Early ModernistsEurope: 1900-1920Fauvism,German Expressionism,Primitivism/Cubism,Futurism,Dada, andSuprematism/Constructivism
Context: Europe 1900-1920- Non-European influences to European art and culture due toimperialism and colonialism.- Pessimism and a sense of hopelessness due to war and conflict.Rising nationalism results in military build-up in central Europe,creates rivalry between major powers.- New building technologies due to rapid industrialization(reinforced concrete, steel, the skyscraper)- New awareness of space and time due to scientificdiscoveries/inventions – Wright brothers (flight), Einstein (theoryof relativity), and Ford (automobile).- Mass communication increases – ideas spread – Edison (motionpicture camera), Marconi (radio)- New interest in the inner world of fantasy, dreams, sexuality,neurosis due to studies and writings of human psyche by Freud(psychoanalysis), Jung (collective unconscious).- Rise of new political ideologies between 1900 and 1940, such asCommunism, Fascism, and Nazism.
What is Modernism?1. Interest in psychological reality and imagined reality.2. Art that calls attention to the process of its making, or callsattention to itself as art.3. Focus on the individual in the form of self-analysis and self-expression.4. Desire for freedom from the academic art institutions andtraditional processes of art-making.5. Interest in the exotic and in new sources of imagery whichare often non-Western.6. Elements of art – line shape form, value, color, texture – usedto create structure in an artwork.7. Experimentation and use of modern materials andtechnology for art-making.8. Challenging conventional ideas of what is “beautiful.”9. Fracturing of image and the process of various ways ofabstraction.10. The objectification of the art work – the painting as anobject itself. Moving away from illusionary space.11. The “shock of the new” – emphasis on innovation12. The avante-garde, or “front lines” of artists, pushingboundaries and challenging tradition.
Fauvism• In 1905, at the third Autumn Salon in Paris, a group of youngpainters exhibited canvases so simplified in design and bright in colorthat a critic described the artists as fauves, or wild beasts.• Fauvists were influenced by Gauguin and van Gogh, but went evenfurther in using color experimentally, to create emotions.• They worked with spontaneity, creating textured surfaces, linearpatterns, and bright, expressive colors.• The movement only stayed together about five years before theartists went on to pursue separate, individual styles.Red Room (Harmony in Red)Matisse
Matisse• Henri Matisse, a French painter, was the most successful of theFauve artists.• He strove to use color to convey meaning.• In Woman with the Hat, he painted his wife, Amelie. The pose isconventional, but the colors he used are arbitrary (random), ratherthan realistic.• Furthermore, there is a quick, sketch-like feeling to the strokes.• Matisse’s choices in colors were intuitive. He chose colors that feltright to him.• In Red Room (Harmony in Red), Matisse painted a servant setting atable. He first painted it in green, then blue, but it was not until hepainted it yet again in red that he felt satisfied with the “harmony” ofthe colors.• Like Whistler, Matisse thought of colors in a painting to be similarto notes in a musical composition.Woman with the HatHenri Matisse, 1905.Oil on canvas, 2’8” x 2’.
German Expressionism• German Expressionists also used color to express their ideas, buteven more so they used distortions of form, ragged outlines, andagitated brushstrokes.• Protested the decadence of the upper class, and the alienation ofurbanized society.• There were two major factions of German Expressionists, as well assome artists who did not associate with any faction.-Die Brücke (The Bridge) – Gathered in Dresden in 1905 under theleadership of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. So named because they felt they“bridged” the gap between old and new. Modeled themselves onmedieval craft guilds whose members lived together and practicedall the arts equally.-Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) – Formed in Munich in 1911 byKandinsky and Marc. Named whimsically after Kandinsky and Marc’smutual interest in the color blue and horses.Street, DresdenErnst Ludwig Kirchner, 1908.Oil on canvas, 4’11” x 6’7”.
