20 Most Famous Expressionist Artists and their Amazing Contributions!

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When we think of the term “Expressionism” and “Expressionist artists” there is so much that can flood our minds. 

Expressionism has had several definitions across time, geography and people. 

But do you know what kind of Expressionism am I talking about here?

I am talking about the cultural movement that happened in the 20th century that involved several expressionist artists and their immaculate contribution to the art world! 

In today’s blog, we are focusing on these expressionist artists whose mind-blowing artwork has stirred the bourgeois society.

These are also the artists who made people ponder over things that are beyond human reality. 

Along with other art forms there was a surfeit of Expressionism paintings that surfaced in this period of the expressionist artists. 

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Paintings by expressionist artists’ are not easy to decipher, my friend! 

They are overwhelmingly intriguing and carry in-depth significance within each of them! 

Aren’t you also wondering what is the deal about expressionist artists and their artwork?

Why don’t we get straight into it, then?

Oh, but before that, one cannot learn about expressionist artists without understanding what movement they contributed their brilliant art to.

And what is that? Yes, Expressionism! 

What is Expressionism?

A naked woman with flowers adorning her hair.
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Expressionism is one such movement that urged the artist to look away from the outer world and tune into their inner conscience! 

It is a cultural movement, known to have begun from Germany, for which it is also known as German Expressionism. 

How did this happen?

Many societies around the world were so busy embracing bourgeois culture and what was understood to be the “reality” of things.  

While impressionist artists focused on the beauty of natural light and human consciousness, Expressionism artists channeled inner human agony.

This shift from objective reality and focus on subjective emotions were done using vivid representations of the human mind!

How was this done?

Expressionist artists gave into the jarring nooks and corners of human emotions while using exaggerated shapes, designs and brush strokes. 

The colors used in expressionist paintings also play a huge role in depicting the inner turmoil of the artists. 

Moreover, it was also noticed how the Expressionism art movement gave rise to a plethora of sensual and homoerotic art! 

This gave many artists the agency to channel their inner desires through art! 

How interesting, right? I thought so too. 

I often find myself in a rabbit hole of the artwork of expressionist artists because of how they have the caliber to touch one’s soul! 

Now how about we look into some of the most famous expressionist artists and their contributions for the movement? 

Suggested Read: Famous German Artists

Expressionist Artists 

The 20th century gave rise to expressionist artists who created a form of art that the world had never witnessed before.

From Wassily Kandinsky’s color study to Egon Schiele’s self-portraits, there is so much to indulge in! 

I have chosen 20 most famous artists whose artwork is going to baffle you!

Let’s dive straight into them, then? 

1. Edvard Munch 

A portrait of Edvard Munch with his famous artwork "The Scream".
Image source: Getty Images and Wikipedia

I cannot start discussing expressionist artists without the legend, Edvard Munch. 

Born on December 12th, 1863, in Norway, he grew up to be a painter and printmaker. 

Throughout his life he had struggled with his mental health.

He had family members who were suffering from mental illnesses, which gave Munch a constant anxiety of suffering from the same!

His artwork heavily reflects Symbolism from the late 19th century and German Expressionism from the early 20th century. 

His most famous painting is The Scream (1893), which can be the best example of the shift from Impressionism to Expressionism! 

Wondering how?

The Scream was painted from a memory he had, where he felt dissociated from his friends, who are depicted in the background walking on the same bridge. 

The figure on focus seems to be in horrid shock and pain together! 

The painting indicates intense anxiety with the landscape colored in shades of red and brown. 

The “scream” here was apparently felt by Munch from nature and his mind together, showing a shift from Impressionist art to Expressionist art! 

Munch is known to have often spoken about that particular sunset  to be overwhelming with crippling anxiety. 

Carefully watch it, does it not seem to be piercing straight into your heart?

2. Emil Nolde

Emil Nolde's photograph besides his artwork "Crucifixion".
Image source: Getty Images and Wikipedia

This German-Danish painter, printmaker and watercolorist was born in Denmark on August 7th, 1867. 

Emil Nolde is famous for his religious paintings of Jesus and Christianity that are depicted in a very peculiar yet fascinating way. 

