Russian Expressionism

December 9th, 2011, posted in Uncategorized

Expressionism is an artistic style in which the artist attempts to depict not objective reality but rather the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in him. He accomplishes his aim through distortion, exaggeration, primitivism, and fantasy and through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal elements. In a broader sense Expressionism is one of the main currents of art in the later 19th and the 20th centuries, and its qualities of highly subjective, personal, spontaneous self-expression are typical of a wide range of modern artists and art movements. (source)

I’m interested in Expressionism because it’s what they think and tells me how they feel about themselves. Expressionists express their emotions in their paintings and try to stir the viewers mind and feel how the artists felt.

Expressionism started before the First World War and originated in Germany. It remained popular in Berlin during the Wiemar Republic. (source)

Anatoly Zverev

He was born in 1931 and died in 1986. He was considered the founder of Russian Expressionism in the 1960s. He grew up so poor he often went to school with unmatching shoes. He was discovered painting boards and fences in parks. Anatoly was persecuted by the Soviets when his self portrait appeared on the the cover of Time Magazine alongside Stalin’s. He spent most of his life in hiding. He didn’t have a solo show until shortly before his death. (source)

 Wassily Kandinsky

“Abstract art places a new world, which on the surface has nothing to do with “reality,” next to the “real” world. Deeper down, it is subject to the common laws of the “cosmic world.” And so a “new world of art” is juxtaposed to the “world of nature.” This “world of art” is just as real, just as concrete. For this reason I prefer to call so-called “abstract art” “concrete art.”.

He was born in 1866 to a wealthy family who wanted him to be an attorney. In 1896 he entered Anton Azbe’s private painting school. Shortly after, in 1900 he attended the Munich Academy of Art. By 1901 he had left and started the Phalanx art group and started his own school to teach himself art. In 1922 he accepted an invitation to attend Bauhaus  by the founder, Walter Gropius. He passed away in 1944. (source)

Natalia Goncharova

She was born near Tula, Russia in 1881. She began painting in 1904. She developed “Rayonism” with her husband. Her painting, “Picking Apples,” sold for $9.8M at Christies and set a record for a female artist. She was famous for futurist art work.  She became a French citizen in 1939 and passed away in 1962. (source)

Marianne von Werefkin

She was born in 1860 in Tula, Russia and was the daughter of the Commander of the Ektaerinaburg Regiment. She studied under Ilya Repin who was the most important painter of Russian Realism. Her progress was hurt in 1888 when she was shot in the her right hand after a hunting accident. She created her first expressionist works in 1807. In 1918 she moved to Switzerland after the start of World War I. She died in poverty in 1938 and was buried in a Russian graveyard in Switzerland. (source)

Marc Chagall

He was born in 1887 and died in 1985. Picasso said, “When Matisse dies Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.” He was  a pioneer of Modernism and embraced his Jewish heritage in his work. He barely escaped France in May, 1941 and came to New York. In 1963 he was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Paris Opera House.  (source)


Russian Expressionists came from all different walks of life. They were men and women, rich and poor, Christian and Jewish. We know that many were born in the mid to late 1800s. Expressionism expressed intense emotion.  I learned that Russian art is like American art in that we express ourselves similar. We don’t have to be in different countries or states to be similar.