Flemish Expressionism is well represented in the 20th-century collection of the MSK. This ensemble has been expanded in recent years with international examples, a process that is still ongoing. This is a logical development for the Museum of Fine Arts to take, as Flemish Expressionism was largely a response to impulses from abroad: German Expressionism, French Cubism, Italian Futurism...The key figures of Expressionism in these regions were Constant Permeke, Gustave de Smet and Frits van den Berghe. They were members of what is known as the Second Latem Group. Around 1910, they often spent whole summers in this village on the river Lys (Leie) and were still generally painting in an Impressionistic style and in a 'sunny' palette.
They mainly received Expressionist impulses during World War I, when all three were abroad (Holland and England). In that sense, Expressionism is also a reaction against the bourgeois quality and 'their overcultivated character of late Impressionism and Art Nouveau. Flemish Expressionism developed and flourished in the twenties. Brussels became a major centre for these painters, a city of bustling life and new ideas. Other Expressionists were Floris and Oscar Jespers, Gustave van de Woestyne, Edgard Tytgat and Jean Brusselmans.
International Expressionism gained its firmed foothold in Germany. Typical for this style from the beginning of the 20th century is its ambition for art to be a direct expression of emotions. By distorting the appearance of figures and landscapes, dramatising them and enlarging or otherwise emphasising certain aspects, these works of art were first and foremost meant to be 'expressive'. A few names represented in the MSK collection are Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel.Due to the very nature of this style – aiming at the free expression of personal emotions – the category of 'Expressionism' encompasses a great variety of artists and works of art.