This expressionist painter was also a romantic artist,  who channeled the ideologies of Romanticism to explore the depth of the human psyche! 

Some of his famous paintings are The Last Supper (1909), the Dance Around the Golden Calf, and the Crucifixion (1912).  

If you notice, all these paintings are done using very bright colors and hurried brush strokes.

They are all in fact Nolde’s depiction of different stories from Christianity. 

If you ask me, his expressionism paintings give a blurred effect that changes the perspective of the viewer. 

The more you watch the painting, the more differently you experience it.

I think that is some brilliance you only see in expressionist artists!

3. Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh's photograph with his "Starry Night" portrait.
Image source: Wikipedia

Vincent van Gogh is one of the first expressionist artists to have established the art style through his mesmerizing artwork! 

Born on 30th March, 1853, this famous expressionism artist is known for his brilliance of using vibrant colors to depict despondency. 

Vincent van Gogh’s life behind the canvas is something to really look into if you wish to understand his art better. 

You will see vibrant colors of blue and yellow prominently flaring throughout his paintings. 

But how many of you knew that he held great sadness and his poor mental health was projected through his art?

This is also why The Starry Night is a great example for psychological expressionism art- where the painting holds a haunting reality! 

This expressionist artist’s paintings were not all sad, in fact his Sunflowers shows how he finds happiness in his art. 

That said,  each of this famous expressionist artist’s paintings has a deep story buried within that will reveal the life and experiences of this tortured artist. 

4. Franz Marc

Photograph of Franz Marc alongside his painting.
Image source: Google images

This expressionist artist is a German who was born on February 8th, 1880 in Munich. 

He is infamous for being the founding member of a German Expressionist Artists’ association called, “Der Blaue Reiter” also known as “The Blue Rider”. 

He was deeply influenced by Vincent van Gogh’s famous paintings which were filled with psychological turmoil and emotional projection. 

I personally love Marc’s inclination towards animals and how he uses vibrant colors to channel the expressionist artist in him! 

Some of his famous expressionism art that was involved in the expressionism movement are Blue Horses (1911), The Foxes (1913), and The Yellow Cow (1911).

Remember what I said about Marc and animals? There you go! 

5. Egon Schiele 

Photograph of Egon Schiele next to his self-portrait.
Image source: Google Images

Egon Schiele was an Austrian draftsman, painter, and printmaker.

This expressionist artist was born on 12 June, 1890 near Vienna, in Austria. 

He was a student at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. 

Schiele was also a mentee of Gustav Klimt, and met him when he was the leader of the Vienna Secession group.

Although Klimt focused on the decorative elegance of his art and how that could be portrayed, like The Kiss, Schiele’s approach was different. 

This famous expressionist artist focused on expression over decoration, throwing emphasis on the emotions put into the art. 

He was famous for creating paintings of human figures with a hint of anxiety and his erotic collection created a new wave of sensation in the art world. 

I have always been intrigued by his distorted self-portraits, as you’ll see some kind of constant similarity in his facial expression. 

Portrait of Wally (1912), Seated Woman with Legs Drawn Up (1917), and The Family (1910) are some of the famous expressionism portraits of Egon Schiele. 

Suggested Read: 17 Famous Portrait Painters- Incredible Portraitists Who Reign The Art World! 

6. Paul Klee

Paul Klee photograph with his painting in the background.
Image source: Getty Images and Google Images

The famous expressionist artist Paul Kee was born on December 18, 1879, near Bern in Switzerland. 

This Swiss-German expressionist artist was also a draftsman , who was also part of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter

Klee’s expressionism art was famous because his art style had a huge range of style which varied from time to time. 

This also showed the versatility in his art, challenged traditional ways and created expressionism paintings.

Because of this versatility there were many who did not even consider him one among the expressionist artists! 

His contribution to the expressionism movement was shown by emphasizing on creating art with symbols and shapes. 

Klee’s famous paintings include the Castle and Sun (1928), Cat and Bird (1928), and the Senecio (1922), to name a few! 

7. Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse's photograph with his expressionist painting in the background.
Image source: Getty Images and Goggle Images

Henri Matisse, the famous expressionist artist, was also an incredible abstract painter of the 20th century. 

He was born in Picardy, France on the 31st of December, 1869. 

Around 1900, this abstract expressionist artist was also the one who led the Fauvist movement. 

The Fauvist movement originated in France, where Fauve artists used bright, vivid colors on their paintings to add a certain depth! 

And Matisse’s paintings are a perfect example to understand this. 

Henri Matisse also came to be known as the greatest colorist of the 20th century because of his brilliance in using colors! 

There is something deeply unnerving in Matisse’s expressionism art that one can notice. 

Moreover, he had also drawn influence from many art forms across the globe, which gave this expressionist artist his own unique style! 

The Green Stripe (1905), Music (1910) and the Blue Nudes (1952) are some of his artwork that has always stood out! 

Suggested read: Analysis of Dance by Matisse

8. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's photograph beside his self-portrait.
Image source: Getty Images and Wikipedia

“My paintings are allegories, not portraits.” 

This is how Ernst Ludwig Kirchner defines his art to be! 

What does this expressionist painter mean by this? 

That there is always more to his portraits than what you see, they are filled with symbols, emotions and stories. 

Born on May 6th, 1880, in Bavaria, Kirchner was one of the expressionist artists who focused on having human subjects in his paintings. 

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His most famous paintings include, Berlin Street Scene (1913), Self Portrait as a Soldier (1915), and Female Artist (1910). 

Did you know that he was a victim to Nazi’s cruel campaign against “Degenerate Art”? 

With a mental pressure that was too heavy on him and being depressed, this talented artist took his own life and submitted to death! 

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9.  August Macke

August Macke's photograph next to his painting.
Image source: Google Images

August Macke was a painter, decorative artist and also a watercolorist too. 

This famous expressionist painter was born on 3rd January, 1887, in Germany and was known for his tremendous contribution towards the expressionism movement. 

He was also good friends with other expressionist artists such as Franz Mark and Wassily Kandinsky

Although he only lived for 27 years, his contributions made an impressive impact on expressionism art all over the world. 

Some of his great paintings are Four Girls (1914), At the Garden Table (1914), and the Lady in Green Jacket (1913).

What I personally love about his paintings are that the people depicted on the paintings are looking away or without facial features. 

Quite an intriguing sight, right? 

10. George Grosz

George Grosz's photograph along with this expressionist painting.
Image source: Britannica and Google Images

Born on 26th July, 1893, in Berlin, George Grosz grew up to be one of the most influential expressionist artists through his socially and emotionally moving art! 

His artwork during his time serving for the infantry during World War I showed war victims, impaired veterans and prostitutes. 

Grosz was one of the expressionist artists who was infamous for his caricature which was deeply expressive in nature. 

This graphic style was incorporated in his famous paintings, which always carried a strong political message. 

The expressionism in painting was also depicted using these politizing expressions and color theory that supported it. 

..I considered any art pointless if it did not put itself at the disposal of political struggle, … my art was to be a gun and a sword”

He liked to weaponize his art, and this was seen in his paintings, Eclipse of the Sun  (1926), Germany: A Winter’s Tale (1918), and The Funeral (1918). 

11. Paul Gauguin 

Paul Gauguin's photograph beside his self-portrait.
Image source: Google Images

Paul Gaugin was one the most famous French artists who immensely contributed towards the expressionism movement. 

This famous expressionist artist was also a printmaker and sculptor.

Born on 7th June, 1848, Gauguin grew up to be one of the most renowned expressionist artists who drew spiritual references in his paintings. 

His versatility in his work has also brought him the labels of a Synthetist and Symbolist! 

Gauguin is also known for his profound relationship with Vincent van Gogh.

His experiments with his artwork is known to have influenced and inspired several avant garde artists. 

Some of this expressionist artist’s best works are Self-portrait Dedicated to Vincent van Gogh (les Miserables) (1888), The Yellow Christ (1889),  Two Tahitian Women (1899). 

