How Art Works: Week 5 The Rise of the isms


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This lecture will:

Examine how artists sought to find a language that would adequately express the changes and disruptions associated with modern life

Attempt to capture the dialectical relationship between each movement and its predecessors

Make connections between historical events and art genres

Encouraged you to think of styles as useful tools for exploration and analysis, rather than as hard and fast academic definitions, and to relate to the art itself rather than to a merely conceptual idea

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    What is this man doing? He is cutting wheat.
    How do we know? He holds a scythe and there is cut wheat around him.
    Call students’ attention to the light and shadows on the man. Where is the sun?
    It is high and to his right.
    How do you think the man feels in this sun? He probably is hot and tired.
    How do we know? He’s working so hard in the sun that he has taken his jacket off and laid it on the ground in the right foreground.
    Describe how Homer divided the scene in this painting.
    He divided it into three strips of color with a band of sky, a wider band of standing wheat, and another band of cut wheat
    in the foreground.
    In what bands are the man’s feet? They are buried in cut wheat.
    In what band is his body? It is in the standing wheat.
    Where is the top of his head? It is in the sky.
    Of what war was this man a veteran?
    He was a veteran of the Civil War.
    How does Homer show us this?
    His military uniform jacket and canteen lie in the lower right corner.
    What might laying aside his uniform represent?
    He has set aside soldiering and returned to regular life.
    Why is this a new field for him?
    It may be literally a new field of grain, but it is also a new field of work for him after fighting for years.
    If this man had been in a grain field the previous year, what would he probably have been doing?
    Probably fighting a battle, since a number of Civil War battles were fought in grain fields.
    What subjects had Winslow Homer been sketching for the past few years?
    He had been sketching Civil War soldiers.
    What does a figure carrying a scythe usually symbolize?
    He symbolizes the grim reaper or death.
    Whose deaths might Homer be alluding to?
    He is alluding to dead soldiers and/or President Lincoln, who had been assassinated earlier that year. Previously, the veteran cut
    down soldiers in a field; now he cuts wheat.
    What might a bountiful field of wheat represent?
    It could symbolize hope, bounty, and the renewal of life.
    Because a seemingly dead seed buried in the ground rises as a new plant, grain can be a symbol of rebirth or new
    beginnings. What might this suggest about the country after the Civil War?
    It could suggest that the country will recover and flourish.
  • Impressionism
    Impressionism is both a style, and the name of a group of artists who did something radical—in 1874 they banded together and held their own independent exhibition. These artists described, in fleeting sensations of light, the new leisure pastimes of the city and its suburbs It’s hard to imagine, but at this time in France, the only place of consequence that artists could exhibit their work was the official government-sanctioned exhibitions (called salons), held just once a year, and controlled by a conservative jury. The Impressionists painted modern Paris and landscapes with a loose open brushstrokes, bright colors, and unconventional compositions—none of which was appreciated by the salon jury!

    ‘Impressionism’ was coined after a scathing attack on Monet’s Impression, Sunrise by critic Louis Leroy who dismissed the work as mere "impressions", not finished pieces.

    Impressionism was an attack on the routines of perception. The Impressionists claimed to be representing the world as they saw it, as everyone sees it.

    Concerned with effect of sunlight on subjects
    Applied the paint very heavy showing brush strokes, creating texture
    Used pure dazzling colours
    Painted outdoors
    Viewer’s eye blended the colors from a distance

  • Symbolism & Art Nouveau
    The 1880s saw a shift away from the modern-life focus of Impressionism, as artists turned toward the interior self, to dreams, and myth. There was a sense that Impressionism had been too tied up with the materialism of middle-class culture. In some ways, van Gogh and Gauguin can also be seen as Symbolists. Many Symbolist belonged to groups of artists who broke away (or seceded) from the art establishment in their respective countries, to hold their own exhibitions. For example, Klimt belonged to the Vienna Secession (he was its first president), Khnopff to a similar group in Belgium called Lex XX (The Twenty), and Stuck co-founded the Munich Secession.
  • 1907-1960 Age of Global Conflict
    Europe in 1907 was powerful, wealthy and stable. The British Empire was unmatched with huge territories that stretched across the globe. The Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires remained intact, and the Italians, Germans, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese retained colonies. Nevertheless, the old order would soon collapse, a result of the Great War in 1914. But this trauma was only the beginning. A global financial collapse precipitated by the stock market crash of 1929 allowed Mussolini, Franco and Hitler to seize power. The violence only worsened with the Holocaust, Japanese Imperial expansion, and the Second World War. At the same time, this was a period of radical advances in music (Stravinsky, Bartok, etc.), in dance (Duncan, Graham, etc.) in literature (Joyce, Pound, etc.), science (Einstein, Heisenberg, etc.), and of course, in art (Matisse, Picasso, etc.). In the years between the wars artists explored abstraction and the irrational. After the war, and with Europe in ruins, the focus of the art world shifted from Paris to New York where Abstract Expressionism was born.
  • Expressionism
    Wild Beasts! Les Fauve (wild beasts) is what one critic called the brilliant expressive canvases of Matisse and other artists who exhibited together in 1905. This tutorial traces the work of Henri Matisse from his early Fauvist work with its jarringly bright colors to the stricter geometries he introduced during the First World War. It also tracks Expressionist developments in Germany and Austria with videos on Kirchner, Kandinsky and Jawlensky, artists who adopted a rough, “primitive” style, and on Egon Schiele’s taut, sexually charged paintings from Vienna.

