Art Speaks: Expressionism Explained

Art Speaks: Expressionism Explained

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Welcome to the Saint Louis Art Museum's "Art Speaks" program. My name is Jessica Kennedy and I am the Educator for Adult Learning at the Museum. I'm going to wait just a moment to let all of our guests tune in but in the meantime   please familiarize yourself with the Q&A section located at the bottom of your screen.   You can use this at any time to ask questions during the program. We will select some of the  

questions to answer and we'll try our best to answer as many as we can in the allotted time. Today's talk, "Expressionism Explained" will be given by Melissa Venator. Melissa is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow for Modern Art and is co-curator of the exhibition  

"Storm of Progress: German Art After 1800 from the Saint Louis Art Museum. Melissa specializes in   modern German art and she is currently writing a catalog on the Museum's world-class collection   of German Expressionist paintings. Thank you so much for joining us today, Melissa. Melissa: Thank you, Jessica. Hello and thank you all for joining us, uh, and for joining  

me for this talk, "Expressionism Explained." It complements the Museum's current exhibition   which is titled, "Storm of Progress: German Art After 1800 from the Saint Louis Art Museum"   which presents 200 years of German art and history from the Museum's exceptional collection.   I hope you can visit the exhibition in person. It's on view, we're open, we're actually open and it's  

on view until February 28th and we're offering it free of charge. If you can't visit but want to learn more, follow the Museum on social media and check out the exhibition website where you can listen to the audio guide, watch informational videos and also recordings of programs like this one.   We'll update that site regularly over the  run of the exhibition so be sure to check back   and that brings me to our talk today, which is an introduction to German Expressionism.   to quote, uh, to quote a literary  historian writing in 1974:   "Confusion about the meaning and use of the term Expressionism is indeed great." Just in Germany  

alone in the 19-teens and '20s there was Expressionist art, literature, music and dance .  Expressionist set designs, films and theater. Expressionist architecture. Every major   artistic and cultural field had a version of Expressionism. The term became so widespread   that i found references to it in fields  that are completely unrelated to the arts:   articles on Expressionist psychology and even Expressionist geography - whatever that is!   And, of course going back to the visual arts, the term expression, the term Expressionism appears in   other places and at other times. In American Abstract Expressionism of the 1940s and 50s. 

In German Neo-Expressionism of the 1980s. And so, when we focus very specifically on Expressionism   in the visual arts in Germany in the years around World War I - say 1910 ish to 1925 ish -  we have to ignore all those other Expressionisms. And, we also have to recognize the danger,   a kind of a not very dangerous kind of danger but still a danger inherent in the term itself.  Expressionism feels so intuitive.  It's all in the name, right?  Expressionism must be art about artistic self-expression. Expressionists must express their   feelings in their art, or you know versions of this. Now, i've only encountered one Expressionist artist  

who explicitly described his art in terms of self-expression. One. Which is a reminder to us   to keep an open mind and to be aware  of the unintended meanings that adhere   to some of these terms like Expressionism and always always to go back to the original sources.   To look at the art and to listen to period voices. That's the best way to understand  

a historical subject and that will be the  focus of my talk. So we'll start with an essay. This essay, which is in German don't worry. This is one of the earliest printed references in German   to Expressionism as an art movement. It appeared in 1912. The author is Paul Westheim, an up-and-coming   art historian and a leading proponent of Expressionism. It's a short essay,   this is pretty much most of it that you see here but its opening sentences contain all the classic elements   of the first attempts to define Expressionism. I'll quote it from an English translation: "The youngest of the young painters -the followers of Matisse, around Pechstein or other obscure little groups who fly the banner of Expressionism - no longer want anything to do with 'the mere copying of nature.' They believe that the sole purpose of Impressionist art -

to reproduce that which is optically perceptible more faithfully, truer to life - it must lead to a   dead end [...] Anyone who believes in the imminent psychic forces operative in the work of art,  in the consonance of lines, planes and colors, won't hold it against the artist if he only accepts the   model of nature as a raw material. Raw material that he forges in the embers of his passions, that   he internalizes to free the rhythm of universal validity from accidental individual appearance."   Wow! What is he saying, exactly? First, Westheim identifies the Expressionists as young artists   influenced by the french fauve Henri Matisse, who are in the circle of Max Pechstein, or who   belong to one of the countless other small artist groups popping up across Germany like mushrooms.   The circle of Max Pechstein is a reference to the artist's group Die Brücke, or The Bridge,   which was the oldest Expressionist artist group and the most well known when Westheim is writing.  

