Theo van Doesburg - Counter-CompositionV (1924)

History of Modern Art: De Stijl

Hello folks, our journey in modern art history resumes, and this time will review the De Stilj (or neoplasticism) movement!

De Stijl, Dutch for “The Style”, also known as neoplasticism, was a Dutch artistic movement founded in 1917. In a narrower sense, the term De Stijl is used to refer to a body of work from 1917 to 1931 founded in the Netherlands.

From the flurry of new art movements that followed the Impressionists’ revolutionary new perception of painting, Cubism arose in the early 20th century as an important and influential new direction. In the Netherlands, too, there was interest in this “new art.”

However, because the Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, Dutch artists were not able to leave the country after 1914 and were thus effectively isolated from the international art world—and in particular, from Paris, which was its centre at that time.

During that period, painter Theo van Doesburg started looking for other artists to set up a journal and start an art movement. Van Doesburg was also a writer, poet, and critic, who had been more successful writing about art than working as an independent artist. Quite adept at making new contacts due to his flamboyant personality and outgoing nature, he had many useful connections in the art world.

The artistic philosophy that formed a basis for the group’s work is known as neoplasticism — the new plastic art (or Nieuwe Beelding in Dutch).

Proponents of De Stijl sought to express a new utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order. They advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour; they simplified visual compositions to the vertical and horizontal directions, and used only primary colors along with black and white.

Indeed, according to the Tate Gallery’s online article on neoplasticism, Mondrian himself sets forth these delimitations in his essay ‘Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art’. He writes,

… this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary, it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.

The Tate article further summarizes that this art allows “only primary colours and non-colours, only squares and rectangles, only straight and horizontal or vertical line.

The Guggenheim Museum’s online article on De Stijl summarizes these traits in similar terms:

It [De Stijl] was posited on the fundamental principle of the geometry of the straight line, the square, and the rectangle, combined with a strong asymmetricality; the predominant use of pure primary colors with black and white; and the relationship between positive and negative elements in an arrangement of non-objective forms and lines.

Piet Mondrian - Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red

Piet Mondrian – Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red

The name De Stijl is supposedly derived from Gottfried Semper’s Der Stil in den technischen und tektonischen Künsten oder Praktische Ästhetik (1861–3), which Curl suggests was mistakenly believed to advocate materialism and functionalism. In general, De Stijl proposed ultimate simplicity and abstraction, both in architecture and painting, by using only straight horizontal and vertical lines and rectangular forms. Furthermore, their formal vocabulary was limited to the primary colours, red, yellow, and blue, and the three primary values, black, white, and grey. The works avoided symmetry and attained aesthetic balance by the use of opposition. This element of the movement embodies the second meaning of stijl: “a post, jamb or support”; this is best exemplified by the construction of crossing joints, most commonly seen in carpentry.

In many of the group’s three-dimensional works, vertical and horizontal lines are positioned in layers or planes that do not intersect, thereby allowing each element to exist independently and unobstructed by other elements. This feature can be found in the Rietveld Schröder House and the Red and Blue Chair.

De Stijl was influenced by Cubist painting as well as by the mysticism and the ideas about “ideal” geometric forms (such as the “perfect straight line”) in the neoplatonic philosophy of mathematician M.H.J. Schoenmaekers. The works of De Stijl would influence the Bauhaus style and the international style of architecture as well as clothing and interior design.

However, it did not follow the general guidelines of an “ism” (Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism), nor did it adhere to the principles of art schools like the Bauhaus; it was a collective project, a joint enterprise.

In music, De Stijl was an influence only on the work of composer Jakob van Domselaer, a close friend of Mondrian. Between 1913 and 1916, he composed his Proeven van Stijlkunst(Experiments in Artistic Style), inspired mainly by Mondrian’s paintings. This minimalistic—and, at the time, revolutionary—music defined “horizontal” and “vertical” musical elements and aimed at balancing those two principles. Van Domselaer was relatively unknown in his lifetime, and did not play a significant role within the De Stijl group.

Theo van Doesburg - Counter-Composition V (1924)

Theo van Doesburg – Counter-Composition V (1924)


Works by De Stijl members are scattered all over the world, but DeStijl themed exhibitions are organised regularly.

Museums with large De Stijl collections include the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague (which owns the world’s most extensive, although not exclusively De Stijl-related, Mondrian collection) and the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, where many works by Rietveld and Van Doesburg are on display.

The Centraal Museum of Utrecht has the largest Rietveld collection worldwide; it also owns the Rietveld Schröder House, Rietveld’s adjacent “show house,” and the Rietveld Schröder Archives.

De Stijl Artists

This list is not exhaustive. Because of the loose associations many artists had with De Stijl, it is difficult to get a complete overview of contributors.


Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 02/02/2013

Paul Gauguin - Tahitian Women on the Beach

History of Modern Art: Post-Impressionism

Hello and welcome to the History of modern art series! Today we’ll take a closer look at the Post Impressionism movement!

Post-Impressionism is the term coined by the British artist and art critic Roger Fry in 1910 to describe the development of French art since Manet. Fry used the term when he organized the 1910 exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists.

Post-Impressionists extended Impressionism while rejecting its limitations: they continued using vivid colours, thick application of paint, distinctive brush strokes, and real-life subject matter, but they were more inclined to emphasize geometric forms, to distort form for expressive effect, and to use unnatural or arbitrary colour.

The Post-Impressionists were dissatisfied with the triviality of subject matter and the loss of structure in Impressionist paintings, though they did not agree on the way forward.

Paul Cezanne - Les joueurs de carte

Paul Cezanne – Les joueurs de carte

Georges Seurat and his followers concerned themselves with Pointillism, the systematic use of tiny dots of colour (we’ll examine Pointillism in the upcoming article of the series). Paul Cézanne set out to restore a sense of order and structure to painting, to “make of Impressionism something solid and durable, like the art of the museums”.

He achieved this by reducing objects to their basic shapes while retaining the bright fresh colours of Impressionism. The Impressionist Camille Pissarro experimented with Neo-Impressionist ideas between the mid 1880s and the early 1890s.

Discontented with what he referred to as romantic Impressionism, he investigated Pointillism which he called scientific Impressionism before returning to a purer Impressionism in the last decade of his life.

Vincent van Gogh used colour and vibrant swirling brush strokes to convey his feelings and his state of mind. Although they often exhibited together, Post-Impressionist artists were not in agreement concerning a cohesive movement. Younger painters during the 1890s and early 20th century worked in geographically disparate regions and in various stylistic categories, such as Fauvism and Cubism.

Vincent Willem van Gogh - Cafe Terrace at Night

Vincent Willem van Gogh – Cafe Terrace at Night

Fry later explained: “For purposes of convenience, it was necessary to give these artists a name, and I chose, as being the vaguest and most non-committal, the name of Post-Impressionism. This merely stated their position in time relatively to the Impressionist movement.”

John Rewald, one of the first professional art historians to focus on the birth of early modern art, limited the scope to the years between 1886 and 1892 in his pioneering publication on Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin (1956): Rewald considered it to continue his History of Impressionism (1946), and pointed out that a “subsequent volume dedicated to the second half of the post-impressionist period”.  Post-Impressionism: From Gauguin to Matisse—was to follow, extending the period covered to other artistic movements derived from Impressionism and confined to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Rewald focused on outstanding early Post-Impressionists active in France: on Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, Redon, and their relations as well as the artistic circles they frequented (or they were in opposition to):

Neo-Impressionism: ridiculed by contemporary art critics as well as artists as Pointillism; Seurat and Signac would have preferred other terms: Divisionism for example.

Cloisonnism: a short-lived term introduced in 1888 by the art critic Édouard Dujardin, was to promote the work of Louis Anquetin, and was later also applied to contemporary works of his friend Émile Bernard

Synthetism: another short-lived term coined in 1889 to distinguish recent works of Gauguin and Bernard from that of more traditional Impressionists exhibiting with them at the Café Volpini.

Pont-Aven School: implying little more than that the artists involved had been working for a while in Pont-Aven or elsewhere in Brittany.

Symbolism: a term highly welcomed by vanguard critics in 1891, when Gauguin dropped Synthetism as soon as he was acclaimed to be the leader of Symbolism in painting.

Furthermore, in his introduction to Post-Impressionism, Rewald opted for a second volume featuring Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau “le Douanier”, Les Nabis and Cézanne as well as the Fauves, the young Picasso and Gauguin’s last trip to the South-Sea; it was to expand the period covered at least into the first decade of the 20th century—yet this second volume remained unfinished.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - Equestrienne

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Equestrienne

According to the present state of discussion, Post-Impressionism is a term best used within Rewald’s definition in a strictly historical manner, concentrating on French art between 1886 and 1914, and re-considering the altered positions of impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, and others—as well as all new brands at the turn of the century: from Cloisonnism to Cubism. The declarations of war, in July/August 1914, indicate probably far more than the beginning of a World War—they signal a major break in European cultural history, too.

Henri Rousseau - La zingara addormentata

Henri Rousseau – La zingara addormentata


Édouard Vuillard - Le Corsage rayé

Édouard Vuillard – Le Corsage rayé

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - Der Salon in der Rue des Moulins

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Der Salon in der Rue des Moulins

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - La Goulue arrivant au Moulin Rouge

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – La Goulue arrivant au Moulin Rouge

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - The Bed

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – The Bed

Henri Rousseau - A Carnival Evening

Henri Rousseau – A Carnival Evening

Henri Rousseau - Fight Between a Tiger and a Buffalo

Henri Rousseau – Fight Between a Tiger and a Buffalo

Henri Rousseau - The Football Players

Henri Rousseau – The Football Players

Paul Cezanne - The Overture to Tannhauser

Paul Cezanne – The Overture to Tannhauser

Paul Gauguin -  The Siesta

Paul Gauguin – The Siesta

Paul Gauguin - Tahitian Women on the Beach

Paul Gauguin – Tahitian Women on the Beach

Paul Gauguin - The Swineherd, Brittany

Paul Gauguin – The Swineherd, Brittany

Vincent Willem van Gogh - Kornfeld mit Zypressen

Vincent Willem van Gogh – Kornfeld mit Zypressen


In the meantime i’d love to hear what you think of post-impressionism as a movement, and which of the above artists were the more influential in your opinion?

Articles’ Images are either in the public domain because their copyright has expired Or legal to display for non commercial educational purposes, under the Fair Use Copyright Law (and are available through Wikimedia & Wikipedia)

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 01/12/2012

Arnold Boecklin - Der Krieg

History of Modern Art: Symbolism

We’ll be continuing our exploration in modern art movements with Symbolism. Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts.

