Plan your visit
  • From: 28 april 2016
  • Through: 18 september 2016
  • Location: Museum de Fundatie

THE WILD - Expressionism of ‘Die Brücke’ and ‘Der Blaue Reiter’

Expressionism was not about the external world, but the internal world -  Art as an expression of emotion and internal perception. Artistic conventions and academic rules were traded in for subjective experiences. In Germany in the early 20th century, expressionism became manifest in the work of members of the artistic movements ‘Die Brücke’ and ‘Der Blaue Reiter’. Artists such as Alexej von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Franz Marc and Max Pechstein radically changed the face of modern art with their uncompromising vision.

The exhibition THE WILD – Expressionism of ‘Die Brücke’ and ‘Der Blaue Reiter’, at the Museum de Fundatie Zwolle from 28 April to 18 September, is the first wide-scale overview of German expressionist paintings in a Dutch museum. The exhibition features approximately 100 works. 

Expressionism was not about the external world, but the internal world -  Art as an expression of emotion and internal perception.

The pioneering art of expressionism was a reaction to the social and scientific changes in Germany in the years before and immediately following World War I. The relentless progress of industrialisation, exploding urban populations, the secularisation of society – “God is dead”, declared Nietzsche – the discovery of the subconscious and the spread of psychoanalysis, together with the development of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, all crystallised to turn the familiar image of man entirely on its head. Old certainties faded away, and were replaced by a largely (still) unknown reality. Man’s unique position in the creation narrative was fundamentally questioned.

Expressionist artists turned against materialistic thinking, which they considered too narrowly rational and pragmatic. They looked inwards towards the spirituality hidden behind the material world, desiring to repair and reinstate the bond between man and nature. The expressionists held impersonal city life in low regard, whilst elevating the simplicity of country living. So-called primitive peoples were held up as examples, the heirs of a lost paradise, both in life and in art. No materialism, no middle-class mentality, but originality and true contact.

 Erich Heckel, Windmüle bei Dangast, 1909, oil on canvas

Artistically, expressionism was a vivid reaction to what was considered at the time as ‘lethargic’ impressionism, which was viewed – literally – as being somewhat shallow with its primary concentration on the exterior of the world. The members of the ‘Die Brücke’ and the ‘Der Blaue Reiter’ movements, founded respectively in 1905 in Dresden and in 1911 in Munich, were more concerned with the inner world and the original, spiritual unity of man, animals and plants. They had no desire to express hard reality, but rather the subjective experience of man in his natural environment. Freed of the humdrum of having to depict external reality, the German expressionists searched and experimented with alternative means of expressing their vision. Incredibly vivid colours and powerful shapes reflected their ideas and emotions. Nolde, Kirchner, Pechstein and other members of ‘Die Brücke’ may have stylised their subjects, however they did retain recognisable forms. The members of ‘Der Blaue Reiter’ on the other hand, and in particular Jawlensky and Kandinsky, raised their sights towards spirituality to such an extent that the material world completely melted away resulting in an entirely non-figurative imagery, laying the foundations for abstract art.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Jonge meisjes op Fehmarn, oil on canvas


THE WILD – Expressionism of ‘Die Brücke’ and ‘Der Blaue Reiter’  forms part of the dual exhibition THE WILD and THE NEW WILD; a collaboration between Museum de Fundatie and the Groninger Museum. Whilst the exhibition in Zwolle centres on turn of the twentieth century expressionism, the Groninger Museum will turn the spotlight on neo-expressionism from the nineteen eighties, showing from 30 April – 23 October. 

Read more about the exhibition: 'THE NEW WILD - German neo-expressionism from the 1980s' at the Groninger Museum in Groningen.

Read more about 'the new wild'

  • From: 28 Apr 2016
  • Through: 18 Sep 2016
  • Location: Museum de Fundatie