12. Otto Dix

Otto Dix's self-portrait next to his photograph.
Image source: Getty Images and Google Images

Otto dix was born on December 2nd, 1891, in Germany and later got to be known as one of the most famous Germán expressionist artists. 

His paintings conveyed human agony, probably because of the suffering he encountered during the World Wars.

He was also one among the well-known artists of Dadaism

One of his most famous paintings, and a personal favorite is the Self-portrait as Mars made in 1915. 

This expressionist painting is filled with distorted figures, hues that pierce your eyes and in-depth imagery that is meant to question society! 

Most of the subjects in his paintings were humans, but again they were in distorted caricature form. 

I reckon that this must be probably because Dix wanted to focus on pouring emotions into his paintings and not how the subjects looked. 

13. Georges Rouault

Expressionist artist Georges Rouault photograph next to his artwork.
Image source: Getty Images and Google Images

Georges Rouault was born in Paris, France on 27th May of 1871.  

This French painter, ceramist and printmaker was influenced and inspired by maestros from the medieval period. 

Like many artists, even Rouault’s style in the beginning was traditional and academic. 

Then how did he become one among the expressionist artists?

Did you know that he found his artistic style when he chose the path of Christianity and became a Roman Catholic? 

He was known to spend days at Paris law courts, closely assessing people and how not having faith failed them.

In this period, this expressionist art’s common subjects for his artworks were mostly strict merciless judges, prostitutes, and clowns. 

Some of his best works are The Old King (1936) and La Parade (1930). 

14. Oskar Kokoschka

Oskar Kokoschka's photograph next to his painting.
Image source: Wikipedia and Getty Images

Oskar Kokoschka was an Austrian painter and writer who heavily contributed to the expressionism movement. 

Kokoschka was one among the expressionist artists who brilliantly depicted the psychological expressions through his artwork. 

His expressionism art was a combination of vivid, bright colors and artistic style that depict emotions through art. 

This famous expressionist artist was also very much involved in creating self-portraits with a twist of expressionism art elements in it. 

Did you know that Kokoschka was not worried about voicing political statements? 

His art portrayed a very strong criticism against Nazis and Fascism because he believed that art can be used as a weapon against injustice too. 

A personal favorite expressionism painting of Kokoschka is The Tempest which was completed in 1914. 

15. Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon's expressionist painting next to his photograph.
Image source: Google Images and Getty Images

Born in Madrid, Spain on the 28th of October, 1909, Francis Bacon grew up to be one of the famous expressionist artists.

He brilliantly excelled at portraying isolation, fear and agony through his expressionism paintings. 

His Crucifixion (1933) painting is the one that brought him into the limelight, where people started to notice his art. 

If you closely look at this particular painting, you will see how there is something eerie about it. 

Perhaps it is the use of colors, or the choice of shapes incorporated with Bacon’s style. Burt definitely, a masterpiece! 

He is one among the expressionist artists that sought to stick to the traditional style of art. 

This is what the avant garde artist had to say about his paintings- “They deserve either the National Gallery or the dustbin, with nothing in between”! 

And the former definitely happened because one of Bacon’s paintings turned out to be one among the world’s most expensive paintings ever to be sold! 

Abstract Expressionist Artists 

A bunch of paint brus on a used color palette.
Image source: Getty Images

I am sure you have all come across the term, “abstract expressionist artists”. 

But how are they different from expressionist artists?

They create art in a free-hand flowing gesture, without any set restrictions.

This creates a non-traditional immersive art experience, which is also known as “action painting”. 

In simple terms, abstract expressionist artists are those artists from the expressionism movement who created abstract painting.

A few expression artists had sought to experiment with abstract paintings which in fact ended up being phenomenal.

Don’t you want to know who these artists are?

Here you go! 

1. Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky's photograph with his abstract expressionist painting in the background.
Image source: Google Images

Wassily Kandinsky was born on a winter’s night of December 4th, 1866. 

This famous expressionist artist from Russia is known to be one of the first painters who introduced abstract painting to modern art. 

He was also involved in establishing a few avant garde groups and exhibitions and was incredibly famous for his abstract art! 