Nolde• Emil Nolde was only officially a member of the Die Brücke artistsfor one year, but his style links him to the other Die Brücke artiststhroughout his career.• He primarily focused on religious imagery.• Instead of the quiet spirituality of traditional religious paintings, hisimages are visceral and forceful.• In St. Mary of Egypt Among Sinners, Nolde depicted MaryAegyptica, a Catholic saint from the 300s who had lead a life of lustand prostitution until a religious experience in Jerusalem lead her toconvert to Christianity and live the rest of her days as a hermit.• The painting depicts Mary before her conversion, dancingseductively for a group of lecherous men, whose lust magnifies theirbrutal ugliness.Saint Mary of Egypt Among SinnersEmil Nolde, 1912. Left panel of triptych.Oil on canvas, 2’10” x 3’3”.
Kandinsky• Kandinsky was one of the founding members of the Der BlaueReiter movement. He moved from his homeland of Russia (Moscow)to Germany in 1896.• Kandinsky was a well-read intellectual, who gave up a promisingcareer teaching economics to begin painting. He also taught hisartistic theories at the Bauhaus for several years.• Reading new scientific theories about atomic structure by scientistslike Einstein and Planck convinced Kandinsky that material objectshad no real substance, thereby shattering his faith in a world oftangible things.• Instead, he focused on creating a spiritual experience through art.In addition to being pleasing to the eye, certain colors (orcombinations of colors) could resonate with a person’s soul.• Furthermore, different colors had different meanings (for instance,white is clarity, hope, and silence, whereas black is obscurity,hopelessness, and death).• He took the relationship between music and art to a new level,associating certain sounds to different colors (for instance, yellow isthe color of middle C on a brassy trumpet).• He elaborated on his many theories in two treatises, Point and Lineon Plane, and Concerning the Spiritual in Art.Improvisation 28Vassily Kandinsky, 1912.Oil on canvas, 3’8” x 5’4”
Franz Marc• Marc grew increasingly pessimistic about the state of humanity,especially as World War I loomed on the horizon.• He depicted animals because he believed they were more purethan flawed humanity, and thus more appropriate vehicles toexpress an inner truth.• He ascribed certain attributes to different colors. He wrote in aletter that “blue is the male principle, severe and spiritual. Yellowis the female principle, gentle, happy, and sensual. Red is matter,brutal and heavy.”• Fate of the Animals was painted at the brink of World War I,which started the next year. He was killed in the Battle of Verdun.• The animals in the painting appear trapped in a forest amidfalling trees, some apocalyptic event destroying both the forestand the animals.• Marc distorted and fragmented the scene like shattered glass.• The darker colors of severity and brutality dominate.• On the back of the canvas, Marc wrote: “All being is flamingsuffering.”Fate of the AnimalsFranz Marc (German), 1913.Oil on canvas, 6’4” x 8’9”.
Egon Schiele• Schiele had a prolific career, making over 3000 artworks(including 100 self-portraits), despite dying of Spanish flu at28.• He was not formally associated with any Expressionistgroup, and lived in Austria.• He worked predominately with gouache (a type of opaquewatercolor) and watercolor.• As a teenager, Schiele watched the slow, painfuldeterioration of his father, who contracted syphilis and diedwhen Egon was 15. Schiele afterward associated sex withphysical and emotional pain and death.• Protégé of Klimt, and was influenced by van Gogh andMunch.• Depictions primarily depicted emaciated bodies andtormented psyches.• In what ways did Schiele emphasize the repulsiveness ofthe figure?Nude Self-Portrait, GrimacingEgon Schiele, 1910.Gouache, watercolor,and pencil on paper.1’10” x 1’2”.