In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil, 1857) by Charles Baudelaire. The works of Edgar Allan Poe, which Baudelaire admired greatly and translated into French, were a significant influence and the source of many stock tropes and images. The aesthetic was developed by Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine during the 1860s and ’70s. In the 1880s, the aesthetic was articulated by a series of manifestos and attracted a generation of writers.

The name “symbolist” itself was first applied by the critic Jean Moréas, who invented the term to distinguish the symbolists from the related decadents of literature and of art.

Arnold Boecklin - Der Krieg

Arnold Boecklin – Der Krieg

The symbolist style has frequently been confused with decadence. Several young writers were derisively referred to by the press as “decadent” during the mid 1880s. A few of these writers embraced the term while most avoided it.

Jean Moréas’ manifesto was largely a response to this polemic. By the late 1880s, the terms “symbolism” and “decadence” were understood to be almost synonymous.Though the aesthetics of the styles can be considered similar in some ways, the two remain distinct. The symbolists were those artists who emphasized dreams and ideals; the Decadents cultivated précieux, ornamented, or hermetic styles, and morbid subject matters.

The subject of the decadence of the Roman Empire was a frequent source of literary images and appears in the works of many poets of the period, regardless of which name they chose for their style, as in Verlaine’s “Langueur”.

Carlos Schwabe - The Death of the Grave Digger

Carlos Schwabe – The Death of the Grave Digger

Symbolism in literature is distinct from symbolism in art although the two were similar in many respects. In painting, symbolism was a continuation of some mystical tendencies in the Romantic tradition, which included such artists as Caspar David Friedrich, Fernand Khnopff and John Henry Fuseli and it was even more similar to the self-consciously morbid and private decadent movement.

The symbolist painters used mythological and dream imagery. The symbols used by symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references. More a philosophy than an actual style of art, symbolism in painting influenced the contemporary Art Nouveau style and Les Nabis.

Franz von Stuck - Der Wächter des Paradieses

Franz von Stuck – Der Wächter des Paradieses

The symbolist painters were an important influence on expressionism and surrealism in painting, two movements which descend directly from symbolism proper. The harlequins, paupers, and clowns of Pablo Picasso’s “Blue Period” show the influence of symbolism, and especially of Puvis de Chavannes.

In Belgium, symbolism became so popular that it came to be thought ofas a national style: the static strangeness of painters like René Magritte can be considered as a direct continuation of symbolism. The work of some symbolist visual artists, such as Jan Toorop, directly affected the curvilinear forms of art nouveau.

Many early motion pictures also employ symbolist visual imagery and themes in their staging, set designs, and imagery. The films of German expressionism owe a great deal to symbolist imagery. The virginal “good girls” seen in the cinema of D. W. Griffith, and the silent movie “bad girls” portrayed by Theda Bara, both show the continuing influence of symbolism, as do the Babylonian scenes from Griffith’s Intolerance.

Symbolist imagery lived on longest in horror film: as late as 1932, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr showed the obvious influence of symbolist imagery; parts of the film resemble tableau vivant re-creations of the early paintings of Edvard Munch.

Hope you enjoyed our short journey through symbolism.

Franz von Stuck - Judith und Holofernes

Franz von Stuck – Judith und Holofernes


Arnold Boecklin - Selbstporträt mit fiedelndem Tod

Arnold Boecklin – Selbstporträt mit fiedelndem Tod

Arnold Boecklin  - Das Spiel der Najaden

Arnold Boecklin – Das Spiel der Najaden

Franz von Stuck - Wilde Jagd

Franz von Stuck – Wilde Jagd

Franz von Stuck -Wind und Welle

Franz von Stuck -Wind und Welle

Giovanni Segantini - Die Strafe der Wollüstigen

Giovanni Segantini – Die Strafe der Wollüstigen

Giovanni Segantini - Lebensengel

Giovanni Segantini – Lebensengel

Gustave Moreau - Herkules und die Lernäische Hydra

Gustave Moreau – Herkules und die Lernäische Hydra

Gustave Moreau - Prometheus

Gustave Moreau – Prometheus

Hans Thoma - Adam and Eve

Hans Thoma – Adam and Eve

Odilon Redon - Muse auf Pegasus

Odilon Redon – Muse auf Pegasus

Odilon Redon - Portrait of Violette Heymann

Odilon Redon – Portrait of Violette Heymann

Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes - Automn

Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes – Automn


Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are either in the public domain because their copyright has expired Or legal to display for non commercial educational purposes, under the Fair Use Copyright Law (and are available through Wikimedia & Wikipedia)

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it uses material from Wikipedia.


Article publié pour la première fois le 15/12/2012


History of Modern Art: Futurism

Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized and glorified themes associated with contemporary concepts of the future, including speed, technology, youth and violence, and objects such as the car, the airplane and the industrial city. It was largely an Italian phenomenon, though there were parallel movements in Russia, England and elsewhere.

The Futurists practiced in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, urban design, theatre, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music, architecture and even gastronomy.

Key figures of the movement include:

Important works include its seminal piece of the literature, Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism, as well as Boccioni’s sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, and Balla’s painting, Abstract Speed + Sound (pictured). Futurism influenced art movements such as Art Deco, Constructivism, Surrealism, Dada, and to a greater degree, Precisionism, Rayonism, andVorticism.

Natalia Goncharova - The Cyclist

Natalia Goncharova – The Cyclist

The founder of Futurism was the Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Marinetti launched the movement in his Futurist Manifesto, which he published for the first time on 5 February 1909 in La gazzetta dell’Emilia, an article then reproduced in the French daily newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February 1909. He was soon joined by the painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and the composer Luigi Russolo.

Marinetti expressed a passionate loathing of everything old, especially political and artistic tradition. “We want no part of it, the past”, he wrote, “we the young and strong Futurists!” The Futurists admired speed, technology, youth and violence, the car, the airplane and the industrial city, all that represented the technological triumph of humanity over nature, and they were passionate nationalists. They repudiated the cult of the past and all imitation, praised originality, “however daring, however violent”, bore proudly “the smear of madness”, dismissed art critics as useless, rebelled against harmony and good taste, swept away all the themes and subjects of all previous art, and gloried in science.

Publishing manifestos was a feature of Futurism, and the Futurists (usually led or prompted by Marinetti) wrote them on many topics, including painting, architecture, religion, clothing and cooking.

The founding manifesto did not contain a positive artistic programme, which the Futurists attempted to create in their subsequent Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting. This committed them to a “universal dynamism”, which was to be directly represented in painting. Objects in reality were not separate from one another or from their surroundings: “The sixteen people around you in a rolling motor bus are in turn and at the same time one, ten four three; they are motionless and they change places. … The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it.”

The Futurist painters were slow to develop a distinctive style and subject matter. In 1910 and 1911 they used the techniques of Divisionism, breaking light and color down into a field of stippled dots and stripes, which had been originally created by Giovanni Segantini and others. Later, Severini, who lived in Paris, attributed their backwardness in style and method at this time to their distance from Paris, the centre of avant garde art.

Severini was the first to come into contact with Cubism and following a visit to Paris in 1911 the Futurist painters adopted the methods of the Cubists. Cubism offered them a means of analysing energy in paintings and expressing dynamism.

They often painted modern urban scenes. Carrà’s Funeral of the Anarchist Galli (1910–11) is a large canvas representing events that the artist had himself been involved in, in 1904. The action of a police attack and riot is rendered energetically with diagonals and broken planes. His Leaving the Theatre(1910–11) uses a Divisionist technique to render isolated and faceless figures trudging home at night under street lights.

Umberto Boccioni - The City Rises

Umberto Boccioni – The City Rises

Boccioni’s The City Rises (1910) represents scenes of construction and manual labour with a huge, rearing red horse in the centre foreground, which workmen struggle to control. His States of Mind, in three large panels, The FarewellThose who Go, and Those Who Stay, “made his first great statement of Futurist painting, bringing his interests in Bergson, Cubism and the individual’s complex experience of the modern world together in what has been described as one of the ‘minor masterpieces’ of early twentieth century painting.”

The work attempts to convey feelings and sensations experienced in time, using new means of expression, including “lines of force”, which were intended to convey the directional tendencies of objects through space, “simultaneity”, which combined memories, present impressions and anticipation of future events, and “emotional ambience” in which the artist seeks by intuition to link sympathies between the exterior scene and interior emotion.

Boccioni’s intentions in art were strongly influenced by the ideas of Bergson, including the idea of intuition, which Bergson defined as a simple, indivisible experience of sympathy through which one is moved into the inner being of an object to grasp what is unique and ineffable within it. The Futurists aimed through their art thus to enable the viewer to apprehend the inner being of what they depicted. Boccioni developed these ideas at length in his book, Pittura scultura Futuriste: Dinamismo plastico (Futurist Painting Sculpture: Plastic Dynamism) (1914)

Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) exemplifies the Futurists’ insistence that the perceived world is in constant movement. The painting depicts a dog whose legs, tail and leash — and the feet of the woman walking it — have been multiplied to a blur of movement. It illustrates the precepts of the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Paintingthat, “On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations, in their mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular.”  His Rhythm of the Bow (1912) similarly depicts the movements of a violinist’s hand and instrument, rendered in rapid strokes within a triangular frame.

The adoption of Cubism determined the style of much subsequent Futurist painting, which Boccioni and Severini in particular continued to render in the broken colors and short brush-strokes of divisionism. But Futurist painting differed in both subject matter and treatment from the quiet and static Cubism of Picasso, Braque and Gris. Although there were Futurist portraits (e.g. Carrà’s Woman with Absinthe (1911), Severini’s Self-Portrait (1912), and Boccioni’s Matter(1912)), it was the urban scene and vehicles in motion that typified Futurist painting—e.g. Boccioni’s The Street Enters the House (1911), Severini’s Dynamic Hieroglyph of the Bal Tabarin (1912), and Russolo’s Automobile at Speed (1913)

In 1912 and 1913, Boccioni turned to sculpture to translate into three dimensions his Futurist ideas. In Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) he attempted to realise the relationship between the object and its environment, which was central to his theory of “dynamism”. The sculpture represents a striding figure, cast in bronze posthumously and exhibited in the Tate Modern. (It now appears on the national side of Italian 20 eurocent coins). He explored the theme further in Synthesis of Human Dynamism (1912), Speeding Muscles (1913) and Spiral Expansion of Speeding Muscles (1913). His ideas on sculpture were published in the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture. In 1915 Balla also turned to sculpture making abstract “reconstructions”, which were created out of various materials, were apparently moveable and even made noises. He said that, after making twenty pictures in which he had studied the velocity of automobiles, he understood that “the single plane of the canvas did not permit the suggestion of the dynamic volume of speed in depth … I felt the need to construct the first dynamic plastic complex with iron wires, cardboard planes, cloth and tissue paper, etc.”

