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Subject - CSG / CSV (Cultural Studies)

Courses: Diploma of Graphic Design (CUV50311), Diploma of Visual Art (CUV50111)

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Teacher Name: Lisa Cianci - email:
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Class 05 - Lecture Notes



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Fauvism was the first of the avant-garde movements that flourished in France in the early years of the twentieth century. The Fauve painters were the first to break with Impressionism as well as with older, traditional methods of perception. Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1955) and André Derain (French, 1880–1954) introduced un-naturalistic colour and vivid brushstrokes into their paintings in the summer of 1905, working together in the small fishing port on the Mediterranean coast.

When their pictures were exhibited later that year at the Salon in Paris, they inspired the art critic Louis Vaucelles, to call them fauves or "wild beasts". This term was later applied to the artists themselves.

The Fauves were a loosely associated group of artists sharing a similar approach to painting nature. Their leader was Matisse, who had arrived at the Fauve style after earlier experimentation with the various Post-Impressionist styles of Van Gogh, Cezanne and in particular Gauguin who incorporated highly symbolic and autonomous use of strong saturated colour.

Henri Matisse, "La joie de vivre" 1905


The Fauves rejected traditional perspective and sought instead a new picture space, defined by the movement of colour planes. Their aim was to flatten the picture plane and reduce illusionism in painting.

Their spontaneous, often subjective response to nature was expressed in bold, undisguised brush strokes and high-keyed, vibrant complementary colours.

They incorporated highly expressive and autonomous use of strong saturated colour.

On many occasions they employed a flowing, arabesque-like line.

Their forms where often drawn from nature.

Their subjects included the human figure in an Arcadian landscape as well as portraits, interiors and still life.


Matisse created brilliantly coloured canvases structured by colour applied in a variety of brushwork, ranging from thick impasto to flat areas of pure pigment, sometimes accompanied by a sinuous, arabesque-like line. Paintings such as Women with a Hat gave rise to the first of the avant-garde movements 1905–7. During his Fauvist period, Matisse produced a significant number of innovative canvases, such as the portrait of Madame Matisse, called The Green Line 1905; The Dessert: Harmony in Red 1908 and The Dance 19010

Henri Matisse “Madame Matisse in Green Stripe” 1905

Henri Matisse “The Dance”, 1910

Henri Matisse “The Dessert: Harmony in Red” 1908


Another major Fauve was Maurice de Vlaminck (French, 1876–1958), who might be called a "natural" Fauve because his use of highly intense colour corresponded to his own exuberant nature. Vlaminck took the final step toward embracing the Fauve style after seeing the second large retrospective exhibition of Van Gogh's work at the Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1905, and the Fauve paintings produced by Matisse and Derain.

Maurice Vlaminck, “Tugboat on the Seine”, 1906,


As an artist, Derain occupied a place midway between the impulsive Vlaminck and the more controlled Matisse. He had worked with Vlaminck in Paris, intermittently from 1900 on and spent the summer of 1905 with Matisse in Collioure. In 1906, he also painted some fifteen scenes of London in a more restrained palette.

Adrian Derain "Turning Road at L'Estaque". 1906

Other important Fauvists were -Charles Manguin, Georges Rouault. Georges Braque and Raoul Dufy all joined the group in 1906.

For most of these artists, Fauvism was a transitional, learning stage. By 1908, a revived interest in Paul Cézanne's vision of the order and structure of nature had led many of them to reject the turbulent emotionalism of Fauvism in favour of the logic of Cubism. George Braque who had at first aligned himself with Matisse and the Fauves became the co-founder with Picasso of Cubism in 1907. Derain, after a brief flirtation with Cubism, became a widely popular painter in a somewhat neoclassical manner. Matisse alone pursued the course he had pioneered, achieving a sophisticated balance between his own emotions and the on going exploration of colour.

George Braque, Little Bay at La Clotat 1905

The Fauvist movement has been compared to German Expressionism, both projecting brilliant colours and spontaneous brushwork, and indebted to the same late nineteenth-century sources, especially Van Gogh. The French were more concerned with the formal aspects of colour and pictorial organization, while the German Expressionists were more emotionally and psychologically involved in their subjects.



The Expressionist art movement was formed in 1905 by a group of young German artist and graphic designers who believed their art could be a force to improve the human condition. Expressionism was never a single cohesive movement but rather, a term applied to the work of a number of different artist groups and individual practitioners in the early part of the 20th century. These artists mostly based in northern Europe and in particular Germany, were seeking a new artistic language to express their sense of spiritual and intellectual dislocation.

The philosophy of Nietzsche, with its distrust of Western rationalism was especially influential, encouraging artist to incorporate the instinctive and the irrational in their work. Many artists found inspiration from non-Western traditions such as primitive art and folk art, particularly masks and tribal sculptures from Africa and Oceania, which they believed possessed a expressive vitality lacking in European culture.

