Expressionism developed in Central Europe during the first decade of this century, and its impact was most strongly felt during the period up to and immediately following World War I The term "expressionism" was initially used to describe an exhibit of contemporary French art included in the 1911 Berlin Secession. The following year Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc rejected the use of the term in relation to their work or that of their German contemporaries.1 However, as the word "expressionism" evolved, it assumed connotations of social protest, inner vision and personal emotional response which best apply to the art created in Germany and Austria during this period.
Stylistically, the term "expressionist" encompasses the abstract paintings of Kandinsky as well as Schmidt-Rottluff's landscapes and Kokoschka's portraits. The artists included in this movement were more closely related by temperament than by style. They sought to express feeling through the distortion of line and color and to explore a higher reality beyond natural appearance. Not only does a strong element of mysticism prevail among the Expressionists but their art reflects the possibility of a new and better society.
Expressionism was for the most part developed by youthful artists and reflects their reactions against the established bourgeois materialist society. Germany's late political unification and urban development made the effects of rapid industrialization, increasing affluence and concomitant social displacement, strongly felt in that country. Prior to the war the Expressionist artists tended to be apolitical; instead, they rebelled against society by withdrawing into themselves or through their visual statements. They anticipated, and by their actions sometimes instigated, harsh or shocked reactions to their work. These artists have been viewed by some authors as rebels against the authoritarian political and social structure of Germany.
Although Expressionism appeared in different forms in various Central European centers, it was essentially an urban phenomenon. The artists in Dresden, Berlin, Munich and Vienna were involved with varying concerns, but were aware of the work of one another as well as of contemporary developments in other countries. Artists associated with Die Brucke participated in the second Blue Rider exhibit and both groups were represented in the 1912 Cologne Sonderbund, a comprehensive exhibition of advanced European art. Egan Schiele received recognition in Germany several years before his reputation was established in his native Austria and Oskar Kokoschka spent many years in Berlin and Dresden. …………….