Published on September 30, 2008
Chapter 21 Early Twentieth Century Expressionism Fauves German Expressionists Cubism Abstract Sculpture Futurism Henri Matisse, Harmony in Red, 1908
What's the Difference Between an Era, a Period, and a Movement? Era is usually long, as evidenced by the Baroque Era, around 200 years, if you count the Rococo phase. An even better example would be the Upper Late Paleolithic era which covered some 20,000 years' worth of art and geological changes. In recent years, "era" has come to be employed with shorter blocks of time ("the Nixon era"). Period is generally shorter than an era, though they are sometimes used interchangeably. Going by the dictionary, a period should mean "any portion of time.“ Movements are relatively short-lived things in Art History. For whatever reason artists tend to hang together for months or years and then drift apart. Additionally, movements don't seem to happen as frequently in contemporary times as they used to. For example, Impressionism was a movement whose participants wanted to explore new ways of depicting light and color and new techniques in brushwork. In summary, just know that era, period and movement all stand for "certain amounts of elapsed time, within which artistic characteristics were shared." This is the most important point.
Expressionism Munch's clarity of expression was to have a great influence on many artists who would come to be known as "Expressionists". Though there were many developments in different countries, the most famous and influential would be German Expressionism and Fauvism, primarily a French movement. Mainly centered in early 20th century Germany, with loosely connected painters, Expressionism was also found in other places and even other times, James Ensor, Edvard Munch, and Van Gogh are considered to be three precursors of Expressionism. As well as being a movement, expressionism is also a characteristic applied to any art that the primary focus is expression of emotion, as opposed to a description of external reality. Stylistic tendencies include bright or even garish color, sharply linear, or dark and brooding quality, and black and white woodcuts. Kirchner and Emil Nolde can be characterized as Expressionists. Munch, Puberty, 1895 Munch tended to focus on intense emotions, such as those expressed in Puberty, which presents the fearful period of a girl's life as she faces the uncomfortable transition of becoming a woman.
German Expressionism There were two groups of German Expressionist movements. One was called Die Brucke (meaning "the bridge"), led by Kirchner. The beginning of Expressionism took place in Germany, around the time of the first World War. In 1912, Kirchner and the other artists sought to build a " bridge" between Germany's past and future. They felt that the art of the current establishment was too academic and refined to retain any degree of expression, so they instead found inspiration in medieval German art and primitive African sculpture. Since their primary concern was the expression of deeply felt emotions, they would also transform their negative feelings about the war onto canvas. Emile Nolde Left, The Prophet, woodblock print, 1915 Right, Candle Dancers, 1912
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 - 1938) Kirchner achieved some fame during his lifetime and was fortunate to maintain a number of collectors for his paintings. With the beginnings of WWII, his work was denounced, as well as his compatriots as "degenerate art" and confiscated from museums. Self Portrait as a Soldier Woman and Mirror Two Women in the Street 1912 1915 1914
Der Blau Reiter ("The Blue Rider") The other was called Der Blau Rieter ("the Blue Rider"), led by Kandinsky. Kandinsky and his followers were more spiritually inclined than the Die Brucke group and had close ties with a new sect of religious philosophy known as theosophy. Theosophy holds that all religions are attempts by the Spiritual Hierarchy to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth. Kandinsky believed that colors, shapes and forms had equivalence with sounds and music and sought to create color harmonies which would be purifying to the soul. It is easy to see the impressionistic influence in his very earliest works. Kandinsky’s early works Left, Blue Rider 1903 Right, Riding Couple 1916
Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866-1944) As his work progresses, it becomes increasingly abstract, until there is no longer an image defined by the various shapes and colors. By this time, Kandinsky had decided that the idea of creating paintings which were pictures of the representational world was no longer necessary. He felt that society was paving the way for a new, more spiritual age. Instead of focusing on the material aspects of life, he felt his paintings could help prepare people to see the spiritual, non-material world. Kandinsky is one of the first, if not the first, artist to create completely non-representational paintings. Woman in Moscow, 1912 Improvisation 30, 1930
Kandinsky’s later works Composition X, 1939 Untitled, 1922 On White II, 1923
The Entartete Kunst exhibit, 1937 Degenerate Art, the English translation of the German entartete Kunst , a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe virtually all Modern Art. By 1937, the concept of degeneracy was firmly entrenched in Nazi policy. The Reich Chamber of Visual Art, in charge of a six-man commission was authorized to confiscate from museums and art collections throughout the Reich, any remaining art deemed modern, degenerate, or subversive. These works were then to be presented to the public in an exhibit intended to incite further revulsion against the "perverse Jewish spirit" penetrating German culture. Over 5,000 works were seized, including work by Nolde, Heckel, Kirchner, Klee, Kandinsky, and Beckmann, as well as a number of works by Matisse, Chagall, van Gogh, Picasso, and Ensor.