In 1914, personal quarrels and artistic differences between the Milan group, around Marinetti, Boccioni, and Balla, and the Florence group, around Carrà, Ardengo Soffici (1879–1964) and Giovanni Papini (1881–1956), created a rift in Italian Futurism. The Florence group resented the dominance of Marinetti and Boccioni, whom they accused of trying to establish “an immobile church with an infallible creed”, and each group dismissed the other as passéiste.

Futurism had from the outset admired violence and was intensely patriotic. The Futurist Manifesto had declared, “We will glorify war — the world’s only hygiene — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.”

Although it owed much of its character and some of its ideas to radical political movements, it was not much involved in politics until the autumn of 1913. Then, fearing the re-election of

Umberto Boccioni - Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, bronze sculpture

Umberto Boccioni – Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, bronze sculpture

Giolitti, Marinetti published a political manifesto. In 1914 the Futurists began to campaign actively against the Austro-Hungarian empire, which still controlled some Italian territories, and Italian neutrality between the major powers. In September, Boccioni, seated in the balcony of the Teatro dal Verme in Milan, tore up an Austrian flag and threw it into the audience, while Marinetti waved an Italian flag. When Italy entered the First World War in 1915, many Futurists enlisted.

The outbreak of war disguised the fact that Italian Futurism had come to an end. The Florence group had formally acknowledged their withdrawal from the movement by the end of 1914. Boccioni produced only one war picture and was killed in 1916. Severini painted some significant war pictures in 1915 (e.g. WarArmored Train, and Red Cross Train), but in Paris turned towards Cubism and post-war was associated with the Return to Order.

After the war, Marinetti revived the movement. This revival was called il secondo Futurismo (Second Futurism) by writers in the 1960s. The art historian Giovanni Lista has classified Futurism by decades: “Plastic Dynamism” for the first decade, “Mechanical Art” for the 1920s, “Aeroaesthetics” for the 1930s.

Futurism influenced many other twentieth-century art movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism, Surrealism and Dada. Futurism as a coherent and organized artistic movement is now regarded as extinct, having died out in 1944 with the death of its leader Marinetti, and Futurism was, like science fiction, in part overtaken by ‘the future’.

Nonetheless the ideals of Futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture. Ridley Scott consciously evoked the designs of Sant’Elia in Blade Runner. Echoes of Marinetti’s thought, especially his “dreamt-of metallization of the human body”, are still strongly prevalent in Japanese culture, and surface in manga/anime and the works of artists such as Shinya Tsukamoto, director of the “Tetsuo” (lit. “Ironman”) films; Marinetti’s legacy is also obvious in philosophical ingredients of transhumanism, especially in Europe. Futurism has produced several reactions, including the literary genre of cyberpunk—in which technology was often treated with a critical eye—whilst artists who came to prominence during the first flush of the Internet, such as Stelarc and Mariko Mori, produce work which comments on Futurist ideals.

A revival of sorts of the Futurist movement began in 1988 with the creation of the Neo-Futurist style of theatre in Chicago, which utilizes Futurism’s focus on speed and brevity to create a new form of immediate theatre. Currently, there are active Neo-Futurist troupes in Chicago, New York, and Montreal.


Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 12/01/2013

The Robe Following Her # 4', oil on canvas painting by Jim Dine, 1984-5

History of Modern Art: Pop Art

Hello everyone, today in our History of Modern Art series we’ll review the pop art movement!

Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular culture such as advertising, news, etc. In Pop art, material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, and/or combined with unrelated material. The concept of pop art refers not as much to the art itself as to the attitudes that led to it.

The Robe Following Her # 4', oil on canvas painting by Jim Dine, 1984-5

The Robe Following Her # 4′, oil on canvas painting by Jim Dine, 1984-5

Pop art employs aspects of mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects. It is widely interpreted as a reaction to the then-dominant ideas of abstract expressionism, as well as an expansion upon them. And due to its utilization of found objects and images it is similar to Dada. Pop art is aimed to employ images of popular as opposed to elitist culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitschy elements of any given culture, most often through the use of irony. It is also associated with the artists’ use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques.

Much of pop art is considered incongruent, as the conceptual practices that are often used make it difficult for some to readily comprehend. Pop art and minimalism are considered to be art movements that precede postmodern art, or are some of the earliest examples of Post-modern Art themselves.

Pop art often takes as its imagery that which is currently in use in advertising. Product labeling and logos figure prominently in the imagery chosen by pop artists, like in the Campbell’s Soup Cans labels, by Andy Warhol. Even the labeling on the shipping box containing retail items has been used as subject matter in pop art, for example in Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box 1964, or his Brillo Soap Box sculptures.

The origins of pop art in North America and Great Britain developed differently. In the United States, it marked a return to hard-edged composition and representational art as a response by artists using impersonal, mundane reality, irony and parody to defuse the personal symbolism and “painterly looseness” of Abstract Expressionism. By contrast, the origin in post-War Britain, while employing irony and parody, was more academic with a focus on the dynamic and paradoxical imagery of American popular culture as powerful, manipulative symbolic devices that were affecting whole patterns of life, while improving prosperity of a society.

Early pop art in Britain was a matter of ideas fueled by American popular culture viewed from afar, while the American artists were inspired by the experience of living within that culture. Similarly, pop art was both an extension and a repudiation of Dadaism. While pop art and Dadaism explored some of the same subjects, pop art replaced the destructive, satirical, and anarchic impulses of the Dada movement with detached affirmation of the artifacts of mass culture. Among those artists seen by some as producing work leading up to Pop art are Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, and Man Ray.

Although Pop Art began in the late 1950s, Pop Art in America was given its greatest impetus during the 1960s. By this time, American advertising had adopted many elements and inflections of modern art and functioned at a very sophisticated level. Consequently, American artists had to search deeper for dramatic styles that would distance art from the well-designed and clever commercial materials.

Alex Katz's 1970 painting of his son 'Vincent with Open Mouth'

Alex Katz’s 1970 painting of his son ‘Vincent with Open Mouth’

As the British viewed American popular culture imagery from a somewhat removed perspective, their views were often instilled with romantic, sentimental and humorous overtones. By contrast, American artists being bombarded daily with the diversity of mass-produced imagery, produced work that was generally more bold and aggressive.

Two important painters in the establishment of America’s pop art vocabulary were Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.  While the paintings of Rauschenberg have relationships to the earlier work of Kurt Schwitters and other Dadaists, his concern was with social issues of the moment. His approach was to create art out of ephemeral materials and using topical events in the life of everyday America gave his work a unique quality. Johns’ and Rauschenberg’s work of the 1950s is classified as Neo-Dada, and is visually distinct from the classic American Pop Art which began in the early 1960s.

Of equal importance to American pop art is Roy Lichtenstein. His work probably defines the basic premise of pop art better than any other through parody. Selecting the old-fashioned comic strip as subject matter, Lichtenstein produces a hard-edged, precise composition that documents while it parodies in a soft manner. Lichtenstein used oil and Magna paint in his best known works, such as Drowning Girl (1963), which was appropriated from the lead story in DC Comics’ Secret Hearts #83. (Drowning Girl now is in the collection of Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Also featuring thick outlines, bold colors and Ben-Day dots to represent certain colors, as if created by photographic reproduction. Lichtenstein would say of his own work: Abstract Expressionists “put things down on the canvas and responded to what they had done, to the color positions and sizes. My style looks completely different, but the nature of putting down lines pretty much is the same; mine just don’t come out looking calligraphic, like Pollock’s or Kline’s.”

Pop art merges popular and mass culture with fine art, while injecting humor, irony, and recognizable imagery and content into the mix. The paintings of Lichtenstein, like those of Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann and others, share a direct attachment to the commonplace image of American popular culture, but also treat the subject in an impersonal manner clearly illustrating the idealization of mass production. Andy Warhol is probably the most famous figure in Pop Art. Warhol attempted to take Pop beyond an artistic style to a life style, and his work often displays a lack of human affectation that dispenses with the irony and parody of many of his peers.
Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 09/03/2013

Dimanche by Paul Signac

History of Modern Art: Pointillism

Let’s resume our journey on modern art history by exploring Pointillism. Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image. Georges Seurat and Paul Signac developed the technique in 1886, branching from Impressionism. So some of these painters we have already met briefly in Impressionism. But today we’ll focus more on their Pointillism works.

The term Pointillism was first coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works of these artists, and is now used without its earlier mocking connotation. Neo-impressionism and Divisionism are also terms used to describe this technique of painting.

Le Chahut by George Seurat

Le Chahut by Georges Seurat

The technique relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones. It is related to Divisionism, a more technical variant of the method. Divisionism is concerned with color theory, whereas pointillism is more focused on the specific style of brushwork used to apply the paint. It is a technique with few serious practitioners today, and is notably seen in the works of Seurat, Signac and Cross.

The practice of Pointillism is in sharp contrast to the traditional methods of blending pigments on a palette. Pointillism is analogous to the four-color CMYK printing process used by some color printers and large presses that place dots of Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow, and Key (black). Televisions and computer monitors use a similar technique to represent image colors using Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) colors.

Lady in White by Van Rysselberghe

Lady in White by Van Rysselberghe

If red, blue, and green light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light. Painting is inherently subtractive, but pointillist colors often seem brighter than typical mixed subtractive colors. This may be partly because subtractive mixing of the pigments is avoided, and partly because some of the white canvas may be showing between the applied dots. The painting technique used for pointillist color mixing is at the expense of the traditional brushwork used to delineate texture. The majority of pointillism is done in oil paints. Anything may be used in its place, but oils are preferred for their thickness and tendency not to run or bleed.

Recolte des foins by Camille Pissarro

Recolte des foins by Camille Pissarro


Notable Pointillism Artists include:


A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat


Feeding the chickens by Charles Angrand

Feeding the chickens by Charles Angrand

Dimanche by Paul Signac

Dimanche by Paul Signac

Children on the farm by Camille Pissarro

Children on the farm by Camille Pissarro

Breakfast by Paul Signac

Breakfast by Paul Signac

Antibes by Henri Edmond Cross

Antibes by Henri Edmond Cross

Bathers by Georges Seurat

Bathers by Georges Seurat

Women at the Well by Paul Signac

Women at the Well by Paul Signac

The Harvesters by Charles Angrand

The Harvesters by Charles Angrand

The Beach at Heist by Georges Lemmen

The Beach at Heist by Georges Lemmen

Self portrait by VanGogh

Self portrait by VanGogh


Portrait of Félix Fénéon by Paul Signac

Portrait of Félix Fénéon by Paul Signac

Le-Bois-Annonciade by Henri Edmond Cross

Le-Bois-Annonciade by Henri Edmond Cross


Hope you enjoyed our short journey through pointillism and are willing to explore more the individual artists!

