a tragic love story

18 08 2020

WASSILY KANDINSKY, 1866 – 1944, lived in MURNAU, a village near MUNICH in southern germany in front of the alps, from 1909 until 1914, together with GABRIELE MUENTER, 1877 – 1962. gabriele muenter had bought a house overlooking murnau in 1909, and the two of them stayed there frequently, using the countryside and murnau itself as an important source of inspiration for their paintings. kandinsky developed during these years his abstract painting style. the people in the village called the house the ‘RUSSENHAUS’ – THE HOUSE OF THE RUSSIAN.
the house should play an important role in the formation of a new group of artists, DER BLAUE REITER – THE BLUE RIDER. their members – FRANZ MARC, living in a village nearby, ALEXEJ VON JAWLENSKY, MARIANNE VON WEREFKIN, AUGUST MACKE and the composer ARNOLD SCHOENBERG, who often visited from MUNICH, were the new avant garde, the counterpart of the french FAUVISTS led by ANDRE DERRAIN and HENRY MATISSE in paris.
because of the start of the first worldwar in 1914 muenter and kandinsky first went to switzerland, kandinsky returned later in 1914 to his home and wife in moscow, gabriele muenter stayed in sweden until 1920 and lived in the murnau house from 1931 until her death in 1962. she never met kandinsky again.
a very tragic love story. but – because of the artistic exchange of the two of them in a beautiful place on earth, some of the most stunning paintings were created, masterpieces of GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM.

© wassily kandinsky


expressionism in film

3 09 2013

EXPRESSIONISM comes from latin – EXPRESSIO, the ‘expression’. before WWI it was a development in style that was mainly aimed against naturalism and impressionism. expressionism became the ART of ENHANCED EXPRESSION.

1calig poster

the characteristics of expressionism in film were painted- instead of built-sets, as well as distorted perspectives and high contrast in lights and darks. inspired by paintings and some theatre experiments like MAX REINHARDT at the deutsches theater in berlin, a few directors tried to come up with similar solutions for film after WWI. grotesque phantastic worlds were shown as a mirror of psychic nightmares. budgets in german and austrian films were not comparable to hollywood, and alone for that reason, the producers tried to compensate the missing technology and expensive set-designs in different ways. the art in those days was willing to experiment everywhere, what was leading in film as well to radikal new solutions.

2Original sketch for a scene in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari from Lotte Eisner
6calig big 2
4cabinett of caligari comp

famous examples are robert wiene’s DAS KABINETT DES DR.CALIGARI 1919, friedrich wilhelm murnau’s NOSFERATU 1921, paul wegener’s DER GOLEM 1920, karl grune’s DIE STRASSE 1923, fritz lang’s DR.MABUSE DER SPIELER 1922, and georg wilhelm pabst’s DIE FREUDLOSE GASSE 1925. the expressionist silent film featured very prominent actors, like GRETA GARBO, CONRADT VEIDT, POLA NEGRI, FRITZ KORTNER, ASTA NIELSEN and WERNER KRAUSS and became a major style influence in international film in its time.
later especially two film genres were influenced by german expressionistic film – HORROR FILM and FILM NOIR.

5calig big1
7calig.comp 2
8calig comp 3
9the others 1
10the others 2

german expressionism 2

4 07 2013

here now part 2 with the artists of DER BLAUE REITER

style header
blaue reiter
7marc comp
8macke comp
9muenter comp
10campendonk comp
11klee comp
12kandinsky comp

© marc / macke / muenter / campendonk / klee / kandinsky

german expressionism 1

3 07 2013

style header

EXPRESSIONISM comes from latin – expressio, what means ‘expression’. shortly before WW1 this definition for a stylistic direction developed, it was aimed against naturalism and impressionism. in art expressionism for the first time moved away from copying nature, it was not about to show what was visible, but to make the invisible visible. the artists destroyed beauty ideals and created instead deformed caricatures. a big influence came from medieval art, where painters and sculptors exaggerated their work to intensify the spiritual expressiveness of their subjects, art that expresses intense emotion, or – distorts reality for an emotional effect. look at the distorted figures of EL GRECO or MATTHIAS GRUENEWALD. later VINCENT VAN GOGH, PAUL GAUGUIN and EDVARD MUNCH used violent colors for intense emotional expression. the expressionists believed that art and society were interwoven. through art, literature, film, and music they disclosed social injustices, rejected materialistic prosperity, and wanted to weaken the privileged leisure-class system. They felt this could only be achieved through ARTISTIC AWARENESS and a proletarian revolution to dismantle laissez-faire capitalism.