Famously, Die Brücke is founded by or was founded by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Eric Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, each of whom is more famous than Pechstein today, arguably.   But in 1912, when Westheim's writing, Pechstein was by far the most successful Brücke artist, so that's   why he gets called out by name.Westheim also cites obscure little groups who fly the banner of   Expressionism, which is a fantastic phrase. This is a perceptive observation that the Expressionists,   like other European avant-garde artists at this time, are seemingly compelled to form groups that   generally hold one exhibition, maybe publish a manifesto and then are never heard from again.   I mean some are longer lived but a lot of them are pretty short-lived. The motivation is always  

to create a community of like-minded artists. To develop radical new ideas about art and then to   disseminate those ideas through exhibitions and publications.This pattern repeats over and over   and over again in Expressionist art, so it's smart that Westheim's picking up on it. So next, "the Expressionists no longer want anything to do with the 'mere copying of nature.' They believe   that the sole purpose of Impressionist art - to reproduce that which is optically perceptible   more faithfully, truer to life - must lead  to a dead end." This is the classic claim   that Expressionism defines itself  in opposition to Impressionism, um,   and and that the goal of Impressionist art is to record fleeting impressions of nature, almost like a camera.

Now this is a complete misunderstanding of Impressionist art but it was how Expressionists and their champions, like Westheim habitually described Impressionism. As if it were the enemy against which Expressionism had to defend itself. Or at the very least was reacting against. Finally, Westheim states his  definition of what Expressionism is:   "Anyone who believes in the imminent psychic forces operative in the work of art - in the consonance of   lines, planes, and colors - won't hold it against the artist if he only accepts the model of nature as a   raw material. Raw material that he forges in the embers of his passions, that he internalizes to   free the rhythm of universal validity  from accidental individual appearance."  

Westheim is saying something magic happens when an artist makes art. The artist may look at nature,   but the embers of her passion transforms it into something that transcends nature,   that's intentional in a way that nature isn't because remember nature is accidental, right?   But the Expressionist uses her insight to make art that's universal, that speaks to a higher order.   Now, this particular explanation isn't unique to Westheim, but it's one of many competing   interpretations or definitions of Expressionism. They all share a focus on the figure of the artist,  on the subjectivity of her experience and on how she expresses that subjectivity through   her art. The specific explanations vary by artist and author. So, now, let's look at another figure. This is a painting titled "Toilette" made by Georg Toppert in 1910 and currently on view in "Storm of Progress," so if you're in St. Louis, you can see it in person. We see a naked woman sitting on

actually, it's not clear what she's sitting  on, we'll just say for now that it's a red sofa.   A towel or robe is draped across her lap and she's arranging her hair. I imagine that the black bowl   next to her has bobby pins in it. We don't really know what it is though. She's wearing makeup:   blue eyeshadow, pink rouge and lipstick. She gives the impression of being a modern woman getting   dressed for the day, which is also the reading reflected in its title: "Toilette." But color is Tappert's real subject. He uses extraordinarily vivid colors that clash for optimum effect.  

that red leaps off the canvas, this is, this is not just the image, it is an incredibly bright,   intense red, and the purple and yellow are just as strong. But it's not just the intensity of these colors.   He lays them down in flat plains - the wall; the back and seat of the sofa, interrupted only by   the strong vertical column of the woman's torso. In 1914, so four years after this painting, Tappert   wrote that he and his fellow Expressionists formed "their own sensations of the object...  

in rhythmic lines and surfaces, in color harmonies and color contrasts with the deliberate intention   not to reproduce, not to reproduce, but to create new ones." So, paraphrasing Westheim,   not merely to copy nature, in this case a woman dressing, but to use it as a raw material to free   the rhythm of universal validity. For instance, the visual relationships between colors and forms.   Now, for us in 2020 this painting might look pretty tame, um, but think about it from this perspective.

