Drawing The Line: Realism and Abstraction in Expressionist Art

March 20, 2018 - July 6, 2018

Despite certain broad affinities among its artists, Expressionism was not a coherent style in the manner of Impressionism or Cubism. Wassily Kandinsky, the movement’s dominant theorist, described two basic formal approaches: “the great realism” and “the great abstraction,” both of which, he said, ultimately serve the same end: to express “the inner resonance of the thing.” The two strands were also called “the extensive,” which retained ties to recognizable subject matter, and “the intensive,” which renounced such imagery. Whether oriented toward realism or abstraction, Expressionists were driven by a need to re-envision the world.   

The exhibition examines varied influences - Primitivism, Symbolism, Nietzsche, and Theosophy, to name a few – on works that arose from formal as well as casual artistic alliances within and across national boundaries. The earliest group, Die Brücke (The Bridge) was established in 1905. In 1909, it was followed by Kandinsky’s New Artists’ Association, which pulled into its orbit Lyonel Feininger, Alfred Kubin, Paul Klee, August Macke, and Franz Marc — all of whom showed with Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) between 1911 and 1913.