From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914

Early Twentieth-Century Art

What is the difference between The Bridge and the Blue Riders?

“The Bridge” and the “Blue Riders” were both groups of German Expressionist artists who shared artistic values, promoted the symbolic power of color, and believed that art could communicate powerful positive or spiritual messages to the viewer. The Bridge, known is German as Die Brücke, was founded in Dresden in 1905 by four architecture students: Fritz Bleyl (1880–1966), Erich Heckel (1883–1970), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938), and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884–1976). Their name came from the philosophical writing of Friedrich Nietzsch, and they shared the philosopher’s idea that the present-day can positively influence the future, acting as a “bridge” to the future. The artistic style of the “Bridge” artists was inspired by so-called “primitive” non-Western art, such as African masks, which they believed was somehow more authentic than Western art. They were also inspired by nature and Russian literature. Key works produced by members of the “The Bridge” include Schmidt-Rotluff’s Three Nudes - Dune Picture from Nidden (1913) and Kirchner’s Street, Berlin (1913), which depicts two prostitutes, one wearing a purple coat, against a bright pink urban background.

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Riders) was another Expressionist group founded in Germany, in Munich rather than Dresden. Members included the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), and German artist Franz Marc (1880–1916), who was killed during World War I. Marc was interested in the symbolism of the color blue, and he believed that blue was the most spiritual color. One of Marc’s most recognizable paintings is The Large Blue Horses (1911), which depicts the backs and bowed necks of a group of deeply blue horses as if they are distant mountains against a burnt, orange sky. Kandinsky was inspired by Russian folk art and was deeply interested in art history and philosophy. Kandinsky associated realism with the negative aspects of materialism, and as his career developed, his art became less and less figurative. He explained that he wanted his art to inspire spiritual awareness in his viewers. Kandinsky was also inspired by the nineteenth-century artist Whistler to give his paintings musical titles such as Composition IV (1911), Improvisation 28 (1912), and even Contrasting Sounds (1924). His work is also thought to be inspired by his synesthesia, a neurological condition in which one can “see” numbers, letters, or even sound as color. Kandinsky’s theories and paintings on the spiritual quality of visual art were extremely influential for modern art. Expressionist paintings from both “The Bridge” and the “Blue Riders” made a major impact on twentieth-century art due to their philosophical goals and interest in expressive abstraction.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Art History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App