In the meantime i’d love to hear what you think of pointillism comparing to the traditional impressionism as a movement, and which of the above artists were the more influential in your opinion?

See you next time!

Articles’ Images are either in the public domain because their copyright has expired Or legal to display for non commercial educational purposes, under the Fair Use Copyright Law (and are available through Wikimedia & Wikipedia)

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 08/12/2012

August Macke - Kairouan

History of Modern Art: Expressionism

Hello and welcome to the History of modern art series! Today we’ll take a closer look at the Expressionism movement!

Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas.

Expressionist artists sought to express meaning or emotional experience rather than physical reality. Expressionism was developed as an avant-garde style before the First World War. It remained popular during the Weimar Republic,particularly in Berlin. The style extended to a wide range of the arts, including painting, literature, theatre, dance, film, architecture and music.

August Macke - Blick in eine Gasse

August Macke – Blick in eine Gasse

The term is sometimes suggestive of emotional angst. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias Grünewald and El Greco are sometimes termed expressionist, though in practice the term is applied mainly to 20th-century works.

The Expressionist emphasis on individual perspective has been characterized as a reaction to positivism and other artistic styles such as naturalism and impressionism.

While the word expressionist was used in the modern sense as early as 1850, its origin is sometimes traced to paintings exhibited in 1901 in Paris by an obscure artist Julien-Auguste Hervé, which he called Expressionismes.

Wassily Kandinsky - Composition VI

Wassily Kandinsky – Composition VI

Though an alternate view is that the term was coined by the Czech art historian Antonin Matějček in 1910, as the opposite of impressionism:

An Expressionist wishes, above all, to express himself… (an Expressionist rejects) immediate perception and builds on more complex psychic structures… Impressions and mental images that pass through mental peoples soul as through a filter which rids them of all substantial accretions to produce their clear essence […and] are assimilated and condense into more general forms, into types, which he transcribes through simple short-hand formulae and symbols.

Expressionism is notoriously difficult to define, in part because it “overlapped with other major ‘isms’ of the modernist period: with Futurism, Vorticism, Cubism, Surrealism and Dada.

Franz Marc - Horse in a Landscape

Franz Marc – Horse in a Landscape

Richard Murphy also comments: “the search for an all-inclusive definition is problematic to the extent that the most challenging expressionists such as Kafka, Gottfried Benn and Döblin were simultaneous the most vociferous “anti-expressionists.”

Expressionist artists sought to portray emotions and subjective interpretations. It was not important to reproduce an aesthetically pleasing impression of the artistic subject matter, they felt, but rather to represent vivid emotional reactions by powerful colours and dynamic compositions. Kandinsky, the main artist of Der Blaue Reiter group, believed that with simple colours and shapes the spectator could perceive the moods and feelings in the paintings, a theory that encouraged him towards increased abstraction.

Wassily Kandinsky - Composition VII

Wassily Kandinsky – Composition VII

After World War II, figurative expressionism influenced worldwide a large number of artists and styles. Also the Expressionist movement included other types of culture, including dance, sculpture, cinema and theatre, which are not in the scope of this article!

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Brandenburger Tor

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Brandenburger Tor

Cawen Alvar - Sokea soittoniekka

Cawen Alvar – Sokea soittoniekka

August Macke - Lady in a Green Jacket

August Macke – Lady in a Green Jacket

August Macke - Kairouan

August Macke – Kairouan

August Macke - Farewell

August Macke – Farewell

Franz Marc - The Fate of the Animals

Franz Marc – The Fate of the Animals

Franz Marc - Rehe im Walde

Franz Marc – Rehe im Walde

Franz Marc - Haystacks in the Snow

Franz Marc – Haystacks in the Snow

Franz Marc - Fighting Forms

Franz Marc – Fighting Forms

Franz Marc - Die großen blauen Pferde

Franz Marc – Die großen blauen Pferde

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Nollendorfplatz

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Nollendorfplatz

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 22/12/2012

Max Ernst, L'Ange du Foyer ou le Triomphe du Surréalisme (1937), private collection.

History of Modern Art: Surrealism

Hello folks, welcome back to our weekly series of History of Modern Art. Today we’ll review the movement of Surrealism.

Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artefact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement.

Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory.

World War I scattered the writers and artists who had been based in Paris, and in the interim many became involved with Dada, believing that excessive rational thought and bourgeois values had brought the conflict of the war upon the world. The Dadaists protested with anti-art gatherings, performances, writings and art works. After the war, when they returned to Paris, the Dada activities continued.

During the war, André Breton, who had trained in medicine and psychiatry, served in a neurological hospital where he used Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic methods with soldiers suffering from shell-shock. Meeting the young writer Jacques Vaché, Breton felt that Vaché was the spiritual son of writer and pataphysics founder Alfred Jarry.

He admired the young writer’s anti-social attitude and disdain for established artistic tradition. Later Breton wrote, “In literature, I was successively taken with Rimbaud, with Jarry, with Apollinaire, with Nouveau, with Lautréamont, but it is Jacques Vaché to whom I owe the most.

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art, Manhattan

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931)

As they developed their philosophy, they believed that Surrealism would advocate the idea that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital and important, but that the sense of their arrangement must be open to the full range of imagination according to the Hegelian Dialectic. They also looked to the Marxist dialectic and the work of such theorists as Walter Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse.

Freud’s work with free association, dream analysis, and the unconscious was of utmost importance to the Surrealists in developing methods to liberate imagination. They embraced idiosyncrasy, while rejecting the idea of an underlying madness. Later, Salvador Dalí explained it as: “There is only one difference between a madman and I. I am not mad.”

Beside the use of dream analysis, they emphasized that “one could combine inside the same frame, elements not normally found together to produce illogical and startling effects.” Breton included the idea of the startling juxtapositions in his 1924 manifesto, taking it in turn from a 1918 essay by poet Pierre Reverdy, which said: “a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities. The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be — the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.”

In 1924 they declared their philosophy in the first “Surrealist Manifesto”. That same year they established the Bureau of Surrealist Research, and began publishing the journal La Révolution surréaliste.

Breton wrote the manifesto of 1924 that defines the purposes of the group. He included citations of the influences on Surrealism, examples of Surrealist works and discussion of Surrealist automatism. He defined Surrealism as:

  1. Surrealism, noun: Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.
  2. SurrealismPhilosophy: Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life.


The movement in the mid-1920s was characterized by meetings in cafes where the Surrealists played collaborative drawing games, discussed the theories of Surrealism, and developed a variety of techniques such as automatic drawing. Breton initially doubted that visual arts could even be useful in the Surrealist movement since they appeared to be less malleable and open to chance and automatism. This caution was overcome by the discovery of such techniques as frottage and decalcomania.

Soon more visual artists became involved, including Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Francis Picabia, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Alberto Giacometti, Valentine Hugo, Méret Oppenheim, Toyen, and later after the second war: Enrico Donati. Though Breton admired Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp and courted them to join the movement, they remained peripheral. More writers also joined, including former Dadaist Tristan Tzara, René Char, and Georges Sadoul.

Throughout the 1930s, Surrealism continued to become more visible to the public at large. A Surrealist group developed in Britain and, according to Breton, their 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition was a high water mark of the period and became the model for international exhibitions.

Dalí and Magritte created the most widely recognized images of the movement. Dalí joined the group in 1929, and participated in the rapid establishment of the visual style between 1930 and 1935.
Surrealism as a visual movement had found a method: to expose psychological truth by stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance, in order to create a compelling image that was beyond ordinary formal organization, in order to evoke empathy from the viewer.

Yves Tanguy Indefinite Divisibility 1942, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Yves Tanguy Indefinite Divisibility (1942)

1931 was a year when several Surrealist painters produced works which marked turning points in their stylistic evolution: Magritte’s Voice of Space (La Voix des airs) is an example of this process, where three large spheres representing bells hang above a landscape. Another Surrealist landscape from this same year is Yves Tanguy’s Promontory Palace (Palais promontoire), with its molten forms and liquid shapes. Liquid shapes became the trademark of Dalí, particularly in his The Persistence of Memory, which features the image of watches that sag as if they were melting.

The characteristics of this style—a combination of the depictive, the abstract, and the psychological—came to stand for the alienation which many people felt in the modern period, combined with the sense of reaching more deeply into the psyche, to be “made whole with one’s individuality”.

Between 1930 and 1933, the Surrealist Group in Paris issued the periodical Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution as the successor of La Révolution surréaliste. From 1936 through 1938 Wolfgang Paalen, Gordon Onslow Ford, and Roberto Matta joined the group. Paalen contributed Fumage and Onslow Ford Coulage as new pictorial automatic techniques.

Long after personal, political and professional tensions fragmented the Surrealist group, Magritte and Dalí continued to define a visual program in the arts. This program reached beyond painting, to encompass photography as well, as can be seen from a Man Ray self-portrait, whose use of assemblage influenced Robert Rauschenberg’s collage boxes.

World War II created havoc not only for the general population of Europe but especially for the European artists and writers that opposed Fascism, and Nazism. Many important artists fled to North America, and relative safety in the United States. The art community in New York City in particular was already grappling with Surrealist ideas and several artists like Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Roberto Matta, converged closely with the surrealist artists themselves, albeit with some suspicion and reservations.

Ideas concerning the unconscious and dream imagery were quickly embraced. By the Second World War, the taste of the American avant-garde in New York City swung decisively towards Abstract Expressionism with the support of key taste makers, including Peggy Guggenheim, Leo Steinberg and Clement Greenberg. However, it should not be easily forgotten that Abstract Expressionism itself grew directly out of the meeting of American (particularly New York) artists with European Surrealists self-exiled during World War II.

In particular, Arshile Gorky and Wolfgang Paalen influenced the development of this American art form, which, as Surrealism did, celebrated the instantaneous human act as the well-spring of creativity. The early work of many Abstract Expressionists reveals a tight bond between the more superficial aspects of both movements, and the emergence (at a later date) of aspects of Dadaistic humor in such artists as Rauschenberg sheds an even starker light upon the connection.

Up until the emergence of Pop Art, Surrealism can be seen to have been the single most important influence on the sudden growth in American arts, and even in Pop, some of the humor manifested in Surrealism can be found, often turned to a cultural criticism.

