Expressionism


Expressionism
   Identified in European art and literature as early as 1900, expressionism was a reaction against impressionism and sentimentality (not to mention realism), but it was not fully articulated in modernist theatrical terms until the 1910s. German expressionists reacted to war industrialization by focusing on the machine's threat to human values, using dialogue reduced to the staccato rhythms of a telegram and dramatic action broken into short episodes. The inner angst of the central character was externalized through a distortion of reality as represented in the scenic elements, sound effects, and performance styles. In 1921, Robert Edmond Jones designed a Broadway production of Shakespeare's Macbeth (1921) in the expressionist mode, using masks suspended above the playing area to represent the three witches. He and Kenneth Macgowan then spent ten weeks traveling in Europe and observing productions that they described in their influential book Continental Stagecraft (1922).
   The book inspired other American scene designers to experiment with nonrealistic shapes and color, bold lighting, and shadows. Thus the European movement enjoyed a brief fling on the American stage in the 1920s.
   Eugene O'Neill toyed with expressionist elements in some of his early plays, including The Emperor Jones (1920), The Hairy Ape (1922), The Great God Brown (1926), and Dynamo (1929). Beggar on Horseback (1924) by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly employed expressionist techniques, as did Sophie Treadwell's Machinal (1928) and Elmer Rice's The Subway (1929). Perhaps the definitive example of American expressionism is Rice's The Adding Machine (1923), in which its antihero, Mr. Zero, is seen climbing over the keys of an enormous adding machine, a technological wonder that has rendered his bookkeeping job (and his life) superfluous. Several European expressionist plays, including Ernst Toller's The Insect Comedy (1922) and Karel Cäpek's R.U.R. (1922), won commercial success on Broadway, usually produced by the Theatre Guild.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Expressionism — is the tendency of an artist to distort reality for an emotional effect; it is a subjective art form. Expressionism is exhibited in many art forms, including painting, literature, theatre, film, architecture and music. The term often implies… …   Wikipedia

  • expressionism — n. 1. an art movement early in the 20th century; the artist s subjective expression of inner experiences was emphasized. [WordNet 1.5] 2. a genre of German painting that tried to show the subjective responses to scenes rather than the scenes… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • expressionism — ► NOUN ▪ a style in art, music, or drama in which the artist or writer seeks to express the inner world of emotion rather than external reality. DERIVATIVES expressionist noun & adjective expressionistic adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • expressionism — [eks presh′əniz΄əm, ik spresh′əniz΄əm] n. [often E ] an early 20th cent. movement in art, literature, and drama, characterized by distortion of reality and the use of symbols, stylization, etc. to give objective expression to inner experience… …   English World dictionary

  • Expressionism — Expressionist, n., adj. Expressionistic, adj. Expressionistically, adv. /ik spresh euh niz euhm/, n. 1. Fine Arts. a. (usually l.c.) a manner of painting, drawing, sculpting, etc., in which forms derived from nature are distorted or exaggerated… …   Universalium

  • Expressionism —    Both the chronological parameters and the artistic defi nition of Expressionism have changed in recent years. Once considered an avant garde movement identified roughly with the years 1905 1914, Expressionism was deemed a romantic revolt of… …   Historical dictionary of Weimar Republik

  • EXPRESSIONISM —    Expressionist architecture originally developed parallel to the aesthetic ideals of the Expressionist visual and performing arts in the European avant garde from around 1910 through 1924. From its German, Dutch, and Danish origins, the term… …   Historical Dictionary of Architecture

  • Expressionism —    The term Expressionism as it applies both to German theater and to drama was a manifestation of modernism by about 1910, though the rejection of illusionism on which Expressionism was primarily based had set in a decade earlier. As an artistic …   Historical dictionary of German Theatre

  • Expressionism —    A movement in literature and art which has its origins in the German theater of the early 20th century, expressionism eschews realist representation in favor of a nonrealistic atmosphere. Expressionistic works tend to display a dreamlike… …   Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater

  • Expressionism —    (with an upper case E the more specific sense)    An art movement dominant in Germany from 1905 1925, especially Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter, which are usually referred to as German Expressionism, anticipated by Francisco de Goya y… …   Glossary of Art Terms


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.