These are the 12 most famous Expressionist paintings from art history.
Love and Pain by Edvard Munch (1895)
This painting has also been known as Vampire, though not by its creator, Munch. It depicts a man and a woman embracing, with the woman appearing to be either kissing or biting the man on his neck. He painted several different versions and derivatives of the work later in his career.
The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso (1903)
The Old Guitarist is an oil painting by Picasso, which he created in late 1903, after the suicide of his close friend, Casagemas. It depicts an elderly musician, a haggard man with threadbare clothing, who hunched over his guitar while playing in the streets of Barcelona. It reflects the 22-year-old Picasso’s struggle and sympathy for the plight of the downtrodden, as he knew what t was like to be poor, having been nearly penniless in 1902.
Blue Horse I by Franz Marc (1911)
This painting is a work of Franz Marc, a German painter, and printmaker. This key figure of German expressionism was a founder of The Blue Rider, a journal whose name later became synonymous with the circle of artists collaborating. His works mostly depict animals and are known for bright coloration. At the beginning of World War I he was drafted to serve in the German Army, and died two years later, at the Battle of Verdun on the Western Front in France.
Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion by Amedeo Modigliani (1916)
Nu Couché au coussin Bleu is an oil on canvas nude portrait done by Modigliani. He created dozens of nudes between 1916 to 1919. Simultaneously abstract and erotically detailed, this nude exhibits a formal grace referencing nude figures of the Italian renaissance while at the same time objectifying their subject’s sexuality.
The Blue Rider by Wassily Kandinsky (1903)
Kandinsky was a Russian painter and art theorist who is credited as one of the pioneers of abstraction in western art. This painting depicts a horseman in a blue coat galloping through a meadow on a white horse with a forest in the background. It represents an important milestone in Wassily Kandinsky’s artistic transformation from impressionism to modern abstract art, as it is one of his last impressionist works.
Evening on Karl Johan Street by Edvard Munch (1892)
Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter whose works were banned in Nazi-occupied Europe, but most of them survived World War II, securing him a legacy. In the Evening on Karl Johan Street, the main street in Oslo, the single figure moving against the flow and walking in the middle of the street evokes the artist’s own situation as a bohemian and radical artist, hounded by the middle-class authorities n the stifling parochialism of Christiania.
Girl with a White Dog by Lucian Freud (1950-1951)
Lucian Freud was a British painter specializing in figurative art, who is known as one of the foremost 20th centuries English portraitists. He was born in Berlin, as the son of Jewish architect Ernst L Freud, and the grandson of Sigmund Freud. His family moved to England to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany. Later, during World War II he served with the British Merchant Navy. His works are noted for their psychological penetration and often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model. This painting depicts Kitty Garman, his first wife, pregnant with their second child.
Birth of Fascism by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1936)
David Alfaro Siqueiros was a Mexican social realist painter, who is along with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, one of the “Mexican muralists”. He was also a member of the Communist Party, a Stalinist, and a supporter of the Soviet Union, who led an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Leon Trotsky. He was born José de Jesús Alfaro Siqueiros but changed his given name to David after his wife called him it in allusion to Michelangelo’s David. Siqueiros was a pioneer in championing the use of industrially produced materials and techniques for his work.
Nu couché by Amedeo Modigliani (1917)
This depiction of a nude woman is a painting by Modigliani, an Italian sculptor, and painter who worked in France. He is famous for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by a surreal elongation of necks, faces, and figures. Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) is today considered to be one of the most famous portraits of women ever.
Seated Woman with Bent Knee by Egon Schiele (1917)
Schiele was an expressionist painter of Austrian descent whose work is noted for its intensity and sexuality. The twisted body shapes and the expressive line characterize his paintings. This painting features a woman depicted in a seated pose. The artist’s wife, Edith, posed for this gouache, watercolor, and black crayon-on-paper painting. She has carmine red lips and messy fiery orange hair that contrasts the deep green of her top. She is also wearing underwear and black stockings, which were not uncommon fetishistic attributes found in Schiele’s work.
The Yellow Man by Anita Malfatti (1915)
Anita Malfatti was the first Brazilian artist to introduce European and American forms to the modernism of Brazil. She took up metal engraving and focused mainly on portraits, which she painted in vivid colors and bold brushwork. Malfatti distanced herself from the classical manner by outlining her figures in thick black lines, turning them into voluminous masses.
The Dance of Life by Edvard Munch (1899–1900)
This is a work of a Norwegian painter, whose best-known painting is The Scream. His childhood was overshadowed by illness, bereavement, and the dread of inheriting a mental condition that run in the family. In his youth, he lived as a bohemian and was surrounded by nihilists. As his fame and wealth grew, his emotional state remained insecure and never married. This painting depicts the arch of life from a young virgin in white over a pair with a red wife to an old widow in black. This painting depicts the artist’s ambivalence towards the women in his life.
What famous Expressionist paintings do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.