Dates: 1905-1930

Origin: Europe

Key Artists: Wassily Kandinsky, André Masson

A term used to describe a movement in painting, sculpture, and the graphic arts which flourished c.1905–20, gaining its most productive foothold in Germany until its suppression by the Nazis after 1933. The Expressionists are characterized by a deliberate rejection of the ideals of naturalism and Impressionism, which had dominated art in the later 19th century with their emphasis on the reproduction of observed reality. Although much debate has surrounded the origins of the term Expressionism itself, it was given public currency by the German gallery owner and publisher Herwart Walden, who used it in a generalized sense to characterize all the modern art opposed to Impressionism. In 1911 the term could be used to describe the Fauve artists with their strident expressiveness of colour and the Cubists with their analysis of form; indeed the movement itself can be argued to have its origins in France, developing almost simultaneously, however, in other European countries as well.

Aronowitz-Mercer, Richard. “Expressionism.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Wassily Kandinsky



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