Lesson 29: Expressionist Art 

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


The period of expressionism and expressionist art flourished roughly between 1905 and 1940, primarily in Europe. The first adherents of this new art movement resided in Germany. Artists’ movements like Die Brücke from Dresden, Der Blaue Reiter from Munich, and the Bauhaus played a foundational role in expressionism. However, Paula Moderson-Becker (1876-1907) might be considered the very first expressionist. She is regarded as a precursor to expressionism with her remarkable paintings.

Zelfportret ter gelegenheid van mijn 6de trouwdag, uit 1906, van de kunstschilderes Paula Moderson-Becker. Het was de eerste keer in de kunstgeschiedenis dat een vrouw zichzelf naakt schilderde.
Image: Self-Portrait on My 6th Wedding Anniversary, painted on May 25, 1906, by the artist Paula Moderson-Becker. In reality, she was separated from her husband, the artist Otto Moderson (1865-1943), at that time. It was the first time in art history that a woman painted herself nude. She appears to have a swollen belly, as if pregnant, but she is not. Perhaps she was imagining what it was like to be pregnant? We do not know. Nevertheless, she places her hand protectively on her belly, a characteristic gesture of pregnant women. A recurring theme in her self-portraits is the amber necklaces she wears. According to the Roman poet Ovid, amber tears were from the gods. Much of her work was destroyed by the Nazis, who labeled her work as “Degenerate Art.” Unfortunately, Paula died at the age of 31 in childbirth. Her daughter survived.
Location: This painting is housed in the Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum on Böttcherstraße in the city center of Bremen, Germany. It was the first museum dedicated entirely to a female artist in 1927.

Die Brücke, Figurative Works with Color and Planes

The artists’ association Die Brücke was founded in 1905 in the German city of Dresden, with well-known representatives like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Otto Mueller (1874-1930), architect Frits Bleyl (1880-1966), Emil Nolde (1867-1956), and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976). They emphasized sharp juxtapositions of planes and color. However, they continued to work figuratively, although they distorted reality in their artworks. Their kinship with Fauvism is undeniable.

Groepsportret leden van kunstenaarsvereniging Die Brücke van Kirchner uit 1926-1927.
Image: Group portrait of the expressionist artists’ association Die Brücke, painted in 1926-1927. In this painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, from left to right, are the painter and lithographer Otto Mueller, the painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, the woodcut artist and painter Erich Heckel, and the painter Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.
Location: This painting by Kirchner is displayed at the Museum Ludwig in the German city of Cologne. This museum of modern art is located behind Cologne Cathedral, near the Rhine River and the central train station.

This was well reflected in their woodcuts, which sharply depicted their figures in black and white contrasts on paper.

Twee gewonde mannen, van Erich Heckel uit 1915. Heckel werkte tijdens WO1 bij het Rode Kruis.
Image: “Two wounded men”, by Erich Heckel, from 1915. Heckel served in the medical corps of the Red Cross in Belgium during World War I, including in Ostend where he created this woodcut. He made many woodcuts of wounded sailors and soldiers whom he cared for. The sharp contrasts between white and black are characteristic of the woodcuts of the Die Brücke artists’ association.
Location: The depicted woodcut is in the possession of a private collector.

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