Expressionism Essay

1775 words - 7 pages

Rohini RudraHistory of Modern and Post Modern ArtDue Date: February 13, 2014Professor GroveExpressionistic Portraits"What about the reality of the everyday world and the reality of painting? They are not the same realities. What is the creative thing that you have struggled to get and where did it come from? What reference or value does it have, outside of painting itself?" Twentieth Century artists seemed to have been less interested in the classical hierarchy of genres and seemed to be more engrossed with how to represent reality in an age of uncertainty and war. Even though portraiture is traditionally associated with commissions from royal leaders, political figures or the bourgeoisie, it underwent a dramatic change in the modern era, perhaps most definitively in the hands of the Expressionists. Rather than flattering the sitter or focusing on external appearances, Expressionist portraits explore "inner fleeing" and issues of the psyche. Provocatively exaggerated features, gestures, and expressions mark such highly distilled images.[1: Ad Reinhardt, in a group discussion at Studio 35, in 1950.][2: "The Art - Your Guide to Modern Art." Expressionism Movement, Artists and Major Works. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <>.]Expressionist portraiture can be divided into two general categories: specific individuals (friends, lover, patrons) and generalized types. Prevalent in the second category are images of "exotic" personae as well as stylized heads. In other words, Expressionist artists, primarily working in Germany and Austria during the 1910s and 1920s and still reeling from the carnage of World War I, were less interested in accurately depicting their subject's facial features than in capturing their psychological state (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). They used formal devices such as distortion, non-realistic colors, and unusual settings to help to achieve this. [3: Expressionism: Encyclopedia Britannica Online]Dr. Hans Prinzhorn trained in both psychiatry and art history, his theories allow for the existence of variable approaches to the configurative process. In fact, Prinzhorn likens the art of the avant-garde to the very "nature of schizophrenic configuration," citing a synchronistic preoccupation with a "decisive turn inward upon the self," coupled with the "free treatment of the outside world [as] raw material" to be reordered according to individual intentions (Prinzhorn 123,124).By analyzing Egon Schiele's figure painting of Man and Woman I (Figure I) it is evident that the grotesqueness of the two figures embodies his volatile relationships with women. The painting depicts the artist and Wally lying next to each other naked and suggesting that they had a sexual encounter. Each chiseled curve accentuates the depth and the drama of the scene, which describes the vulnerable moment when Schiele informed his lover that he would marry another woman (Kallir, 107). Whereas...

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