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Expressionism can be seen as the first and most dramatic departure from depicting the world and nature accurately and objectively through art. Expressionist painters elevated intense subjective and emotional reactions to the world around them, and transposed these emotions to the canvas. Abstract shapes and vivid colors expressing the artists emotions characterize this dynamic movement.

Vincent Van Gogh is seen as the most important forerunner of Expressionism. His reliance on emotion to express color and line can be found in almost all Expressionist works. Van Gogh exaggerated nature "to express man's terrible passions."

Expressionism was the dominant force in German art for the early part of the 20th Century. This influence made Expressionism a very German movement in many ways. With the exception of Norwegian Edvard Munch, the primary Expressionist artists, August Macke, Lyonel Feininger, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, and Max Pechstein were all German. Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian, embraced Expressionism during his years in Germany and helped to found the famed Expressionist Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) Group which is often seen as the high point of German Expressionism.

Did You Know?

Did you know that mental illness may be profoundly responsible for the creation and enduring popularity of Expressionism? Van Gogh's well documented mental instability, and Edvard Munch's traumatic childhood and enduring neuroses helped to churn out some of the Expressionists most important works. Munch accepted that his mental illness was part of his genius, "I would not cast off my illness, for there is much in my art that I owe to it."

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