top of page

Why "Expressionism" Is Essential For Any Artist?

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

The term “expressionism” was adopted by Artists in the early 19th century to describe the deliberate distortion and exaggeration of forms for expressive effect in artworks. Also, the term was adopted by expressionists as a conscious declaration of their feelings and intentions in their artworks.

Prior to 1914, Expressionism was understood more or less as a synonym of Post-impressionism. The Post-impressionism movement was somehow the wave that carried the early trials of Expressionism.

The Post-impressionism movement was coined by British art critic Roger Fry to describe a group of mostly French artists including Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), Vincent van Gogh (1853–90), and Paul Gauguin (1848–1903).

The term Expressionism captured the essence of an entire generation of artists working to go further than Impressionism.

Why Painting In Expressionism Style Is Essential For Any Artist?

Expressionism is an artistic style in which the artist expresses not the objective reality but rather the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse within a person.

Although the Impressionists used to produce art related to the physical body, the artists of Expressionist paintings used paint to convey solely inner life.

Expressionists used jagged, distorted lines; rough, rapid brushwork; and jarring colors to depict urban street scenes and other contemporary subjects in crowded, agitated compositions notable for their instability and their emotionally charged atmosphere.

Expressionism as an art movement can be very broad and difficult to characterize. It spans different countries, mediums, movements, and periods.

As an artist the only rule while painting in Expressionism is to be yourself, The expressive painting process records the painting rituals as a part of the final artwork.

Expressionism art is as unique as the artist's soul is, Expressionism style is not aesthetic art but rather a tool of societal commentary that provided artists with the freedom they needed to speak up about social issues.

Expressionism enables Artists to represent the world more subjectively, often deforming subjects in perspective, color, and even texture.

Expressionism enables the artist's depictions to achieve more deep emotional effect. For artists and creators, personal perspective and feelings are more important than physical reality, and Art inspired by expressionism holds more power to move and challenge viewers.

Oil painting on canvas painted in expressionism style
Oil painting on canvas is painted in an expressionism style.

History Of Expressionism In The USA

Certainly, this was how the term Expressionism was used at the same time in the USA, most prominently by Chicago lawyer and art collector Arthur Jerome Eddy in his book "Cubists and Post-Impressionism" (1914).

"Cubists and Post-Impressionism" (1914) was a lengthy response to its author's experiences at the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art "Armory Show" which Arthur Jerome Eddy visited in New York and in Chicago, from The Armory Show Arthur Jerome Eddy purchased a total of 25 works.

"Cubists and Post-Impressionism" was an encomium to the “imaginative” and “expressive” art of Post-Impressionism.

Arthur Jerome Eddy focused particularly on the French artist Henri Matisse (1869–1954) and his fellow colorists, the so-called “Fauves” who débuted to sensational reviews at the Salon d'Automne in Paris (1905),

Eddy also focused on the Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky (1866–1944), whom Eddy pronounced as one of the most promising practitioners of the new Expressionism style.

Among the Americans discussed in the "Cubists and Post-Impressionism" book were those he termed “Virile-Impressionists,” including Robert Henri and Leon Kroll (1884–1974).

Widespread interest in Matisse was due in part to the friendship and patronage of American expatriates Gertrude and Leo Stein. Importantly, Matisse's Paris Academy (active 1907–11) was a popular choice for Americans studying abroad.

Also, Matisse and Kandinsky had their admirers in the circle surrounding the New York photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz introduced Matisse and Cézanne to New York through exhibitions held in 1908 and 1910, respectively.

Expressionism gained a new resonance in the middle decades of the 20th century as the umbrella term for any more emotional alternative to Cubist-inspired abstraction.

At its beginnings, Expressionism was declared as a specifically German phenomenon. Thanks to the efforts of émigré art dealers including Galka Scheyer, who from 1924 introduced American collectors on the East and West coasts to the expressive “Blue Four” Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee (1879–1940), Alexei Jawlensky (1864–1941) and Kandinsky.

In 1939, James S. Plaut, director of Boston's Institute of Modern Art, organized the exhibition "German Contemporary Art", a pointed response to the anti-modernism of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

Plaut featured the work of the former Fauve Georges Rouault (1871–1958) at the Institute in 1940, forging new links in the popular imagination between this French artist and the tradition of German Expressionism.

Major German Expressionists were also in residence in the USA during the 1940s, George Grosz (1893–1959) had been in New York since 1932, he returned to Berlin in 1959, where he died a short time later; Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980) took the occasion of the 1948 show of his work organized by Plaut for the Boston Institute to tour the USA; Max Beckmann (1884–1950) served on the faculty at Washington University in St Louis for the three years prior to his death in 1950.

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) had mounted one of the first American exhibitions of German painting and sculpture in 1931, but its director, Alfred H. Barr Jr., was having stronger tendencies to full abstraction than figurative expressive paintings.

The Californian art critic Sheldon Warren Cheney (June 29, 1886 – October 10, 1980) in his books "A Primer of Modern Art" (1924) and "Expressionism in Art" (1934) described Expressionism as a pictorial arrangement determined by original feeling rather than the imitative rule and that Expressionism was the defining characteristic of modern art.

According to Sheldon Cheney, the mark of Expressionism in modern art was the artist's interest in creating dynamic, rhythmic compositions.

Expressionism as Cheney thought implied rapid movement into deep space matched by an equally abrupt return to the surface of the picture plane. This could be achieved through superimposition of forms, exaggeration of perspective, “tension of volumes” and effects of color and texture.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page