What Is German Expressionism?

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German expressionism refers to some of the most passionate and troubled artists in the early 20th century who were faced with the trauma of two world wars, and some of the better-known artists include Kathe Kollwitz and John Heartfield. Understand the history behind German expressionism with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

Part of the Video Series: Modern Art History
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Video Transcript

Hi, Doctor Betty Brown here. The topic is German Expressionism. German Expressionist artists were some of the most passionate and troubled artists of the early twentieth century. They were living and working in a country ripped apart by, eventually, two world wars. By Hitler, and all the horrible social abuses that they saw going on during those times. And so they sought to challenge, rebel against, and certainly, comment on the state of the world, and Germany. And they did it with really powerful and compelling art. I want to mention two German expressionist artists whose work continues to move me. The first is Kathe Kollwitz, who was a sculptor, but most importantly, a printmaker. She started her career doing work that supported Political Action of Workers, rebelling against the abuses of factory owners who cut their pay and cut their benefits and led them to starvation. But, she ended up protesting the war. Another German artist who stayed under Hitler and protest the horrible abuses of that leader was John Heartfield, who took his name, an American name, as a sign of protest and he used collage and photomontage as a way to protest Hitler's political abuses.

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