Expressionism was a movement in art and literature at the beginning of the 20th century. Expressionism in art had many faces. The first representatives were VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853 –1890), PAUL GAUGUIN (1848 –1903) and EMIL NOLDE (1867 –1956). They expressed confusing emotions by distortion of form and the use of violent colours.
A later group, Der Blaue Reiter, and PAUL KLEE (1879 –1940) developed abstractions from nature in their compositions of colour and form.
Expressionist drama is opposed to realist drama. The expressionist artist or writer intends to express an extremely troubled emotionally state of mind by means of distortion and exaggeration. A common subject is man's loneliness, lack of orientation and fear in modern society.
EUGENE O´NEILL's Emperor Jones (1920) is an example of expressionist drama. It presents the nightmarish fears a black ex-convict and impostor suffers during his flight through a dark ancient forest. Five hallucinatory experiences form the larger part of this play.
In Death of a Salesman (1949) ARTHUR MILLER made use of expressionist features in the parts revealing Willy Loman's state of mind. The turmoil he is in shortly before his suicide is shown by expressionist presentation of hallucinations of visions, voices, sound and music.
This new dramatic technique enabled the dramatist to uncover inner experiences and underlying social processes that break through in moments of crisis and are also a part of reality.
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