Expressionists Great and Not So Great

Featured image: Robert Delaunay, “Circular Shapes, Moon no. 1” (1913); Lenbachhaus Munich and Gabriele Münter and Johannes Eichner Foundation, Munich

LONDON — Sometimes life gets a little queasy. Take today, for example, as I walk toward the entrance to the Press View (my capitals) of a new show called Expressionists at Tate Modern.

The table is laid with heaps of paper to be given away — and one to be signed to prove you are who you are and not, say, Franz Kafka, returned from the grave to add further thickenings of gloom and despondency to the tragedy of our times.

Glancing ahead over a muscling of shoulders, I see that many people are already in Gallery One, looking at this and that, and perhaps even scribbling too. Some do both. The true connoisseur just looks, fingers knotted behind back until they ache.

What’s up then? Why the queasiness? The problem is in the word itself: Expressionists. Am I sure that I know, after all these long years of gawping at thousands of paintings, what the word really means? I mean REALLY REALLY means? It readily attaches itself to Germany, of course, like an overcoat introduced to any random door hook.

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