Franz Marc (German,1880-1916) Franz Marc is best known for his paintings of animals, particularly horses and deer, in which he attempted to express his mystical veneration of nature. In works such as Blue Horses, he used stylized lines and curves and brilliant unrealistic color to create and heighten the sense of nature idealized. After 1913, in response to cubism and futurism, he turned to abstraction, creating moods of clashing, discordant uncertainty. He was killed in action during World War I. Above, Blue Horses, 1911 Left, Deer In A Garden, 1912
Art Nouveau Art Nouveau (French for 'new art') is an international style of art, architecture and design that peaked in popularity at the turn of the 20 th century(1890―1905) and is characterized by highly-stylized, flowing, curvilinear designs often incorporating floral and other plant-inspired motifs. The design style is recognized during a fifteen year period and in several of western European centers, but the influence of the design language is recognized beyond the time and place of the original Art Nouveau. House of Victor Horta Alphonse Mucha work
Austrian Expression Gustav Klimt Gustav Klimt was the leader of a group called the Viennese Secession, which sought to separate itself from the naturalist movement which was popular in early 20th century Austria. His work is difficult to categorize, but is often associated with the Symbolists and Art Nouveau and has some ties to Expressionism. Though he was supported by many members of the Viennese aristocracy and painted many of their portraits, his work was also widely criticized for its eroticism. The Kiss, 1907 Water Serpents 1907 Above, Hygeia, 1907
Klimt, Maiden (the Virgin), 1914 Klimt, Death and Life, 1916
Fauvism Fauvism (pronounced Foev-ism) was the most optimistic movement linked to expressionism. Also a movement of loosely connected French painters of the first years of the 20th century, which included Matisse and Derain. The main emphasis in Fauvism was on color - bright, free use of arbitrary color, independent of objective reality. Les fauves meant 'wild beasts,' a term coined by those critical of the paintings. The shapes were also not confined to objective reality and showed strong exuberance of spirit. Fauvism expresses more of pleasure than it does of the complex, often negative emotions expressed in the north. Henri Matisse, Joy of Life, 1905
Fauvism was a brief but important art movement that followed and was inspired by the Post-Impressionism movement in France. Matisse is regarded as the leader of the movement, but Andre Derain was also significant. Each part of their paintings had loud colors, primitive elements, and wild ideas. Although the movement only lasted four years, it would have a profound effect on future artists especially in terms of their use of color. Fauvism is recognized for its influence on cubism and modern expressionism in its flattened space, disregard for natural forms, and its love of unbridled color. Andre Derain, Suburb of Collioure 1905 Andre Derain, Landscape 1905
Henri Matisse (After his Fauvist Period) After 1905, Matisse continued to use bright colors and bold compositions, yet these works are no longer considered to be of the Fauvist period. The most evident change in his work is his increased interest in patterns and the continued flattening of pictorial space. Matisse is, along with Picasso, regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. The Window, 1905 Goldfish, 1911 Decorative Figure, 1925
Matisses's latest artworks are often regarded as his most innovative. They were created after a he was handicapped from severe arthritis which limited him to a wheelchair. Unable to stand to paint, he began cutting out shapes from colored pieces of paper. These he glued, with help from assistants, to huge pieces of paper. The effect is extremely bold and light-hearted. The colors and shapes have a liberating sense about them. Blue Nude, 1943 Sorrow of the King, 1952 Icarus, 1944
Cubism The development of cubism can be attributed to two men, George Braque and Pablo Picasso. They worked side by side in the same studio during their cubist period, and their work was almost indistinguishable. A new structural and spatial organization in painting and sculpture, begun in France following Fauvism, in the first years of the 20th century, by Picasso and Braque, which was inspired by African sculpture and Cezanne's paintings, among other influences. Cubism dealt mainly with space - the disintegration of traditional illusionistic space in art. Right, Braque, The Emmigrant, c.1911 Left, Picasso, Portrait of Fernando, 1909
