Expressionism took the Impressionist movement and moved even further away from realistic images, focusing more on the emotion of a scene or subject. The colors are often stark and unreal and the figures will contort to the edge of recognizing what they are. The style developed in the years leading up to the first world war and expanded far beyond painting into music, theater, poetry and film.
Originally from Norway, Munch used painting as a way to deal with his emotional and mental problems that plagued his childhood. He approached his paintings with a philosophy of “soul painting” to express his emotional and psychological states which informed his style as a painter. In Paris, he learned from many Impressionists and embraced their use of color. He also worked in Berlin and embraced the rawness of emotion, where he build most of his fame.
The Scream (1893)
One of the most famous paintings to represent the Expressionist movement, the screaming face is seen as symbolizing the anxiety of the human condition. The pier is believed to be in Oslo, near an asylum that Munch’s sister was committed to. There are several versions of the painting that Edvard Munch made, both with pastels and in oil. The history of the painting is equally interesting, having been stolen from museums and sold for hundreds of millions of dollars in auction.
Weeping Woman (1907)
An oil painting Munch did which I couldn’t find a lot of details on, it’s part of a series of nude portraits he did in the 1900s. The forlorn emotion of the subject comes through really clearly, even though we can’t see too much detail in the subject. This painting was complete soon before he had a major breakdown from drinking and brawling and had a long stay in a mental hospital.
One of Belgium’s most famous painters, James Ensor had a major influence on both Expressionism and Surrealism. His use of the macabre, with a heavy use of skeletons, death and masks is thought provoking and disturbing.
The Skeleton Painter (1896)
This painting captures the humor in the macabre, with the painter being dead while painting these lovely landscapes and other pieces. In the background, you can see miniature versions of Ensor’s other paintings.
Skeletons Warming Themselves (1889)
Another example of James Ensor’s use of skeletons doing everyday things, it’s a interesting commentary on the struggles of life and the human condition. The harsh struggle of life and death is a common theme in Ensor’s work.