Primitivism & Cubism• Cubism –-Developed by Picasso and Braque in 1906.-Dissected three dimensional objects into their various parts, thenreassembled them on the picture plane in a new order.-Influenced by the radical new understanding of the physical worldintroduced by Einstein, which disrupted the Newtonian idea of theuniverse as an orderly machine.-Two main branches: analytical and synthetic. Analytical cubism involvedthe analysis and dissection of the form, which was then painted by theartist (such as the example to the right). In Synthetic cubism (1912), artistsassembled paintings and drawings from objects and shapes cut frompaper or other materials.• Primitivism-The incorporation of stylistic elements from Africa, Oceania, and thenative peoples of the Americas into the art of European artists was calledPrimitivism. Artists like Picasso collected non-Western art, admiring it forits different stylistic preferences and standards.-The availability of non-Western art was a result of imperialism. Museumsdisplaying the “curiosities,” such as statues of tribal gods, reinforced theperceived need for the “barbaric” people to be civilized, and thus justifiedcolonialism.Girl with MandolinPablo Picasso
Picasso• “I paint forms as I think them, not as I see them.” - Picasso• Picasso was a prodigious young Spanish artist who had alreadymastered Realism by the time he enrolled in an art academy.• His early career saw a brief period of Impressionism as well as aBlue Period (1901-1904), in which he expressed his inner melancholyby depicting sad figures using mostly blue tones.• Not satisfied, he continued searching for new and innovative waysto depict things (a search that continued through his long career,leading him to constantly evolve in style).• Inspired by the geometry of African masks he had collected, as wellas ancient Iberian (the peninsula on which Spain and Portugal arelocated) statues, he began working on Les Demoiselle’s d’Avignon(the Young Women of Avignon).• Although originally from Spain, Picasso spent most of his life livingin Paris.The Tragedy Man with GuitarPortrait of theArtist’s Mother
Picasso• Inspired by the geometry of African masks he had collected, as wellas ancient Iberian (the peninsula on which Spain and Portugal arelocated) statues, he began working on Les Demoiselle’s d’Avignon(the Young Women of Avignon).• Originally intended to be called Philosophical Bordello, it initiallyhad two men mingling with the women in the reception room of abrothel on Avignon Street in Barcelona. One man was a sailor, theother carried a skull.• Picasso removed the men, and simplified the room to draperies.• He fractured the shapes of the figures, and interwove them withthe jagged planes of drapery and empty space. Space is ambiguous.• The three figures on the left are rendered with the calm, idealfeatures of the Iberian sculptures he had seen.• The two figures on the right have energetic, violently striatedfeatures based on African masks. Picasso believed that the masks hecollected were powerful, magical even, and served as mediatorsbetween humans and the forces of evil.• To match the powerful new two heads of his right figures, Picassoalso revised their bodies by breaking them into more ambiguousplanes, suggesting a combination of views.Les Demoisellesd’AvignonPablo Picasso,1907.Oil on canvas,8’ x 7’8”
Other Picasso Work• Picasso was constantly challenging himself to try new styles,materials, and approaches to art making. As a result, his long careershows a variety of styles.• His early work, including Girl with Mandolin and Les Demoisellesd’Avignon are classified as Analytic Cubism, characterized by theartist’s careful analysis of the 3 dimensional form of their subject,which they fragmented and reassembled from different viewpoints.• In 1912, with the creation of Still Life with Chair Caning, Cubismentered its Synthetic Cubism phase, during which artists assembled,or “synthesized” their Cubist vision (still from multiple viewpoints) oftheir subject.• Still Life with Chair Caning is assembled using oil paint, rope, and alithographic reproduction of a photo of chair “caning” (the wovenseat of a chair). Because the image of the caning is an illusion, thenon-representational painted forms seem more honest/real.• The letters JOU reference the masthead of newspapers(journeaux), and also is a play on “jouer” (play) and “jouir” (enjoy).The illusion of the letters is broken by the U falling out of the shapearound it, and falling under the thin cylinder above.• The diamond pattern in Three Musicians and Girl Before a Mirrorreferences Harlequin, a clown character in popular plays to whomPicasso likened himself.Still Life with Chair CaningPicasso, 1912.Oil, oilcloth, and ropeon canvas. 10” x 1’2”.Girl with Mandolin (1910)Three Musicians (1921)Girl Before aMirror (1932)
Guernica•••••••••GuernicaPicasso, 1937. Oil on canvas. 11’5” x 25’5”.
