As the onset of the twentieth century brought crowds and cars streaming through Germany's city streets with a manic pace, the artists of Die Brucke retreated to the Moritzburg lakes to frolic about nude and seek emotional resurrection from urban angst.... [more]
As the onset of the twentieth century brought crowds and cars streaming through Germany's city streets with a manic pace, the artists of Die Brucke retreated to the Moritzburg lakes to frolic about nude and seek emotional resurrection from urban angst. They wanted to repeat the Renaissance in newfangled form, to bring about a vast unification of all future-minded artists into a thriving community. Fashioning themselves after a medieval guild, they explored a communal lifestyle while promulgating an aesthetics of spiritual freedom and emotional breadth.
Die Brucke is often considered the first wing of German Expressionism. They emphasized emotional force -- their paintings distorted forms to depict the primacy of affects over the propriety of natural objects. Canvases are typically bright, patterned with dynamic brushstrokes that stylize facial features, body shapes, and gestures. The illusion of depth falls to the wayside in the interest of producing an immediate emotional response to intense color. Vibrant edges evoke the affective energy swarming at the surface of figures. Simplified forms, inspired by African and Oceanic art, reduce bodies to specific lines of action and expression. Everywhere in the work of Die Brucke, spatial and figural distortions represent an emotional reality lived beneath the level of common perception.
Founded originally in Dresden in 1905 by Erich Heckel, Ernst Kirchner, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Die Brucke was later joined by Max Pechstein, Otto Muller, and Emil Nolde, among others. Their explicit objective was to educate the public about new art forms, and thereby bring about a renaissance in German cultural life. By 1911 most of the members had moved to Berlin, and their work began to reflect the frenetic pace of the modern city -- as well as the angst this pace provoked. Kirchner's paintings and woodcuts in particular evoke the sense of claustrophobia bourgeoning in Berlin. Muller and Nolde, on the other hand, remained with an aesthetic of euphoria and tranquility, an escapism that drew them repeatedly to the vivid, natural forms of the country.
The group remained together until 1913, when internal tensions finally resulted in its dissolution. It was purportedly Kirchner's controversial -- some say egocentric -- history of the group that provided the impetus for this culminating break. [show less]