Death, War and Desire | German Expressionist Publications

  • 30th June − 23rd September 2012 | Modern Two, Keiller Library (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) | Admission Free

German Expressionism erupted in the early years of the twentieth century and, although short-lived, its focus on personal expression influenced art throughout the century. A broad and diverse movement, its artists were united through common elements in their style and subject matter. They adopted bold colours, stark lines and distorted forms to depict the grittiness of urban life and their personal struggles with spirituality and religion. Perhaps inevitably, depictions of the volatile political situation in Europe and the First World War feature prominently in their paintings and publications.

Collaborative groups emerged, with Die Brücke (The Bridge) forming in Dresden in 1905 and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in Munich in 1911. These groups rejected state-sanctioned academies and exhibiting societies in favour of displaying and publicising their work on their own terms. They frequently adopted the inexpensive medium of woodcuts, drawing on a technique which had been used in Germany since the fifteenth century, and influenced by artists such as Edvard Munch, whose acclaimed prints were exhibited widely in Germany at this time. Woodcuts predominate in the artist books produced in the period, one of the best-known being Oskar Kokoscha’s Die Traümenden knaben (The Dreaming Boys), which can be seen in the central case of this display. German Expressionists also contributed woodcuts and drawings to the many periodicals that appeared in Germany in the first two decades of the twentieth century: artists such as George Grosz and Otto Dix depicted the madness and futility of the First World War and post-war politics in publications such as Der Blutige Ernst (Bloody Serious)and Neue Jugend (New Youth).   

The books and periodicals in this display are drawn from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Archive.

This display coincides with the major exhibition Edvard Munch: Graphic Works from the Gundersen Collection currently on show at Modern Two.