Tappert painted "Toilette" on the back of a finished still life he had painted only two years earlier.   Probably, he was just too poor or too  cheap to buy a new canvas, so he reused an old one.   When you see the front and back  like this, side by side, snapshots of his   art from 1908 on the left and 1910 on the right, it's like he's a different artist.   And there's a lot to say about the early still life - about how he made it at the artist colony   in Worpswede, about how it fits into that place in that time. But what's more important for us   is that this double-sided painting shows the birth of Expressionism in a really tangible way.   

In these exact years, 1908, 1909, 1910, young artists across Germany are transforming themselves en masse   just like Tappert did. And it's not what they paint or the colors they use, the transformation is in   how they talk about art. How they define their work as artists, the artist's role in society   and also society itself. It was a dramatic sea change that happened in these years and   that's part of the reason why we still talk about Expressionism, why it's so important to us today. Now, the engines for this transformation were the little obscure artist groups   that Westheim described. They exhibited the new art, their exhibitions traveled to other cities  

and they published illustrated journals and books that spread even further. Those promoted   Expressionist art and ideas across Germany and inspired other artists to transform as well.  Tappert contributed to this network of  knowledge too. He was a founding member of an   arts association in Berlin called the New Secession. This is a poster for the group's first exhibition   which took place in 1910, the same year he painted "Toilette." The poster was designed not by Tappert 

but by his fellow founder Max Pechstein, whom we've already met and who and who was the first   president of the New Secession. The exhibition's title, which you see at the top of the poster,   tells the whole story behind the group: Art Exhibition of the Berlin's Secession Rejects. The Berlin Secession was the leading  presenter of modern art in the city of Berlin.   Every year they had a major exhibition and all the local artists submitted paintings   in the hope that the hanging committee would choose them. That year the committee reject,   rejects a record number of submissions, more than a thousand, including works by artists   like Pechstein who had been chosen in previous years. Irate at the Berlin Secession's refusal  

to provide to provide a forum for the new art, um, Tappert and Pechstein organized this army of   rejected artists, founded the New Secession and produced this exhibition that the poster is for.   And the press loved it. The Berliners loved it. The Berlin Secession and the New Secession artists   were duking it out. They had simultaneous exhibitions going on in the city. One of the   Berlin's Secession, the other of the paintings rejected from the Berlin Secession exhibition.  

The new secession exhibition was so popular that the dates had to be extended to accommodate the   crowds and all this press coverage in the nation's art capital put this new art,   which wasn't even called Expressionism yet, this is you know before Westheim's article, um,   it put it on the map and we wouldn't be talking again we wouldn't be talking about Expressionism   today if it weren't for the success of exhibitions like the 1910 New Secession exhibition that   Tappert organized, or writers like Paul Westheim, who actively promoted the new the new movement. Okay at this point in my talk I'm going to get a little, a little avant-garde. We will attempt   a poetic interlude, um. We have here at the Museum a fantastic double-sided painting called "Burning City."   You see what we call the front side of it here. It was painted by Ludwig Meidner in Berlin in 1913. And it belongs to a series of paintings he made that are collectively called the Apocalyptic Landscapes.   Our painting is a perfect example  of this series. It shows a burning city at night,  

people fleeing in terror, dismembered corpses, those are the green kind of squiggles on the lower right.   And this is on view in our permanent collection gallery, so, again, if you're in St. Louis please   come and see it. It's a nightmarish scene. Yeah come, come see this nightmarish scene. [laughs]  

Um, these particular works,  the Apocalyptic Landscapes,   they have been read as prophetic visions of future wars, especially of World War I. So, note, that this   was painted in 1913, the year before the outbreak of war, um. Or it's been, or they've been interpreted   as scenes out of the Old Testament, foreshadowing the artist's orthodox Judaism of the 1920s. But I'm interested in their relationship to German Expressionist poetry. When Meidner started to paint  

his apocalyptic landscapes he frequented the Café des Westens, which was a literary hangout   and was particularly close to Georg Heym, a leading Expressionist poet. So rather than analyze this   painting using Heym's poetics, I'd like to read you his poem "War" from 1911 and invite you to consider   the connections. And, as I read I'll advance through other apocalyptic landscapes for you to look at. Okay, Georg Heym's poem "War" from 1911: Risen is the sleeper from the vaulted past, Risen from deep down under and returned at last.  

