Style of modern painting in which the artist handles the materials in a rough and raw way, typically expressing violent emotion. It developed in the late 1970s as a reaction against conceptual art
, and became a dominant force in avant-garde art during the 1980s, especially in the USA, Germany, and Italy. Pablo Picasso
's late paintings, which are often aggressively sexual in subject and almost frenzied in brushwork, were a major influence, although neo-expressionists also borrowed heavily from a wide range of sources and styles, from newspapers and novel covers to classical mythology. Neo-expressionist paintings often feature the human figure, but they are sometimes virtually abstract; what characterized the work was a return to traditional formats such as easel painting. In Italy neo-expressionism is sometimes known as the Transavantgarde
(beyond the avant-garde), and German neo-expressionists are sometimes called Neue Wilden
(new wild ones). Various alternative names have been used in the USA, including new fauvism, punk art, and bad painting (the latter because, in spite of the commercial success enjoyed by several exponents, many critics find the work crude and ugly, flaunting a lack of conventional skills).
Outstanding neo-expressionist artists include the Germans Georg Baselitz (regarded as a leading pioneer of the style) and Anselm Kiefer
, together with the American Julian Schnabel, who enjoyed enormous financial success in the 1980s. Kiefer's paintings sometimes incorporate materials such as straw and at times he has painted with blood. His subjects are often taken from German history or myth. Schnabel is famous for encrusting his paint surface with broken crockery. The titles of his works are often as deliberately crude as their handling, for example Circum-Navigating the Sea of Shit
(1979). Some artists, including Baselitz, have made sculpture in a similar vein to neo-expressionist paintings.
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