Expressionism in Germany and France
The term expressionism is thought to have first been coined at the start of the twentieth century, as the most literal response to impressionism. Whereas the latter sought to capture a sense of the real world – and was therefore imbued with a general sense of positivity – the former was driven by a sense of emotional woe.
In some respects it was the first time that artists really sought to portray the world through the distortive lens of sentiment, both in terms of the innate unease of the artist and the wider socio-political conditions he or she found themselves living through.
Expressionism emerged in Germany, although it arguably owes its existence to the post-impressionists in France, who were having a riotous time advancing modern concepts beyond the structures of old.
A new exhibition, entitled Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky, positions the movement in an international context, although still holding true to the fact that it was at its most poignant apogee in Europe.
Showing at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) until September 14th 2014, this expert presentation focuses a lot of its attention on how artists in Germany and France reacted to modern greats like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Paul Gauguin with new aesthetic concepts.
Van Gogh provided them with the power of expressive gesture and colour, Cezanne offered them ‘nascent abstraction’ and both Matisse and Gauguin taught them about the beauty of decorative stylisation, the museum explained.
“Expressionism in Germany and France offers a unique opportunity to observe the ways that a generation of artists was influenced by some of the greatest names in modern art history,” commented Timothy O. Benson, the exhibition’s curator.
“Our visitors will gain insight into the culturally rich cosmopolitan milieu established by the many exhibitions, collectors, gallerists, critics, and not least the artists of the time – many of whom travelled between Paris and Germany – and how this cultural atmosphere transcended national borders.”
The show is organised chronologically and geographically and is made up of seminal works that are on loan from establishments like the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Musée d’Orsay, Tate Modern and the Hamburger Kunsthalle.
Also making up the exhibition are works from LACMA’s Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, which is considered to be one of the most illustrious collections of German expressionist art in the US.
“This exhibition is a fascinating look at artistic influence in Europe that shatters barriers of nationality,” said Michael Govan, chief executive of LACMA.
“These artists’ practices were not constrained by their borders—and in fact many creative breakthroughs of the 20th century happened thanks to this dialogue between these two countries, as artists reshaped their national identities.”
Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art runs until September 14th 2014.
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