Huge and strange he looms there, in the twilight mist,  And he snuffs the moon out with a cold black fist.  Cities team with hubbub of the thickening dusk,  Frost and shadows swallow swaddled in an alien husk; Street-sounds of the markets halt their  rounds and freeze. Silence now. And no man knows, yet each man sees. People in the alleys feel him on  their trail.    Questions. And no answers. Faces turning pale. Swinging in the distance, bells are whining thin.

Every beard is trembling on its pointed chin.   He's begun his "danse macabre" where the hilltops arch, And he's screaming: "all you soldiers forward march." Listening to the the pounding of his swart brow's pulse;  That jangling is his necklace of a thousand skulls. Tower tall he lumbers from the sun's last ray;  Bloody torrents follow on the heels of day.   Countless are the corpses that the swamp has spilt;    Droppings of the death bird are their last white quilt. Forest after forest feeds the flaming jaws;  Yellow bats of arson flex their zig zag claws.  

Like a furnace-slavey, he hacks his poker deep,  Stoking up the embers to their wildest leap.   Hurtling without outcry into nightmare's gut, Metropolis is choking on its own pale soot.   Over glowing rubble he gives a giant lurch;   Through frantic skies he three times waves his torch, -  Mirrored in the hurricane of mangled clouds, In the dead cold desert of the midnight shrouds.   Night itself dries up beneath his far-flung fire;   Sodom has collapsed upon its funeral pyre.  Georg Heym's poem the "War." Okay, for the last stop in our tour of Expressionism, we'll look at this   painting, a double self-portrait by Oskar Kokoschka titled "Painter II (Painter and Model II)  made in the year 1923. It isn't currently on view but you may recognize it from past visits to the Museum.  

At the start of the talk, I warned against taking the term Expressionism too literally by defining   Expressionist art as an art of self-expression. This painting undermines my warning. It's a warning to   the warning. Um, it's, it is a single-minded, indeed, almost obsessive, examination of the Self, made by   an artist in crisis, who felt profoundly lost both in his art and in his life at this moment.   So "Painter II" is an act of self expression, but it's not really about Kokoschka expressing   his feelings as such. It's his attempt to  find himself by confronting his own past.   We see an artist in a blue smock at an easel. He's painting a portrait of a deathly white man, naked,  

with a shaved head against a red background. Red returns in the wound on the painted man's chest.   He prods the wound with his own finger - an unusual gesture that's a reference to the biblical story   of the doubting Apostle Thomas who wouldn't believe that Christ had resurrected until he   himself had touched the wounds Christ had received on the cross. The artist has signed, um, his painting   that the initials OK over the man's wounded chest, almost like a tattoo. It's Kokoschka’s signature which identifies the artist standing at the easel as a self-portrait of Kokoschka who   it must be said himself looks rather Christ-like. But, there's another layer to the painting.

The deathly white painted man is also Kokoschka, or rather Kokoschka as he depicted himself in   a self-portrait he made in 1910. You see the original at left - it was a poster Kokoschka designed   to advertise the first issue of a new  journal called Der Sturm, or The Storm.   The journal's editor launched Kokoschka's artistic career almost single-handedly.  

He reproduced Kokoschka’s art in every single issue of his journal for the first year   and exhibited it in his influential  Berlin gallery of the same name, Der Sturm.  Okay but the self-portrait in the poster has yet another layer of reference it's a product of the   controversy that surrounded the 1907 premiere in Vienna of Kokoschka's play which was titled   "Murder, Hope of Women." Now this is a seminal early Expressionist play. The play is very abstract,  there's not a lot of dialogue but there is a fair amount of violence and if you think    back to Georg Heym's poem this is violence is something of a through line of Expressionism.   The play includes a scene where a male character called only "the Man" brands   the female character who's called only "the Woman" and then the woman stabs the man with a knife.   It's meant to symbolize conflict between the sexes; however, at the premiere soldiers from a   nearby garrison see the scene, don't realize it's a play and storm the stage. In return, the audience  