Guernica• Although he moved to Paris, Picasso kept an eye on the politicalevents in his home country of Spain.• In the 1930s, a civil war broke out in Spain. Although he believedthat art should be used as “an instrument for offensive and defensivewar against the enemy,” when an exiled Spanish official in Parisasked Picasso to produce a major work for the Spanish Pavilion atthe Paris International Exposition, he hesitated.• Shortly thereafter, the city of Guernica, the capital of the Basqueregion of Spain, was brutally bombed by Nazi air forces allied withthe rebel Spanish general Francisco Franco. They bombed the city atthe busiest hour of a market day, killing or wounding many ofGuernica’s 7000 inhabitants.• News of the bombing jolted Picasso into action, and he completedthe large-scale painting in only two months.• The painting shows the aftermath of a bombing (no bombs shown,no German planes). It could be the aftermath of any war atrocity.• Discuss what each figure is doing.• The bull represents brutality and darkness.• The fragmentation and dislocation of the figures echoes the actualhorror and pain of the event.• To accent the starkness, he limited his palette to greyscale.GuernicaPicasso, 1937. Oil on canvas. 11’5” x 25’5”.
Georges Braque• Braque and Picasso pioneered both Analytic and Synthetic Cubismtogether, both making important works in each sub-genre.• This painting is an example of the earlier Analytic Cubist era.• The subject of the painting is a musician that the artist recalled seeingyears earlier in a bar in Marseilles.• How is this work (as well as Girl with Mandolin) different from the worko the Fauves and German Expressionists?• Braque’s dissection of the man and his instrument is so thorough thatthe viewer must look closely to discover clues to the subject.• Braque left some lighter areas transparent, so that the viewer couldlook through the plane of the lighter color to a different image below.• He added stenciled letters and numbers to add to the painting’scomplexity. The letters are flat shapes, and they lie flat on the paintedcanvas surface, yet the shading and shapes of other forms seem to flowbehind and underneath them, pushing the letters and numbers forward.Sometimes they seem attached to the surface of some object within thepainting.• The letters seem to anchor the painting in the world of representation,thereby increasing the tension between representation and abstraction,and creating a sense of doubt and ambiguity for the viewer.The PortugueseGeorges Braque, 1911.Oil on canvas, 3’10” x 2’8”
Cubist Sculpture• The Russian artist Archipenko was influenced by Analytic Cubism.• He explored the Cubist idea of spatial ambiguity and therelationship between sold forms and space.• In this sculpture, instead of sculpting a head, he left a negativespace (void) where here head should be. Although negative spaceshave been common in art throughout history, this was one of thefirst in which it was an integral part of the design/composition.• The negative space is of equal importance to the form.• Julio Gonzalez was a Spanish artist and friend of Picasso, who wasfrom a family of metalworkers. He helped Picasso with severalsculptures that Picasso designed.• While helping Picasso with the technical aspects of welding,Gonzalez in turn learned about abstract sculpture.• In his version of Woman Combing her Hair, he used prefabricatedmaterials (such as iron rods and sheets), which he welded togetherto make the sculpture.• The overall effect is rougher and rawer than Archipenko’s smoothbronze cast.• Furthermore, Gonzalez’s take is less realistic than Archipenko’s.While Achipenko’s is easily identifiable as a female figure, Gonzalez’sis not.Woman Combing Her HairAleksander Archipenko, 1915.Bronze, 1’2” tall.Woman Combing Her HairJulio Gonzalez, 1936.Welded Iron, 4’4” tall.
Purism & Fernand Léger• Purism, an art movement founded by the architect and painter LeCorbusier, believed that Cubism was merely decorative, and out oftouch with the “machine age.”• Purists maintained machinery’s clean functional lines and the pureforms of its parts should direct artists’ experiments in design.• Fernand Léger, a former French Cubist, was inspired by the“machine aesthetic,” and brought together the meticulous Cubistanalysis of form with Purism’s broad simplification and machinelikefinish of the design components.• Léger’s works have the sharp precision of a machine, whose beautyand quality he appreciated.• He incorporated into his works the massive effects of modernposters and billboard advertisements, the harsh flashing of electriclights, and the noise of traffic.• He depicted the mechanical commotion of urban life, including therobotic movements of mechanized people.The CityFernand Léger, 1919.Oil on canvas, 7’7” x 9’9”.
