From 1905 to World War I: The Will to Art

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Botanischer Garten Jena, 1914.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Botanischer Garten Jena, 1914.

According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Greek tragedy combined Dionysian and Apollonian principles. In early 20th century Germany art sought to do the same.

The Will to Form

The Expressionist artist’s group Die Brücke, with members such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, and Franz Marc from the artists’ group Der Blaue Reiter emphasised the Dionysian driving force of art.

Marc strove for a rebirth of primordial values in a new, artistically based culture whose guiding light must be a “will to form”.

To Marc the re-emergence of a culture borne by instinct entailed an abolition of art’s mimetic function. For when art must be in accordance with the will to form, it no longer has the task of reproducing reality as we experience: it no longer has to look like anything.

Tapping into a creative primordial force

Franz Marc, Creation II, 1914.

Franz Marc, Creation II, 1914.

Marc’s coloured woodcut Creation II from 1914 presents us with the unfolding of a creative primordial force.

Here and there we glimpse recognisable shapes, including something that looks like animal heads, but mostly the scene is one of shapes and lines that are either hurled about in a centrifugal movement separating them from an undifferentiated mass, or coalesce around the middle in a meaningful configuration. 

Creation II was created in the year that World War I broke out. Marc enlisted for war duty and died on the western front the following year. To him, war represented a symbol of European decadence as well as a means through which Europe could reinstate original, intuitive values.

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Updated: 22.mar.2017
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