riots and so the story goes they're so excited by the passions that they've seen in the play they   have to riot. The police respond and arrest Kokoschka, who at the time is only 23 years old.   The conservative Viennese press really make a meal of how offensive this young playwright is,   saying he's assaulting public decency. Influential friends intervene and Kokoschka is released but   he soon leaves Vienna for Germany. A couple of years later he makes the poster for Der Sturm   and later in life this is how he describes the poster: "It shows me with head shaven like a convict,   and pointing at a wound in my chest; it  was intended as a reproach to the Viennese,  but a few years later, in the war, (and he's referring to World War I), a Russian bayonet   went through my lung at exactly that place."

So, the poster is complicated. We know it's a self-portrait,   but who is Kokoschka meant to be? Is he the convict playwright in Vienna arrested for starting a riot?  Is he christ who suffered for our sins and been resurrected? Is he the character of the man   from the play who's stabbed and killed by the character of the woman? It's productively unclear.   I think this this confusion is intended and also very telling. And then in 1923, he paints himself   painting the poster. Now, interestingly,  a couple of years earlier in 1921,   he resurrects Murder, Hope the play "Murder, Hope of Women" as a one-act opera with music written   by an important composer, Paul Hindemith and it premiered in Stuttgart. So, all this points to that  

moment, that original moment in 1907, the premiere, the, as a formative event. It's the site really of   Kokoschka's birth as an artist. Repeatedly, over the course of his subsequent career he returns   to that moment. He replays it in different ways and he takes it up as his artistic subject,  

like in "Painter II." But even after, Kokoschka lives and and Kokoschka lives to the age of 93.   He dies in 1980, which is so impressive, um, to have, to think that we have a member of this generation   who then continues, um, kind of doing interviews and writing his memoirs until the year 1980.   He's pretty famous and on all these interviews and in his memoirs he repeatedly talks about   this 1907 premiere. It takes on almost  a mythic quality in his biography  

and all of that past and sort of all of  that meaning is embedded in this painting.   I'll close with a quote from Kokoschka, um, that has you see here in a later self-portrait. Um, I'll close with a quote from Kokoschka that has a new meaning for me today.   It's a famous story. The year is 1920, and Kokoschka is a professor at the Art Academy in Dresden.  Germany is in total shambles. It lost World War I. The German Empire disappeared almost overnight   and is replaced by a fragile republic that in that moment is in the throes of a coup.  

Um, the famous Kapp Putsch. It was a really long war including for Kokoschka who was injured,   and now there's street fighting  in the cities, including Dresden.   During one skirmish, a gun goes off and the bullet travels into the nearby Zwinger art museum   and hits a painting by Rubens. For Kokoschka, this is the last straw. He writes an impassioned editorial   pleading the fighters to at least stay away from the museum and this is what he says: "In my walks from home to the Academy, I never failed to visit the museum.   [When]... With the outside world in chaos, I kept my bearings thanks entirely to those artists   of the past who had revealed how to order experience as part of the spiritual life.  

I learned how important a museum can be for an isolated individual." Thank you Jessica: Thank you Melissa. Uh, so, we do have some time for some questions. Um, if you want to ask a question,   you can click on the two little bubbles with the word, the letters Q & A underneath them   and you can type in a question there. I'm gonna let, give people a little bit of time to do that, um, so,  

Melissa, would you mind talking a little bit more about this last painting that we've just looked at? Melissa: Yeah, I hope some of you have read the title. So, Kokoschka, okay, let me back up, you guys who know   our collection, you know we have this fantastic collection of paintings by Max Beckmann. The largest   collection, in fact, of paintings by Max Beckmann in the World. And he's famous as a self-portraitist, so   he does a lot of self-portraits and so is Kokoschka. He does a lot of self-portraits and this is a  

later self-portrait and I hope you'll notice the title is "Self-portrait of a Degenerate Artist," and   he made it in 1937. So, this is in reference to a chapter of Expressionism that I didn't really have   a chance to talk about in my talk proper. But of course, when Hitler comes to power in 1933, the arts   um, feature very prominently in Nazi public policy. I mean it's a target of Nazi ideology and as  