Futurism• Futurism was a movement located in Italy that shared many of thesame interests as the French Cubists and German Expressionists.• Had a strong socio-political agenda. Futurists were indignant overthe political and cultural decline of Italy, and published fierymanifestoes advocating revolution and the destruction of museums(which they called “mausoleums”).• They advocated war, seeing it as a cleansing agent.• Aesthetically, they were interested in the speed and dynamism ofmodern technology.• Futurist art often focused on motion in time and space,incorporating the Cubist discoveries derived from formal analysis.• “We declare… that all forms of imitation must be despised, allforms of originality glorified… that all subjects previously used mustbe swept aside in order to express our whirling life of ssteel, of pride,of fever and of speed… that movement and light destroy themateriality of bodies.” – from Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto.Dynamism of a Dog on a LeashGiacomo Balla, 1912.Oil on canvas, 2’11” x 3’7”.
Boccioni• Boccioni was one of the co-signers of the manifesto.• His sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, is the definitiveexample of Futurist sculpture because it highlights the formal andspatial effects of motion rather than their source, the human figure.• The figure is so expanded, interrupted, and broken in plane andcontour that it almost disappears behind the blur of its movement.• It bears some resemblance to Nike of Samothrace (WingedVictory), but the ancient sculpture only used the billowing of fabricand posture to convey motion.• In its power and sense of vital activity, this sculpture creates animage symbolic of the dynamic quality of modern life.Unique Forms of Continuity in SpaceUmberto Boccioni, 1913 (cast 1931).Bronze, 3’8” tall.
Severini• Severini’s painting depicts an armored train, mounted with abooming cannon, below which riflemen aim at an unseen target.• The train is “high tech,” with glossy, aerodynamic sides and shinyrivets.• Severini depicted all of the components of the painting (train,soldiers, cannon, smoke, etc.) broken into facets and planes,suggesting action and movement.• The painting depicts the Futurists’ passion for speed, moderntechnology and aesthetics, and their faith in the cleansing action ofwar.• In contrast to the Cubists and German Expressionists, the colors arelight, and death and destruction (the tragic consequences of war)are absent.• Once World War I broke out, the group dissipated, because manyof the war-supporting members of the group joined the army. Someof them, such as Boccioni, died in the war.Armored TrainGino Severini, 1915.Oil on canvas, 3’10” x 2’10”.
Dada• “Cubism was a school of painting. Futurism was a political movement.DADA is a state of mind.” – Andre Breton• Although Futurists hoped the war would revolutionize the world, thereality of war was different. New weapon technologies, such as machineguns, poison gas shells, armored vehicles, and high explosives, resulted in ahuge death toll.• Furthermore, there was no clear, “justifiable” reason for the war in thefirst place. It was primarily fought due to rivalries between Serbia/Russiaand Austria/Hungary, which in turn dragged in the other powers of Europe.• The Dada movement emerged in reaction to what many artists saw asnothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide. Dadaistsbelieved that Enlightenment reasoning had produced global devastation,and consequently, they turned away from logic in favor of the irrational.Absurdity became their goal.• Although initially a cynical, pessimistic, even nihilistic movement, itevolved to have a whimsical, irreverent, and yet also thought-provokingsense of humor.• Influenced by the writings of Freud (exploration of the unconscious andinner drives) and Jung (who elaborated on Freud’s theories by dividing theunconscious into the personal unconscious and collective unconscious).• The collective unconscious is comprised of memories, associations sharedby all humans. People are not born with a clean slate.L. H. O. O. Q.Marcel Duchamp, 1919.
Arp• Arp incorporated the element of chance into his work.• Tired of his Cubist-inspired collages, he tore some squares out ofcolored paper, and dropped them onto a larger paper on the floor.With some minor adjusting, he then glued the papers into place.• The similarity of the shapes guaranteed a somewhat regulardesign, enhanced by his adjustments, but chance had introduced animbalance that seemed to Arp to restore to his work a specialmysterious vitality he wanted to preserve.• Arp’s renunciation of artistic control and reliance on chance whencreating his compositions reinforced the anarchy and subversioninherent in Dada.• “For us chance was the ‘unconscious mind’ that Freud haddiscovered in 1900… Adoption of chance had another purpose, asecret one. This was to restore to the work of art its primeval magicpower and to find a way back to the immediacy it had lost throughcontact with classicism.” – Hans RichterCollage Arranged According to the Laws of ChanceJean Arp, 1916-1917.Torn and pasted paper. 1’7” x 1’2”.
