ca. 1905 – 1925
Expressionism – United for the Revolution
The 20th century begins with several sensations. Sigmund Freud discovers the subconscious, the Lumière brothers invent filmmaking and the Wright brothers conquer the skies. Life in the modern world has become more difficult to fathom, full of pictures and – most of all – faster. In Germany, artists react with a revolution. They want to free colors and forms from their representational prisons. It is not how things appear that is important, but how they are felt. And because a revolution can only be successful when undertaken together, the artists team up to form collectives. In Dresden, Die Brücke is formed, and in Munich it’s Der Blaue Reiter. Their joint solution is called “Expressionism”. And their goal is “Abstraction”.
The influence of Der Blaue Reiter on painting in the 20th century can hardly be overestimated. However, the group within itself is much less stable and harmonious than it appears from the outside. Tensions about their artistic direction and the looming war lead to estrangement between the members. They will disband in the summer of 1914. Too soon for the aspiring artist Heinrich Campendonk, only 25 years old at the time, who hardly benefited from Der Blaue Reiter nimbus at all.
At first, Expressionism is a German phenomenon. While Cubism in France was breaking apart seeing in perspective and Futurism in Italy celebrating progress, the German avant-garde were working on the liberation of forms and colors. Expressionism is thus by definition a countermovement of Early Impressionism. It is no longer important how we see things, but how the artists express themselves in them. A change of perspective: instead of from the outside in, things are now thought through from the inside out. The artist collective Der Blaue Reiter is at the heart of this revolutions. Forms and colors are no longer bound by representationalism, but now only serve to convey artistic expression.