part of it, basically all modern art movements but especially Expressionism is declared as degenerate.   Or "entartete," and if you are called a  degenerate artist you cannot exhibit your work.  You cannot sell your work. You cannot officially paint. You certainly can't teach at any museums and,  

so, you have a lot of these Expressionist artists, including uh Kokoschka, they lose their position.   Um and, uh, in 1937, the year he painted this painting, now he's already in exile, um, but he   is following the news in Germany because, frankly, that's where a lot of his paintings are located.   They've been taken from public collections, they've been put in storage, they've disappeared. He doesn't  

know where they are. Um, some of them are being sold internationally at auctions and he's watching all   of this. Um, and then in 1937, there's this infamous propaganda exhibition called the Degenerate Art   Exhibition or Entartete Kunst. It's held in Munich in 1937 and it's, um, curated, filled with objects that   have been taken from public German collections and then exhibited in Munich to show, kind of to teach,   Germans how bad degenerate art is. And it's infamous and any of these artists who are,  

you know, kind of decried as degenerate at this point in 1937, the writings on the wall. They leave.   so '37 is a year of kind of mass exodus and here we have Kokoschka. Um, he's explicitly   responding to this exhibition. He's explicitly responding to being labeled a degenerate artist.   He's calling himself a degenerate  artist. He's kind of taking on that label, 

and what I love about it is that, um, it doesn't have a lot of the psychological intensity of the   1923 double self portrait. I mean it the colors are really lovely and the brushwork is active   but it doesn't really have the sort of menace that I that I see in especially his earlier portraits.   And it's this beautiful pastoral, I think, it's a very beautiful pastoral landscape and he's   looking very unthreatening and I think that's, that's kind of the message. Is that he's sitting  

here in his shirt sleeves in this kind of lovely park confronting us. I mean he's staring directly   out at us, but looking supremely unthreatening and just kind of very confident as an artist. So, this is, I really wanted to include this because it is a kind of one of the ways, it's a great way that to show how different artists responded to this terrible label that they were given in Germany.

Jessica: Thank you. So, actually there's another um question that you've, I think you've answered,   but um I thought the connection was interesting.Um, they say: "As I look at these paintings, I can't   help thinking about the cultural life of  Berlin as depicted in the musical "Cabaret"   and wondering if these Expressionist artists were among those labeled as creators of degenerate art,"   which you just said, so, um, just thought that was a nice... Melissa: I've never seen "Cabaret," actually! Maybe I need to watch   it. Jessica: Definitely! Melissa: This is what happens when you spend  too much time studying art. Jessica: [laughs] You definitely should.  

Um, let's see, we have some other questions. Um, what is the source of the poem by Heyms? Uh, why about   war? And what influenced the poet to write it? Melissa: Oh, that's too much to answer. I can't answer all that. Jessica: Well, just do one. Melissa: I'll tell you, so it's Georg Heym, the last name is spelled h-e-y-m. I actually found  

that English translation online. He's very widely published including in English translations   so I think if you, and this is one of his most famous poems, so I think if you, if you just   search his name, again h-e-y-m, you should find it. It's called "War" um, and I think the larger   conversation, I can only kind of answer part of this, is that there is this, and this ties   into discussions of Ludwig Meidner and the sort of, um, prevalence of of this apocalyptic theme.  

Not, not just in Meidner's art and not just in Heym's art but as a sort of an end of days theme   and it comes up in Nietzsche, as well, who, Friedrich Nietzsche, who's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" is   is widely read by this entire generation. I think it's Otto Dix says, we marched off to war with copies   of, you know, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" and the Bible in our knapsacks, or something like that, but it   it really colors, kind of, everything and there is there is a sense that a civilization hides this   deeper, uh, conflict. This conflict between reason and passion and clearly the Expressionists are   coming down on the side of passion and it is it is that access to sort of primal feelings   and that that I think is driving a lot of this apocalyptic, um, apocalyptic imagery and the issue   of war, I mean, certainly by 1913 there is a sense that Germany is marching to war and and that a war   is on the horizon. Um, but also this has to do with Nietzsche and other writers of the period a sense   in which the war is a sort of eternal conflict that you enter into and that all men must prove   themselves in war and, uh, it's partly the writings of Nietzsche that sort of primed this generation   that so that when World War I actually  breaks out, at least in Germany, there's a lot   of enthusiasm for the war and a lot of young men, kind of, voluntarily enlist and feel like this is   going to be their opportunity to be the Ubermensch, to be the sort of Nietzschean Superman figure. Jessica: Um, we have time for maybe two more. There's one really big question so I'll save that for the end.  