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 23/02/2013


History of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism

Hello folks! Welcome to our weekly series on the history of modern art! Today on review is the abstract expressionism movement.

Hans Hofmann The Gate, 1959–1960.

Hans Hofmann The Gate, 1959–1960.

Abstract expressionism was an American post–World War II art movement. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris. Although the term “abstract expressionism” was first applied to American art in 1946 by the art critic Robert Coates, it had been first used in Germany in 1919 in the magazine Der Sturm, regarding German Expressionism. In the United States, Alfred Barr was the first to use this term in 1929 in relation to works by Wassily Kandinsky.

Technically, an important predecessor is surrealism, with its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic or subconscious creation. Jackson Pollock’s dripping paint onto a canvas laid on the floor is a technique that has its roots in the work of André Masson, Max Ernst and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Another important early manifestation of what came to be abstract expressionism is the work of American Northwest artist Mark Tobey, especially his “white writing” canvases, which, though generally not large in scale, anticipate the “all-over” look of Pollock’s drip paintings.

The movement’s name is derived from the combination of the emotional intensity and self-denial of the German Expressionists with the anti-figurative aesthetic of the European abstract schools such as Futurism, the Bauhaus and Synthetic Cubism. Additionally, it has an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel, nihilistic.

In practice, the term is applied to any number of artists working (mostly) in New York who had quite different styles and even to work that is neither especially abstract nor expressionist. California Abstract Expressionist Jay Meuser, who typically painted in the non-objective style, wrote about his painting Mare Nostrum, “It is far better to capture the glorious spirit of the sea than to paint all of its tiny ripples.” Pollock’s energetic “action paintings”, with their “busy” feel, are different, both technically and aesthetically, from the violent and grotesque Women series of Willem de Kooning’s figurative paintings and the rectangles of color in Mark Rothko’s Color Field paintings (which are not what would usually be called expressionist and which Rothko denied were abstract). Yet all four artists are classified as abstract expressionists.


Abstract expressionism has many stylistic similarities to the Russian artists of the early twentieth century such as Wassily Kandinsky. Although it is true that spontaneity or the impression of spontaneity characterized many of the abstract expressionists works, most of these paintings involved careful planning, especially since their large size demanded it. With artists like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Emma Kunz, and later on Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Agnes Martin, abstract art clearly implied expression of ideas concerning the spiritual, the unconscious and the mind.

Willem De Kooning, Woman V, 1952–1953.

Willem De Kooning, Woman V, 1952–1953.

Why this style gained mainstream acceptance in the 1950s is a matter of debate. American social realism had been the mainstream in the 1930s. It had been influenced not only by the Great Depression but also by the muralists of Mexico such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera. The political climate after World War II did not long tolerate the social protests of these painters. Abstract expressionism arose during World War II and began to be showcased during the early forties at galleries in New York like The Art of This Century Gallery. The McCarthy era after World War II was a time of artistic censorship in the United States, but if the subject matter were totally abstract then it would be seen as apolitical, and therefore safe. Or if the art was political, the message was largely for the insiders.

While the movement is closely associated with painting, and painters like Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Clyfford Still, Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and others, collagist Anne Ryan and sculpture and certain sculptors in particular were also integral to Abstract Expressionism. David Smith, and his wife Dorothy Dehner, Herbert Ferber, Isamu Noguchi, Ibram Lassaw, Theodore Roszak, Phillip Pavia, Mary Callery, Richard Stankiewicz, Louise Bourgeois, and Louise Nevelson in particular were some of the sculptors considered as being important members of the movement. In addition, the artists David Hare, John Chamberlain, James Rosati, Mark di Suvero, and sculptors Richard Lippold, Herbert Ferber, Raoul Hague, George Rickey, Reuben Nakian, and even Tony Smith, Seymour Lipton, Joseph Cornell, and several others were integral parts of the Abstract expressionist movement.

Many of the sculptors listed participated in the Ninth Street Show the famous exhibition curated by Leo Castelli on East Ninth Street in New York City in 1951. Besides the painters and sculptors of the period the New York School of Abstract expressionism also generated a number of supportive poets, like Frank O’Hara and photographers like Aaron Siskind and Fred McDarrah, (whose book The Artist’s World in Pictures documented the New York School during the 1950s), and filmmakers — notably Robert Frank — as well.

Jackson Pollock, No. 5, 1948, oil on fiberboard

Jackson Pollock, No. 5, 1948, oil on fiberboard

Although the abstract expressionist school spread quickly throughout the United States, the major centers of this style were New York City and the San Francisco Bay area of California.

During the late 1940s Jackson Pollock’s radical approach to painting revolutionized the potential for all Contemporary art that followed him. To some extent, Pollock realized that the journey toward making a work of art was as important as the work of art itself.

Like Pablo Picasso’s innovative reinventions of painting and sculpture near the turn of the century via Cubism and constructed sculpture, with influences as disparate as Navaho sand paintings, surrealism, Jungian analysis, and Mexican mural art, Pollock redefined what it was to produce art.

His move away from easel painting and conventionality was a liberating signal to the artists of his era and to all that came after. Artists realized that Jackson Pollock’s process—the placing of unstretched raw canvas on the floor where it could be attacked from all four sides using artist materials and industrial materials; linear skeins of paint dripped and thrown; drawing, staining, brushing; imagery and non-imagery—essentially took artmaking beyond any prior boundary.

Abstract expressionism in general expanded and developed the definitions and possibilities that artists had available for the creation of new works of art.

Abstract expressionist value expression over perfection, vitality over finish, fluctuation over repose, the unknown over the known, the veiled over the clear, the individual over society and the inner over the outer.

— William C. Seitz, American artist and Art historian

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 02/03/2013


History of Modern Art: Impressionism

In this short series, we’ll review the history of modern art , starting from Impressionism and going through the years to reach back at today. Following the journey will also make you understand better contemporary art and why art history is an important knowledge for designers and artists alike.

You might object how modern are really art movements over 100 years old. Still considering the timeline of art history that dates back to the first cave drawings, then i think a mere 100 years are more than modern! I hope you join me to this journey, and enjoy it as much as i do.

Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s in spite of harsh opposition from the art community in France. The name of the style is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satiric review published in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari.

Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes; open composition; emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time); common, ordinary subject matter; the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience; and unusual visual angles. The development of Impressionism in the visual arts was soon followed by analogous styles in other media which became known as Impressionist music and Impressionist literature.

Claude Monet - Tulpen von Holland

Claude Monet – Tulpen von Holland

Although the emergence of Impressionism in France happened at a time when a number of other painters, including the Italian artists known as the Macchiaioli, and Winslow Homer in the United States, were also exploring plein-air painting, the Impressionists developed new techniques that were specific to the style. Encompassing what its adherents argued was a different way of seeing, it was an art of immediacy and movement, of candid poses and compositions, of the play of light expressed in a bright and varied use of colour.

The public, at first hostile, gradually came to believe that the Impressionists had captured a fresh and original vision, even if the new style did not receive the approval of the art critics and establishment.

Claude Monet - Jeanne Marguerite Lecadre in the Garden Sainte Adresse

Claude Monet – Jeanne Marguerite Lecadre in the Garden Sainte Adresse

By recreating the sensation in the eye that views the subject, rather than delineating the details of the subject, and by creating a welter of techniques and forms, Impressionism became a precursor of various styles of painting, including Neo-Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism (which we’ll explore in future articles).

Impressionist techniques include:

  1. Short, thick strokes of paint are used to quickly capture the essence of the subject, rather than its details. The paint is often applied impasto.
  2. Colours are applied side-by-side with as little mixing as possible, creating a vibrant surface. The optical mixing of colours occurs in the eye of the viewer.
  3. Grays and dark tones are produced by mixing complementary colours. In pure Impressionism the use of black paint is avoided.
  4. Wet paint is placed into wet paint without waiting for successive applications to dry, producing softer edges and an intermingling of colour.
  5. Painting during evening to get effets de soir—the shadowy effects of the light in the evening or twilight.
  6. Impressionist paintings do not exploit the transparency of thin paint films (glazes) which earlier artists manipulated carefully to produce effects. The surface of an Impressionist painting is typically opaque.
  7. The play of natural light is emphasized. Close attention is paid to the reflection of colours from object to object.
  8. In paintings made en plein air (outdoors), shadows are boldly painted with the blue of the sky as it is reflected onto surfaces, giving a sense of freshness that was not represented in painting previously. (Blue shadows on snow inspired the technique.)
Painters throughout history had occasionally used these methods, but Impressionists were the first to use all of them together, and with such consistency. Earlier artists whose works display these techniques include Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner. French painters who prepared the way for Impressionism include the Romantic colourist Eugène Delacroix, the leader of the realists Gustave Courbet, and painters of the Barbizon school such as Théodore Rousseau.

The Impressionists learned much from the work of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Eugène Boudin, who painted from nature in a style that was similar to Impressionism, and who befriended and advised the younger artists. Impressionists took advantage of the mid-century introduction of premixed paints in lead tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes), which allowed artists to work more spontaneously, both outdoors and indoors. Previously, painters made their own paints individually, by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil, which were then stored in animal bladders.

Prior to the Impressionists, other painters, notably such 17th-century Dutch painters as Jan Steen, had emphasized common subjects, but their methods of composition were traditional. They arranged their compositions in such a way that the main subject commanded the viewer’s attention. The Impressionists relaxed the boundary between subject and background so that the effect of an Impressionist painting often resembles a snapshot, a part of a larger reality captured as if by chance. Photography was gaining popularity, and as cameras became more portable, photographs became more candid. Photography inspired Impressionists to represent momentary action, not only in the fleeting lights of a landscape, but in the day-to-day lives of people.

The development of Impressionism can be considered partly as a reaction by artists to the challenge presented by photography, which seemed to devalue the artist’s skill in reproducing reality. Both portrait and landscape paintings were deemed somewhat deficient and lacking in truth as photography “produced lifelike images much more efficiently and reliably”

Another major influence was Japanese art prints (Japonism), which had come into France originally as wrapping paper for imported goods. The art of these prints contributed significantly to the “snapshot” angles and unconventional compositions which would become characteristic of the style.

