Neo-expressionism is a style of modern painting and sculpture that emerged in the late 1970s and dominated the art market until the mid-1980s. Related to American Lyrical Abstraction, New Image Painting and precedents in Pop painting, it developed as a reaction against the conceptual and minimalistic art of the 1970s. Neo-expressionists returned to portraying recognizable objects, such as the human body (although sometimes in an abstract manner), in a rough and violently emotional way using vivid colours and banal colour harmonies.
Overtly inspired by the so-called German Expressionist painters - Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - and other expressionist artists such as James Ensor and Edvard Munch. Neo-expressionists were sometimes called Neue Wilden ('The new wild ones', 'New Fauves' would better meet the meaning of the term). The style emerged internationally and was viewed by many critics such as Achille Bonito Oliva and Donald Kuspit as a revival of traditional themes of self-expression in European art after decades of American dominance. The social and economic value of the movement was hotly debated.
Critics such as Benjamin Buchloh, Hal Foster, Craig Owens, and Mira Schor were highly critical of its relation to the marketability of painting on the rapidly expanding art market, celebrity, the backlash against feminism, anti-intellectualism, and a return to mythic subjects and individualist methods they deemed outmoded. Women were notoriously marginalized in the movement, and painters such as Elizabeth Murray and Maria Lassnig were omitted from many of its key exhibitions, most notoriously the 1981 "New Spirit in Painting" exhibition in London which included 38 male painters but no female painters.