August 7, 2012
A working definition of Modernism was the rejection of Victorian ways. Victorian culture emphasized nationalism and cultural absolutism. Victorians placed humans over and outside of nature. They believed in a single way of looking at the world, and in absolute and clear-cut dichotomies between right and wrong, good and bad, and hero and villain. Further, they saw the world as being governed by God’s will, and that each person and thing in this world had a specific use. Finally, they saw the world as neatly divided between civilized and savage peoples. According to Victorians, the civilized were those from industrialized nations, cash-based economies, Protestant Christian traditions, and patriarchal societies; the savage were those from agrarian or hunter-gatherer tribes, barter-based economies, pagan or totemistic traditions, and matriarchal (or at least unmanly societies).
Modernists rebelled against Victorian ideals. Blaming Victorianism for such evils as slavery, racism, and imperialism–and later for World War I–Modernists emphasized humanism over nationalism, and argued for cultural relativism. Modernists emphasized the ways in which humans were part of and responsible to nature. They argued for multiple ways of looking at the world, and blurred the Victorian dichotomies by presenting antiheroes, uncategorisable persons, and anti-art movements like Dada. Further, they challenged the idea that God played an active role in the world, which led them to challenge the Victorian assumption that there was meaning and purpose behind world events. Instead, Modernists argued that no thing or person was born for a specific use; instead, they found or made their own meaning in the world. Challenging the Victorian dichotomy between “civilized” and “savage,” Modernists reversed the values associated with each kind of culture. Modernists presented the Victorian “civilized” as greedy and warmongering (instead of being industrialized nations and cash-based economies), as hypocrites (rather than Christians), and as enemies of freedom and self-realization (instead of good patriarchs). Those that the Victorians had dismissed (and subjugated) as “savages” the Modernists saw as being the truly civilized–responsible users of their environments, unselfish and family-oriented, generous, creative, mystical and full of wonder, and egalitarian. These “savages,” post-WWI Modernists pointed out, did not kill millions with mustard gas, machine-guns, barbed wire, and genocidal starvation
During the period of the early 1900′s, from 1900-1930 an immense change in the way people looked at the world at the turn of the century led to a change in the way artists represented the world. The figurative tradition, in which artists based art on the human figure and daily routines, was taken to another level by two major artists, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. A second style of art also immerged during this time period, in which artists completely rejected the visual world and instead, communicated through the purity of their materials and paintings. This is a style common to Wassily Kandinsky of the Blue Rider Group and Piet Mondrian. And then there exploded a vast array of other modernism movements.
Other than the Blue Rider Group and Cubism there existed a number of other prominent modernist movements; Futurism, Orphism, Neo-Plasticists, Dadaism and Surrealism. Italian Futurism originated from poet Marinetti in Le Figaro on February 22, 1899. It was an absolute opposition to art of the past and a complete glorification of the the upcoming art of the future. “The gesture we are seeking to represent on canvas is no longer that of any specific moment in the dynamism of the universe, but simply the dynamic sensation itself.” To create this future look, this moment in time, everything was in the midst of a state of motion, so the art necessarily had to become distorted. This attempted to show a change in our stream of consciousness. The Futurists rebelled against intellectual concepts of art, but used Cubism’s analytical procedures. This allowed them to have an almost total freedom in regards to the object. Among these artists was: Gino Severini, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo D. Carra, Giacomo Balla, and Luigi Russolo.
Orphism was started by ROBERT DELAUNAY in 1911. This group included the artists: Kupka, Bruce, Morgan Russel, Macdonald Wright, and Sonia Terk. Orphism was based on Delaunay’s passion for color which he had previously held back. His first major painting of this orphic stage was Simultaneous Window (1911). He used color to communicate his instincts. He loved geometrical order, circles especially, and anything bright and free from black.
Neo-plasticists involved work with plastic and any other artificial material. Mondrian considered himself a Neo-Plasticist. He was the extreme in abstraction, with a mathematical approach to art. He believed he was expressing the ‘constant equilibrium’ which if fully implemented, the world would gain a new harmony through. His extremely simplistic works often admitted only horizontal and vertical line and used only the three primary colors plus black and white. This created a flat, two-dimensional surface. Being an extreme purist, he often broke with those who were against his formulation of art. He had a great concentration of form and was inflexible in his painting ideals. Piet Mondrian was also a prominent Neo-plasticist.
