#QuickBytes in Art: What is Expressionism?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, without access to the internet, there’s a good chance that you may have come across this painting online.

The Scream, Edvard Munch (1893)
Source: edvardmunch

Regarded as the father of Expressionism, this was one of Munch’s most popular paintings that eventually set the tenets of this art movement. Today, you’ll find this in memes, latte art and even your smartphones. You’ve probably used this painting without even knowing it! But more on that later.

QuickBytes in Art What is Expressionism - The Bimba BlogSource: twitter

What is Expressionism?

Expressionism is a modernist movement in the field of art and literature. Originated in Germany in the 20th century, it sought to present reality from a subjective perspective. It aimed at evoking certain emotions and moods by presenting the world in a distorted manner. Expressionists focused on articulating an emotional response to the world around them, rather than portraying physical reality.

Anxiety, Edvard Munch (1894) || QuickBytes in Art What is Expressionism - The Bimba BlogAnxiety, Edvard Munch (1894)
Source: wikipedia

It rejects the basic principles of realism which presents a truthful and detailed depiction of the physical world. This self expressive and highly personal style involves a deliberate distortion of reality, as compared to impressionist paintings where a lot of thought is put into form, colours and lighting.


The highlight of the 18th and 19th century was the rise of industrialization. This brought a revolution of sorts as industrial growth increased greatly. However, the working class people were subjected to long and strenuous hours of labour which impacted their health and personal relationships. Industrial revolution was notorious for reducing people to parts of a machine that worked together to feed the larger network of capitalism and materialism. 

The Munitions Girls, Alexander Stanhope Forbes (1918) || QuickBytes in Art What is Expressionism - The Bimba BlogThe Munitions Girls, Alexander Stanhope Forbes (1918)
Source: dailyartmagazine

Expressionism was born as a reaction to the dehumanizing effects of industrialization. The seeds were sown by 19th century artists like Edvard Munch, Vinvent Van Gogh and James Ensor, each developing a complex and personal style of painting. In 1905,
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner formed a group of artists called ‘The Bridge’ to reinvent German art by infusing it with the spontaneity of emotions.

What are the features of Expressionist artworks?

Expressionists used several techniques to evoke an emotional response from the viewer. Intense and shocking colours were used to express various emotions—fear, anxiety, stress, etc. The subjects were exaggerated and deliberately distorted to elicit an evocative response from the viewer. In contrast to the accuracy of realism, these paintings were created with rapid and loose brush strokes, supported by ragged and simple outlines. 

Famous Expressionist paintings

1.Lady in a Green Jacket, August Macke (1913)

QuickBytes in Art What is Expressionism - The Bimba Blog Source: commons

2. Nollendorfplatz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1912)

QuickBytes in Art What is Expressionism - The Bimba Blog

Source: wikipedia

3. Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), Wassily Kandinsky (1903)

4. The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

QuickBytes in Art What is Expressionism - The Bimba BlogSource: uk.phaidon

Trivia Corner

  • Several expressionists fled Germany during World War II.
  • The screaming emoji was inspired by Edvard Munch’s masterpiece.
    QuickBytes in Art What is Expressionism - The Bimba Blog

    Source: insider

  • The Starry Night by Van Gogh is a depiction of dawn from his asylum room at  Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in France. Astronomers have pinpointed that the position of stars and planets in the painting matches their actual position in the sky on that particular day.
  • Along with ‘The Bridge’, another group of expressionists called ‘The Blue Rider’ was also active in Germany. The group was named after Wassily Kandinsky’s eponymous painting. 
Explore artworks of renowned expressionist artists like Edvard Munch, Vincent Van Gogh and many more at https://thebimba.com/.
    - By Prakriti Bhat
    September 14, 2020 — Team Bimba