stylistic premise of Expressionism was that the artist's response to the
environment was so intense that it affected the form of the art. Surface
elements are distorted or exaggerated by subjective pressures. As a
reflection of the time, Expressionist painting tended to be vivid and
violent, with jarring images. In expressionism, it is considered more
important that the work depicts the subjective, personal emotions
accurately, than that the subjects drawn are an accurate, external
presentation of reality. Despite this one, unifying motivation behind
expressionism, there is no single, particular style associated with the
movement. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias and
El Greco can be called expressionist, though
in practice, the term is applied mainly to 20th century works.
The goal of Expressionism was to evoke the subjective responses that the artist has to objects or events. It contrasted with impressionism, which sought to capture the outward impression of an object or scene. And of course Expressionism did not attempt a realistic portrayal of the world.
Expressionism was an art movement associated mainly with German painting and film of the early 20th century, particularly following World War I. Hitchcock, a lifelong art collector, was familiar with German expressionist filmmaking from his work in Germany during the mid-1920s.
Expressionism found its roots in two groups of German painters, Die Bruecke and Der Blaue Reiter. Die Bruecke, meaning "the Bridge" was centered in Dresden and included artists Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Otto Mueller, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. The group held formation from 1905 to 1913. The group set up their studios in a working-class neighborhood on the edge of Dresden’s boundaries. Their isolation led to their shared stylistic and thematic development. Die Brucke’s art was typically violent and emotional in its imagery. They favored themes that explored the relationship difference between city and country. Finding some of their inspiration from the art of tribal cultures in Africa and the South Seas, Die Bruecke favored distorted lines and enhanced forms, vibrant color, and flattened perspective. They rejected conventional gallery procedures and organized a series of traveling exhibitions in order to present their work to the public. The group fell apart due to artistic differences and the onset of World War I.
The other German Expressionist group, Der Blaue Reiter, meaning The Blue Rider, began in Munich in 1911 and lasted until 1913. Der Blaue Reiter took its name from a painting by Kandinsky title "Le cavalier bleu." The group was united more by their common goal of portraying spirituality rather than stylistic similarities. Der Blaue Reiter opened the doors fro abstraction because of its ideas of experimentation and originality. Artists involved were Franz Marc (his "Fighting Forms" painting is shown above), August Macke, Gabriele Munter, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Alexei Yavlensky