Dadaism In Zurich in 1917, the Dadaists produced the only genuine art of the twentieth century. They believed the previous forms of deliverance of ideals had only brought destruction. Their proof was World War I. They also believed that present day art was made from the academic upperclass, so they tried to break with traditional art theories. The literary element that instigated the Dadaist movement was led by the Schwitters, Anna Blume, Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, and Richard Hulsenbeck. Using literature and writing on art helped change the direction and style of paintings. Dadaists also included photography, something that no other art movement had accepted. Their influence on the collage created a lasting impression on artists everywhere. In the Schwitters house, for example, a plaster sculpture inhabited one room –through the friends and family, the sculpture was constantly changing. This made the art into a living art form.
Surrealism; The term Surrealism was coined by Guillaume Apollinaire in 1917, and created into a movement by poet Andre Breton in 1924. “Surrealism: pure, psychic automatism, through which one seeks to express the real course of one’s thinking orally, on paper or in any other way. Instinctive thinking without any control by reason and outside all aesthetic or ethical considerations.” This has a lot in common with Sigmund Freud’s philosophy in that it deals with dreams and depth psychology. The most famous Surrealists were Max Ernst and Salvador Dali.
The Blue Rider was an association of artists located in and around Munich. The group was founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in 1911. Together with another group of artists, The Bridge, centered around Berlin, they represented the movement of German Expressionism.
The Blue Rider had a short life and a tragic end. At the outbreak of World War I, the group practically ceased to exist. Two of its founding members, Franz Marc and August Macke were called to the military and died in a senseless and barbaric war of unprecedented dimensions. After World War I, the German art scene was a different one – shell-shocked by the experience of war. The members of this group refused to allow rules to hinder their painting. Emotion was supreme in all their artwork.
After Marc encountered the kindred spirits who would later form the core of the Blue Rider group–including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Alexej Jawlensky–his style matured into a broader artistic philosophy. The Blue Rider was not a formal group with a manifesto and strict membership, but rather a changing network of artists who exhibited together and shared ideas. One of the most radical notions they proposed was the integration of all the arts across media boundaries, and they actively recruited not only painters and sculptors but also musicians, composers, writers, architects, and designers to their ranks. The artificial separation of form and idea, they argued, could not truthfully express the inner rhythm of the spirit. In their anthology of 1911, the Blue Rider Almanac, they included articles and essays on contemporary visual arts as well as music, theater, low arts, and ancient and non-Western cultures that embraced a wide range of conceptions about the place of art and the spiritual in the modern world. Which was of course in stark contrast to the Victorian values which preceded them. Of the many artists involved in the Blue Rider Group there was perhaps most prominently Wassily Kandinsky.
Wassily Kandinsky was the founder of the Blue Rider group. His affection for color led him to blend forms into abstract compositions. He used this abstract quality in order not to falsify his art through feelings associated with objects. Kandinsky believed this was the purest form of art. He said: ‘ The true subject of the picture is…. painting.’ He published many books on art theory including The Art of Spiritual Harmony and On Problem of Form. ‘I like every form that comes of necessity from the spirit, that has been created by the spirit, as I detest any form that has not. I think that the Philosophy of Art will in the future study with particular attention the spirit of things as well as their physical existence. And so an atmosphere will be created which will enable the human race to feel this Spirit in the same way that is now appreciates external appearances– which explains the public taste for representational painting. And through this the spirit of matter, and finally the spirit of the abstract will become quite evident to humanity. From this new faculty will spring the joy of pure abstract art.’ –Kandinsky.
Kandinsky was fascinated by music’s emotional power. Because music expresses itself through sound and time, it allows the listener a freedom of imagination, interpretation, and emotional response that is not based on the literal or the descriptive, but rather on the abstract quality that painting, still dependent on representing the visible world, could not provide. Wagner’s Lohengrin, which had stirred Kandinsky to devote his life to art, had convinced him of the emotional powers of music. The performance conjured for him visions of a certain time in Moscow that he associated with specific colors and emotions. It inspired in him a sense of a fairy-tale hour of Moscow, which always remained the beloved city of his childhood. His recollection of the Wagner performance attests to how it had retrieved a vivid and complex network of emotions and memories from his past: The violins, the deep tones of the basses, and especially the wind instruments at that time embodied for me all the power of that pre-nocturnal hour. I saw all my colors in my mind; they stood before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me. I did not dare use the expression that Wagnet had painted ‘my hour’ musically.
