To Echoworld Homepage

To Echo Germanica Homepage
October 2006 - Nr. 10


The Editor
Letter to the Editor
The Trakehner Horse
Minczuk & Kuusisto at TSO
Dresden's Frauenkirche
Mozart Opera Cancelled
German Impressionists
Golden Madonna
"Der Brückenbauer"
The Permanent Wave
Putin visits Dresden
Double Negative
KW & Beyond
Opera York's 10th Season
Two Outstanding Films
A Soiree To Remember
Opera On Film
Go To The Marché
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Baden-Wuerttemberg meets Ontario
Planet in Focus
Romancing the Rhine

Kirchner & Co.:
Dresden Was a Cradle of German Expressionism

  TWIG - At the dawn of the 20th century a group of painters based in Dresden created avant-garde works characterized by bold colors, angular shapes and a reduction in form that have since been hailed as hallmarks of German Expressionism.

The pioneers of this movement were a small band of artists who met as students of architecture in Dresden in 1905 and founded a group called "Die Brücke" (The Bridge). They were Erich Heckel, Fritz Bleyl, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Carl Schmidt-Rottluf, who were joined in 1906 by Max Pechstein, and for a brief period by the acclaimed northern German painter Emil Nolde. Otto Müller joined Die Brücke in 1910, and other artists associated with it include Max Kaus and Anton Kerschbaumer.

The group disbanded after only eight years, in 1913, but its significance for the development of modern German art was immense. A Brücke Museum in Berlin pays permanent homage to these artists. Its current exhibition "Brücke Collection: Paintings and Sculptures" opened in mid-August and runs through June 10, 2007.

A raw, consciously primitive look

Expressionism, first coined as a phrase and defined as a new style in 1911, can be defined as the tendency of an artist to distort reality for an emotional effect. It essentially stresses the expression of emotional reactions to the artists’ subject matter.

In the art of Die Brücke, natural forms were simplified and removed from their objective context, sometimes to the point of being unrecognizable. Contours were drawn in heavy, slashing brushstrokes and the forms brightly colored. Many Expressionist pictures had a raw, consciously primitive look, heightened by contrasts of complementary colors that mutually strengthened each other, according to "Art: From Impressionism to the Internet", a book by Klaus Richter published by Prestel in 2001.

"The Expressionist’s subjects were not vague or enigmatic, but taken from daily life, and their landscapes were frequently painted from nature," writes Richter.

"Yet although the visible world provided their point of departure, such artists maintained that the essence of things only emerged through emotion and instinct. Their portraits and figures give the impression of having been mercilessly stripped bare, body and soul. Their landscapes seem constructed of radically reduced forms and possess a compelling, commanding monumentality. The sculpture too was powerful, often primitive-looking, or carved directly from wood and sometimes painted," he adds.

The other great German Expressionist movement was the equally incomparable Munich-based "Blaue Reiter" (Blue Rider) group, called into being by German painter Franz Marc and Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky in 1911. The Blue Rider lasted for only three years, however, and was tragically cut short in the midst of its most productive phase by the First World War.

From misguided local lambasting to global greatness

Works by many Expressionist artists were mocked by Germany’s Nazi dictatorship in the 1930s at the now infamous "degenerate Art" exhibits that sought to "reveal" to the German public the depraved nature and intent of these "abnormal" artists by displaying the paintings alongside propaganda texts and in disturbingly dim lighting. These "degenerate" exhibits were juxtaposed at the same time with separate shows of staid, classical paintings and sculptures of mythological figures or of bucolic Alpine scenes, complete with sturdy farmhands and radiant milkmaids - all approved and hand-picked by official censors, of course.

Unsurprisingly, these works have long since fallen by the wayside in the annals of art history. By contrast, the brilliant works of German Expressionist painters from the Bridge and Blue Rider movements continue to charm museumgoers to this day. They are among the best works of art ever produced in Germany and are cherished by museums across the country and all over the world.

Works by Kirchner, probably the most well-known and oft-cited member of The Brücke, can be viewed across the globe, and there is even a Kirchner Museum in Davos, Switzerland. In the United States, New York’s Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington all feature works by Kirchner.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


Brücke Museum in Berlin

More about Expressionism


To Top of Page

Send mail to  with questions or comments about this web site.
For information about Echoworld Communications and its services send mail to .

Copyright ©2010 Echoworld Communications