Expressionism: the Art of Intensity and Emotion

Whether you know about art or not, there is a pictorial trend that for its simplicity, but also for its depth and beauty, you will surely love to contemplate. It is about Expressionism, a key artistic movement in history.


Art is wonderful: each work transmits a different magic, whether we are understood or not. Everyone has something to say to us and something to make us feel. Over the years there have been important artistic movements that have stood out for their beauty and among them is expressionism.

This current has left a strong and definite imprint. Its apparent simplicity is not incompatible with its depth and its visual beauty; In addition, this movement highlights something curious: its close link with intuition.

The peculiarity with which the artists of expressionism distorted reality is one of the factors that makes this an unparalleled current.

With this article we invite you to do with us a journey towards expressionism, giving way to a world full of colors and emotions. We show you here its origins, what it is about, what are its characteristics and some artists associated with this movement.

«Painting is a state of being; each artist paints what he is».

Jackson Pollock

What is expressionism about?

Expressionism is an avant-garde artistic and cultural movement that originated in Berlin in the 20th century and encompassed music, dance, theater, film, and literature, among other types of art. Although it began in Berlin, expressionist art was not exclusively located there: there are Nordic, French and Spanish expressionist art, among others. It is interesting to contemplate this form of creativity replicated in different places.

It is important to note that there is a great diversity of manifestations within this particular type of art. This is because each group and artist worked from their own perspective. Thus, we can observe from exaggeratedly colorful tendencies, to the most abstract forms of Expressionism.

To speak of expressionism is to speak of an art of renewal, intuition and emotion. Therefore, a great subjectivity is reflected in the works. In fact, unlike the Impressionists, Expressionists focus relatively little on reality.

Characteristics of expressionism

Like every artistic movement, expressionism has certain peculiarities. And, although they are difficult to establish because of the variety in the works, they can be recognized. We tell you some:

  • Deformation of the reality. They did not capture reality; They expressed what happened to them. It gave a more subjective vision and therefore more own.
  • Interior view. Artists were not based on the imitation of everyday life, rather they focused on what came from within; for that reason, it is an intuitive art.
  • Expression. Emphasis was placed on emotions and thoughts. A sample, therefore, of the nature of the human being.
  • Dramatic charge. The vital anguish of man is raised through its manifestations. Likewise, creation is approached from a critical position, with great intensity and with a certain pessimistic tinge.

The most important value in this movement is freedom of expression, but focused on emotions. Thus, the artist usually shows the viewer his feelings in a markedly intense way; he seeks to find himself with the deepest of himself, and he reflects it in his works in a beautiful effort of creativity.

However, the moments of tension that brought with it the political context in which this trend developed provoked a cry of protest in the population. For this reason, expressionists reflect a feeling of tears and frustration in their works.

Outstanding expressionists

There are several expressionist pictorial authors. We find, among others:

  • Otto Mueller. He was a Polish painter who joined the Expressionist group Die Brücke. He is known for his typical nude paintings. The Nazis considered his paintings degenerate, so they were confiscated.
  • Wasily Kandinsky. He is known for abstract art, in which the richness of color and simplification prevail.
  • Jackson Pollock. It was characterized by its original style in abstract art, and by action painting, according to which, among other things, painting is spilled spontaneously by the artist.
  • Paul Klee. He was a German painter. His tool was also color; his works are full of movement, rhythm, nature and color.
  • Egon Shciele. He was a radical expressionist, who drew the human figure and destroyed social conventions.

Now, in terms of literature, one of the most prominent was Franz Kafka, a Czech writer who showed the uncertainties and anguish of the human being in his works. Also, Thomas Mann -with his works full of intention-, deepened in a speculative and pessimistic world; his most important work was The Magic Mountain.

At the cinema, Robert Wiene, a silent film director who reflected on the political environment with his film El cabinet de doctor Caligari, stood out. Outside the cinema, in architecture, Bruno Taut stood out, who used colors as a psychological element.

In Expressionist sculpture, we can mention Erns Barlach and Jabob Epstein. The first is known for its bronze and wood sculptures, much of which went against the war for what was also listed as degenerate in the Nazi era.

Epstein, on the other hand, was known for the great controversy caused by his works, such as ‘The tomb of Oscar Wilde’, which was considered obscene.

Where can we contemplate expressionist art?

We name you some places where you can enjoy this artistic current in all its splendor. Something interesting is that there are museums that have online galleries, so contemplate this art, if you can not move, it becomes an easy mission.

  • Brücke museum. It is one of the most important museums of this subject. It is located in Berlin and contains the largest collection of expressionist artists.
  • Jorge Rando Museum. It is the first expressionist museum in Spain. It is located in Malaga and has a room dedicated to the neoexpressionist author Jorge Rando.
  • Galleries and museums of abstract expressionism. There is a website called The Art Story, which contains a list in which are the main places where this type of art is reflected.
  • Guggenheim museum. In New York is this museum that contains wonderful expressionist works of artists such as Max Ernst, Wasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. In addition, it has an unparalleled online collection.

Expressionism is, then, a movement full of emotions that shows us a very deep side of the human being. The diversity of this movement can make us marvel with its many nuances. Each author is different, and invites us to contemplate their own language full of messages. Definitely, it is an intense current with an authentic seal.