By Emily WehbyGerman Expressionism from the Detroit Institute of Arts will be on view at the Frist Center for Visual Arts from October 19 to February 10. The show offers a comprehensive look at Expressionism and its catalysts. Spanning from 1905–1950, the exhibit offers a diverse range of media occupying the Frist Center’s Upper-Level Galleries. Among several major artists featured are Wassily Kandinsky, Max Beckmann, Ernest Kirchner, and Franz Marc from the two foundational groups of German Expressionism: Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter.Die Brücke (the Bridge), taking its name from a passage in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, was founded in 1905 by four architecture students in Dresden. Lacking official training and rejecting traditionalism, members of the group sought to revitalize art by returning to “Germanic” art forms such as the woodcut. Championing artistic freedom and pioneering the linocut, Die Brücke lasted until 1913, ending after Ernst Kirchner’s publication of Chronik de Brücke. Mirroring Fauvism, art produced by the group is dominated by an exaggerated color palette as well as gesticulating, violent brushstrokes.Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) lasted from 1914–1917 and was founded by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky and native German Franz Marc in Munich. This fluid collection of artists focused on the synthesis of color theory, psychology, and spirituality rather than a cohesive aesthetic. After World War I, Kandinsky and other associated artists would go on to influence a new generation of artists at the Bauhaus.

The show is underscored by a narrative of destruction and extraordinary survival. German Expressionism was affected by both the First World War that fractured Der Blaue Reiter and the destruction of hundreds of works in the aftermath of Hitler’s Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937. Despite the violence the movement underwent, curator Trinita Kennedy notes that its legacy has survived: “Several artistic movements of the second half of the twentieth century, including Abstract Expressionism and Neo-Expressionism, were overtly inspired by the German Expressionists’ use of brushstrokes and colors to express their deepest anxieties and yearnings. In fact, most of the artists in the Frist Center’s recent exhibition Paint Made Flesh owe a significant debt to the ideas of German Expressionism.”

The profound influence of Expressionism remains undiminished despite innumerable obstacles, and we are fortunate to see it here in Nashville.

Check out our Facebook page on October 18 for images from the media preview of the exhibit! 

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