations of unmixed colors. In 1908 Pechstein moved from Dresden to settle in Berlin, where he showed his work at the Berliner Sezession, an exhibiting society, the following year. In 1910 he became one of the founders of the Neue Sezession (“New Secession”), an association of artists who disagreed with the policies of the Sezession.

Pechstein was also a prolific printmaker, producing 421 lithographs, 315 woodcuts and linocuts, and 165 intaglio prints—primarily etchings. 

Pechstein was a professor at the Berlin Academy for ten years, as well, before his dismissal by the Nazis in 1933. He was reinstated in 1945, and subsequently won numerous titles and awards for his work.


Gabriele M√ľnter: Driven and Dedicated

Gabriel Münter - Portrait of a Young Woman, oil on canvas - 1909 - Milwaukee Art Museum (click photo for larger image)German Expressionist artist Gabriele Münter (1877-1962) was one of the founders in 1909 of the avant-garde artists’ group Neue Künstlervereinigung (“New Artists’ Association”) formed by Munich artists challenging the official art of the day. The artists in the group were united in their purpose, not in their style. In 1911 Münter joined Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) in leaving the group to form the rival association, Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), the second phase of German Expressionism, which reached its peak in Berlin, during the 1920s.

A student of Kandinsky, Münter fell in love with the painter and lived with him for more than a decade, during the period leading up to WWI. Münter exhibited paintings at the Blaue Reiter exhibitions of 1911 and 1912. While sharing the group’s characteristic intensity of color and expressiveness of line, her still life paintings, figures, and landscapes remained uniquely representational rather than abstract. The painting featured here is one of her more notable works.


Man and Beasts

Heinrich Campendonk - Man and Beasts amidst Nature - Oil on canvas. 95x65 cm - Germany. Between 1910 and 1924 - The Hermitage Museum (click photo for larger image)Heinrich Campendonk (1889-1957) was a Dutch painter of German birth. A member of the Blue Rider group of German Expressionists—Campendonk was one of those artists whose work was deemed “degenerate” when the Nazis rose to power. He relocated to the Netherlands and spent the remainder of his life working in Amsterdam.


Emil Nolde: The Power of Form Over Content

Emil Nolde - Crucifixion - 1912 - Oil on canvas - 220.5 x 193.5 cm - (87 x 76.2 in) - Nolde-Stiftung Seebull - Berlin, GermanyUnknown Master, Italian - Crucifix with the Stories of the Passion (detail) around 1200 - Tempera on wood - Galleria degli Uffizi, FlorenceThe power of form over content, of abstraction and of symbolism are all evident in this intense work by German Expressionist, Emil Nolde (1867-1956). We don’t have nearly the amount of fine detail. There is no city behind, no angels, no linear or atmospheric perspective. Yet, arguably, this scene is much more potent. The anguish we see on Nolde’s version of Christ is palpable. The other figures are simplified and  mask like  - I think this actually makes them more relatable as it reminds us of the masks we all wear. We could go on and on discussing how ‘form’ here takes precedent over the ‘content.’ In other words, it is not what Nolde shows, but how he shows it that causes us to react emotionally. Often compared with Renaissance works, this is actually much more medieval in style. If we look at the “Crucifix with Stories of the Passion” detail below--the similarity is marked, as is the effect.