Kandinsky’s conviction that music is a superior art to painting due to its inherent abstract language came out forcefully in the artist’s admiration for the music of the Viennese composer Arnold SchÖnberg, with whom he initiated a longstanding friendship and correspondence and whose Theory of Harmony (1911) coincided with Kandinsky’s On the Spiritual in Art. Kandinsky’s complex relationship to SchÖnberg’s music is central to his concept of Composition, since SchÖnberg’s most important contribution to the development of music, after all, occurred in the area of composition.
SchÖnberg’s innovations, such as discarding chromaticism and abandoning tonal and harmonic conventions, unleashed a new future for musical explorations and formed an important turning point for compositional practice. In particular, two of the composer’s innovations radically opened musical compositional structures. Beginning with his First String Quartet in 1905, SchÖnberg introduced a chromatic structure that he defined as a developing variation, in which there was a continual evolution and transformation of the thematic substance of the musical piece, rejecting thematic repetition. This inspired the constant unfolding of an unbroken musical argument without recourse to the symmetrical balances of equal phrases or sections and their corresponding thematic content. As a result of this practice, SchÖnberg achieved a musical continuum that was richly structured, densely polyphonic, and in which all parts were equally developmental.
These new compositional structures led him toward free chromaticism, which emphasized nonharmonic tones and emancipation of dissonance (i.e., unresolved dissonance), one of the principal features of atonal music. Having such constant transformations, rather than the repetition of melodic pattern, endowed the work with a totally unconventional psychological depth, evocative power, and emotional strength. SchÖnberg’s innovations, which permitted any pitch configuration, ruptured traditional conventions of musical composition.
The magnitude of this revolutionary change can be compared to the fundamental transformation in Kandinsky’s painting from a figurative idiom to free, expressive, abstract work. The kinship between Kandinsky and SchÖnberg (who was also influenced by the philosophy of Schopenhauer) is a special example of the intellectual affinity of artists in search of new vehicles for expressing their inner emotions. These diverse artistic and philosophical influences were all important for the conception of Kandinsky’s first seven Compositions before World War I. And clearly separate him from the Victorian art and somewhat even specializes him amongst modernists as a particular rarity.
Kandinsky’s composition Komposition Mit Schachbrettstreifen. Using the subjective frame I find that Initially I am given the impression of a discord in the painting, a subtle chaos of meaningless shapes all vying for position and focus, the colours, black white orange green gray, add no feeling of continuity or harmony, no shape based in reality can be found, let alone relationship to reality. However after an extending piece of time staring at the painting patterns can be observed, and a relationship between the shapes can also be seen. As each shape is layered on top of another shape and some share the same dimensional plane as another shape whilst other are individual and merely sit on top or beneath the other shapes. It reminds me of a confused memory, one which is trying to being in utterances of memories all together only separated by miniscule moments of time, until it would seem that the eventual result was a collection of utterances with no specific relation, but together which make up a whole memory, though perhaps still not one that is in order. Under the structural frame Upon close inspection it appears there is some of a hammer in the painting, perhaps in relationship to the hammer and sickle, which Russia is famous for and a country to which Kandinsky is native. The chequered stretch at the bottom right appears almost to be a road leading to the circle, whilst beside the chequered stretch I see grass and objects relative to fish, perhaps representative of the journey to or from the circle to the outside. And of course the black circle underlying everything else, quite possibly a symbol for a portal, or the area which encapsulates the important aspect of his memory, whilst the other objects which are slightly superimposed over and around it represent the feelings of the place at the time, which could further give rise to the impression of the hammer. Look at the painting through the cultural frame we can see the reflection of modernism, As I mentioned before the hammer seems important, especially as Russia had just left the war 4 years previously and Bolsheviks communist party was now spreading their influence across the nation, perhaps communism is symbolised in the colours, with a lack of vibrant colour contrast, similar to the contrast of social classes in Russia, now things are becoming less contrasted and those which are still contrasted are now duller, less vibrant. The postmodern frame The painting challenges the role of coherence in art, as the audience may choose to find whatever meaning they desire from this painting, nothing about this can actually be based in reality as there are no natural constructs in reality which are similar to this, and certainly none which are this contorted and chaotic. It is a totally individual piece of art, an abstract painting. All of these things make it a definite modernist painting, given the context of the artist, the audience, the type of painting and the symbols.