George Braque Braque's large compositions incorporated the Cubist aim of representing the world as seen from a number of different viewpoints. He wanted to convey a feeling of being able to move around within the painting. The still life subject remained his chief preoccupation from 1927 to 1955. Fishing Boats, 1909 Fruit on a Tablecloth 1925
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) Pablo Picasso was trained to paint by his father from a very young age and absorbed his influence as well as that of the traditions of Spanish art. By his early 20s, he had moved to Paris and quickly changed his earth-toned colors to a palette which was more emotionally expressive. Self-portrait, 1899-1900 Self-portrait, Cubist Period
Blue Period Early work by Picasso His first truly original works were those of his Blue period. The young artist was facing some difficult times after the death of his closest friend and was also experiencing financial troubles during his first years in Paris. His paintings of this time were created in predominantly blue tones and the images were of emaciated people who look like they are down on their luck. Despite this, the paintings achieve a sense of mystery and these are some of his most poetic images. La Vie, 1903 Woman with Crow, 1904 Left, Old Guitarist, 1904
Rose Period Picasso’s blue period only lasted a few years and was quickly replaced with brighter colors when the artist's life circumstances improved. Collectors started to buy his work so he was less financially worried. Historians call this his Rose period because of the pinks and reds that started to appear in his works at this time. For some reason, the lives of carnival people were one of the subjects that was common in these paintings. Left, Circus Acrobats with Ape, 1905 Right, Woman with Fan, 1905
Picasso’s Early Cubist Period Les Demoiselles de Avignon (1907) was Picasso's earliest work which broke dramatically from his figurative works of the first part of his life. The painting relates directly to the prostitution district of Paris. The women's facial features disintegrate into primitive masks and their bodies are hard-edged. At this time, Picasso was increasingly influenced by the raw expressive power of African and Oceanic tribal arts. The women are simultaneously seductive and horrifying. It would take many years before this work would become acceptable to even the most progressive members of artistic circles. But this was the painting that changed everything for Picasso.
Picasso’s Cubist Works Still Life with Death's Head 1907 Bread, Fruit, and Table 1908
By 1907, collaboration between Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque was beginning. The two artists worked side by side, both experimenting with a system which sought to totally flatten space. One of the primary goals of cubism was to depart from the traditional understanding of perspective and spatial cues. Their early experiments with the style uses extremely bright colors, hard edged forms, and flattened space. Picasso, Landscape with Bridge, 1909 Picasso, Houses with Trees 1907 Braque, Houses at La Estaque 1909
Analytical Cubism After 1909, Picasso and Braque began a more systematic study of structure which we know as "Analytical Cubism". In this period, they removed bright colors from their compositions, favoring monochromatic tones focusing primarily on structure. The paintings look as if they have been deconstructed from objects and rearranged on the canvas. One goal of this is to depict different viewpoints simultaneously, usually an object is always viewed from one specific viewpoint and at one specific moment in time. Picasso and Braque felt that this was too limiting and desired to represent an object as if they are viewing it from several angles or at different moments in time. As innovative as this was, many of the works from this period are completely incomprehensible to the viewer as they start to lose all sense of form. Picasso Mandolin 1910 Braque Violin 1910 Ambroise Voilard, Portrait 1910
Synthetic Cubism After the artists had grown tired of the Analytical period, they began to develop what is known as the Synthetic period. Picasso and Braque continue to introduce new and controversial changes with the introduction of collaged objects into their paintings. Still Life with Chair Cane was one of the first of these experiments, and integrates chair caning with the paint, framed with a length of rope. Guitar, Sheet Music and Glass includes various collaged papers: wall paper, a page of sheet music, a drawing of an abstracted glass, and a newspaper clipping. Incidentally, this clipping includes the headline, "The battle has begun" (in French), which refers the revolution of representation the artists are achieving by introducing objects of the real world into their "paintings". It truly was a revolution which would change the face of modern art for many years to come. Still Life with Chair Cane 1912 Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass 1912
