Read an Excerpt
German Expressionist Woodcuts
By Shane Weller
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1994 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE USE OF the term Expressionism to describe the artistic movement that flourished in Germany in the early years of the twentieth century seems to date from around 1911, although the movement was active earlier: Die Brücke (the bridge), an association of artists espousing the Expressionist ideal, was established in 1905 and held annual exhibitions until 1913.
Expressionism was in part a reaction against Impressionism's emphasis on atmospherics and surface appearances, and against academic painting's rigid technique, stressing instead the emotional state of the artist and subject (both in portraiture and landscape, the latter depicted through the technique of pathetic fallacy). To this the viewer was to add his own emotions, creating an experience rich in drama that conveyed the inner reality of the subject matter.
The Expressionists found their inspiration in ancient and modern sources: the work of such late Gothic artists as Dürer, Baldung, Cranach, Altdorfer and Grünewald and the work of van Gogh, Gauguin and the Pont-Aven School, Cézanne and Ensor and the appreciation of African and Oceanic art.
The movement was marked by a bewildering profusion of associations and publications. Along with Die Brücke there was Der Blaue Reiter (the blue rider), formed 1911, a close association of artists with little in the way of a specific program other than the desire to show together and a tendency toward abstraction. Other groups included the Berlin and Munich Secessions, the Red Group, the November Group and the New Artists' Association. Among the publications were Der Sturm (the storm), 1910–32, and Die Aktion. Many of these groups and publications had socialist or communist goals.
While the Expressionists produced canvases and sculptures of note, they are perhaps most famous for their graphics, especially their woodcuts. Germany had a brilliant heritage in the medium, which involves cutting a wooden plank on a plane parallel to the grain (as opposed to wood engraving, in which the design is cut across the grain). Modern woodcuts by Gauguin and Munch (who had turned to the medium in the 1890s) served as examples to the Expressionists of the raw, almost brutal effect that can be obtained from gouging the wood, providing a means of expression that suited their purposes perfectly.
A change occurred in Expressionism with World War I. The horror of the war left an indelible mark, and the chaotic years of the Weimar Republic (1919–33) introduced a sharply satirical tone in the work of many of the artists. New movements such as Neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity) and Dada arose, attracting many of the same artists who had participated in Expressionism. The rise to power of the Nazis, with their repressive artistic programs, put an end to the Expressionists' period of greatest productivity, although many continued their work until well after World War II.
Excerpted from German Expressionist Woodcuts by Shane Weller. Copyright © 1994 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.