Murnau painted in 1909 by Wassily Kandinsky. The subjective frame find me noticing The painting conjuring up feelings of a childlike delight in looking at the world for me. Bright vibrant colours abound and contrast, giving every individual detail the feeling of being brilliant and spectacular, so much so that things become blurred as you try to take in every aspect of the scene. The structural frame finds the close relation to the tree at the front of the painting being important, as a child trees are sources of entertainment for climbing and admiring, also, the offer shade, this can be related to a child’s instinctive attraction to maternal things, the shade is the protection against the sun, which, though enjoyable, can be painful after a while. The town in the background gives a warm feeling of home, an entirely welcoming place. The Post Modern Frame The expressionist nature of the painting sets it apart from others at the time. Kandinsky’s affection for color led him to blend forms into abstract compositions. He used this abstract quality in order not to falsify his art through feelings associated with objects. It is a totally unique painting reflecting modernist traits and values special to Kandinsky and his movement of the Blue Rider Group.
Cubism an early 20th-century school of painting and sculpture in which the subject matter is portrayed by geometric forms without realistic detail, stressing abstract form at the expense of other pictorial elements largely by use of intersecting often transparent cubes and cones.
Cubism, highly influential visual arts style of the 20th century that was created principally by the painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in Paris between 1907 and 1914. The Cubist style emphasized the flat, two-dimensional surface of the picture plane, rejecting the traditional techniques of perspective, foreshortening, modeling, and chiaroscuro and refuting time-honoured theories of art as the imitation of nature. Cubist painters were not bound to copying form, texture, colour, and space; instead, they presented a new reality in paintings that depicted radically fragmented objects, whose several sides were seen simultaneously. Perhaps the essential Modernist Movement which has survived and certainly the one that flourished the most. And in it comprised the most famous artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso.
Pablo Picasso born in Spain, was a child prodigy who was recognized as such by his art-teacher father, who ably led him along. The small Museo de Picasso in Barcelona is devoted primarily to his early works, which include strikingly realistic renderings of casts of ancient sculpture. Before he struck upon Cubism, Picasso went through a prodigious number of styles – realism, caricature, the Blue Period, and the Rose Period. The Blue Period dates from 1901 to 1904 and is characterized by a predominantly blue palette and subjects focusing on outcasts, beggars, and prostitutes. This was when he also produced his first sculptures. The most poignant work of the style is in Cleveland’s Museum of Art, La Vie (1903), which was created in memory of a great childhood friend, the Spanish poet Casagemas, who had committed suicide. The painting started as a self-portrait, but Picasso’s features became those of his lost friend. The composition is stilted, the space compressed, the gestures stiff, and the tones predominantly blue. Another outstanding Blue Period work, of 1903, is in the Metropolitan, The Blind Man’s Meal. Yet another example, perhaps the most lyrical and mysterious ever, is in the Toledo Museum of Art, the haunting Woman with a Crow (1903). Picasso discovered ancient Iberian sculpture from Spain, African art (for he haunted the African collections in the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro in Paris), and Gauguin’s sculptures. Slowly, he incorporated the simplified forms he found in these sources into a striking portrait of Gertrude Stein, finished in 1906 and given by her in her will to the Metropolitan Museum. She has a severe mask like face made up of emphatically hewn forms compressed inside a restricted space. (Stein is supposed to have complained, I don’t look at all like that, with Picasso replying, You will, Gertrude, you will.) This unique portrait comes as a crucial shift from what Picasso saw to what he was thinking and paves the way to Cubism. Then came the awesome Les Demoiselles d’Avignon of 1907, the shaker of the art world (Museum of Modern Art, New York). Picasso was a little afraid of the painting and didn’t show it except to a small circle of friends until 1916, long after he had completed his early Cubist pictures. Cubism is essentially the fragmenting of three-dimensional forms into flat areas of pattern and color, overlapping and intertwining so that shapes and parts of the human anatomy are seen from the front and back at the same time. The style was created by Picasso in tandem with his great friend Georges Braque, and at times, the works were so alike it was hard for each artist quickly to identify their own. The two were so close for several years that Picasso took to calling Braque, ma femme or my wife, described the relationship as one of two mountaineers roped together, and in some correspondence they refer to each other as Orville and Wilbur for they knew how profound their invention of Cubism was. Every progressive painter, whether French, German, Belgian, or American, soon took up Cubism, and the style became the dominant one of at least the first half of the 20th century. In 1913, in New York, the new style was introduced at an exhibition at the midtown armory – the famous Armory Show – which caused a sensation. Picasso would create a host of Cubist styles throughout his long career. After painting still-lifes that employed lettering, trompe l’oeil effects, color, and textured paint surfaces, in 1912 Picasso produced Still-Life with Chair-Caning, in the Picasso Museum in Paris, which is an oval picture that is, in effect, a cafe table in perspective surrounded by a rope frame – the first collage, or a work of art that incorporates preexisting materials or objects as part of the ensemble. Elements glued to the surface contrasting with painted versions of the same material provided a sort of sophisticated double take on the part of the observer. A good example of this, dubbed Synthetic Cubism, is in the Picasso Museum, Paris, the witty Geometric Composition: The Guitar (1913). The most accomplished pictures of the fully developed Synthetic Cubist style are two complex and highly colorful works representing musicians (in Philadelphia and the Museum of Modern Art, New York). He produced fascinating theatrical sets and costumes for the Ballet Russe from 1914 on, turned, in the 1920s, to a rich classical style, creating some breathtaking line drawings, dabbled with Surrealism between 1925 and 1935, and returned to Classicism. Of his many paintings I have chosen Guernica and Aficionado.