the main centers where EXPRESSIONISM developed were germany and austria. in germany it was the WILHELMINE ERA, where the aristocratic oldfashioned KAISERREICH collided with a growing modern, industrial system. it was total asymmetry, the ruling class of prussian nobility, dominating the army and counsils of state, against democratic changes especially in the progressive middle class – in the end germany’s political elites resort to war in 1914 as a strategy of survival. the first worldwar makes things worse, millions die between 1914 and 1918, the german-austrian monarchy collapses, during the following weimar republic a major economic crisis develops, in parts result of the versailles contracts, then communism and fashism – all that leads to nazi germany and the next worldwar.

back to art where the most important expressionist group in the 20th century was the GERMAN SCHOOL. the movement was originated by the painters ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER, ERICH HECKEL, and KARL SCHMIDT-ROTTLUFF , who in 1905 organized a group in dresden called DIE BRUECKE (the bridge). they were joined in 1906 by EMIL NOLDE and MAX PECHSTEIN and in 1910 by OTTO MUELLER. in 1912 this group exhibited paintings along with a munich group that called itself DER BLAUE REITER (the blue rider). the latter included the german painters FRANZ MARC, AUGUST MACKE, GABRIELE MUENTER, and HEINRICH CAMPENDONK, the swiss artist PAUL KLEE, and the russian painter WASSILY KANDINSKY. DIE BRUECKE was dissolved by 1913, and WW1 halted most group activity.
a new phase of german expressionism called DIE NEUE SACHLICHKEIT (the new objectivity) grew out of the disillusionment following WW1. founded by OTTO DIX and GEORGE GROSZ, it was characterized by both a concern for social truths and an attitude of satiric bitterness and cynicism. expressionism meanwhile had become an international movement, and the influence of the germans is seen in the works of many international artists.

one of the next posts will cover the development of EXPRESSIONISM in film.

below the first part of the collected artwork of the most important representatives of GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM, tomorrow the second part –

1kirchner comp
2heckel comp
4nolde comp
5pechstein comp
6mueller comp

© kirchner / heckel / schmitt-rottluff / nolde / pechstein / mueller

das kalte herz

5 08 2012

four years in the making, HANNES RALL, a good friend and colleague here at nanyang technological university ADM, is now presenting his new animated film DAS KALTE HERZ ( the cold heart ). several animators from asia and europe worked on this stylized german fairy tale. written by WILHELM HAUFF in the nineteenth century the story is about a young man whose heart get’s corrupted by greed. sounds very much like a modern true story, nothing that would ask for a common look. hannes chose stylewise a mix of ingredients from german expressionism, you will be reminded of painters and woodcut artists like ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER, KARL SCHMIDT-ROTTLUFF, EMIL NOLDE, ERNST BARLACH, MAX BECKMANN, OTTO DIX, ERICH HECKEL, KAETHE KOLLWITZ and MAX PECHSTEIN, as well as films like DAS CABINETT DES DR. CALIGARI, DER GOLEM and NOSFERATU. I helped out with the color design influenced as well by a lot of the above mentioned painters. you can find the trailer of the film on CARTOON BREW. below some pages of my color script.

© hannes rall

the rat catcher

4 10 2011

based on a medieval german fairy tale THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN czechoslovak film director JIRI BARTA produced in 1986 the 53 min long puppet-animated movie THE PIED PIPER ( ‘Krysař’ in czech, what means THE RAT CATCHER ). the whole jiří trnka studio KRATKY FILM was involved in what was one of the most ambitious projects in the history of Czech animation. research and preproduction time took six months, the filming with puppets up to 60 cm tall one year. barta’s ‘horror’-film creates a striking contrast to the disney version of the pied piper legend as a children’s comedy, his fascinating metaphor for a society focused on material demands comes to life in a very artistic style, heavily influenced by german expressionistic painters like EMIL NOLDE, MAX BECKMANN, ERICH HECKEL, CARL HOFER, ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER, MAX PECHSTEIN, KARL SCHMIDT-ROTTLUFF and KAETHE KOLLWITZ – but as well by medieval wooden sculpture artists like JOERG SYRLIN, HANS MULTSCHER and TILMAN RIEMENSCHNEIDER. interesting is the similarity in the tilted angles and twisted shapes in the environment of the 1920 silent horror film THE CABINET OF DR.CALIGARI directed by ROBERT WIENE. below some of the stylized sets of the puppet-animated film and the reference art that was probably used.

