.. A scandalized contemporary critic declared Matisse and his fellow artistsAndr Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Georges Braque (of France), and Kees van Dongen (of the Netherlands)to be fauves (French for wild beasts). This derogatory term became the name of their movement. Fauvism lasted only from about 1898 to 1908, but it had an enduring impact on 20th-century art. [ ] B.
Cubism [ ] Print section [ ] Pablo Picasso, a friend and rival of Matisse, also invented a new style of painting, focusing mainly on line rather than color. Picasso’s art changed radically around 1907, when he decided to incorporate some stylistic elements of African sculpture into his paintings. Unlike Matisse’s pleasant image of a middle-class interior, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907, Museum of Modern Art, New York City) does violence to the human form by means of radical simplifications, arbitrary and harsh color combinations, and extreme distortions of human anatomy and proportions. The painting’s space, moreover, does not conform to the logic of perspective, the traditional system for portraying depth in a picture, and is so fragmented that it is difficult to read clearly. The violence inherent in Picasso’s Demoiselles, however, gave way by about 1912 to his more meditative paintings, such as Ma Jolie (1912, Museum of Modern Art, New York City).
In this and other examples of analytical cubism, the subject, usually a portrait or still life, is fragmented into a series of intersecting and interpenetrating geometric planes. Czanne’s influence can be felt in this fragmentation, as can Picasso’s love of ambiguity and merging of opposites. Solid and void, figure and environment, background and foreground interpenetrate in defiance of both the logic of traditional painting and the logic of everyday experience. Ma Jolie is painted in muted tones of gray and brown; this lack of color also is characteristic of analytical cubism, as is the incorporation of lettering. The words MA JOLIE (French for my pretty one) appear at the bottom of the painting, referring to a popular song of the time and reinforcing the link between modern art and popular culture.
These links were further reinforced in Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning (1912, Muse Picasso, Paris), to which the artist affixed a piece of oilcloth printed with the woven pattern of caning. This was among the first instances of collage, a violation of traditional painting techniques by the inclusion of foreign material. After the cubist experiments of Picasso and his French colleague Georges Braque, no material would ever be considered foreign to art, opening the door for art to redefine itself again and again as the century progressed. Picasso’s cubism proved remarkably influential. French artists who experimented with it included Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Lger, and Juan Gris .
Their use of the style to glorify modern life’s relationship to technology distinguishes their work from Picasso’s and Braque’s. Lger, for example, simplified forms in The City (1919, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania) into flat areas of color or suggestions of three-dimensional cubes or cylinders. In this work, Picasso’s quirky and personal version of cubism has yielded to Lger’s more mechanical and impersonal one. The shift reflects a contemporary political belief that the individual personality should be subordinated to the demands of society as a whole. The City is Lger’s vision of an ideal community, or utopia: humanity’s merger with the machine.
[ ] C. Futurism [ ] Print section [ ] The futurists, a group of Italian artists working between 1909 and 1916, shared Lger’s enthusiasm for technology, but pushed it even further. As their name suggests, the futurists embraced all that glorified new technology and mechanization and decried anything that had to do with tradition. They declared a speeding automobile to be more beautiful than an ancient Greek statue. In combining Picasso’s fragmentation of form with Seurat’s pointillist painting technique, Dynamism of a Soccer Player (1913, Museum of Modern Art, New York City) by Umberto Boccioni is typical of futurism. But the most noticeable feature of Boccioni’s many-legged soccer player is its depiction of motion.
To achieve this sense of motion, the futurists drew upon sequential photographs of human movement by photographer Eadweard Muybridge and scientist Etienne-Jules Marey . A galloping horse, the futurists proclaimed, has not four legs but twenty. Like Lger, the futurists believed that a new society could be built only if citizens sacrificed their individuality for the good of the larger group. The new ideal human being suggested in Boccioni’s painting would be more machine than man: strong, energetic, impersonal, even violent. Other futurist painters are Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carr, and Gino Severini. [ ] D.
