Primarily emerging in Germany and Austria during the first decade of 20th century, the flexible concept of Expressionism refers to art that emphasizes the extreme expressive properties of pictorial form in order to explore subjective emotions and inner psychological truths.
Although much influenced by the work of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch, the artists who pioneered Expressionism departed even further from traditional notions of recording the appearance of reality than the Post-Impressionists or the Symbolists had.
They were also influenced by Henri Matisse and the other Fauves, the Cubists, African and Oceanic art, and the folk art of Germany and Russia. In conjunction with poets, dramatists, and other writers, they championed idealist values and freedom from the constricting forces and repressive materialism of bourgeois society.
One prominent Expressionist group, Die Brücke (The Bridge), which was active as a group from 1905 to 1913, included founders Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff as well as Otto Müller, Emil Nolde (for a brief period), and Max Pechstein.
Members of Die Brücke conveyed pictorially the Modernist themes of alienation, anxiety, and social fragmentation. They employed emotionally charged images, a primitive simplification of form, a deliberate crudeness of figuration, agitated brushwork, and powerful, often violent juxtapositions of intense color.
Expressionism is characterised by distortion, exaggeration, primitivism and fantasy through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal elements to strongly impose the artist’s own sensibility to the world’s representations.