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Amid the destruction of World War I, German and Austrian Expressionists responded to the anxiety of modern life.

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Expressionism and City Life

Expressionism and City Life

Through their art, German and Austrian Expressionists expressed their conflicted views of urban life.

Expressionist Portraits

Expressionist portraits reveal more than just what people look like.

Expressionism and Nature

For the German Expressionists, nature was an arena for healing and freedom.

Expressionist Depictions of War

German Expressionists, many of whom fought in World War I, depicted the shattering experience of war.

Many members of the Expressionist movement were conflicted about life in the city. They were disgusted by the materialistic lifestyle of the middle class in Germany’s big cities, but they enjoyed the bustling excitement and activity of urban life. Early Expressionist street scenes are filled with depictions of nightclubs and wealthy theater-goers as well as scenes of loneliness and isolation. After World War I, artists began to see the city as an extension of the battlefield as they struggled with the ravaging effects of war on their collective psyche and on the country’s economy and people.

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A setting for or a part of a story or narrative.

Encompasses varying stylistic approaches that emphasize intense personal expression. Renouncing the stiff bourgeois social values that prevailed at the turn of the 20th century, and rejecting the traditions of the state-sponsored art academies, Expressionist artists turned to boldly simplified or distorted forms and exaggerated, sometimes clashing colors. As Expressionism evolved from the beginning of the 20th century through the early 1920s, its crucial themes and genres reflected deeply humanistic concerns and an ambivalent attitude toward modernity, eventually confronting the devastating experience of World War I and its aftermath.


AUDIO: Curator Starr Figura describes Berlin during the Expressionist period

AUDIO: Curator Starr Figura discusses Kirchner’s Street, Berlin (1913)