Robin Urton: dimensional paintings on glass



Edvard Munch
(Norwegian, 1863-1944)

The Scream 1893

(African, 1800s)

Puberty 1895

Munch (pronounced Muenk) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intensely psychological and emotional themes was a major influence on the development of German Expressionism in the early 20th century. His painting The Scream is regarded as an icon of the existential anguish of the post-industrial modern age. It may have been partly inspired by the raw quality of African tribal art (the early 20th century was the first time the public saw such works in art museums). Munch tended to focus on intense emotions, such as those expressed in Puberty, which presents the fearful period of a girl's life as she faces the uncomfortable transition of becoming a woman.

Death in the Sickroom 1895

The Dance of Life 1900

The troubling nature of many of Munch's works can be partly explained by events of his early childhood, as well as the overly religious (and repressive) society in which he lived. Raised in Norway (which is dark and cold throughout much of the year), his mother died of tuberculosis when he was only five. Later, after developing a close attachment to his sister, she suffered the same fate. Art was, for Munch, a way to express his emotions of grief. Throughout his life he was also known to be obsessed with women, though he was never to marry. The Dance of Life focuses on the changing nature of woman as she matures from innocence into full sexuality, and then to old age - where she is again regarded as non-sexual.

Munch's clarity of expression was to have a great influence on many artists who would come to be known as "Expressionists". Though there were many developments in different countries, the most famous and influential would be German Expressionism and Fauvism (primarily a French movement).


German Expressionism

There were two groups of German Expressionist movements. One was called Die Brucke (meaning "the bridge"), led by Kirchner. The other was called Der Blau Rieter ("the Blue Rider"), led by Kandinsky.

Die Brucke ("The Bridge")

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
(1880 - 1938)

Self Portrait as a Soldier 1915

Woman and Mirror 1912

Two Women in the Street 1914

The beginning of Expressionism took place in Germany, around the time of the first World War. In 1912, Kirchner became the leader of a group of artists who called themselves "Die Brucke". He and the other artists sought to build a " bridge" between Germany's past and future. They felt that the art of the current establishment was too academic and refined to retain any degree of expression, so they instead found inspiration in medieval German art and primitive African sculpture. Additionally, they would find inspiration in the emotionally expressive works of Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch. Since their primary concern was the expression of deeply felt emotions, they would also transform their negative feelings about the war onto canvas.

Kirchner achieved some fame during his lifetime, and was fortunate to maintain a number of collectors for his paintings. With the beginnings of WWII, however, his work was denounced (as well as his compratriots) as "degenerate art", and confiscated from museums. He became increasingly depressed by the war and took his own life.

Emil Nolde

Candle Dancers 1912

The Prophet, woodblock print


Der Blau Reiter ("The Blue Rider")


Wassily Kandinsky
(Russian, 1866-1944)

Blue Rider 1903

Riding Couple 1916


Though Kandinsky was born in Russia, he spent most of his creative years in Germany, and would head up the second German Expressionist group, known as "Der Blau Reiter". Kandinsky and his followers were more spiritually inclined than the Die Brucke group (and had close ties with a new sect of religious philosophy, known as theosophy). Kandinsky believed that colors, shapes and forms had an equivalence with sounds and music, and sought to create color harmonies which would be purifying to the soul. It is easy to see the impressionistic influence in his very earliest works. As his work progresses, it becomes increasingly abstract, until there is no longer an image defined by the various shapes and colors. By this time, Kandinsky had decided that the idea of creating paintings which were pictures of the representational world was no longer necessary. He felt that society was paving the way for a new, more spiritual age. Instead of focusing on the material aspects of life, he felt his paintings could help prepare people to see the spiritual, non-material world. Kandinsky is one of the first (if not the first) artist to create completely non-representational paintings.

Woman in Moscow 1912

Improvisation 30, 1930


Franz Marc

Blue Horses 1911

Deer in a Garden 1912

Franz Marc is best known for his paintings of animals (particularly horses and deer) in which he attempted to express his mystical veneration of nature. In works such as Blue Horses, he used stylized lines and curves and brilliant unrealistic color to create and heighten the sense of nature idealized. After 1913, in response to cubism and futurism, he turned to abstraction, creating moods of clashing, discordant uncertainty. He was killed in action during World War I.

Austrian Expression

Gustav Klimt

Hygeia 1907

The Kiss 1907

Gustav Klimt was the leader of a group called the Viennese Seccession, which sought to separate itself from the naturalist movement which was popular in early 20th century Austria. His work is difficult to categorize, but is often associated with the Symbolists and Art Nouveau, but it also has some ties to Expressionism. Though he was supported by many members of the Viennese aristocracy (and painted many of thier portraits), his work was also widely criticized for its eroticism.

Maiden (the Virgin) 1914

Death and Life 1916



French Fauvism

Fauvism (pronounced Foev-ism) was the most optomistic movement linked to expressionism. This can be explained by its birthplace, in Paris. When viewing these works, it is easy to imagine the bohemian lifestyle of the artists. Parisians enjoyed getting together in the cafes, listening to music and drinking wine. They also enjoyed outdoor activities in the sun. Their art expresses more of pleasure than it does of the complex (often negative) emotions expressed in the north.


Henri Matisse, Joy of Life 1905


Andre Derain, Landscape 1905

Fauvism was a brief but important art movement that followed the Post-Impressionism movement in France. Matisse is regarded as the leader of the movement, but Andre Derain was also significant (Braque also briefly painted in the style, before his cubist experiments). Each part of their paintings had loud colors, primitive elements, and wild ideas. Although the movement only lasted four years, it would have a profound effect on future artists, especially in terms of their use of color. Though initially inspired by Impressionism and Post Impressionist works, the colors used were even more saturated and high keyed. The effect was very bold, almost loud. Fauvism is recognized for its influence on cubism and modern expressionism in its flattened space, disregard for natural forms and its love of unbridled color.

Andre Derain, Suburb of Collioure 1905

George Braque, Bay of La Ciot 1907


Henri Matisse
(After his Fauvist Period)

The Window 1905

Goldfish 1911

Decorative Figure 1925

After 1905, Matisse continued to use bright colors and bold compositions, yet these works are no longer considered to be of the Fauvist period. The most evident change in his work is his increased interest in patterns and the continued flattening of pictorial space. Matisse is, along with Picasso, regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His work is more decorative than Picasso's, but also less troubling. A famous quote by Matisse is that he felt that art should be like a good armchair to come home to after a hard day's work. Though he lived through two world wars, he decided not to focus on what was wrong with the world. Instead, he felt that art should provide a place for the soul to rest.

The Music Lesson 1917


La Musique 1939


Matisses's latest artworks, are often regarded as his most innovative. They were created after a he was handicapped from severe arthritis which limited him to a wheelchair. Unable to stand to paint, he began cutting out shapes from colored pieces of paper. These he had glued (with help from assistants) to huge pieces of paper. The effect is extremely bold and light-hearted. The colors and shapes have a liberating sense about them. One feels that, despite his problems, Matisse has succeded in returning to a carefree childhood.

Blue Nude

Icarus 1944

Sorrow of the King 1952


Next: Cubism