Claude Monet - Die Seine am morgen im Regen

Claude Monet – Die Seine am morgen im Regen

Edgar Degas was both an avid photographer and a collector of Japanese prints. His The Dance Class (La classe de danse) of 1874 shows both influences in its asymmetrical composition. The dancers are seemingly caught off guard in various awkward poses, leaving an expanse of empty floor space in the lower right quadrant. His dancers were also captured in sculpture such as The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer

The central figures in the development of Impressionism in France, listed alphabetically, were:

Pierre-Auguste Renoir -  Sur la terrasse

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Sur la terrasse

Claude Monet  - Woman with a Parasol

Claude Monet – Woman with a Parasol

Édouard Manet - Frühstück im Atelier

Édouard Manet – Frühstück im Atelier

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - By the Water

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – By the Water

Alfred Sisley - Bords du Loing à Saint-Mammès

Alfred Sisley – Bords du Loing à Saint-Mammès

Paul Cézanne - Kartenspieler

Paul Cézanne – Kartenspieler

Édouard Manet - Das Frühstück im Grünen

Édouard Manet – Das Frühstück im Grünen

Berthe Morisot - Eugene Manet and His Daughter in the Garden

Berthe Morisot – Eugene Manet and His Daughter in the Garden

Berthe Morisot - The Harbor at Lorient

Berthe Morisot – The Harbor at Lorient

Édouard Manet - Le Bar des Folies-Bergère

Édouard Manet – Le Bar des Folies-Bergère

Claude Monet - Boulvard Saint Denis in Argenteuil im Winter

Claude Monet – Boulvard Saint Denis in Argenteuil im Winter

Camille Pissarro - Hay Harvest at Éragny

Camille Pissarro – Hay Harvest at Éragny

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - The Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – The Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Photo of painting Oarsemen at Chatou

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Photo of painting Oarsemen at Chatou

Painting by Edgar Degas

Painting by Edgar Degas

Painting by Edgar Degas

Painting by Edgar Degas

Hope you enjoyed our short journey through Impressionism and are willing to explore more the individual artists!

In the meantime i’d love to hear what you think of impressionism as a movement, and which of the above artists were the more influential in your opinion?

Articles’ Images are either in the public domain because their copyright has expired Or legal to display for non commercial educational purposes, under the Fair Use Copyright Law (and are available through Wikimedia & Wikipedia)

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 24/11/2012

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 10, 1939-42, oil on canvas, 80 x 73 cm, private collection.

History of Modern Art: Minimalism

Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts. Minimalism is any design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.

As a specific movement in the arts it is identified with developments in post–World War II Western Art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s. Prominent artists associated with this movement include Donald Judd, John McCracken, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Anne Truitt, and Frank Stella. It is rooted in the reductive aspects of Modernism, and is often interpreted as a reaction against Abstract expressionism and a bridge to Postminimal art practices.

The terms have expanded to encompass a movement in music which features repetition and iteration, as in the compositions of La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and John Adams. Minimalist compositions are sometimes known as systems music.The term “minimalist” is often applied colloquially to designate anything which is spare or stripped to its essentials. It has also been used to describe the plays and novels of Samuel Beckett, the films of Robert Bresson, the stories of Raymond Carver, and even the automobile designs of Colin Chapman. The word was first used in English in the early 20th century to describe the Mensheviks.

Minimalism in Design

The term minimalism is also used to describe a trend in design and architecture where in the subject is reduced to its necessary elements. Minimalist design has been highly influenced by Japanese traditional design and architecture. In addition, the work of De Stijl artists is a major source of reference for this kind of work. De Stijl expanded the ideas that could be expressed by using basic elements such as lines and planes organized in very particular manners.

Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted the motto “Less is more” to describe his aesthetic tactic of arranging the numerous necessary components of a building to create an impression of extreme simplicity, by enlisting every element and detail to serve multiple visual and functional purposes (such as designing a floor to also serve as the radiator, or a massive fireplace to also house the bathroom).

Designer Buckminster Fuller adopted the engineer’s goal of “Doing more with less”, but his concerns were oriented towards technology and engineering rather than aesthetics. A similar sentiment was industrial designer Dieter Rams’ motto, “Less but better” adapted from Mies. The structure uses relatively simple elegant designs; ornamentations are quality rather than quantity. The structure’s beauty is also determined by playing with lighting, using the basic geometric shapes as outlines, using only a single shape or a small number of like shapes for components for design unity, using tasteful non-fussy bright color combinations, usually natural textures and colors, and clean and fine finishes. Using sometimes the beauty of natural patterns on stone cladding and real wood encapsulated within ordered simplified structures, and real metal producing a simplified but prestigious architecture and interior design. May use color brightness balance and contrast between surface colors to improve visual aesthetics. The structure would usually have industrial and space age style utilities (lamps, stoves, stairs, technology, etc.), neat and straight components (like walls or stairs) that appear to be machined with equipment, flat or nearly flat roofs, pleasing negative spaces, and large windows to let in lots of sunlight. This and science fiction may have contributed to the late twentieth century futuristic architecture design, and modern home decor. Modern minimalist home architecture with its unnecessary internal walls removed probably have led to the popularity of the open plan kitchen and living room style.

Another modern designer who exemplifies reductivist ideas is Luis Barragán. In minimalism, the architectural designers pay special attention to the connection between perfect planes, elegant lighting, and careful consideration of the void spaces left by the removal of three-dimensional shapes from an architectural design. The more attractive looking minimalist home designs are not truly minimalist, because these use more expensive building materials and finishes, and are relatively larger.

Influences from Japanese tradition

The idea of simplicity appears in many cultures, especially the Japanese traditional culture of Zen Philosophy. Japanese manipulate the Zen culture into aesthetic and design elements for their buildings.  This idea of architecture has influenced Western Society, especially in America since the mid 18th century. Moreover, it inspired the minimalist architecture in the 19th century.
Zen concepts of simplicity transmit the ideas of freedom and essence of living.  Simplicity is not only aesthetic value, it has a moral perception that looks into the nature of truth and reveals the inner qualities of materials and objects for the essence. For example, the sand garden in Ryoanji temple demonstrates the concepts of simplicity and the essentiality from the considered setting of a few stones and a huge empty space.

The Japanese aesthetic principle of Ma refers to empty or open space. That removes all the unnecessary internal walls and opens up the space between interior and the exterior. Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by the design element of Japanese sliding door that allows to bring the exterior to the interior. The emptiness of spatial arrangement is another idea that reduces everything down to the most essential quality.

The Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-sabi values the quality of simple and plain objects.  It appreciates the absence of unnecessary features to view life in quietness and reveals the most innate character of materials.  For example, the Japanese flora art, also known as Ikebana has the meaning of let flower express itself. People cut off the branches, leaves and blossoms from the plants and only retain the essential part from the plant. This conveys the idea of essential quality and innate character in nature.

MA is manifest in Japanese living architecture, garden design and flower arrangement (Ikebana). However, far from being just a spatial concept, MA is ever-present in all aspects of Japanese daily life, as it applies to time as well as to daily tasks.

Minimalism in Art

In a more broad and general sense, one finds European roots of minimalism in the geometric abstractions of painters associated with the Bauhaus, in the works of Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and other artists associated with the De Stijl movement, and the Russian Constructivist movement, and in the work of the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi. Minimal art is also inspired in part by the paintings of Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Josef Albers, and the works of artists as diverse as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio Morandi, and others. Minimalism was also a reaction against the painterly subjectivity of Abstract Expressionism that had been dominant in the New York School during the 1940s and 1950s.

Barnett Newman, Voice of Fire, 1967, National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa

Barnett Newman, Voice of Fire, 1967, National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa

Artist and critic Thomas Lawson noted in his 1977 catalog essay Last Exit: Painting, minimalism did not reject Clement Greenberg’s claims about modernist painting’s reduction to surface and materials so much as take his claims literally. According to Lawson minimalism was the result, even though the term “minimalism” was not generally embraced by the artists associated with it, and many practitioners of art designated minimalist by critics did not identify it as a movement as such. Also taking exception to this claim was Clement Greenberg himself; in his 1978 postscript to his essay Modernist Painting he disavowed this incorrect interpretation of what he said; Greenberg wrote:

There have been some further constructions of what I wrote that go over into preposterousness: That I regard flatness and the inclosing of flatness not just as the limiting conditions of pictorial art, but as criteria of aesthetic quality in pictorial art; that the further a work advances the self-definition of an art, the better that work is bound to be. The philosopher or art historian who can envision me — or anyone at all — arriving at aesthetic judgments in this way reads shockingly more into himself or herself than into my article.

In contrast to the previous decade’s more subjective Abstract Expressionists, with the exceptions of Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt; minimalists were also influenced by composers John Cage and LaMonte Young, poet William Carlos Williams, and the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. They very explicitly stated that their art was not about self-expression, unlike the previous decade’s more subjective philosophy about art making theirs was ‘objective’. In general, Minimalism’s features included geometric, often cubic forms purged of much metaphor, equality of parts, repetition, neutral surfaces, and industrial materials.

Robert Morris, an influential theorist and artist, wrote a three part essay, “Notes on Sculpture 1-3”, originally published across three issues of Artforum in 1966. In these essays, Morris attempted to define a conceptual framework and formal elements for himself and one that would embrace the practices of his contemporaries. These essays paid great attention to the idea of the gestalt – “parts… bound together in such a way that they create a maximum resistance to perceptual separation.” Morris later described an art represented by a “marked lateral spread and no regularized units or symmetrical intervals…” in “Notes on Sculpture 4: Beyond Objects”, originally published in Artforum, 1969, continuing to say that “indeterminacy of arrangement of parts is a literal aspect of the physical existence of the thing.”

The general shift in theory of which this essay is an expression suggests the transitions into what would later be referred to as postminimalism. One of the first artists specifically associated with minimalism was the painter, Frank Stella, four of whose early “black paintings” were included in the 1959 show, 16 Americans, organized by Dorothy Miller at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The width of the stripes in Frank Stellas’s black paintings were often determined by the dimensions of the lumber used for stretchers, visible as the depth of the painting when viewed from the side, used to construct the supportive chassis upon which the canvas was stretched. The decisions about structures on the front surface of the canvas were therefore not entirely subjective, but pre-conditioned by a “given” feature of the physical construction of the support.

In the show catalog, Carl Andre noted, “Art excludes the unnecessary. Frank Stella has found it necessary to paint stripes. There is nothing else in his painting.” These reductive works were in sharp contrast to the energy-filled and apparently highly subjective and emotionally-charged paintings of Willem de Kooning or Franz Kline and, in terms of precedent among the previous generation of abstract expressionists, leaned more toward the less gestural, often somber, color field paintings of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. Although Stella received immediate attention from the MoMA show, artists including Kenneth Noland, Gene Davis, Robert Motherwell and Robert Ryman had also begun to explore stripes, monochromatic and Hard-edge formats from the late 50s through the 1960s.

