Even to the untrained eye, expressionism can be easy to spot. The art style takes many forms, but it has been around long enough to be instantly recognizable by the absence of realistic depiction and distortion of reality, coupled with a sharp focus on subjective perception guided by the creator’s personal response and emotions. However, what about neo-expressionism? Similar, but so very different? Sort of like that.

neo expressionism art

Modernist melancholy gave rise to a refreshing creative movement known as expressionism around the turn of the 20th century. This melancholy was directly influenced by industrial development, urbanization, and other usually devastating social changes and was marked by a more remote connection with the physical world. Instead of just copying the environment as it was, Expressionists decided to significantly alter the colors and shapes of the natural environment depicted in their raw representations to elicit an emotional reaction from viewers.

Painters employed this similar technique much later, in the giddy 1970s and 1980s, to break free from the detached stoicism of earlier movements, which led to the creation of a style known as Neo-Expressionism. The main difference between expressionism and neo-expressionism is that neo-expressionism was a revival of art done in an expressionist manner, but in the new, Postmodernist era.

What Is Neo-Expressionism?

Neo-expressionists wanted to tell stories in their paintings. Neo-Expressionism artists were painters who reintroduced expressiveness and unfiltered emotions into the visual arts, particularly painting, to exercise control over the environment in which they lived. They accomplished this by employing art as a means of expression. We gain insights into how the artists involved with this movement turned their profound introspection and deep despair into highly engaging work in this little excerpt from Phaidon’s Art in Time.

The Neo-Expressionist movement emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as a reaction to the intellectual cool of Pop art, Simplicity, Conceptualism, and Postmodernism. The trend known as abstract expressionism first appeared in the middle of the 20th century. It was inspired by the early beginnings of Der Blaue Reiter, Fauvism, and Die Brücke, in Abstract Expressionism. The return of emotional content expression via impulsive mark-making, personal color, and contorted forms was a hallmark of abstract expressionism.

What Inspired Neo-Expressionist Artists?

After World War II, Germany ironically became home to German Expressionism masters such as Georg Baselitz, notwithstanding this person of the motion throughout the 1930s and their disparaging labeling of it as degenerate art. This occurred even though the Nazis considered expressionist art to be degenerate art. 

Baselitz, born in 1938, was a driving force behind the resurgence of abstract art in Europe during the late 1950s. The term Neo-Expressionism has come to be synonymous with his body of work in its entirety. As he is positioned in front of us in an inverted position, the Religious man appears to be living in a bizarre universe. His wild eyes draw us in, the exotic blue and purples that radiate from his face, and the aura of yellow and pink that emanates from his face.

Strong, impromptu brushstrokes fill the rest of the canvas, evoking the stark black lines of early twentieth-century German Expressionism woodblock printing. Certainly, Baselitz painted the figure upside down, which distorted the viewer’s sense of depth. He couldn’t use the standard method of painting the person and then flipping the picture horizontally or vertically. Each piece has the artist’s signature, which serves as a guidepost for the viewer as he travels through his subconscious in search of his own identity.

Anselm Kiefer, an artist, born in the middle of the 1940s, often deals with Holocaust and Nazi Germany in his paintings. Paul Celan, a man who survived the Holocaust, is the author of the poetry that fossils the backbone of the movies Your Golden Hair, Your Ashen Hai, Maggie, and Shulamite. Both of these films are based on Celan’s work. The first one depicts the Nazi ideal lady as having tall, thin proportions, being aesthetically plugging, having blond hair and blue eyes, and being very attractive. The second concentrates on Jewish women killed in detention camps run by the Nazis.

An oasis of delight, as mentioned in their lifeblood and soil speeches, the German countryside was converted by Kiefer into a location of shame and emptiness in the modern world. Straw, a seemingly worthless material, may be converted into gold via the alchemy process, so the saying goes. Adding straw from the natural world to a Margarete canvas is a nod to alchemy. Shulamite’s barren landscape and burned-over fields indicate the town’s sad psyche.

The Effect of Emotions on Neo-Expressionism

The creative process is impacted in easement ways by one’s emotional state. The most noticeable impact on the artist is how it could affect them when interacting with their product. Based on how it causes the creative feel, feeling may either become a source of inspiration or an impediment to creative expression. Either way, creative expression can be influenced by emotion. There is a potential that the likelihood of an artist generating a piece of work that is cheery and optimistic may grow in the future. On the other hand, if the artist is going through unfavorable feelings, such as melancholy or rage, this is reflected in their work.

Emotions can affect not only the person who made the art but also how other people see it. People are likelier to like a piece of art that makes them feel happy or at peace than one that makes them feel angry or sad. This happens because our feelings can sometimes change how we see the world around us. So, emotions affect. It can be a source of inspiration for artists, but it can also change how people see and understand works of art.

The Role of the Portrait in Neo-Expressionism

To get individuals from other areas of West Berlin to move to West Berlin, the government gave them incentives like not having to serve in the military. As a result, West Berlin became home to a more free-spirited musical and artistic culture. Expressionist ideas that came back to life also influenced painters in other regions. Francisco Clemente painted a self-portrait called “Untitled” in 1952. It is often thought to be the best example of interiority.

If we look through the holes in this one, we might be able to see more self-portraits. Bits and pieces of the self are making disturbing and terrible appearances. Julian Schnabel, an American artist born in 1951, combined postmodernist misallocation with expressionist traditions. One piece that shows this is Blue Nude with Dagger, which looks like one of Matisse’s later cutouts. Parts of broken crockery plates stuck to the painting add to the strong style that is a hallmark of expressionism.