Expressionism as a descriptive term for a particular artistic style was coined in the early 20th century. For runners of the movement were Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, and Auguste Macke.

Composition VII – Wassily Kandinsky

This group of painters rejected the ideals of the realist movement. They pushed against objective reality as well as the dehumanizing industrialization and growth of cities that was happening at the time. Their response was to paint in such a style as to address the emotions that were aroused in a person as they were in a particular situation or were interacting with a specific object.

Woman with a Yellow Jacket – August Macke

Emotions, of course, are feelings we have that are deeply personal. They often fall into the category of involuntary reactions. In other words, we can’t always help the way we feel in any given situation. As human beings we may react in any number of ways, we may pound our fists on the table, we may laugh or we may cry. Whatever our reaction, we end up with a feeling and an atmosphere that we may carry with us for some time.

Flower Myth – Paul Klee

As people, these visceral reactions give us great opportunities for exploring how we feel and deal about certain things. As artists, we can use these opportunities to push the limits of our art. While initially, the expressionist was celebrating their angst, and there often was more anger than consideration of aesthetics. The truth is that there are many more emotions and feelings than anger and sadness.


Most us recognize when we are excited, happy, sad, or filled with wonder. The big question is how do we take what comes to us so naturally as emotions and use them to drive our artwork to these new and uncharted territories?

It can be said that all art is expressionistic and on some level that is true, so we might ask how can we be more expressive? How can we access our emotions in such a way that it will influence the outcome of our art?


It is crucial that we be totally honest as we create our art whether we are painting, drawing, writing, dancing or acting. In order to be authentic, we can’t pretend. We really have to feel it.

Music may more than any other mechanism has the ability to move our emotions and our bodies. Try this little experiment. Find a simple object like an apple or a pepper. Take 5 or 10 minutes and paint a quick study of it in silence. Now pick out three wildly different pieces of music. For example, classical, aggressive and something jazzy. Then do a separate painting while playing each song. Lay them all out when you are done and look at the difference between the paintings you did of this simple object.


This is an exercise that is a small part of our Finding Expressionism workshop. Last spring we did our first one of these workshops while we were in Tel Aviv. The response was such that we are doing another one there this October. We are working with Orly Dvir Gallery and will be holding our workshop from 23 to 25 of October in Orly’s huge Florentine studio space in Tel Aviv.


The three days of this workshop will be three exciting days of learning how we can take these things that move us and use them to turn up the volume in our work. We will provide you with some tools and experiences that will help you to see that inspiration can indeed be found anywhere.

Ici – Joan Mitchell

We can best define expressionism by examining the work of those that have gone before, from Joan Mitchell to Milton Avery to Jackson Pollack to Max Beckman. The more important quest is just how we can take all that we feel and to channel it into our work so that what we end up with are works of art that intensely personal, not because of the subject matter, but because of how we expressed our own feeling about the subject.

1954 Milton Avery (American artist, 1885-1965) Green Sea
Green Sea – Milton Avery

We would love to hear from you. If you are interested in our ArtisTTable Finding Expressionism workshop in Tel Aviv. Please click here:

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