Maguire, Jennifer (2020) Depicting the Macabre: The lasting influence of German Expressionism on Photography. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The art movement German Expressionism, although over a hundred years old, was revolutionary, depicting monstrous figures and dealing with themes of horror and isolation. The purpose of this thesis is to explain why German Expressionism was so ground breaking at the time and what impact it has had on later artists and filmmakers. My argument will explain how German Expressionism influenced the work of three artists in particular, namely Anna Gaskell, Gregory Crewdson and Cindy Sherman. The argument is determined by multiple factors that piece together to show the incorporating elements of German Expressionism, as well as give an understanding of how photography relates to a medium that isn’t traditionally associated with the art movement.

The beginning of the thesis will discuss how German Expressionism began, highlighting the most important artworks, films and groups during that time. This leads onto a study of psychoanalysis and its relationship with German Expressionism. Even though these subjects are contrasting, the two are integral to understanding the importance of mental health in the movements, artists and themes used in the work. The two later chapters then move onto discuss the later influences of German Expressionism. Even though these two chapters have some similar counterpoints, it is important to emphasise the key factors which strengthen the thesis argument. Chapter Four studies the aesthetics that lead on to filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and his love of German Expressionism. Creating a narrative of how his work relates to Cindy Sherman, it lead son to examine tableau photography. The research then presents more work from Sherman and Crewdson. However, the discussion is focused towards the psychological aspects and staged photography, leading onto identifying the relationship of German Expressionism and Francis Bacon and Anna Gaskell.

Concluding the argument, the research in thesis is about presenting theoretical and visual evidence of how German Expressionism was able to influence these photographers. German Expressionism in itself was anti-photography and rejected an anti-realist movement. But, when studying works from artists such as Otto Dix and Robert Wiene, the themes of mental illness, isolation and trauma mixed with the unique aesthetics of German Expressionism can be seen in the works of later artists. Emotion, psychological pressures and private obsessions are apparent everywhere in the work of Expressionists. Their artistic intentions were not limited to catharsis and self-revelation, but also gave a voice to the ignored (Miesel, 2003).This thesis is a celebration of German Expressionist work and will illustrate how impactful it was been.

FINAL THESIS - Maguire.pdf - Accepted Version
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