Guernica painted in 1937 by Pablo Picasso, using the subjective frame My initial impression is that I receive the images of a scene of great pain, nearly, morbid and terrifying, the disturbing images and contorted bodies, as well as the severed limbs, broken swords, and dead bodies, and the truly ominous bulls head make this a wholly disturbing picture. The Black and white colours create a strange balance, and the contrast of images seems natural, lacking a contrived nature. It has a strong emotional impact, I feel disturbed, and worried and intrigued. Pablo Picasso I believe made this in relation to the Guernica bombing by Germany on Spain. Looking at the painting through the structural frame I find that the most obvious visual image is the bulls head, a disturbed contortion of a normal one. The shapes of the objects are all askew, and the position of objects seem intentionally peculiar, as though they were merely turned on their sides. The black and white of the painting offer no distractions, focus goes entirely to the imagery and no needless concern with anything else. The visual language is very strong, giving a very definite feeling about the painting. The cultural frame helps better to represent the modernist nature of this painting, as it concerns itself with world events and rejects them as cruel, needless and disturbing, the attack on Guernica sparked Picasso’s interest in creating this. The Spanish people are represented in the dead bodies and severed limbs. War has occurred. The disturbing tragedy of this occurrence is represented in this painting. Finally of the Post Modern Frame, Guernica is unique to the Picasso style. It is challenging the fascism at the time of its creation. This was an unusual occurrence as rarely if ever had an artist been asked to portray in his own manner the nature of war as he cared to see it, this was not a beautiful rendition of glory nor of social understanding and especially not propaganda, it maintains itself as painting of something tragic as the tragic see it.
Aficionado painted in 1912 by Pablo Picasso, evaluating the painting through the Subjective Frame I find there is a certain abstraction to this form of Cubism. It is almost incomprehensible, lacking any logical continuity or pattern, it is a mass of shapes, represented and the original object is not represented in the form of itself. The particular dull colours make the white standout. Sharp shapes, and images of newspapers almost occur, even a facial expression can be observed, as I choose to see it. By the Structural Frame I see that the symbols create no continuity, and even interpreting the symbols is a decidedly complex and hard thing to do. The images however, may be intentionally cryptic, not purely for the intensive purpose of perceiving the object from as many different angles at the same time but for the absolution of an analytical form of cubism, make it so that, all the person can do is analyse, without ever achieving any form of mental ends to the proposed analysis. That is to say, analysing for the sake of analysing. Some contrast does exist, but it is minimal, fluid chaos would be an apt summary of this as far as I am concerned. The tone is a strange one, you might almost say depressed. And finally the Post Modern frame, being a cubist painting, it is unconventional, at no stage before had a painter tried to depict different viewpoints simultaneously; in other works, it was used more as a method of visually laying out the facts of the object, rather than providing a limited mimetic representation. The aim of Analytical Cubism was to produce a conceptual image of an object, as opposed to a perceptual one. This said the painting challenged all normal perceptions of what a painting should contain, and how it should present itself to the audience as well as how the audience should prepare itself to interpret the painting. This was created in what was undoubtedly the most complex stage of cubism.
From Manet’s initial rejection of tradition in painting, beginning the modernist movement, the modernism scene exploded in a diverse array of movements which belonged to modernism, artists now free to express their true artistic intentions helped found an economy of intellectual wealth and prosperity. Modernists emphasized the ways in which humans were part of and responsible to nature. They argued for multiple ways of looking at the world, and blurred the Victorian dichotomies by presenting antiheroes, uncategorisable persons, and anti-art movements like Dada. Further, they challenged the idea that God played an active role in the world, which led them to challenge the Victorian assumption that there was meaning and purpose behind world events. Instead, Modernists argued that no thing or person was born for a specific use; instead, they found or made their own meaning in the world.