Because of a tendency in minimal art to exclude the pictorial, illusionistic and fictive in favor of the literal, there was a movement away from painterly and toward sculptural concerns. Donald Judd had started as a painter, and ended as a creator of objects. His seminal essay, “Specific Objects” (published in Arts Yearbook 8, 1965), was a touchstone of theory for the formation of minimalist aesthetics. In this essay, Judd found a starting point for a new territory for American art, and a simultaneous rejection of residual inherited European artistic values. He pointed to evidence of this development in the works of an array of artists active in New York at the time, including Jasper Johns, Dan Flavin and Lee Bontecou. Of “preliminary” importance for Judd was the work of George Earl Ortman, who had concretized and distilled painting’s forms into blunt, tough, philosophically charged geometries. These Specific Objects inhabited a space not then comfortably classifiable as either painting or sculpture. That the categorical identity of such objects was itself in question, and that they avoided easy association with well-worn and over-familiar conventions, was a part of their value for Judd.

This movement was heavily criticised by modernist formalist art critics and historians. Some critics thought minimal art represented a misunderstanding of the modern dialectic of painting and sculpture as defined by critic Clement Greenberg, arguably the dominant American critic of painting in the period leading up to the 1960s. The most notable critique of minimalism was produced by Michael Fried, a formalist critic, who objected to the work on the basis of its “theatricality”. In Art and Objecthood (published in Artforum in June 1967) he declared that the minimal work of art, particularly minimal sculpture, was based on an engagement with the physicality of the spectator. He argued that work like Robert Morris’s transformed the act of viewing into a type of spectacle, in which the artifice of the act observation and the viewer’s participation in the work were unveiled. Fried saw this displacement of the viewer’s experience from an aesthetic engagement within, to an event outside of the artwork as a failure of minimal art. Fried’s essay was immediately challenged by postminimalist and earth artist Robert Smithson in a letter to the editor in the October issue of Artforum. Smithson stated the following: “What Fried fears most is the consciousness of what he is doing–namely being himself theatrical.”

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Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Included paintings are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 12/12/2013


History of Modern Art: Dada

Dada was an informal international movement, with participants in Europe and North America. The beginnings of Dada correspond to the outbreak of World War I. For many participants, the movement was a protest against the bourgeois nationalist and colonialist interests, which many Dadaists believed were the root cause of the war, and against the cultural and intellectual conformity—in art and more broadly in society—that corresponded to the war.

Marcel Duchamp - Fountain

Marcel Duchamp – Fountain

Many Dadaists believed that the ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ of bourgeois capitalist society had led people into war.They expressed their rejection of that ideology in artistic expression that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality.For example, George Grosz later recalled that his Dadaist art was intended as a protest “against this world of mutual destruction.”

According to Hans Richter, Dada was not art, it was “anti-art.”Everything for which art stood, Dada represented the opposite.Where art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada ignored aesthetics. If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend.

As Hugo Ball expressed it, “For us, art is not an end in itself … but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.”

A reviewer from the American Art News stated at the time that: “Dada philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man.

Art historians have described Dada as being, in large part, a “reaction to what many of these artists saw as nothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide.”

Years later, Dada artists described the movement as:

a phenomenon bursting forth in the midst of the postwar economic and moral crisis, a savior, a monster, which would lay waste to everything in its path… [It was] a systematic work of destruction and demoralization… In the end it became nothing but an act of sacrilege.

In 1916, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Sophie Täuber, and Hans Richter, along with others, discussed art and put on performances in the Cabaret Voltaire expressing their disgust with the war and the interests that inspired it.

Some sources state that Dada coalesced on October 6 at the Cabaret Voltaire. Other sources state that Dada did not originate fully in a Zurich literary salon but grew out of an already vibrant artistic tradition in Eastern Europe, particularly Romania, that transposed to Switzerland when a group of modernist artists (Tzara, Marcel & Iuliu Iancu, Arthur Segal, and others) settled in Zurich. In the years prior to World War I similar art had already risen in Bucharest and other Eastern European cities; it is likely that DADA’s catalyst was the arrival in Zurich of artists like Tzara and Janco.

Having left Germany and Romania during World War I, the artists found themselves in Switzerland, a country recognized for its neutrality. Inside this space of political neutrality they decided to use abstraction to fight against the social, political, and cultural ideas of that time. The dadaists believed those ideas to be a byproduct of bourgeois society, a society so apathetic it would rather fight a war against itself than challenge the status quo.

When World War I ended in 1918, most of the Zurich Dadaists returned to their home countries, and some began Dada activities in other cities. Others, such as Swiss native Sophie Täuber, would remain in Zurich into the 1920s.

The groups in Germany were not as strongly anti-art as other groups. Their activity and art were more political and social, with corrosive manifestos and propaganda, satire, public demonstrations and overt political activities. It has been suggested that this is at least partially due to Berlin’s proximity to the front, and that for an opposite effect, New York’s geographic distance from the war spawned its more theoretically-driven, less political nature

Like Zurich, New York City was a refuge for writers and artists from World War I. Soon after arriving from France in 1915, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia met American artist Man Ray. By 1916 the three of them became the center of radical anti-art activities in the United States. American Beatrice Wood, who had been studying in France, soon joined them, along with Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Arthur Cravan, fleeing conscription in France, was also present for a time. Much of their activity centered in Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, 291, and the home of Walter and Louise Arensberg.

The New Yorkers, though not particularly organized, called their activities Dada, but they did not issue manifestos. They issued challenges to art and culture through publications such as The Blind ManRongwrong, and New York Dada in which they criticized the traditionalist basis for museum art. New York Dada lacked the disillusionment of European Dada and was instead driven by a sense of irony and humor. In his book Adventures in the arts: informal chapters on painters, vaudeville and poets Marsden Hartley included an essay on “The Importance of Being ‘Dada'”.

During this time Duchamp began exhibiting “readymades” (everyday objects found or purchased and declared art) such as a bottle rack, and was active in the Society of Independent Artists. In 1917 he submitted the now famous Fountain, a urinal signed R. Mutt, to the Society of Independent Artists exhibition only to have the piece rejected. First an object of scorn within the arts community, the Fountain has since become almost canonized by some as one of the most recognizable modernist works of sculpture.

The committee presiding over Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize in 2004, for example, called it “the most influential work of modern art.” As recent scholarship documents, the work is likely more collaborative than it has been given credit for in twentieth-century art history. Duchamp indicates in a 1917 letter to his sister that a female friend was centrally involved in the conception of this work.

As he writes: “One of my female friends who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture.” The piece is more in line with the scatological aesthetics of Duchamp’s friend and neighbour, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, than Duchamp’s.

In an attempt to “pay homage to the spirit of Dada” a performance artist named Pierre Pinoncelli made a crack in The Fountain with a hammer in January 2006; he also urinated on it in 1993.

Picabia’s travels tied New York, Zurich and Paris groups together during the Dadaist period. For seven years he also published the Dada periodical 391 in Barcelona, New York City, Zurich, and Paris from 1917 through 1924.

By 1921, most of the original players moved to Paris where Dada experienced its last major incarnation in neo-dada.

The French avant-garde kept abreast of Dada activities in Zurich with regular communications from Tristan Tzara (whose pseudonym means “sad in country,” a name chosen to protest the treatment of Jews in his native Romania), who exchanged letters, poems, and magazines with Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Max Jacob, Clément Pansaers, and other French writers, critics and artists.

Paris had arguably been the classical music capital of the world since the advent of musical Impressionism in the late 19th century. One of its practitioners, Erik Satie, collaborated with Picasso andCocteau in a mad, scandalous ballet called Parade. First performed by the Ballets Russes in 1917, it succeeded in creating a scandal but in a different way than Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps had done almost five years earlier. This was a ballet that was clearly parodying itself, something traditional ballet patrons would obviously have serious issues with.

Dada in Paris surged in 1920 when many of the originators converged there. Inspired by Tzara, Paris Dada soon issued manifestos, organized demonstrations, staged performances and produced a number of journals (the final two editions of DadaLe Cannibale, and Littérature featured Dada in several editions.)

The first introduction of Dada artwork to the Parisian public was at the Salon des Indépendants in 1921. Jean Crotti exhibited works associated with Dada including a work entitled, Explicatif bearing the word Tabu. In the same year Tzara staged his Dadaist play The Gas Heart to howls of derision from the audience. When it was re-staged in 1923 in a more professional production, the play provoked atheatre riot (initiated by André Breton) that heralded the split within the movement that was to produce Surrealism. Tzara’s last attempt at a Dadaist drama was his “ironic tragedy” Handkerchief of Cloudsin 1924.

While broad, the movement was unstable. By 1924 in Paris, Dada was melding into surrealism, and artists had gone on to other ideas and movements, including surrealism, social realism and other forms of modernism. Some theorists argue that Dada was actually the beginning of postmodern art.

By the dawn of World War II, many of the European Dadaists had emigrated to the United States. Some died in death camps under Adolf Hitler,who persecuted the kind of “Degenerate art” that Dada represented. The movement became less active as post-World War II optimism led to new movements in art and literature.

Dada is a named influence and reference of various anti-art and political and cultural movements including the Situationist International and culture jamming groups like the Cacophony Society. Upon breaking up in July 2012, famous anarchist pop band Chumbawamba issued a statement which compared their own legacy with that of the Dada art movement.

At the same time that the Zurich Dadaists made noise and spectacle at the Cabaret Voltaire, Vladimir Lenin wrote his revolutionary plans for Russia in a nearby apartment. Tom Stoppard used this coincidence as a premise for his play Travesties (1974), which includes Tzara, Lenin, and James Joyce as characters. French writer Dominique Noguez imagined Lenin as a member of the Dada group in his tongue-in-cheek Lénine Dada (1989).

The Cabaret Voltaire fell into disrepair until it was occupied from January to March, 2002, by a group proclaiming themselves Neo-Dadaists, led by Mark Divo. The group included Jan Thieler, Ingo Giezendanner, Aiana Calugar, Lennie Lee and Dan Jones. After their eviction the space became a museum dedicated to the history of Dada. The work of Lee and Jones remained on the walls of the museum.

Several notable retrospectives have examined the influence of Dada upon art and society. In 1967, a large Dada retrospective was held in Paris, France. In 2006, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City held a Dada exhibition in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The LTM label has released a large number of Dada-related sound recordings, including interviews with artists such as Tzara, Picabia, Schwitters, Arp and Huelsenbeck, and musical repertoire including Satie, Ribemont-Dessaignes, Picabia and Nelly van Doesburg.

Did you know that several modern art techniques were developed by dadaists?

Collage: The dadaists imitated the techniques developed during the cubist movement through the pasting of cut pieces of paper items, but extended their art to encompass items such as transportation tickets, maps, plastic wrappers, etc. to portray aspects of life, rather than representing objects viewed as still life.