Picasso’s NeoClassical Period (Between the Wars) Picasso cannot be accused of sticking to one style for too long. The collaboration between Picasso and Braque was ended by the First World War. After this, Picasso reverted to a more Classical mode of representation. The Lovers 1923 Mother and Child on the Seashore 1921
Later Works of Picasso Neoclassical period, was not a final stage in Picasso's career. He soon continued to produce cubist works again finding new ways to express himself with the style. Picasso's later cubist works introduce more color and pattern than his experimental earlier period. At this point, Picasso and Matisse were influencing each other in their works. The two artists are described as having "a friendly rivalry". Dream, 1932 Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
Guernica, 1937 In 1937, Nazi bombers destroyed the Spanish Basque town of Guernica, mercilessly killing 1600 unprotected citizens. The Spanish general, Francisco Franco agreed to let the Nazis do this in exchange for military aid in the Spanish Civil War. Picasso's reaction of horror to the brutal event stimulated his symbolic depiction of "Guernica". Here he returns to a monochromatic palette in an attempt to suggest the bleakness of the tragedy, in which 16 miles surrounding the entire city was annihilated. Picasso's disturbing painting about the victims of this senseless act is his cry of protest.
Many other paintings from this period reflect the horror of war, but there is a consistent depiction of personal interest as well. The women in Picasso's life had a major impact on his artistic production and some of the best examples are from this period. Dora Maar, Sitting 1939 Portrait of JR with Roses, 1954
Abstract Sculpture Early Twentieth Century The general shift from naturalistic to abstract art begun in the late 20 th century. Rodin, the leading sculptor of the 19 th century created naturalistic work. Constantin Brancusi produced an abstract interpretation. In this sequence of sculptures, Brancusi’s Sleep (1908) is similar to the romantic naturalism of Rodin. In Sleeping Muse (1909), Brancusi simplified the subject and in The Newborn (1915), the subject is stripped to essential features. Sleep, 1908 Sleeping Muse, 1909 The Newborn, 1915
Brancusi sought to go beyond surface embellishments that had dominated European sculpture since the Gothic period and to make viewers conscious of form. Brancusi’s expressive strength was achieved by reducing forms to their essence. Bird in Space (1928) implies the soaring motion of the bird in flight. The reflective bronze surface adds to the forms weightless quality.
Architecture in the 20 th Century Frank Lloyd Wright and other prominent architects were designing houses between 1905 – 1910, while the traditional concepts of form in space were being challenged in art, they were also being challenged in architecture. Prairie homes by FL Wright were being built that had minimized or omitted walls in the interior and exterior spaces. Contemporary homes were now one continuous space often intermingling with the outdoors.
Futurism and Motion Futurists gained inspiration from Cubism adding a sense of speed, motion, and the celebration of the machine. The Futurists translated the speed of modern life into works of art that captured the dynamic energy of the new century. An abstract sculpture of a striding figure, “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” has muscular forms that seem to leap outward in flame like bursts of energy. During this time, the experience of motion, time, and space was transformed by the development of the automobile, the airplane, and movies. Futurist imagery reflects this exciting period of change. Umberto Boccioni, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913
Giacomo Ballà was a leading figure in the Italian Futurist group. He believed that the power and speed of machines such as cars were the salient characteristics of the modern age and aimed to express this idea in his work. Balla intended his work to capture the rushing air and dynamic feeling of a vehicle passing. This roaring motorcar is passing at about 35 miles per hour but at that time this was the pinnacle of speed. Balla, Abstract Speed-The Car Has Passed, 1913 Ball, Abstract Speed + Sound, 1913
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