Expressionist Painters
Fauvists, Members of Die Brucke, Der Blaue Reiter, Ecole de Paris.

Pin it

Bedroom in Aintmillerstrasse (1909)
Lenbachhaus Gallery, Munich.
By Wassily Kandinsky. leader of
Der Blaue Reiter. One of the
greatest 20th century paintings
of the expressionist idiom.


Expressionist Painters (c.1880-1950)


Vigorous Style of Painting
Pioneers of Expressionism
Fauves (1905-1907)
Die Brucke (Bridge) Painters (1905-13)
Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) Painters (1911-14)
Die Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) Painters (1920s)
French Expressionists - Ecole de Paris (Paris School)
Austrian Expressionists
Belgium Expressionists
East European Artists
Russian Expressionists
History of Expressionist Painting (c.1880-1930)

Famous Paintings

Charing Cross Bridge (1906)
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
By the Fauvist painter Andre Derain.

The Old King (1937) Private Collection
By Georges Rouault of the Paris School.

Vigorous Style of Painting

One of the most evocative and vigorous styles of painting, Expressionism emerged in the 1900s - principally in Dresden, Munich and Paris, and flourished as a movement until about 1930. An aesthetic idiom until the outbreak of war in 1914, thereafter German Expressionism was also a major vehicle for protest, satire and anger. In general, in terms of painting style, expressionist painters rejected the aesthetic concerns of the Impressionists - about depiction of light, and the visual replication of nature - and sought to express their feelings about what they saw. Exaggeration or distortion of lines, forms, and colours were just some of the techniques used by expressionists to convey their emotions, anxieties or neuroses. The expressionist movement spread across all the arts, including sculpture, literature and cinema.

Many expressionist paintings - and their artists - were labelled degenerate art by the Nazis (1933-45).

For a quick reference guide,
see: 20th Century Painters.

For details of art movements
and styles, see: History of Art.
For the chronology and dates
of key events in the evolution
of visual arts around the world
see: History of Art Timeline.

For a list of the Top 10 painters/
sculptors: Best Artists of All Time.

For a list of masterpieces in
oils, watercolours, acrylics,
see: Greatest Modern Paintings.

Pioneers of Expressionism

Certain exponents of Post-Impressionism were key forerunners of Expressionism. They included:

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
All his paintings are autobiographical. Emotional colours and brushwork. Distorted form and colour to convey inner feelings. See his unique style of gestural expressionism at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and at the Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo.
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Expert in the emotional use of colour in painting; but more Symbolist than Expressionist. Developed Synthetism and helped to develop Cloisonnism.
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
Neurotic Norwegian painter, emotionally scarred in early life. Most of his greatest works were completed before his nervous breakdown in 1908.
Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)
Began as a Worpswede painter of sentimental rural scenes before developing her unique primitivist style of expressionist painting, notably portraiture.
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
Swiss symbolist painter often seen as a precursor of expressionist art.

Expressionist Groups

Fauvist Painters (1905-1907)

Fauvist painters were united by a desire to make colour an all-important theme of their painting. Fauvism was highly influential on other expressionist schools.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Leader of "Les Fauves". Separated colour from its traditional references and thus liberated its expressive force.
Andre Derain (1880-1954)
Used wide brush-strokes and a beautiful range of blues, greens and purples.
Othon Friesz (1879-1949)
Le Havre artist with loose, highly coloured style. Fauvism was his peak.
Albert Marquet (1875-1947)
Produced small-scale works with harmonious colour and lyrical qualities.
Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958)
Emotional, created great "fizz" from subtle mixes of red, blue, yellow, green.
Kees van Dongen (1877-1968)
Dutch-born painter active in France. Specialized in nudes and female portraits.
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
Combined clarity of line with vivid colour.
Charles Camoin (1879-1965)
Noted for a more subtle form of expressionism, verging on Impressionism.
Henri-Charles Manguin (1874-1949)
Produced some beautiful colourful still lifes and nudes, as well as landscapes.
Georges Braque (1882-1963)
Demonstrated great interest in the organization of forms.

Die Brucke (Bridge) (1905-13) Dresden

Pre-war group of German expressionist painters who shared a common studio in Dresden. Its painting was based on flat, linear, rhythmical expression, together with simple form and colour. Strongly influenced by Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Munch.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)
Leader of Die Brucke, a group inspired by Gauguin, Munch, Van Gogh and Primitive art. Like fauvism but more violently expressive.
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976)
One of the harshest of the German Expressionists. Deeply affected by Negro sculpture. Founder of Die Brucke along with Kirchner and Heckel. Noted also for his woodcuts, which are amongst the most outstanding examples of expressionist graphic art.
Erich Heckel (1883-1970)
German painter and graphic artist (woodcuts), noted for his expressionist introspection.
Emil Nolde (1867-1956)
Member of Die Brucke, also associated with Der Blaue Reiter. Founder of the revolutionary Neue Sezession. Ultimately a solitary artist.
Otto Mueller (1874-1930)
Silesian-born painter, close friend of Heckel, noted for his characteristic female nudes in landscape settings.
Max Pechstein (1881-1955)
Member of Die Brucke, had a raw, unsophisticated style, combined with a highly expressive use of colour and paint.

Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) (1911-14) Munich

Pre-war Munich-based group of German expressionist painters, with a fondness for horses, the colour blue, primitivism and the psychological effects of colour.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Russian artist, his early work was related to fauvism and the French Nabis. Icon-painting and Russian folk art were influences. Co-founder of Der Blaue Reiter, Munich 1911. With Jawlensky, was a founder member of the Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen (New Artists Association of Munich).
Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Russian painter, who, apart from Kandinsky, was the finest artist of the group. He combined elements of Russian icon painting and peasant art with the strong colours and outlines of the fauves to create a distinctive, mystical expressionism. Though he retained his typical Russian melancholy.
Franz Marc (1880-1916)
German expressionist painter, a founder of Der Blaue Reiter. Explored expressive values of colour, partly inspired by Delaunay's Orphism.
Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Member of Der Blaue Reiter, particularly noted for his colourist watercolours 1914-16.
Gabriele Munter (1877-1962)
German engraver and painter, Kandinsky's lover. Moved from Impressionism to Expressionism under the influence of Jawlensky and Van Gogh.
August Macke (1887-1914).
German painter, trained at Dusseldorf Academy and under the Impressionist (later Expressionist) Lovis Corinth (1858-1925). Founder member of Der Blaue Reiter with Kandinsky and Marc. Like Klee, his colouristic style was influenced by Delaunay and a trip to Tunis.
Heinrich Campendonk (1889-1957)
Dutch expressionist invited to Upper Bavaria by Macke; took part in the first Blaue Reiter exhibition in 1911. His fair-tale style was also influenced strongly by Marc Chagall (1887-1985).

Die Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) (1920s)

A post-war style of German expressionist painting which was detailed, highly realistic, often grotesque satires, often conveying disillusionment with 'official' values.

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Fascinated by ugliness, Dix exposed the immorality and corruption of Weimar Germany with bitingly satirical paintings.
George Grosz (1893-1959)
Painter and graphic artist. Founder member of Berlin Dada, and part of Die Neue Sachlichkeit. Renowned for his pen-and-ink drawings satirizing the war-profiteers and corrupt officials during and after World War I.
Christian Schad (1894-1982)
Member of Zurich Dada, noted for his photograms or Schadographs (Tristan Tzara). Specialized in chillingly decadent portraits and nudes.
Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
German painter, lithographer, woodcut artist; his early expressionist distortion gave way to a cold objectivity. Saw the city as the mirror of a trivial, petty and deeply decadent society. Noted for his expressionist portraits.
Conrad Felixmuller (1897-1977)
Eclectic, politically motivated expressionist, who enjoyed unmasking his subjects to show the reality beneath.
Rudolph Schlichter (1890-1955)
Joined Berlin Dada, then New Objectivity. Noted for his depictions of Berlin street life and Bohemian subcultures, including portraits, sensual violence and fetishes.
Albert Carel Willink (1900-83)
Dutch painter, futurist then expressionist. Noted for his New Objectivity portraiture, and his atmospheric subject paintings.

Lesser figures included: Heinrich Davringhausen (1894-1970) and Anton Raderscheidt (1892-1970) both of whom eventually turned to abstract art; Alexander Kanoldt (1881-1939); and Georg Scholz (1890-1945).

Expressionist Painters in France - Ecole de Paris (Paris School)

Frank Kupka (1871-1957)
Czech artist, member of Ecole de Paris; one of the first painters to produce abstract expressionist colourism; strong influence on Robert Delaunay and Orphism.
Georges Rouault (1871-1958)
Painter, stained glass artist, printmaker with a unique expressionist style. Avoiding the bright colours and typical subjects of the fauves, he chose instead to illustrate his hatred of cruelty and degradation by painting singular often outcast figures like clowns and prostitutes, using sombre but glowing colours. Explored all paint media, including gouache, watercolours and oils, as well as aquatints, ceramics, tapestry and stained glass.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
In effect, a lifelong expressionist across all media.
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Short-lived expressionist genius, famous for his primitive African-style shapes, exquisite nudes and perceptive portraiture.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Long-lived, prolific, highly versatile Russian Jewish artist. Like Picasso, he was a compulsive expressionist across almost all media.
Chaim Soutine (1893-1943)
Jewish-Russian expressionist painter, sometimes melancholic, sometimes intensely expressive and colourful. Closer to other isolated artists like Nolde and Kokoschka.

Austrian Expressionist Painters

Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980)
Viennese expressionist painter and loner, noted for his intense landscapes and original portraits. His tortuous lines and disintegrating forms lend his works a scary quality.
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Virtuoso draughtsman, specialized in powerful drawings and paintings of scrawny nudes, in pencil, gouache, watercolours and oils.

Belgium Expressionist Painters

Constant Permeke (1886-1952)
Noted for his paintings of fishermen, peasants and the rural landscape, which exude an emotional expressiveness alongside a monumental simplicity of form.
Gustave de Smet (1877-1943)
Noted for his rural scenes painted in a manner similar to child art, sometimes with a sense of unreality reminiscent of Chagall.

East European Expressionists

Expressionist artists from Eastern Europe included: the Czech painter and graphic artist Emil Filla (1882-1953), noted for his still lifes and Cubist-Expressionism; Bela Czobel (1883-1976) leader of the Hungarian avant-garde artist group known as The Eight; and the Polish Formist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (1885-1939).

Russian Expressionists

Although there was no 'official' expressionist movement in Russia, several Russian painters produced expressionist compositions and a number also exhibited with German and/or French artist groups in Munich, Berlin and Paris. As well as Kandinsky, leading Russian 'expressionists' included: David Burlyuk (1882-1967), Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), and Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964) - better known as the inventor of Rayonism.

• For more about expressionistic painters, see: Homepage.

© All rights reserved.