A set of Kandinsky’s famous paintings were called Compositions!

Some of my favorite paintings of Kandinsky from this particular set are Composition VII and Composition VIII

The most intriguing part of these paintings were how he chose to use certain colors with differently sized squares and concentric circles! 

This painter’s color scheme used in his expressionism abstract art is one of a kind and has been an inspiration to many artists after him. 

Ever wondered owning a reproduction painting of Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings?  Yes, that is definitely possible! 

2. Jackson Pollock

Abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock's photograph with his painting in the background.
Image source: Getty Images and Google Images

Jackson Pollock’s abstract paintings are definitely a personal favorite! 

Pollock’s abstract art is everything dreamy and illusionary, opening a new world of perspectives. 

His abstract expressionist artist was born on 28 January, 1912, in Wyoming, United States of America. 

He grew up to be one of the first American artists to be recognized for the kind of art he does. 

Pollock’s contribution to 20th century modern art was immense. 

His exemplary talent in abstract art even ended up with one of his artwork, Blue Poles, being a controversial painting!

Do you know how Pollock’s art process worked?

Would lay his canvas on the floor and swing around cans of thinned enamel paint that would drip on the canvas.

He would direct how the paint fell but it seems like he also enjoyed the uncertainty and infinite possibilities abstract art created. 

3. Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning's photograph with his painting beside it.
Image source: Getty Images and Wikipedia

This Dutch-American abstract expressionist artist was born on April 24, 1904, in the Netherlands. 

He is one among the abstract expressionist artists who is known to have done action painting.

Kooning’s expressionism paintings have mostly been figurative and abstract. 

His most sensational work was the Women i- vi  series which focused on distorted imagery of the female body. 

His paintings give a shift to perspective and have hints of cubism and inspiration from Pollock’s paintings. 

Like other expressionist painters, Kooning too had experiments that he did with his artwork that influenced many other artists! 

4. Franz Kline 

Franz Kline's abstract painting next to his photograph.
Image source: Google Images

Franz Kline was born on the 23rd of May, 1919, in Wilkes Barre, US. 

This abstract expressionist artist was known to be one of the leading painters from the post-World War 2 art world! 

There is so much depth in this famous expressionist artist’s abstract artwork that a true art lover will definitely appreciate. 

 Mahoning (1956) and Orange Outline (1955) are some of his masterpieces that have been discussed across the world. 

Deciphering an abstract art is not easy, but understanding this expressionist artist’s story will let you connect with his abstract art too. 

5. Mark Rothko 

Mark Rothko's abstract expressionist painting next to his photograph.
Image source: Getty Images and Wikipedia

“ I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions- Tragedy, ecstasy, doom…”

And that is exactly what Mark Rothko’s expressionist paintings give us!

This abstract expressionist artist was born on 25th September, 1903, in Dvinsk, Russia. 

He is the first abstract expressionist painter who introduced contemplative introspection art that created a new wave! 

A few among Rothko’s most talked about paintings are White Centre (1950),  No. 61 (1953) and Orange, Red, Yellow (1961). 

A shift from these abstract paintings would be Rothko’s Entrance to Subway painting which is one of his artwork I dearly admire!

Rothko’s unique style of expressionism art stands out from the rest and has also drawn controversies.

But as a true art admirer, you know there was brilliance at his fingertips! 

Want to own a Mark Rothko reproduction painting?

Writer Says Hi!

Hello dear readers, 

Phew! I have definitely given you guys a long list. 

I hope you enjoyed reading it and also helped in understanding about so many expressionist artists! 

That said, if you have any queries, please make sure to reach out and leave your comments below. 

Which one was your favorite among the 20? 

Until I see you again with the next one

Cheers xx

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is known to be the father of Expressionism?

Vincent van Gogh is known to be the father of expressionism for his one of a kind contribution that stirred millions of hearts.

Which expressionism artist is known to have begun experimenting with abstract painting?

Wassily Kandinsky is known for introducing abstract painting during the Expressionism movement.

Where did Expressionism originate from?

Expressionism originated from a group of artists in Germany in the late 1800’s.

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