Teaching Students About Expressionism


Expressionism, a vibrant and influential art movement that emerged in the early 20th century, pushed the boundaries of traditional artistic conventions by focusing on the artist’s emotions, personal experiences, and inner world. Introducing students to expressionism provides them with the opportunity to explore new ways of thinking about art and, in turn, fosters creative growth and self-expression.

In this article, we will discuss various approaches to teaching students about expressionism, including historical context, exploring different artistic styles, examining the work of prominent expressionist artists, and implementing practical exercises in their own art-making process.

1. Provide Historical Context

Begin by providing a brief overview of the origins and development of expressionism as an art movement. Focus on key events that contributed to its emergence, such as the founding of Die Brücke (The Bridge) in 1905 and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1911. These artist groups paved the way for expressionism as a response to the academic art scene of their time.

2. Explore Different Artistic Styles

Introduce your students to different artistic styles that fall under the umbrella term of expressionism—including abstract expressionism, neo-expressionism, and German expressionism. By discussing these subgenres, you can help your students understand how varied expressionist art can be.

3. Examine Prominent Expressionist Artists

To deepen students’ understanding of expressionist techniques and styles, explore the works of notable artists such as Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Egon Schiele, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Oskar Kokoschka. Discuss how these artists used color, shape, line, texture and composition to convey emotion.

4. Apply Expressionist Techniques in Practical Exercises

Once your students have a solid grasp on expressionist principles and artistic styles, challenge them to apply these techniques in their own art-making process. Provide various prompts that encourage students to experiment with color, form, and line, like:

a. Create a self-portrait that highlights your current mood using bold colors and exaggerated features.

b. Paint a landscape inspired by a personal memory, focusing on the emotional content rather than realism.

c. Design a series of abstract compositions using angular shapes and contrasting color schemes.

5. Encourage Group Critiques and Reflections

Promote open dialogue by encouraging students to share their work with the class and provide constructive feedback on each other’s creations. Prompt discussions about how well they feel the artworks convey emotion and how they can push their work even further.


Teaching your students about expressionism can foster a deep appreciation for this significant artistic movement and help them develop new approaches to art-making centered around personal experience and emotional expression. With the right tools at their disposal, your students will be well-equipped to think critically about this genre and generate creative works that bear the influence of this powerful artistic movement.

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