The interim verdict: your preferences lie with expressionism. Early 20th century witnessed rapid growth of the expressionist movement. What on earth could inspire these weird, gloomy, gruesome paintings, and how are they different from other styles developing at the time? Let’s go back in time and see.
The turn of the centuries was the time when the word “problem” was far more common than today’s “challenge”. It was a restless, depressive time. The boom of capitalism that was quite painful for an average person, the agonizing political atmosphere and the impending war hovering in the air, the horrors of the military time that beat the frightful expectations – all these drove new artistic impressions, new experiences and topics to dwell upon, new subjects that could not any longer be conveyed through the time-honoured styles like impressionism, realism or romanticism. Let’s compare.
Impressionism is the style that enabled an artist to capture the fleeting, changeable essence of being, the ephemeral quality of time, the fleeting beauty of unique moments – like flecks of sunlight and the play of shadows on drapery, a child’s laugh…there was no chance this light and joyful perception of the world could survive under the circumstances.
Realists depicted typical scenes, typical people, representatives of a certain class or a profession, with the most prominent characteristics demonstrated to the full against the characteristic background – it was not good to reveal the suppressed state of a person choking for breath in the whirlpool of tragic events.
Romanticists admired everything exotic and extraordinary, they glorified valour, the napoleon passions, they studied the role of a personality in history, the inner struggle between personal desires and the public good.
Yet the emotions of great people lost their charm for the artists who strived to convey the electric tension, the turmoil hanging thick in the air that common people breathed. Besides, real life provided the artists with the impressions and experiences so strong and appalling that realistic representation became meaningless. Shellbursts, mutilated bodies in the trenches, stumps and blood – this is what they saw during the war, and we may be thankful for the fact that they did not try to find the aesthetics in these images and did not leave us with the legacy of photographic portrayal of the war. This accounts for the fact that in early 20th century the artistic movements started to reject figurative representation and turned to experimenting with artistic devices and techniques (lines, colours, forms, the composition). They chose to paraphrase and encipher the impressions that earlier had been made obvious through the subject of a painting. These experiments opened the door to abstractionism, futurism, cubism, fauvism, suprematism and expressionism.
Expressionists saw agony and misery as the foundation of human existence and the key development driver. Happy people are calm and quiet, they do not have the need for growth and evolvement. Expressionists obsessed over negative emotions, their artistic ideal is “a bag of nerves” who cannot escape from suffering. Despair is the main character in expressionist paintings, and their theme song.