German Expressionism [ ] Print section [ ] Whereas an embrace of the new and technological was the hallmark of the Italian futurist movement, a group of artists in Germany called Die Brcke (The Bridge) celebrated not technology but human instinct. Die Brcke, founded in Dresden in 1905, included German artists Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. These artists saw the modern city as a place of alienation. In such works as Berlin Street Scene (1913, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany), Kirchner underscored the artificiality of city life and the way people lose their identity in a crowd. His human figures have distorted proportions and generalized facial features.
Kirchner heightened the sense of anxiety with clashing color juxtapositions and angular shapes, the latter inspired by African sculpture and German woodcuts. Those artistic forms appealed to the expressionists not only for their simplification of human anatomy but also for their roughness, which revealed traces of the artist’s hand and the difficulty of working in wood. Following Gauguin’s example, the expressionists frequently represented the human body in the midst of nature, presumably freed from the strict moral codes of middle-class society. In 1911 a second expressionist group was founded in Germany, this time in Munich, called Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). This group included Russians Wassily Kandinsky and Alexei von Jawlensky; Germans Franz Marc, August Macke, and Gabriele Mnter; and the Swiss Paul Klee . Like the members of Die Brcke, the artists of Der Blaue Reiter appreciated non-Western art as well as children’s drawings, folk art, and handicrafts.
But the members of Der Blaue Reiter were more interested in the spiritual side of humanity than in its instinctual side. Kandinsky wrote a treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912), in which he connected representational art with materialism and abstract art with spirituality. As had the late-19th-century symbolist painters, Kandinsky drew parallels between painting and music, and believed that colors could evoke different emotions in the same way as different melodies and sounds do. In Kandinsky’s abstract works, such as Improvisation 28 (1912, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City), the contours of shapes remain incomplete, as if open, and line and color function independently of one another. Although some scholars view these works as the first examples of abstract art, others have discovered that many of Kandinsky’s turbulent preliminary sketches refer to scenes of the deluge, Last Judgment, and other biblical events.
This discovery suggests that the spirituality Kandinsky accorded to abstract art was not just a general idea, but a crucial aspect of his subject matter. [ ] E. Russian Suprematism and Constructivism [ ] Print section [ ] Two Russian groups also arrived at abstraction in the early 20th century. Around 1913, painters Kasimir Malevich and El Lissitzky initiated a movement called suprematism, and sculptors Vladimir Tatlin and Aleksandr Rodchenko founded a movement known as constructivism. The suprematists, like Kandinsky, believed that abstraction could convey a religious connotation. In 1915 Malevich painted a black square on a white background and exhibited it in the corner of a roomthe traditional location for a Russian icon (religious image). According to Malevich, the term suprematism was meant to evoke the supremacy of pure feeling.
The square symbolized sensation; the field or background, nothingness. What Malevich wanted to depict was the pure essence of sensation itself, not a sensation connected to a specific experience such as hunger, sadness, or happiness. The constructivists sought an art that would be abstract, yet easily understood. Their sculptures celebrated the material properties of objects, such as texture and shape. Influenced by Picasso’s techniques of collage and construction, Tatlin created sculptures without using the traditional techniques of carving or modeling. Whereas carving requires removing materials to reveal a sculpted form, construction is an additive process by which the artist combines ordinary materials such as metal and wood to build a sculpture.
Unlike Picasso, Tatlin never painted or altered his materials, preferring instead to have their untouched surfaces relay their true nature. In his proposal for a Monument to the Third International (1919-1920, wooden model in the Russian State Museums, Saint Petersburg), Tatlin designed a huge metal structure that would celebrate the foundation of the new Soviet state. He intended it to be taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris and to have internal rotating elements that would house government offices, some rotating once a day, some once a month, some once a year. This highly impractical monument was never built, but it exemplifies several tendencies of modern art: its tendency to express utopian ideals, to experiment with new materials and techniques, and to blur the boundaries between fine art and engineering. [ ] F.
