In general the name Expressionism is used to refer to the German art of the early 20th century, but this is a European phenomenon. The France based group developed the Fauvism while the German branch paved the way for Der Blaue Reiter.
The name tends to reflect their opposition to the Impressionism. The Expressionism is a movement from the inside to the outside. Its attitude can be even aggressive. Anyway, the movement has something in common with the Impressionism: both movements are realistic and ask for the full compromise of the artists in the matter of the reality. The expressionist are involved in their society, they do not escape from it.
The first German Expressionism was born in 1905 with the movement known as Die Brüke that is related to the national figurative tradition. The artists understood the world as a deep existential condition of the human being: the desire of having the reality and the anguish of being possessed by the reality.
Die Brücke is a solid artists’ community with a written programme. Members of the group are Kirchner, Nolde, Schiele, Klimt, Kokoschka. The German situation of the time was obscure, with different artistic influences. Die Brücke proposed the union of the revolutionary element to fight against the Impressionism. The characteristics of the movement are: it is a realism that creates reality; they begin from nothing, just from the artist ideas; the matter influences on the artist; the subjects reflect daily life (streets, people in the cafes); the works are a bit rude.
In their opinion technique is not something that can be invented, it is just work. It is important the dominance of graphics, especially xylography, in which the carving can be violent and the result is sometimes irregular. In the same way, the painting is dense, full of colour, with stains and lack of hues; it is more important the process than the result. The artist works directly on the image and chooses the colours depending on their mood. Deformations are common and they are sometimes aggressive. They find their inspiration in the work of primitive cultures. They do not have a concept of beauty, for them it changes to be ugliness, deformity: it is the poetry of the awful.
Expressionist artists renounce to be bourgeois and criticise this social group. In their opinion, existence is self-creation and they oppose to the industrial work that creates a dehumanized society. They are obsessed with the subject of sex because the relation of men and women is the basis of the society and society deforms, is perverse, is negative, alienates.
Die Brücke was dissolved in 1913 when the group Der Blaue Reiter started its investigation with a less compromised attitude. Members of this group are Beckmann, Dix, Grosz, Marc, Macke, Kandinsky, Klee. They do not have a defined programme. And their orientation is more spiritual. Their objective is to coordinate international exhibitions to foster their polemic writings.
The ideas of the artists of this group are not revolutionary but it is anti-classicist. They are influenced by Matisse, oriental art and even music. Symbols are limited to common objects while the aesthetic communication is dominant. Characteristics of the movement are: importance of the colour and its significance; primitivism; improvisation; inclusion of different lines and shapes: curves, zigzags, stain; art is understood as communication.