German Expressionists believed communication of the emotions to be the primary purpose of art and employed distortions of color, shape, surface, and space as the means to accomplish this goal. The angular form, suggested motion, and passionate gesture of The Avenger is exemplary of the Expressionist vision. Dubbed by Barlach as the "crystallized essence of War," the sculpture was in direct response to the vengefulness and devastation of World War I. Based on lithographs of 1914, the image passed through a number of stages before it was realized in bronze. While indebted to medieval wood statuary in mood and texture, Barlach's work was also a significant precursor to the development of kinetic sculpture.