Post Expressionism: A Brief Introduction
Post Expressionism is a term in Art History, first used by the German art theorist Franz Roh. It’s a broad category covering many artistic movements emerging from World War One.
What links all these movements, however, is their response to Expressionism. While the Expressionist approach inspired some artists, others rejected it entirely.
This brief introduction presents some of the most famous Post Expressionist artists. We’ll also explore their fascinating colorful abstract paintings. From Paul Klee’s enigmatic creations to art by Wassily Kandinsky, here’s everything you need to know about Expressionist painters.
What is Expressionist art?
Before we discuss Post Expressionism, let’s understand Expressionism art.
German Expressionists first appear in the early twentieth century.
Expressionist painters responded to a rapidly modernizing world. As a result, their oil paintings often referenced feelings of isolation and lost connections with nature. As such, bright colors, city scenes, natural forms, and animals were standard features. Enjoy our Art Collection of colorful wall art.
Expressionism versus Impressionism
Expressionism was a reaction against French Impressionism. Many famous artists, such as Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch, considered Impressionist art too decorative and frivolous. Instead, inspired by developments in Symbolism, they expressed their inner emotions and psychological turmoil. This self-expression was vital, hence the name “Expressionism”.
The main phase of Expressionist art lasted from 1905 to 1920. Then, as an art movement, it abandoned earlier commitments to artistic order and tradition. In place of these rules, the artist’s emotions reigned supreme.
Expressionism art largely petered out after the bloodshed of World War One.
Expressionism in Art Definition?
Post Expressionist art generally uses a more careful and considered artistic style than Expressionism.
After the First World War, there was a broad call for a “return to order”. In addition, artists sought a new appreciation of tradition, culture, and the natural world.
This shift resulted in something called “The New Objectivity,” or Neue Sachlichkeit, championed by German and Italian artists. This new artistic movement rejected more emotional Expressionist approaches.
Two groups emerged within “New Objectivity”. These were the “Verists” and the “Classicists”. Verists strove to represent the truth of their modern, uncertain times. On the other hand, Classicists aimed for timeless compositions.
As well as these two approaches, other versions of Post Expressionism painting emerged. Magic Realism (championed by Antonio Donghi and Anton Raderscheidt) and the darkly satirical work of James Ensor were particularly influential.
Magic Realism emphasizes the magic and wonder of the natural world and everyday objects. On the other hand, James Ensor paintings presented people in frightening masks, carnival outfits, and unsettling scenes. Accompanied by fevered brushwork and garish contrasting colors, they gave a strange unease to familiar subjects.
What are three examples of Post Expressionism Painting?
Here are three artists associated with Post Expressionistic art.
While Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee were notable figures in the development of Expressionism painting, they also championed Post Expressionism.
They consequently supply a fascinating insight into how Expressionism moved towards Post Expressionism after the First World War.
Modigliani is a complex artist to define but generally falls into the category of modern art oil paintings. Nonetheless, his portraits share many similarities with Post Expressionism.
Instead of focusing on his own emotions, Modigliani created intriguing nude paintings. They featured elongated bodies and a return to the ideals of famous Renaissance paintings.
Inspired by the Renaissance oil paintings of Titian and Botticelli, Modigliani presented his version of the classic Renaissance nude. Modigiliani's series (begun in 1916) takes inspiration from their Venus paintings.
Unlike classical approaches, however, Modigliani gave his female nude paintings an erotic directness. The reclining woman’s skin shines against the red couch. Any mythology disappears. The naked female body is the sole focus of the artwork.
Paul Klee Castle and Sun is one of the artist’s best-known colorful abstract paintings. While the painting depicts a city, Klee abstracts each building into geometric forms.
With rectangles, squares, and triangles sitting on top of one another, it builds into a strangely calming scene. Finally, a lone circle appears at the top of the canvas, representing a shining sun above the urban view.
Paul Klee worked across many artistic genres, including Expressionism, Surrealism, Post Expressionism, and Cubism. Nonetheless, his art resists simple definitions. Other Paul Klee artworks (for instance, Paul Klee The Cat and the Bird) also question the boundaries between reality and abstraction.
Indeed, in The Cat and the Bird, a small bird flies inside the cat’s forehead. It is literally on his mind. With the cat’s head filling the entire composition, Klee concentrates on thought and mental processes rather than “simple” figurative art.
Paul Klee famous abstract art is some of our most popular modern art oil paintings.
Oil paintings by Wassily Kandinsky demonstrate the fascinating links between the Expressionist and Post Expressionist art movements. Indeed, Kandinsky was a central member of Der Blaue Reiter artists group. This group played a significant role in German Expressionism.
As the 1920s progressed, Kandinsky paintings abandoned earlier figurative approaches. Instead, he moved towards abstract paintings, focusing on the balance of color and “archetypal” forms. Among these forms, circles were fundamental to Kandinsky. He felt circles were the purest artistic shape, representing universal ideas of balance and harmony.
The shift towards abstraction is already visible in earlier Wassily Kandinsky famous paintings. For instance, Kandinsky Improvisation 28, Second Version (1912) similarly uses an abstract, colorful art approach.
What art came after Post Expressionism Art?
As a movement, Post Expressionism art was relatively short-lived. The culmination of the Second World War in 1945 brought an end to the Post Expressionist artists “return to order”. The sheer horror and slaughter of the Holocaust led to another reimagining of art and culture.
After this date, movements such as American Abstract Expressionism emerged. Linked with approaches such as Action Painting (championed by artists such as Jackson Pollock), it showed America’s new-found confidence.
Abstract Expressionism also fed into the quieter Color Field style, which flourished during the 1950s and early 1960s. Famous oil paintings now featured pure blocks of color, almost entirely abstract.
Famous Expressionist Artists: Colorful Abstract Paintings for Sale
If you adore Post Expressionism art, enjoy our extensive collection of high quality art reproductions for sale.
Whether it’s Paul Klee Castle and the Sun or art by Kandinsky painting, discover thousands of replica paintings in our vast catalog of oil painting reproductions.
We specialize in oversized wall art, and all of our art reproductions on canvas are available in large sizes.