    ‘Fauvism’ was unintentionally coined by the critic Albert Marque’s dismissal of the group as ‘fauves’: wild beasts.
  • Cubism and its impact
    The Spaniard Picasso changed the way we see the world. He could draw with academic perfection at a very young age but he gave it up in order to create a language of representation suited to the modern world. Together with the French artist George Braque, Picasso undertook an analysis of form and vision that would inspire radical new visual forms across Europe and in America.

    The art critic, Louis Vauxcelles, laughed Braque’s early work off as "full of little cubes", giving rise to the term ‘Cubism’.

    Compositions no longer just represented natural objects, new shapes and forms were created to show more that one viewpoint
    Showing different planes and viewpoints all at once.
    -Subject split into fragments.
    -Compositions no longer just represented
    natural objects but created new shapes and forms

    Cubist paintings create an ambiguous sense of space through geometric shapes that flatten and simplify form, spatial planes that are broken into fragments, and forms that overlap and penetrate one another

  • Dada & Surrealism
    Do we know who we really are? What parts of our mind do we know and what parts are hidden from us? Should art only focus on the rational, the conscious, or should we also pay attention to the irrational, the uncanny, the powerful impulses that remain unarticulated and just beyond the reach of our awareness. Dada was born during WWI when poets, artists, and actors, sickened by the violence around them, chose to celebrate the irrational. They created an anti-art that challenged the cultural assumptions that they felt supported the ruling elite that had, in turn, caused the war. The Dadaist response to the horrors of war was a profound disillusionment with the patriotism, religion, modern education, and technology that brought about and justified the war.

    Dada also deconstructed social values and conventional concepts about the arts. To go against the traditionally accepted art world, Dadaists used new art making techniques like collage in place of oil paintings, as well as conceptual art works called “ready-mades,” like Duchamp’s “Fountain.” The conscious act of breaking away from convention made Dada a vital predecessor for Surrealism and many other radical art movements to follow the early 20th century.

    In the years after the war, Dada gave way to Surrealism which reinstituted traditional forms of art-making but focused on Freud’s theories of the unconscious.
    Optical illusions that mix reality and dreamlike images together
    Emphasis on imagination and the world of the subconscious
    Objects often float defying the laws of gravity
    Haunting and mysterious expressions that are a balance between the real and the unreal

    Art movements grew closer to political movements, publishing not just manifestos but bodies of theory. Andre Breton published the first Surrealist Manifesto in 1924. There were Surrealist journals, debates, a formal membership, schisms, expulsions. It was only a short step to stop painting and sculpting, to abolish the difference between art and language.

  • American Modernism
    Art had never been especially important in America. Before the Civil War, many of America’s best artists went to Europe and stayed. Even after the war, American artists found little enthusiasm for their work unless it was directly informed by European precedents. By the first years of the 20th Century, a small group of American artists began to paint the gritty streets of New York and were called the Ashcan School for their portrayal of life in the tenements. In 1913 however, the Armory Show exhibited advanced American and European art and helped to create a market for the work of Georgia O’Keeffe and other members of modern galleries like Alfred Steiglitz’s 291 and Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century. During the Great Depression artists such as Grant Wood portrayed rural life in the south and midwest and became known as regionalists while other realists such as Edward Hopper rendered the alienation of the modern city. Meanwhile, Surrealist ideas infused a younger generation of artists’ work in Mexico and the US which would result, by the end of WWII, in the first internationally important American art movement, Abstract Expressionism.
  • The movement can be more or less divided into two groups: Action Painting, typified by artists such as Pollock, de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Philip Guston, stressed the physical action involved in painting;
  • How Art Works: Week 5 The Rise of the isms

