European + American Art

An art style, which came to be known as Expressionism, emerged in Germany with the formation of the group Die Brücke [Bridge] in 1905. Founding members E.L. Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff sought artistic and personal freedom from traditional values and academic art practice, developing a ground-breaking style based on the expression of inner feelings. Artists drew inspiration from the simplified forms and flattened planes of African and Polynesian art and combined this with lurid colour to create dynamic images of landscape and city life.

Expressionist artists considered printmaking an important art form, but shunned the meticulous finish of traditional methods. Their woodcuts emphasised a rough and immediate aesthetic, which was used to produce some of the most iconic images of the modern era. In lithography bold gestural sweeps of robust colour or experimentation with grainy effects were explored.

There were several artistic precursors of Expressionism, notably the Norwegian born Edvard Munch. Die Brücke [Bridge] made numerous unsuccessful attempts for Munch to exhibit with them. His influence was profound and lay in his exploration of depicting emotion and his rejection of traditional printmaking techniques, opting for a raw, textured and often dramatic look to complement his expressive style and subject-matter.