Learning and Literature @ La Biblioteca

Expressionist Art

By Gabriel Sencial

Expressionism is intensely personal. The Expressionist artist strives to convey his personal feelings about the object painted, rather than merely record his observation of it. Thus, in order to achieve maximum impact on the viewer, representational accuracy is sacrificed (distorted) in favor of  strong outlines and bold colors. Compositions tend to be simpler and more direct, and are often characterized by thick impasto paint, loose, freely applied brushstrokes, and occasional symbolism. The message is all-important.

Lecture, Expressionist Art, Wed, Jan 25, 5pm, Teatro Santa Ana, La Biblioteca, Reloj 50A, 60 pesos

As seen from the above explanation, Expressionism is really a general style of art – rather than a specific movement. Thus, one might argue that Expressionism really began with prehistoric cave painting, was continued by anonymous artists throughout Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages, before being taken up by Italian Renaissance artists like Donatello (1386-1466), Northerners like Rogier van der Weyden (1400-1464), Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) and Matthias Grunewald (c.1475-1528), Mannerists like El Greco, and artists throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, up to mid-20th century masters like Francis Bacon (1909-1992) and Georg Baselitz (b.1938).

In short, as a general style of painting and sculpture, Expressionism has always existed, and will always continue to exist.

As a movement, the term “Expressionism” usually denotes the late-19th century, early-20th century schools of emotive or interpretive art, which emerged mainly in Germany and Paris as a reaction to the more passive style of Impressionism. In the sense that it was a reaction to Impressionism, we may describe expressionism as an example of “post-Impressionism.” In any event, whereas Impressionist painters sought only to reproduce nature (notably the effects of sunlight), Expressionist painters sought to express their feelings about what they saw. It was a more active, more subjective type of art.

The archetypal expressionist painter, and arguably the most important pioneer of the movement was the Dutchman Vincent van Gogh. He was one of three important 19th-century pioneers of the idiom.

Pioneers of Expressionism

Van Gogh (1853-90) exemplifies Expressionism. Not only were most of his pictures autobiographical, in that they chronicled his thoughts, feelings, and mental equilibrium, but even the composition, colors and brushwork of his paintings were a close reflection of his feelings as he painted. Few artists have since equalled his genuine intensity of self-expression.

If van Gogh distorted form and color to convey his inner feelings, the French artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) relied on color to express his emotions. He also employed symbolism, but it was his color in painting that truly set him apart. As well as Expressionism, he also influenced the development of Synthetism, Cloisonism, and Primitivism.

The third great pioneer of expressionism was Edvard Munch (1863-1944), the neurotic Norwegian painter and printmaker who, despite being emotionally scarred in early life, managed to live to over 80 years of age. However, nearly all his best pictures were painted before his nervous breakdown in 1908.

Another harbinger of Expressionist art was the Swiss Symbolist painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918), and the Symbolist James Ensor (1860-1949).

How Did Expressionism Develop?

Although one might say that the Worpswede group (1889-1905) in Germany and to a lesser extent Les Nabis group in Paris, were Expressionistic, the first distinct style of Expressionism to emerge was Fauvism, led by Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Other Fauvist painters included Andre Derain (1880-1954), Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958), Georges Braque (1882-1963), Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), Albert Marquet (1875-1947) and Georges Rouault (1871-1958). Characterized by violent and vivid colors, Fauvist paintings were first exhibited at the 1905 Salon d’Automne exhibition in Paris. However, the movement was short-lived.

Expressionism really took root in Germany, in Dresden, Munich, and Berlin. Three separate groups emerged, which are collectively referred to by art historians as German Expressionism: Die Brucke (1905-13), Der Blaue Reiter (1909-14), and the post-war Die Neue Sachlichkeit (1920s).

Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak

By Robin Loving Rowland

All of us who have chosen San Miguel as our home have favorite San Miguel stories and we share them liberally, albeit without trying to proselytize too much to those unfortunate souls who have not yet found their nirvana.

Literature, Book Launch of Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, Wed, Jan 25, 4-6pm, Sala Quetzal, La Biblioteca, Reloj 50A, 121-0810

And those of us who have been here awhile (I count my seven years here as – finally – awhile) have pretty much given up on trying to explain our San Miguel love affair.  It simply is, and if another person doesn’t get it, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be for that other person.

So, how refreshing it is when one of our own writes a truly original slant on the San Miguel experience, and shares it in a way that encourages others to find out what the author’s kernels of truth are!

This is the case with Mark Saunders’ new book Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, a humorous memoir about dropping out, selling everything, and moving to Mexico, where he didn’t know a soul and could barely speak the language. Writers with greater credits than mine, including one Pulitzer Prize winner, have called the book “hilarious,” “fresh,” “witty,” “a must-read,” and “a full-course feast for head, heart and funny bone.” I agree.

So just when you thought you had tired of memoirs, here’s a must-read.  But, don’t take my word for it.

Mark will talk briefly about his initial San Miguel experience where he lived from 2005 to 2007 and now resides again, read a chapter from his book, and autograph copies. Covering everything from dust to dogs and topes to tamales, with guest appearances by Albert Brooks, Humphrey Bogart, and a Yugo, this book is a hoot.

“Hindsight doesn’t require reading glasses from Costco,” said Mark, but recapturing an experience in a witty memoir does require talent and special skills of observation, not to mention a few painful, clueless experiences. An award-winning playwright (nearly 30 plays staged), screenwriter (three scripts optioned), and cartoonist (more than 500 cartoons published), Mark writes about epiphanies that we can relate to in distinctly personal ways.

Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak is available in paperback and e-book formats from FUZE Publishing (www.Fuzepublishing.com), Amazon, Barnes

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