Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Expressionism (pt. 4)

One of the most famous offshoots of Expressionism was German Expressionism, which not only focused on a specific nationality of artists but dealt with consistent cultural approaches to subject matter.  Significantly in music, this style of approach manifested itself prodigiously in the works of composer Arnold Schoenberg.  The theoretical tenants of German Expressionism did away with traditions and conventions in art in order to better convey deeper emotion.
The paintings of artist Franz Marc, then, are not Impressionistic, though the wispy brushwork resembles the earlier styles of Renoir.  His colors, which are more vivid and unrestrained, represent the flare of emotional life to be read into his work.  The artist frequently painted horses, but he painted them in different colors, like yellow or blue.  This painting of Yellow Horses is one of his most famous works of art.  The majestic beauty and pastoral tranquility of these noble beasts is conveyed through broad brushstrokes and wide circles of vivid hues, similar to the weighty look of the fruit in C├ęzanne's Still Life with a Peppermint Bottle.  The yellow of their bodies receives proper shading and reflective light (in greens along the mane and legs), but they are nevertheless painted very simply, almost as mere blotches of color.  Expressionism, while trying to convey often the deepest of emotions, sought to simplify the subject matter in a work so as not to distract or deter both viewer and artist from the real aspects of the work which were to be stressed.  Photorealism was too sharp a style for a phenomenon like Expressionism, given not just that emotions are abstract but that painting itself is not a concrete art.  Oils applied to canvases denote a form of technique, but the accomplishment of a painter lies in something far less tangible than clearly defined physical or visual elements.  Marc's horses appear in their own world, with clouds in the background and mystical, rolling blues and pinks.  We are almost in a fairy world, but we can't be sure; the horses in the foreground are all that matter.
Franz Marc most often painted nature scenes with animals, as if to connect with the old, Romantic affinity for nature's sublimity and peace.  Not all Expressionism was about personal self-expression (like Matisse's paper cutouts), but certainly the movement allowed for greater freedom among painters to paint how they felt about their given subject.  Horses and nature, thought this artist, ought to be painted with the fervor of old Romanticism.  Marc didn't paint in a Modernist way but in fact revered the later paintings of Vincent Van Gogh.  As the onset of war grew nearer, however, the artist did adapt his subjects to the times in a way that brought more undertones of impending death into his scenes.  The peace was lost.  After Germany declared war on Russia in 1914, Franz Marc enlisted in the military and was later killed in battle.  He died just shortly after his 36th birthday.

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