    1. 1. How Art Works: Week 5 The Rise of the ISMS Cultural Analysis
    2. 2. The canon: the great narrative of modernism in art Systematically accounting for modern developments by emphasizing formal characteristics of paintings as especially revealing to construct a particular history of modern art.
    3. 3. Most of these theories share much in common: • all were youth movements • all were radical experiments with FORM • most rejected realism/naturalism • all explored alternative MODES of perception • most blur traditional artistic boundaries • most were influenced by scientific and/or technological advances Avant-garde Gustave Courbet The Stone Breakers 1849 (destroyed during World War II)
    4. 4. Isms are ideologies. To call an art movement an ism is to imply that instead of depicting the world in a commonsense way, the artists make an argument, propose a theory. Van Gogh Field with Poppies (1890)
    5. 5. This lecture will: • Examine how artists sought to find a language that would adequately express the changes and disruptions associated with modern life • Attempt to capture the dialectical relationship between each movement and its predecessors • Make connections between historical events and art genres • Encouraged you to think of styles as useful tools for exploration and analysis, rather than as hard and fast academic definitions, and to relate to the art itself rather than to a merely conceptual idea
    6. 6. The Rise of the ISMS Neoclassicism (1750-1850) Romanticism (1780-1850) MODERNISM Realism (1848-1900) Impressionism (1865-1885) Post-Impressionism (1885-1910) Fauvism & Expressionism (1900-1935) Cubism, Futurism, Supremativism, Constructivism & De Stijl (1905-1920) Dada & Surrealism (1917-1950) Abstract Expressionism (1940s-1950s) Pop Art (1960s) Postmodernism (1970s-) Claude Monet Haystacks, (sunset) (1890–1891) Georges Seurat Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-1886)
    7. 7. • broad cultural trend • artist defined movement • retroactively applied label • trend within the visual arts A process of compartmentalising the Western canon
    8. 8. Neoclassicism Jacque Louis David Oath of the Horatii (1784) Louvre, Paris, France Reason, not emotion, should dictate art
    9. 9. Romanticism in France Antoine-Jean Gros Napoléon on the field of Eylau (1807) Gericault Raft of the Medusa (1818)
    10. 10. Romanticism in France Eugène Delacroix Liberty Leading the People (1830) Ingres Odalisque with Slave (1842)
    11. 11. Romanticism in Spain Francisco Goya Saturn Devouring His Son (c. 1819–1823)
    12. 12. 1800-1848 Industrial Revolution I • Migration from rural to urban areas • Independent, skilled workers replaced by semi-skilled laborers • Large corporations were established, devaluing the personal relationship between management and workers or company and customers
    13. 13. Romanticism in England John Constable The Hay Wain (1821) Joseph Mallord William Turner Rain, Steam and Speed The Great Western Railway (1856)
    14. 14. Romanticism in Germany Caspar David Friedrich Wanderer above the sea of fog (1818)
    15. 15. 1848-1907 Industrial Revolution II John Everett Millais Ophelia (1851) Raphael The Crucified Christ with the Virgin Mary, Saints and Angels (The Mond Crucifixion) (c. 1502-1503)
    16. 16. Late Victorian Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema A Reading from Homer (1885) Lord Frederick Leighton Elijah in the Wilderness (c.1878) John Singer Sargent The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882)
    17. 17. Modernism
    18. 18. Realism Images are of the “real” world, seeable by the artist. The style is free from fable and fantasy. Courbet Poor Woman of the Village (1866)
    19. 19. French Realism Daumier The Burden (The Laundress) (1850-53) Redefining Reality: Realists focused attention on the experiences and sights of everyday contemporary life Not only a style of art and literature which presented life as it was, but also a philosophy committed to contemporary social issues
    20. 20. American Realism Winslow Homer The Veteran in a New Field (1865)
    21. 21. Describe, Analyse and Interpret
    22. 22. Impressionism Impressionism is a derivative of Realism, but was primarily concerned with how the artist saw an object, rather than what is seen. Monet The Cliff at Étretat after the Storm (1885)
    23. 23. Symbolism & Art Nouveau Gustav Klimt The Three Ages of Woman (1905) Fernand Khnopff The Sphinx (1896) Franz Von Stuck Ringeltanz (1905)
    24. 24. 1907-1960 Age of Global Conflict
    25. 25. Expressionism & Fauvism Matisse, The Dance II, 1909-10
    26. 26. Cubism Compositions no longer just represented natural objects, new shapes and forms were created to show more that one viewpoint
    27. 27. Dada & Surrealism • Optical illusions that mix reality and dreamlike images together • Emphasis on imagination and the world of the subconscious • Objects often float defying the laws of gravity • Haunting and mysterious expressions that are a balance between the real and the unreal Marcel Duchamp Fountain (1917)
