The original bad boys of 20th-century German art got together in June of 1905. They were nobodies: four young, restless architecture students in Dresden, the jewel of the Elbe.
Partly inspired by the city’s many bridges, they called themselves the Brücke, or bridge. They felt it implied movement toward the future and away from the “older, well-established powers,” in the words of their unusually open-ended manifesto. They liked echoing Nietzsche, who described man as “a rope, fastened between animal and Superman. ... a bridge and not a goal.”
By the time the Brücke disbanded, in 1913, it had revived a rawness of feeling, form and execution that had been largely absent from European art since early medieval times. It had made a place for itself in the Modernist repertory, the creed of Expressionism, an art made directly from, by and for the self, unrestrained by affectations of polish, reason or classical beauty.
Judging by “Brücke: The Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin, 1905-1913,” at the Neue Galerie, the collective rawness still startles.