Their style rejected figurative representation in favour of an inner imaginative expression that was both strong and direct and deliberately distorted. Perhaps the defining characteristic of Expressionism was the presentation of a deliberately distorted image of the world to convey the artist own subjective vision. The surface of Expressionist paintings was often highly textured with think, expressive brushstrokes, and their use of boldly constructing colours was decisively anti- naturalistic.

Two sources could be thought of as immediate influences on German Expressionism, these include the strong expressive use of colour found and intensity of distorted form in Vincent Van Gough’s Self portraits and the psychological and strong subjective content of Edvard Munch’s narrative driven artworks which includes The Scream among others.      

Vincent Van Gogh - Self Portrait: Saint-Rémy 1886

Vincent Van Gogh's intense series of self-portraits were a way of documenting his mental deterioration. By using contrast in colours and detailed brushing patterns, this portrait creates a striking image presenting his own personal and honest view of his character. In doing this, the painting has been argued to be a most precise display of an artist’s state of mind in self- portraits to date. 

Edvard Munch's “The Scream”. 1893

The Scream of Nature is the original title Munch gave to this work, which shows a figure with an agonized expression against a landscape with a turbulent orange sky. The landscape in the background is said to be in Oslo, Norway. Munch was an expressive painter and was not primarily interested in literal renderings of what he had seen. The imagery of The Scream has been compared to that which an individual suffering from depersonalized mental disorder experiences, a feeling of distortion of the environment and one's self.


The first and most significant German Expressionist groups was Die Bruck (The Bridge), founded in Dresden in 1905, which included the artists Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Eric Heckel, Emil Nolde and Karl Schmidt- Rottluff. The name of the group was a metaphor of progress of crossing from one shore to an other, and reflected a belief that art had the power to transform a sick society into a utopian one.

Ludwig Kirchner “Self-Portrait as a Soldier “ 1915

This utopianism was manifested in their communal artistic practice, their challenge to sexual taboos, and their rediscovery of nature through retreats to country and mountain locations.

Ludwig Kirchner’s “Studio” 1915


They produced several periodicals and posters with such names as DER WED (The way), DER STURM (The storm), and DER ANBRUCH (The new beginning), to communicate their ideas to the broader community.

The first issue of Der Sturm, the avant-garde magazine edited by Herwarth Walden in Berlin appeared in March 1910.

Eric Heckel “Self Portrait” colour woodcut 1919


The expressionist techniques in both painting and graphic communication incorporated:

Oil on canvas.

Woodcut or relief printing, both in colour and black and white.

The use of both figurative and landscape imagery which was highly distorted in form.

The use of bold primary and secondary and tertiary colour with uneven strokes and textured surface.

Themes dealing with self - portraiture, expressing inner emotions and highly subjective views of humanity.

A distrust of progress represented as urban angst.

The theme of spirituality and a return to nature.

Criticism of the war and corrupt politicians.

Emil Nolde, “Karl Schmidt Rottluf” 1916


Some of the artist from the second major Expressionist group called Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) where Max Beckman, George Grosz, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. All were highly critical of German society after WW1.

Max Beckmann “The Night “ 1918 to 1919.

George Grosz “Pillars of Society” 1926


Oskar Kokoschka “The Red Egg”1940-41

Wassily Kandinsky Cover of the magazine "Der Blaue Reiter," Berlin, 1912

The group was founded by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky who both cultivated the abstract as a universal source of symbols and who would come to influence the American abstract expressionist like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and a host of other abstract art movements, through their innovative abstract style of painting. These abstract styles broke with optical reality in order to find a psychological basis for aesthetic development in art and design.

Franz Marc “Fate of the Animals” 1928

Wassily Kandinsky “Composition V11”, 1913

In Germany with the rise of Nazism the artist associated with expressionism were condemned as ‘degenerate’. Works in public’s collections were seized and destroyed and many artists were removed from teaching positions or forced into exile. The end of Expressionism came between 1920 and 1922 with the rise of Adolf Hitler who personally despised the expressionist so called ‘moral corruption’ and favouring instead a neoclassical realism as the official art of the Third Reich. Yet even after their demise the Expressionist philosophy and style continued to dramatically influence the practice of art and design.

Adolf Hitler “Degenerate Art Exhibition”1939              



Robert Wiene "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari" 1920

German expressionist films were prevalent in the 1920s. Amongst the most remembered are films such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Weiner, 1920), Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922), Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). Highly stylized visuals, asymmetrical camera angles, atmospheric lighting and harsh contrasts between dark and light united these films. Shadows and silhouettes were an important feature of expressionism, to the extent that they were actually painted on to the sets. The story lines of German expressionist films matched the themes found in expressionist art in terms of darkness and disillusionment. Often sombre in mood and featuring characters from a corrupt background’s, the films dramatic effects produced motifs of claustrophobia and paranoia.


Rudolf Steiner’s “Geotheanum”, 1928,

Rudolf Steiner’s second Geotheanum, completed in 1928, is the largest building in the German expressionist architectural movement. The revolutionary use of poured concrete inspired later Modernist architects.


