Want to watch the entirety of the 20th Century Art world change in one exhibit? Then come down to LACMA.

It had to start somewhere didn’t it? The angular, modernistic lines of German Expressionism. Not that I’m that much of a fan of German Expressionism. Too many brightly colored…well… everything.

Too little likeness to…well…everything else.

Never been my bag.

The strange thing is, as you walk through the exhibit Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky now on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), you’ll see that German Expressionism’s forefathers and mothers were some of the French Impressionists that I love so much.

If you want to break things down, think of the Classical Paintings you’re used to seeing, the Mona Lisas, the Rembrandts and the like. There was a “correct way” that painters had to follow…sorry…that all painters had to follow. You had to know how to draw as well as paint. Your training basically began by copying the old masters over and over again, until over time, your own style broke out.  Now, things may vary a bit crossing from one border to the next, but the objects depicted therein were all recognizable, striking.

Then came along the Impressionists, the Monets, the Degas, the Pissaros of the world. They wanted to capture (as it says in name) an impression of a moment in time. What you would see is still recognizable as an object or a scene, but the skill of drawing was diminished, much to the consternation of the Classical Masters.

Claude Monet Haystack

Monet would paint many, many more haystacks in the french countryside, and still you’d recognize them as a haystack in the french countryside. But what would be important to Monet would not be getting every last detail about the haystack down correctly, but what it would look like in that moment with the light hitting it just so.

An impression, if you will.

This led right into the Modern Artists, who leapt to the next step of, well…if we don’t have to draw it exactly, why do we even have to make it look like something at all.

Okay, a lot of that was me. But you get the idea.

In between the Impressionists and the Modern Artists was Vincent Van Gogh. He seemed not to paint, or draw…so much as cut and chop the color loose from whatever he was seeing at the time (and given what we know about his mental condition, he was probably seeing a lot). He took some of what the impressionists did, being freed from the conventions of the past masters, and ran in his own direction. Of course, he was penniless and poor…and ridiculed for much of his life, before succumbing to madness.

Van Gogh The Poplars at Saint-Rémy

But as the Impressionists freed Van Gogh, Van Gogh then freed the German Expressionists.

And this is where I get off the train.

Things get wild at weird at that point, and I’m not much of a fan. But it’s important to learn and see how these Artistic movements are shaped, and this is an exhibit which accomplishes that. You can see the movements take form, live and die from painting to painting. It’s quite and educational affair.


But just because I got off the train, doesn’t mean you have to.

Come down to LACMA.  Look at the paintings, and judge for yourself.  You might think the Impressionists were full of crap and that Expressionism is the only way to go.  That’s the point of coming down to the Museum.  Look.  Judge for yourself.  See what it is you like.

Me?  I can look at a a Van Gogh all day. It doesn’t have to be a great Van Gogh or a major Van Gogh, it just has to be…well…a Van Gogh. And with some Cezannes and Gaugins in there? I left a very happy man.

Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky runs through September 14, 2014.


IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Just remember, when you go to LACMA (and are not a member) you’re paying $15 to get in, add another $10 top of that and you can get in and see both the Van Gogh to Kandinsky Exhibit as well as the Calder Exhibit happening in the same building. The tickets are timed, so get there early.


PARKING: Fantastically easy, but pricey. LACMA has a massive underground Garage that you can roll into for Ten Bucks (as a Member). I’d recommend it no matter the price because it is underground, and your car won’t bake as you’re touring the classics. But there is street parking available nearby.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90036
(323) 857-6000

Mon-Tue, Thu: 12–8pm
Wed: Closed
Fri: 12–9pm
Sat-Sun: 11am–8pm