Definition of expressionism in US English:



  • A style of painting, music, or drama in which the artist or writer seeks to express emotional experience rather than impressions of the external world.

    Expressionists characteristically reject traditional ideas of beauty or harmony and use distortion, exaggeration, and other nonnaturalistic devices in order to emphasize and express the inner world of emotion. The paintings of El Greco and Grünewald exemplify expressionism in this broad sense, but the term is also used of a late-19th- and 20th-century European and specifically German movement tracing its origins to Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and James Ensor, which insisted on the primacy of the artist's feelings and mood, often incorporating violence and the grotesque

    • ‘Sometimes the music of this period is associated with expressionism in art, but, as with impressionism, the use of the word in this context can be somewhat vague.’
    • ‘We readily take the cinema as an expressionist medium because expressionism (broadly understood) takes the inside of people and projects it outward into the external world.’
    • ‘He developed an idiosyncratic, instantly recognizable style that combined figurative expressionism with influences from Klimt, Schiele and Austrian Art Nouveau.’
    • ‘While Stout eschewed the splashy gestures of expressionism, there is a deep, almost lyrical sensuality not only in his shapes, but in the sumptuous metallic texture of the graphite.’
    • ‘This is a magical piece of theatre, with a streak of engaging, sly humour and playfulness that takes you into a theatrical world where naturalism and expressionism, realism and surrealism sit side by side.’