De Stijl [ ] Print section [ ] In 1917 Dutch painters Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg founded an artistic group known as De Stijl (The Style). Other members included painter Bart van der Leck, sculptor Georges van Tongerloo, and architect Gerrit Rietveld . Like the suprematists and constructivists, many of the artists of De Stijl were committed to the idea of abstract art and to the view that it had a purpose beyond mere decoration. Art, they felt, could change the nature of society and create a new kind of human environment. Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue (1937-1942, Tate Gallery, London) reveals De Stijl’s tendency to reduce painting to its most essential elements.
Horizontal and vertical black lines divide the white canvas into rectangles, some of which are painted red, yellow, or blue. The surface of the painting reveals nothing impulsive or intuitive; everything seems (but was not always) pre-planned in the mind of the artist. Intending their work to look impersonal and machinelike, De Stijl artists echoed the cubists and futurists in their hope that a new society could be built by rejecting individuality and embracing a collective will. Although Mondrian’s rectilinear geometry is worlds apart from Kandinsky’s dynamic and apocalyptic images, both artists were dedicated to the idea of abstract art and shared the belief that abstraction could convey philosophical meaning. Just as Kandinsky saw his abstractions as conveying a sense of spirituality, Mondrian saw the asymmetrical grids of his compositions as metaphors for the balancing of opposing forces: man and nature, individual and society, and so forth. These ideas were so central to Mondrian’s work that he envisioned his compositions as the basis for architecture and interior design, a vision that Rietveld and other architects later helped fulfill. [ ] G.
New Objectivity [ ] Print section [ ] After the unprecedented devastation of World War I (1914-1918), some artists lost faith in abstraction. In particular, many came to believe that abstract art looked trivial and superficial when so many millions of people had lost their lives, entire cities were coping with food shortages and political corruption, and these cities were overrun by soldiers crippled during the war. In Germany artists belonging to a movement known as the Neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity) believed that to address these problems art should no longer divorce itself from everyday experience, pursue abstract philosophical ideals, or probe the individual psychology of its creator. These artists, who included George Grosz and Otto Dix , advocated a return to more traditional modes of representation along with direct engagement with the pressing social and political issues of the time. Dix’s Matchseller (1920, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart), for example, rejects cubism, expressionism, and abstraction in favor of a more immediately comprehensible kind of representation.
Addressing the insensitive treatment of soldiers who had risked their lives for their country, this painting shows a crippled soldier selling matches on the street as passersby pointedly ignore him. Dix was aware that the postwar treatment of veterans depended on their social class. Thus his image denounced not only war in general but also the specific social tensions that were dividing Germany at that time. [ ] H. Dada [ ] Print section [ ] The slaughter of World War I affected artists in different ways. Some felt, as Mondrian did, that human betterment lay in the creation of an impersonal, mechanistic way of life, whereas others agreed with Dix that it lay in drawing attention to political problems. Still others concluded that the very idea of human betterment was a pointless illusion. For this group, the main lesson of the war, if anything, was the bankruptcy of reason, politics, technology, and even art itself.
On this premise, several artists and poets founded a movement whose name, dada , was purposely meaningless, and whose members ridiculed anything having to do with culture, politics, or aesthetics. Centered at first in Zrich, Switzerland, dada later spread to Berlin, Paris, and New York City. Among its members were German poet Hugo Ball, German artist Kurt Schwitters, Romanian poet Tristan Tzara, Romanian artist Marcel Janco, American artist Man Ray, and French artists Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and Francis Picabia . The dadaists attacked the idea of art or poetry by creating collage constructions from discarded junk, such as Kurt Schwitters’s Painting with Light Center (1919, Museum of Modern Art, New York City). They also would write satirical poems by picking words out of a hat.
Chance and accident were among the dadaists’ most common creative devices. An early and particularly influential dada work is Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), an ordinary, mass-produced urinal that has been transformed into a work of art simply by being exhibited in a gallery and receiving a new title. Duchamp wished to ridicule traditional ideas of art, creativity, and beauty. The artist (although Duchamp always denied being an artist) would no longer create works of aesthetic merit based on inspiration or talent, but would select prefabricated everyday objects. And although these objects, which Duchamp dubbed ready-mades, had originally been functional, Duchamp denied their utilitarian function by putting them in a new contexta gallery or museumand by changing their title. History Reports.