…following a collection of reference art that could have been used

© kratky film prague

the blitz

21 05 2011

FRANS MASEREEL, 1889 – 1972, was born in belgium and is probably the greatest woodcut artist of the twentieth century. his work belongs to the EXPRESSIONISTIC style, – THOMAS MANN, EMILE ZOLA and STEFAN ZWEIG were the writers whose novels MASEREEL illustrated. when I worked on the adaptation of the musical CATS as an animated feature film in 1991 I used MASEREEL’S work as look-reference. as well as a lot of art from numerous german expressionistic painters like, KAETHE KOLLWITZ, MAX PECHSTEIN, KARL SCHMIDT-ROTTLUFF and EMIL NOLDE. the story was supposed to take place in london during the second world war, the so called BLITZ ( from blitz-krieg ), so I referred to a lot of historic photographs of the destroyed london from that time.

below are some of my earliest designs for CATS, the ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER musical, produced by STEVEN SPIELBERG in his london AMBLIMATION studio, all ‘painted’ with tipp-ex white correction fluid on black cardboard. I touched up the pretty rough white strokes with black markers. I know, it sounds like a very unusual technique – but woodcut would have been worse.

© masereel / andrew lloyd webber / amblimation / universal pictures

zagreb style 5

4 01 2010

TYPHUS, or in the original language – TIFUSARI, was produced by ZAGREB FILM in 1963, by a very successful team – script and direction VATROSLAV MIMICA, design and backgrounds ALEKSANDAR MARKS and animation VLADIMIR JUTRISA. the film is apparently MIMICA’S tribute to the dead of WW2, he was a partisan fighter himself. very powerful black/white images similar to woodcuts and close to the artwork of KAETHE KOLLWITZ, ERNST BARLACH and ERICH HECKEL show the eerie world of hallucinations caused by typhoid. following are some captured images of the 8 min short.

© zagreb film


24 09 2009

donald's crime 1

donald's crime 2

donald's crime 3

donald's crime 4

donald's crime 5

donald's crime 6

interesting backgrounds, aren’t they. would you have guessed they are part of a disney DONALD DUCK short? I recreated them from the 1945 released short DONALD’S CRIME. directed by JACK KING, layout ERNEST NORDLI and backgrounds MERLE COX. it is a nightmare sequence similar to the much later UPA masterpiece THE TELL TALE HEART and influenced by german expressionistic films, like CABINET OF DR.CALIGARI. very unusual for a disney short.
D.crime title

© disney enterprises, inc


16 10 2008

when I started to work on the visual designs for the animated adaptation of the musical CATS 1991 in london, the two directors assigned to that project, SIMON WELLS and PHIL NIBBELINK, had already worked on the storyboards for a while. it was all pretty dark and taking place in ruins of buildings. STEVEN SPIELBERG had given them the idea that the story could take place in london during the time of the ‘blitz’, the time when hitler’s rockets destroyed parts of london. he had also mentioned the visual style of the film should be ‘brechtian’. the directors had no idea what that might be.
it took me a bit to figure it out – BERTHOLD BRECHT, the famous german writer, was well known for his expressionistic, politically critical theaterpieces. he probably was very close to some of the expressionistic artists of his time in germany, after the first worldwar. I knew, that one group of the german expressionists, the artists of DIE BRUECKE ( the bridge ), led by ERICH HECKEL, ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER, MAX PECHSTEIN, EMIL NOLDE and KARL SCHMITT ROTTLUFF were trying to create during that time an artform that linked german artists of the renaissance, especially DUERER with his masterful woodcuts, with a new renaissance of german art. KAETHE KOLLWITZ and ERNST BARLACH predated that movement, but were politically and artistically in the same direction. one of my favorite films of the silent era DAS CABINETT DES DR.CALIGARI, 1919, was an expressionistic styled masterpiece.

I was pretty sure that it was that what mr.spielberg had in mind. so I started to find the right reference about all these artists. the most impressive were their woodcuts. I imagined the ‘blitz’-world pretty much black/white and similar to that look. the problem was, how to translate it into animated backgrounds. I did not want to do woodcuts, it was easier to come up with designs in a similar look. white on black looked pretty good, so I started to paint my destructed world with white correction fluid on black cardboard, and added finer detail with a special black feltpen. the next step was, to paint the same motif in gouache with a very limited color palette and copying the reduced high-contrast look. following are some of the paintings.

©AMBLIN, universal pictures

The Hidden History of Oz

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Discover the Secrets of an Enchanted World


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