Why is Expressionism viewed as a modern movement

Expressionism: German Literature and Epoch

The Expressionist era is a literary movement at the beginning of the 20th century. The artist tried to depict experiences through expressive representational aspects in his works. The themes of war and decay, fear and the end of the world were the dominant motifs of the era.

Start: 1905
End: 1925



The epoch of Expressionism is derived from the Latin word "expressio", the Expression means. This translation from Latin gives the epoch of expressionism its name. The epoch dealt with topics such as war, the big city, decay and the fear of losing the ego. But emotional topics such as madness and love were also leitmotifs.
The poems and literary works of Expressionism lived through strong exaggeration and sweeping descriptions, through gloomy words and expressions. The decay, war, death and suffering were expressively portrayed.
The artistic movement of Expressionism was about expressive colors and the dynamics in the picture. The artists did not want to reproduce what one saw, but rather to express inner feelings and emotional sensations. They interpreted their feelings and motifs and painted expressive pictures.


Historical background

Expressionism forms a counter-movement to naturalism, which is perceived as unaesthetic, not artistic, cold and positivistic. The greatest problem of the Expressionist era was the ever-increasing suffering of the population. The reasons for this lay in urbanization, during which the living space of the individual became more and more boring and desolate. The theme of the preference for the negative extreme evolves from this urbanization motif. The important issues here were suicide, sickness and death, as well as decay and decline.
In the first half of the 20th century, there was strong political tension in Europe. Various international crises led to the isolation of the German Empire, and the leading armed forces in Europe began to prepare for war. These power games for a fixed position led to the First World War in 1914.
The theme of industrialization was also a central motif in the Expressionist era. Industrialization brought many foreign inventions. People mistrusted the revolution. The big city crushed them, the machines seemed dull and expressionless. The anonymity of the people grew rapidly and led to a strong ego disintegration.


The new ways of perceiving mankind are an important feature of the Expressionist era. The abandonment of traditional worldviews played a major role, the moral chaos triggered by industrialization and revolution, as well as the role of the environment and the big city. This image of the big city triggers a feeling of disorder and chaos in people, which is intensified by the characteristic of the disaster mood. The social changes and feelings of fear are also a motif of the era of Expressionism.
The Great Depression, the Versailles Peace Treaty and the fall of the German Empire are decisive for the expressive artistic and literary movement of Expressionism. The predilection for the negative extreme with the themes of death, decay, destruction, execution, doom and madness is another characteristic of the Expressionist era.
Expressionism was also an expression of the ego's disintegration through life in the big cities and the loss of the individual in the environment.

Expressionist literature

Expressionist literature was shaped by modern themes and forms. Traditions and old ideas faded into the background. A strongly metaphorical language developed, expressiveness and rhythmic texts determined the literature. Rhetorical figures such as word accumulations or syntax were used, which, together with the reduction of words, appeared as a special feature in expressionist literary texts. One cannot find a single language in Expressionist literature. The traditional language was modified by the new beginnings and modernization and turned into an expressive expressive language.

Goals of Expressionism

The literary representatives of Expressionism formulated the goals of Expressionism in a very general way. They didn't want anything specific to happen, they just wanted something to happen. They gave little thought to the realization of these goals.

Authors of Expressionism

The authors of Expressionism are listed here. You can find some of their works on our homepage in other areas. Just click on the link.

Expressionism artist

  • Franz Marc
  • August Macke
  • Paul Klee


Who's Online

We have 1203 guests online