A new cutting edge emerged in the early 1940s,one that was established away from Europe and primarily based in New York, where a small group of loosely affiliated artists created a stylistically diverse body of work that introduced radical new directions in art and shifted the art world's focus. Never a formal association, the artists known as Abstract Expressionists or The New York School did, however, share some common assumptions about the direction the avant-garde should take.

Among others, artists such as Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), Franz Kline (1910–1962), Lee Krasner (1908–1984), Robert Motherwell (1915–1991), Mark Rothko (1903–1970), Barnett Newman (1905–1970), Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974), and Clyfford Still (1904–1980) Breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, the artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches and in doing so, attempted to tap into universal inner sources. These artist’s valued spontaneity and improvisation, and they accorded the highest importance to process.

Willem de Kooning “Two Women with Still Life” 1952

Their abstract expressionist work can be clustered around two basic inclinations: an emphasis on dynamic, energetic gesture, otherwise known as Action painting, in contrast to a reflective, cerebral focus on more open fields of colour. In either case, the imagery was primarily abstract. Even when depicting images based on visual realities, the Abstract Expressionists favoured a highly abstracted mode.

Mark Rothko, “ No 5”, 1950.


The Angry Penguin painters are considered to be the major figures of a modernist movement in Australian art, based in Melbourne, which has determined and shaped Australian contemporary art. The Angry Penguins included Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Max Harris, John Perceval, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester. Their aim was to modernise Australian creative arts and poetry, and challenge traditions they saw as restrictive in Australia in the 1940s.

Contemporary movements in Europe, such as Expressionism, Surrealism and French Symbolism influenced the Angry Penguins. These movements were seen as vital by the Angry Penguin painters to modernise the contemporary Australian art scene and also to inspire Australian artists in finding different and more relevant modes of expression.

Albert Tucker, “Victory Girls”, 1943.

Consequently, the Angry Penguins adopted an expressive and visionary approach to their creative process. Nolan, for example, was a fast and prolific painter, working without preliminary sketches, often painting from memory. The symbolic expressionism in the works by Boyd, Hester and Tucker added a new and exciting dimension to a somewhat stagnant Australian art scene. They shared a meeting place with other artists and writers at the home of the wealthy art patrons, John and Sunday Reed, Heide, just0utside Melbourne, now the Heide Museum of Modern Art.


Joy Hester ”Three Figures” 1956


Many artists have practiced revived versions of the original German Expressionist movement since its decline in the 1920s. But the most famous return to Expressionism was inaugurated by Anselm Kiefer and Georg Baselitz, who led a revival which dominated German art in the 1970s.

Anselm Kiefer “Eisen-Steig” 1986.

By the 1980s, this resurgence had become part of an international return to painting, in which very different artists, from Julian Schnabel and Francesco Clemente to Jean-Michel Basquiat, in America and Europe also turned towards a neo expressionist direction.

Jean Michel Basquiat  “The Daros” 1983.

In Australia, Peter Booth, Jenny Watson, David Larwell and the Roar art movement, turned towards expressionistic, primitivist directions to create work, which delved into inner personal expression and allegory, affirmed the frightening and emancipating power of art.

Peter Booth “Painting” 1981

Peter Booth's 'Painting' stands out as one of the indisputable benchmarks of its era. Humanity was portrayed as a race of victim-idiots tormented by the bloodied and bloodthirsty monsters of its own imagining. Bosch and Goya are Booth's precursors, though not his examples, for there is something utterly of the twentieth century in these macabre menaces of modernity.

David Larwill “Never Be Late”, 1987

Larwill’s art is often highly autobiographical. Personal narrative combined with strong visual intensity comes to the fore in Never be Late, part of a farewell diptych to his partner. In addition to his strong sense of colour, a feature of his art is the absence of a central image or single focus, his broad canvases populated by animated figures of people, dogs, snakes, trees and fish.  They are invariably things familiar to him.







What does Arcadia mean and how did some Fauvist artist represent it?

How was the idea of the Avant guard represented in the works of Fauvist artist such as Matisse and Derain?






Give a description of the visual elements found in Expressionist art and graphic design including:

Line - Form - Colour - Composition – Texture - Font style


Give a description of the themes found in expressionist art through the following contexts:


What does URBAN ANGST mean and how did some Expressionist artist represent it?

The theme of SPIRITUALITY THROUGH NATURE was represented in the works of which Expressionist artist?


The founding of the artist group “Die Brucke” consisted of which German Expressionist artists?

Find visual examples of the work of Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Mueller, Karl Schmidt Rottluff, Emil Nolder and Erich Heckel.

What did “Die Brucke stand for?

The “Blue Rider” group consisted of which artists?

In what ways was the “Blue Rider” group different from “Die Brucke”?

Find visual examples of the work of Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke, Franz Marc and Alexej von Jawlensky.

What is meant by Neo-Expressionism?

Find visual examples of the work of four 1980’s Neo- Expressionist artists.