War and Angst: German Expressionism

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_germanwar_angst_heckel

    Erich Heckel (German, 1883-1970). 'Woman Kneeling by a Rock,' 1913-14. Hand-colored woodcut. Purchase, 1951 (13024). © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

June 11, 2015 - October 25, 2015
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

This exhibition of works on paper by 10 artists associated with the WWI era German Expressionist movement considers how Expressionist artists rendered the human figure across various themes of war, literature, and social commentary using printmaking techniques, in particular the woodblock, and assumed their place in an artistic tradition rooted in German medieval illustration. Interpreted through modernist visual vocabularies such as Cubism and Futurism, the Expressionists embraced the reproducibility of the print to circulate their ideas for social renewal through a new aesthetic with an emphasis on flattened formal compositions, expressive line, and anti-materialistic ideals. 

Many of the artists featured in War and Angst: German Expressionism confronted the atrocities of WWI in their work, and although some were ambivalent toward the industrialized, urban lifestyle associated with Modernity, many found hope in the idea that a more humanistic social order could emerge from the destruction. The figure emblematically appeared in artistic production as a literal reference to reality sometimes depicted in agonizing form, as well as an allusion to psychological and spiritual realms.

The artists:
Ernst Barlach, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Erich Heckel, Wassily Kandinsky, Käthe Kollwitz, Ludwig Meidner, Max Pechstein, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff