Expressionism art has existed long before the term was applied to art in the early 20th century. Nonetheless, Expressionism generally refers to a series of art movements that share a common interest in depicting emotions and emphasizing subjectivity, frequently through the use of vivid coloration and dynamic or distorted forms in paintings. Each movement pushed the art form in a slightly different direction but, on the whole, they all share these characteristics.
Emotions And Feelings: Expressionism's defining characteristic is its attempt to describe emotions and feelings visually. This might be through a portrait that exaggerates certain features of a face to make it seem more expressive, or it could be through vibrant and contrasting colors in a room to create an overall mood. In contrast, non-Expressionist art would avoid distorting shapes, colors and lines so that it could display physical reality more accurately.
Subjectivity: Some non-Expressionist art relies on color and shape distortion to create an enhanced sense of reality; the art of the New Objectivist painter is a prime example. However, their work is still intent on displaying the external or "objective" world as clearly as possible. Expressionistic art, on the other hand, tends to display an artist's internal, subjective experience to the world, whether it is a depiction of a dream, an improvised abstraction, or a highly stylized painting of a street scene that the artist has imbued with his own interpretation.
Vivid Coloration: In contrast to the Impressionists, who saw color as a reflection of light-and thus a representation of the physical world-Expressionists view color as an emotional device. Expressionistic paintings tend to employ vivid colors to elicit emotional reactions from the viewer or to relay the deep emotional state of the artist.
Dynamic And Distorted Forms: Most Expressionistic paintings, when depicting images of recognizable objects like humans or horses, render them in exaggerated forms, frequently with a sense of movement through blurred edges or curving brushstrokes. Even abstract paintings employ this kind of dynamism, showing a fluidity of line and movement throughout the painting.
Characteristics of Movements Within Expressionism: Each movement within Expressionism has had its own distinct style. Art of the Fauves (Wild Beasts), including that of Matisse, was intensely colored with distorted shapes balanced into compelling compositions, but they remained fairly representational. German Expressionism continued this highly stylized approach but delved strongly into abstraction and improvisational compositions, particularly in the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Abstract Expressionism expanded the canvas and employed an "all over" approach to creating large-scale, highly abstract paintings.