The Hamburg art historian Rosa Schapire was one of the earliest patrons of the Brücke school of painters. She made it her lifes work to struggle tirelessly to promote the recognition of avant-garde artists, in particular the Expressionists, in Germany. She was a close friend of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel, but others such as Franz Radziwill and members of the Hamburg Secession like Karl Kluth and Willem Grimm also benefited from her enormous commitment to their cause. They showed their gratefulness in the form of numerous portraits or artistic postcards.
Schapire was instrumental in organizing exhibitions in renowned galleries, lectured the length and breadth of the country and published many, many reviews and articles. On top of this she supported the sale of expressionist works to major art galleries through the foundation of the Frauenbund zur Förderung deutscher bildender Kunst.
This exhibition in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe
will show some 130 paintings, drawings, artistic postcards, art magazines, photos, jewellery and personal correspondence to pay homage to Rosa Schapires lifes work. This is the first time that an exhibition has been staged with the aim of reconstructing the character of her progressive collection. Besides works from the Museums own collections and from the Sammlung Hamburger Sparkasse, works on loan from private and public collections will be on view. It is planned to publish an accompanying monogram, which will be prepared by German and British art historians.
Expressionism was a cultural movement originating in Germany at the start of the 20th-century as a reaction to positivism and other artistic movements such as naturalism and impressionism. It sought to express the meaning of "being alive" and emotional experience rather than physical reality. It is the tendency of an artist to distort reality for an emotional effect; it is a subjective art form. Expressionism is exhibited in many art forms, including painting, literature, theatre, film, architecture and music. The term often implies emotional angst. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias Grünewald and El Greco can be called expressionist, though in practice, the term is applied mainly to 20th century works.
Although it is used as a term of reference, there has never been a distinct movement that called itself "expressionism", apart from the use of the term by Herwald Walden in his polemic magazine Der Sturm in 1912. The term is usually linked to paintings and graphic work in Germany at the turn of the century which challenged the academic traditions, particularly through the Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter groups. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche played a key role in originating modern expressionism by clarifying and serving as a conduit for previously neglected currents in ancient art.
More generally the term refers to art that expresses intense emotion. It is arguable that all artists are expressive but there is a long line of art production in which heavy emphasis is placed on communication through emotion. Such art often occurs during time of social upheaval, and through the tradition of graphic art there is a powerful and moving record of chaos in Europe from the 15th century on the Protestant Reformation, Peasants' War, Eight Years' War, Spanish Occupation of the Netherlands, the rape, pillage and disaster associated with countless periods of chaos and oppression are presented in the documents of the printmaker. Often the work is unimpressive aesthetically, but almost without exception has the capacity to move the viewer to strong emotions with the drama and often horror of the scenes depicted.
The term was also coined by Czech art historian Antonín Matějček in 1910 as the opposite of impressionism: "An Expressionist wishes, above all, to express himself....(An Expressionist rejects) immediate perception and builds on more complex psychic structures.... Impressions and mental images that pass through mental peoples soul as through a filter which rids them of all substantial accretions to produce their clear essence [...and] are assimilated and condense into more general forms, into types, which he transcribes through simple short-hand formulae and symbols." (Gordon, 1987)