    28. 28. American Modernism Edward Hopper Automat (1927)
    29. 29. Abstract Expressionism Willem de Kooning Woman (1949)
    30. 30. Abstract Expressionism Mark Rothko Red White and Brown c1957
    31. 31.  MOMA was part and parcel of the CIA’s efforts to combat Communism with American culture  The Abstract Expressionists were overwhelmingly men, previously Marxists and then disillusioned Marxists  Their art exemplified a worldview that could be construed as the ultimate antithesis to Communism  They were individualistic, autonomous, exuding despair and anxiety  Jackson Pollock, in particular, became the icon of alienation  The CIA latched onto Abstract Expressionism for its purported anti- communism The rise of Abstract Expressionism after the Second World War and the cultural cold was politics, and the role of MOMA
    32. 32. 1960 Against this backdrop, a generation of artists in the 1960s would explode the concepts of modern art, proliferating an intoxicating range of different practices and approaches to making art
    33. 33. “In the art world, the idea of postmodernism first began to surface in the 1960s, with the emergence of trends like Pop art, Minimalism, Conceptualism and performance. (In retrospect, nascent examples of postmodernism could be detected much earlier in works by artists such as Duchamp, whose readymades spoofed the preciousness of the art object, late De Chirico, who laid waste to the idea of the uniqueness of the artwork by cannibalising his own work, and even Picasso, whose abrupt stylistic changes made a mockery of the notion of signature style). Heartney, E. (2001) Movements in Modern Art: Postmodernism. London, Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd. pp.6-12
    34. 34. Pop Art Richard Hamilton. Just What Is It That Makes Today's Home So Different, So Appealing? 1956 Collage Warhol Brillo Boxes (1969) The art practices of the 1960s reflected a broader questioning of the values underpinning society
    35. 35. The philosophical revolution in art: You can’t tell art just by looking. The revolution Danto is talking about is that the difference between art and non-art is no longer visible (even though it is still there). The difference must be conceptual, not visible. The work raises a philosophical question about the difference between art and non-art.
    36. 36. Minimalism Frank Stella (1959) Marriage of Reason and Squalor
    37. 37. Minimalism Donald Judd (1974) Untitled [six boxes]
    38. 38. Minimalism Donald Judd (1966) Untitled. Stainless Steal and Yellow PlexiGlass Donald Judd (1974) Untitled [six boxes]
    39. 39. Conceptual Art Abandonment of that unique, permanent yet portable (and thus infinitely saleable) luxury item, the traditional art object. The rise of an unprecedented emphasis on ideas: ideas in, around and about art and everything else.
    40. 40. Postmodernism “We are well past the age when we can merely accept or reject this new ‘ism’; it is too omnipresent and important for either approach. Rather we have to ask about its emergent possibilities, ask ‘What is it?, and then decide selectively to support and criticise aspects of the movement.” Charles Jencks, What is Post-Modernism? p6
    41. 41. ‘Postmodernity is a style of thought which is suspicious of classical notions of truth, reason, identity and objectivity, of the idea of universal progress or emancipation, of single frameworks, grand narratives or ultimate grounds of explanation.’ -Terry Eagleton, from The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996) Yinka Shonibare Gallantry and Criminal Conversation (2002)
    42. 42. These approaches inspired various movements within the overall, loosely defined suite of ‘pomo’ approaches that established the plurality of voice and points of view within societies. Postcolonialism, feminism, and queer theory, are all part and parcel of postmodern critique.
    43. 43. Postmodern art... • Is ironic; • Self aware; • Intellectually rigorous; • Is concerned with ‘spectacle’; • Challenges disciplinary purity; • Encourages multi-media; • Often foregrounds the body; • Questions constructions of ‘gender’; • Is involved in overtly political/institutional critique; • Questions the commodification of the material world; • Challenges grand narratives and class structures by referencing mass culture and everyday life.
    44. 44. In his rejection of the distinction between low and high art, Koons is a typically ‘post-modern’ artist. ‘Post-modern art’ is a reaction to the ‘consumerism’ that has been made possible by the fact that manufacturing of products, distribution and dissemination have become very cheap. However, instead of criticizing the ordinariness and commonness of all these products, post- modern art just accepts them, and in Koons' case somehow both celebrates and ironicizes them.