Um, uh, uh someone asked, did um, Oskar, O.K. Melissa: Oskar Kokoschka. Jessica: Thank you. Uh, have a work in the in the "Degenerate Art" show? Did he have work... Melissa: Yeah he he did. Um, and   there's, uh, do I even have it with me? Uh, LACMA did this fantastic reconstruction of the "Degenerate   Art Exhibition" and it's it's and there's a huge massive like English language publication but   it it reproduces all of the, um, install shots from the exhibition that are kind of known and   identifies the works that are in it and, in fact, this is a good point to say that, um, this is a good   time to say that, in fact, in our collection and in the "Storm of Progress" exhibition we've included   two works that were included, were exhibited, at the "Degenerate Art Exhibition" and that's   Karl Schmidt-Rottluff's, um, "Village by the Sea" and and famously Max Beckmann's, um, "Christ and..." um, "Christ and the Sinner." So both of those works are on view, uh, in "Storm of Progress" they were   also both shown in "Degenerate Art" and they were previously in public art collections in Germany,   were taken off view by the Nazi officials in charge of the museum, were exhibited in "Degenerate,"   the "Degenerate Art Exhibition" in 1937 and in touring exhibitions that followed around Germany   and then were sold internationally, um, at auctions or at a network of kind of approved   gallerists and that's how a lot of  these works came to the United States. Jessica: Okay, so I'm gonna end with this question. Um, Melissa, you made a great expression about  

Expressionism. Um, question: you have outlined German Expressionism as running generally   from 1910 onward. Fauvism, they say, ran from 1904 to 1910, or thereabouts. And the Post-   Impressionists run prior to that. Are those earlier -isms thought by some historians as Expressionists? Melissa: Generally, no. I mean, I haven't encountered that. There is, now this is very this is very obscure   and has been semi-discredited and also, this is a lot of caveats, and also this really belongs in and   more properly in the zone of kind of scholarship around French art from this earlier period. There  

is, there is an argument that the term expressionnisme, excuse my French, but the same term in French, um,   was used in and around, um, the studios of Matisse and his followers and that it was kind   of associated with with that group and that that's how it came to Germany. I I think this is where and,   you know, there's there there is some very, like, there is some very specific debate around, about,   you know, whether Expressionism had this sort of, at least French, the term itself had a French origin   and then moved into Germany. Um, I think for me and, I I have to say in preparing this talk I did   a really thorough search of every historical reference I could find to Expressionism and   shockingly, you know, I that it's incredible now so much has been digitized and there are full   text searches so we can find things now that would have taken just months in in archives and you would   never find. Jessica: Right. Melissa: So with like, a click of a search I found, you know articles in English in 1906 that   have nothing to do with German Expressionism that I talk about, that use the terms impressionism and   expressionism in English, and they're saying expressionism, as sort of polar opposites   in much the same way Westheim did in the sense in that, you know, Impressionism is about   capturing fleeting impressions of nature and Expressionism, oh, it's about expressing emotions.  

So I think, um, you know, the more we look at these early sources I think the fact that Expressionism,   expression, self-expression, is such a commonly used term, uh, in the visual arts, generally, I   think you start to see formulations and variations of it even when there aren't direct relationships. Jessica: All right. Well, thank you so much, Melissa for doing this today and thank you to everyone who joined us.   Um, I encourage all of you, uh, to keep an eye out on the Museum's website uh, under the Events   tab we are going to be, we have added a few more uh, "Art Speaks" programs we will continue   to add them as we go, so I encourage you to check those out. And have a great afternoon!

2021-01-07 09:30

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