Photomontage: The Dadaists – the “monteurs” (mechanics) – used scissors and glue rather than paintbrushes and paints to express their views of modern life through images presented by the media. A variation on the collage technique, photomontage utilized actual or reproductions of real photographs printed in the press. In Cologne, Max Ernst used images from World War I to illustrate messages of the destruction of war.

Assemblage:  The assemblages were three-dimensional variations of the collage – the assembly of everyday objects to produce meaningful or meaningless (relative to the war) pieces of work including war objects and trash. Objects were nailed, screwed or fastened together in different fashions. Assemblages could be seen in the round or could be hung on a wall.

Readymades:  Marcel Duchamp began to view the manufactured objects of his collection as objects of art, which he called “readymades”. He would add signatures and titles to some, converting them into artwork that he called “readymade aided” or “rectified readymades”. Duchamp wrote: “One important characteristic was the short sentence which I occasionally inscribed on the ‘readymade.’ That sentence, instead of describing the object like a title, was meant to carry the mind of the spectator towards other regions more verbal. Sometimes I would add a graphic detail of presentation which in order to satisfy my craving for alliterations, would be called ‘readymade aided.'” One such example of Duchamp’s readymade works is the urinal that was turned onto its back, signed “R. Mutt”, titled “Fountain”, and submitted to the Society of Independent Artists exhibition that year.

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! And i am very curious about your opinions on the movement!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from WikipediaAlso note that the  factual accuracy of the original wikipedia’s article is disputed.

Article publié pour la première fois le 19/01/2013

1937 Cord automobile model 812, designed in 1935 by Gordon M. Buehrig and staff

History of Modern Art: Art Deco

Hi folks, welcome back to our journey in the history of modern art.

Today we’ll be reviewing Art Deco!

Art Deco or Deco, is an influential visual arts design style which first appeared in France during the 1920s, flourished internationally during the 30s and 40s, then waned in the post-World War II era. It is an eclectic style that combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials. The style is often characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation.

U.S. Works Progress Administration poster, John Wagner, artist, ca. 1940

U.S. Works Progress Administration poster, John Wagner, artist, ca. 1940

Deco emerged from the Interwar period when rapid industrialization was transforming culture. One of its major attributes is an embrace of technology. This distinguishes Deco from the organic motifs favored by its predecessor Art Nouveau.

Historian Bevis Hillier defined Art Deco as “an assertively modern style…[that] ran to symmetry rather than asymmetry, and to the rectilinear rather than the curvilinear; it responded to the demands of the machine and of new material…[and] the requirements of mass production.”

During its heyday Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.

The first use of the term Art Deco has been attributed to architect Le Corbusier who penned a series of articles in his journal L’Esprit nouveau under the headline 1925 Expo: Arts Déco. He was referring to the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts).

The term was used more generally in 1966 when a French exhibition celebrating the 1925 event was held under the title Les Années 25: Art Déco/Bauhaus/Stijl/Esprit Nouveau. Here the phrase was used to distinguish French decorative crafts of the Belle Epoque from those of later periods.


The term ‘Art Deco’ has since been applied to a wide variety of works produced during the Interwar period (L’Entre Deux Guerres), and even to those of the Bauhaus in Germany. However Art Deco originated in France. It has been argued that the term should be applied to French works and those produced in countries directly influenced by France.

Art Deco gained currency as a broadly applied stylistic label in 1968 when historian Bevis Hillier published the first book on the subject: Art Deco of the 20s and 30s. Hillier noted that the term was already being used by art dealers and cites The Times (2 November 1966) and an essay on Les Arts Déco in Elle magazine (November 1967) as examples of prior usage.

Rhythm by Henryk Kuna in Skaryszewski Park, Warsaw, Poland, 1925

Rhythm by Henryk Kuna in Skaryszewski Park, Warsaw, Poland, 1925

In 1971 Hillier organized an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts then published a book about it: The World of Art Deco.

Deco was heavily influenced by pre-modern art from around the world, and observable at the Musée du Louvre, Musée de l’Homme and the Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie. During the 1920s affordable travel permitted in situ exposure to other cultures. There was also popular interest in archeology due to excavations at Pompeii, Troy, the tomb of Tutankhamun etc. Artists and designers integrated motifs from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Asia, Mesoamerica, and Oceania with Machine Age elements. Deco was also influenced by Cubism, Constructivism, Functionalism, Modernism, and Futurism.

Deco emphasizes geometric forms: spheres, polygons, rectangles, trapezoids, zigzags, chevrons, and sunburst motifs. Elements are often arranged in symmetrical patterns. Modern materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, Bakelite, chrome, and plastics are frequently used. Stained glass, inlays, and lacquer are also common. Colors tend to be vivid and high-contrast.

Federal Art Project poster promoting milk drinking in Cleveland, Ohio, 1940

Federal Art Project poster promoting milk drinking in Cleveland, Ohio, 1940

Art Deco was a globally popular style and affected many areas of design. It was used widely in consumer products such as automobiles, furniture, cookware, china, textiles, jewelry, clocks, and electronic items such as radios, telephones, jukeboxes. It also influenced architecture, interior design, industrial design, fashion, graphic arts, and cinema.

During the 1930s Art Deco was used extensively for public works projects, railway stations, ocean liners (including the Île de France, Queen Mary, Normandie), movie palaces, and amusement parks.

The austerities imposed by World War II caused Art Deco to decline in popularity: it was perceived by some as gaudy and inappropriately luxurious.

A resurgence of interest began during the 1960s. Deco continues to inspire designers and is often used in contemporary fashion, jewelry, and toiletries.

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

Article publié pour la première fois le 16/02/2013

Bauhaus Typography

History of Modern Art: Bauhaus

Hello folks, and welcome back to our history of modern art series! Today we’ll be exploring Bauhaus!

Staatliches Bauhaus, commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term Bauhaus, literally “house of construction” stood for “School of Building”.

Foyer of the Bauhaus-University Weimar

Foyer of the Bauhaus-University Weimar

The Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar. In spite of its name, and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus did not have an architecture department during the first years of its existence. Nonetheless it was founded with the idea of creating a ‘total’ work of art in which all arts, including architecture would eventually be brought together.

The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design.The Bauhaus had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.

The school existed in three German cities (Weimar from 1919 to 1925, Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and Berlin from 1932 to 1933), under three different architect-directors: Walter Gropius from 1919 to 1928, Hannes Meyer from 1928 to 1930 and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1930 until 1933, when the school was closed by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi regime.

The changes of venue and leadership resulted in a constant shifting of focus, technique, instructors, and politics. For instance: the pottery shop was discontinued when the school moved from Weimar to Dessau, even though it had been an important revenue source; when Mies van der Rohe took over the school in 1930, he transformed it into a private school, and would not allow any supporters of Hannes Meyer to attend it.

Bauhaus and German modernism

Germany’s defeat in World War I, the fall of the German monarchy and the abolition of censorship under the new, liberal Weimar Republic allowed an upsurge of radical experimentation in all the arts, previously suppressed by the old regime. Many Germans of left-wing views were influenced by the cultural experimentation that followed the Russian Revolution, such as constructivism. Such influences can be overstated: Gropius himself did not share these radical views, and said that Bauhaus was entirely apolitical.

Just as important was the influence of the 19th century English designer William Morris, who had argued that art should meet the needs of society and that there should be no distinction between form and function. Thus the Bauhaus style, also known as the International Style, was marked by the absence of ornamentation and by harmony between the function of an object or a building and its design.

However, the most important influence on Bauhaus was modernism, a cultural movement whose origins lay as far back as the 1880s, and which had already made its presence felt in Germany before the World War, despite the prevailing conservatism. The design innovations commonly associated with Gropius and the Bauhaus—the radically simplified forms, the rationality and functionality, and the idea that mass-production was reconcilable with the individual artistic spirit—were already partly developed in Germany before the Bauhaus was founded.

The German national designers’ organization Deutscher Werkbund was formed in 1907 by Hermann Muthesius to harness the new potentials of mass production, with a mind towards preserving Germany’s economic competitiveness with England. In its first seven years, the Werkbund came to be regarded as the authoritative body on questions of design in Germany, and was copied in other countries. Many fundamental questions of craftsmanship versus mass production, the relationship of usefulness and beauty, the practical purpose of formal beauty in a commonplace object, and whether or not a single proper form could exist, were argued out among its 1,870 members (by 1914).
The entire movement of German architectural modernism was known as Neues Bauen.

Beginning in June 1907, Peter Behrens’ pioneering industrial design work for the German electrical company AEG successfully integrated art and mass production on a large scale. He designed consumer products, standardized parts, created clean-lined designs for the company’s graphics, developed a consistent corporate identity, built the modernist landmark AEG Turbine Factory, and made full use of newly developed materials such as poured concrete and exposed steel. Behrens was a founding member of the Werkbund, and both Walter Gropius and Adolf Meier worked for him in this period.

The Bauhaus was founded at a time when the German zeitgeist had turned from emotional Expressionism to the matter-of-fact New Objectivity. An entire group of working architects, including Erich Mendelsohn, Bruno Taut and Hans Poelzig, turned away from fanciful experimentation, and turned toward rational, functional, sometimes standardized building. Beyond the Bauhaus, many other significant German-speaking architects in the 1920s responded to the same aesthetic issues and material possibilities as the school. They also responded to the promise of a “minimal dwelling” written into the new Weimar Constitution. Ernst May, Bruno Taut, and Martin Wagner, among others, built large housing blocks in Frankfurt and Berlin. The acceptance of modernist design into everyday life was the subject of publicity campaigns, well-attended public exhibitions like the Weissenhof Estate, films, and sometimes fierce public debate.

The Bauhaus had a major impact on art and architecture trends in Western Europe, the United States, Canada and Israel in the decades following its demise, as many of the artists involved fled, or were exiled, by the Nazi regime. One of the main objectives of the Bauhaus was to unify art, craft, and technology. The machine was considered a positive element, and therefore industrial and product design were important components. Vorkurs (“initial” or “preliminary course”) was taught; this is the modern day “Basic Design” course that has become one of the key foundational courses offered in architectural and design schools across the globe.

There was no teaching of history in the school because everything was supposed to be designed and created according to first principles rather than by following precedent. One of the most important contributions of the Bauhaus is in the field of modern furniture design. The ubiquitous Cantilever chair and the Wassily Chair designed by Marcel Breuer are two examples.

Bauhaus was not a formal group, but rather a school. Its three architect-directors (Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) are most closely associated with Bauhaus.

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

Articles’ Images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired or are displayed here under the “ fair use” copyright law, and are available through WikipediaWikimedia.

This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.