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November 12, 1969 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1969-11-12

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Wednesday, November 12, 1969

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Wednesday, November 12, 1969

Expressionism

in

Europe:

Inner

visions

and

external

tensions

"Expressionism in Europe, 1900-
1930," University Museum of
Art.
By MAGDA GUENNEWIG
"Believing in the potential-
ities of a new generation of
creative men as in a new gen-
eration of appreciation men
we call upon all youth; and
as the youth in charge of the
future we desire to rid our-
selves of the powerful older
establishment. Everybody who
is willing to give uninhibited
and direct expression to his
creative impulses belongs to
us."
Manifesto of the "Brucke"
There has been much debate
about the meaning of the word
'expressionism." It has been
used to define attitudes or styles
covering various movements.
Originally it had a rebellious
connotation. As a movement in
the arts, primarily in Germany
during the first decades of the
20th-century, it represented a
reaction against the values held
by a materialistic pre-war so-
ciety, and to the painful press-
ures of the first world war, the
German revolution, and the
Weimar Republic.
It was manifested in the
visual arts in a rejection of im-
pressionism which represented
the culmination of a long his-
tory of naturalistic representa-
tion. Artists no longer concern-
ed themselves with the depic-
tion of outer reality but with
inner vision. They rejected the
ready-made formulas of tradi-
tion and convention and search-
ed for new means of expressing
feeling. Artists now responded
to a wide variety of influences:
primitive sculpture, medieval
woodcuts, and children's draw-
ings became a basis of inspira-
tion.
Believing in forces greater
than man they found their sub-

Ilax Beckmannf: Hunger 1919, from "Hell"

ject matter in nature, religion,
dreams, and sex. They search-
ingly analyzed the individual in
portraits and mirrored their ex-
perience of the tensions in con-
temporary society in their de-
piction of street scenes and of
night-life.
Munch, a predecessor of the
expressionists, had made the
relationship between the sexes
his major subject matter. This
was further expored in its sick-
ly-erotic dimensions by Schiele,
and found elaboration in the
work of Oskar Kokoschka who
dramatized the misunderstand-
ings and antagonisms of the
sexes in Columbus and Bach
Cantata.
Religion, which was conceived
as universal brotherhood by the
"Brucke" people, a group of
young artists who banded to-
gethere in 1906 in Dresden, was
also a means of expressing the
artists' non-earthly aspirations
and symbolizing the suffering
of humanity. It ranged from re-
ligious primitivism in the work
of Nolde to the intense medieval
religiosity of Barlach. Nature
or the universe was embraced
as subject matter by artists like
Schmidt-Rottluff who painted
grandiose nature scenes.
For the "Blauer Reiter"
group, the leading artists of
which were Kandisky, Klee,
Marc, and Feininger, who join-
ed together to establish a com-
mon artists program, it pro-
vided a means for epressing
their mystical identification
with the universe. This is seen
in the non-objective work of
Kandinsky, the architectural
visions and seascapes of Fein-
inger, and in the representation
of a fusion of animal and nature
in cosmic universalism in the
work of Marc.
Vision and dreams were turn-
ed into subject matter in the
work of Kubin, and particular-
ly by Klee who aimed to incar-
nate the intangibles of fantasy
and dreams undistorted by in-
tellect or traditional visual for-
mula in his work.
In reaction against preoccu-
pation w i t h transcendental
problems and introspection-a
spiritual revolt against a mate-
rialistic society-we also find
overt rebellion by artists who
did not want to ignore the tra-
gic conditions, hunger, poverty,
inflation, and political unrest.
The reaction of these artists
ranged from compassion with
the poor and downtrodden, in-
tensly felt in the work of Kathe
Kollwitz and Barlach, to an at-
titude of cynical acceptance of
conditions and a brutal, factual
statement of them.
Grosz, a disillusioned idealist
who felt contempt for man, de-
scribed and satirized the mili-
tary, the speculator, and the
sordid aspects of sex. Otto Dix
recorded his experience of the
war in etchings of harrowing
detail. Beckmann created char-
acters who are somnabulists in
a world of absurdities.
The formal means developed
Dial 8-6416
ENDING TONIGHT
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by the expressionists to state
the varied reactions to the outer
world ranged from the simpli-
fication, distortion, and exag-
geration of natural forms of the
"Brucke" artists to the symbolic
use of line and color by the
"Blauer Reiter" group, They did
not consider printmaking a
minor art but employed it as a
major vehicle of expression. In-
spired by the exploration of the
graphic media by Gauguin and
Munch for symbolic and sub-
jective expression, and by 15th-
century medival woodcuts they
felt that the immediacy of the
emotional impact could best be
created with the element art-

istic means that graphic media
offered.
Woodcut became a favorite
technique since in it large and
contrasted areas of light and
dark could be exploited for dra-
matic , potentialities. Barlach
said of the woodcut that it de-
mands complete avowal and un-
equivocal precipitation of what
one really means, and that it
dictates a certain universal ex-
pression and rejects an amiable
or easy solution. Concentration
of expression was also a goal in
the utilization of other graphic
techniques, etching, drypoint,
aquatint, and lithography, me-
dia which they attacked with

the same force and directness
as the woodcut.
It was the contribution of the
expressionists to r e s u r r e c t
graphics as important media of
artistic expression. In their
seismographic reaction to the
troubled contemporary society
they became the prototype for
the 20th-century artist for
whom art spills over into life
and who is inextricably bound
to his fellow human beings in
the desire to effect change that
makes the world a better place
to live in.
Al
MR a

Lyonel Feininger: "Troistedt"

Max Pechstein: from the "Lord's Prayer"

Phobos by
Jamews Jttdkis

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