Duchamp• Duchamp was French, and spent the early part of his art career inParis, and the later part in New York City.• First introduced his “readymade” sculptures in 1913, which weremass-produced common objects, or “found objects” that the artistselected and sometimes modified (“assisted readymade”).• His most outrageous (and hence famous) readymade was Fountain,a urinal that he turned onto its back, and signed “R. Mutt” (whichwas a pun on the Mott plumbing manufacturer and the characterMutt from the comic strip “Mutt and Jeff”).• The art of this artwork lay in the artist’s choice of object, which hadthe effect of conferring the status of art on it and forcing viewers tosee the object in a new light.• “Whether ‘R.Mutt’ with his own hands made the fountain or nothas no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life,placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the newtitle and point of view – created a new thought for that object.”• Fountain was exhibited at the Society of Independent Artist’s show(in America), which typically exhibited all works entered. However,the show coordinators were outraged, and rejected Fountain.• After The Large Glass, Duchamp turned away from art to pursue hisinterest in chess.FountainMarcel Duchamp, 1917.Glazed sanitary china withblack paint, 1’ high.Rrose SelavyPhoto by Man Ray.The Bride Stripped Bare by herBachelors, Even (The Large Glass)
Suprematism/Constructivism• Russian movements which embraced the idea that art was integralto helping improve society (as opposed to the pessimistic Dadaistview).• Suprematism – a movement developed by the Russian artistKazimir Malevich, who believed that the supreme reality in the worldwas “pure feeling,” which attaches to no object.• Malevich called for new, nonobjective forms in art – shapes notrelated to objects in the visible world.• Constructivism – a Russian art movement began in 1919 that wasinspired by the Russian Revolution (1917) . Focus on space and time.Believed art could harness the power of industrialization to benefitall people.Monument to the Third InternationalVladimir Tatlin, 1919-1920.
Malevich• “Under Suprematism I understand the supremacy of pure feeling increative art. To the Suprematist, the visual phenomena of theobjective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thingis feeling…” - Malevich• The basic form of his art was the rectangle.• In this artwork, the brightly colored shapes float against and withina white space, and the artist placed them in dynamic relationship toone another. What makes them dynamic?• Malevich believed that everyone could understand his art, as heused the pure language of shape and color, to which everyone couldrespond intuitively.• In 1917, militarily weakened by WWI, the Russian revolution brokeout due to dissatisfaction with Tsar Nicholas II, who subsequentlyabdicated the throne in March. By the end of the year, theBolsheviks, a faction of Russian Social Democrats (who later calledthemselves Communists), lead by Lenin, had wrested control fromthe provisional government (as well as several satellite countries).• Although Malevich viewed the revolution as an opportunity towipe out past traditions and begin a new art culture, the politicalleaders of the Soviet Union decided their new communist societyneeded a more practical, realistic art, which could be used to teachthe public about their new government.Suprematist Composition: Airplane FlyingKazimir Malevich, 1915.Oil on canvas, 1’11” x 1’7”.
Gabo• Like Malevich, Gabo believed that art should come from sources separatefrom the everyday world. For Gabo, the new reality was the space-timeworld described by early -20th-century scientists.• Gabo called himself a Constructivist because he built up his sculpturespiece by piece, instead of carving or modeling them in traditional ways.• Although some of his works involve real motion, most of his works reliedon the relationship of mass and space to suggest the nature of space-time.• To indicate volumes of mass and space more clearly in his sculpture, Gaboused some new clear synthetic plastic materials (such as celluloid, nylon,and Lucite) to create constructions whose space seems to flow through aswell as around the transparent materials.• In Column, Gabo opened up the column’s circular mass so viewers couldexperience the volume of space it occupies. Instead of making a circularcolumn, Gabo implies the circularity of the column by having a circular basetopped with two intersecting vertical planes.• The opaque colored planes at the base and elsewhere set up counter-rhythms to the crossed upright planes. They establish the sense of dynamickinetic movement Gabo always sought to express as an essential part ofreality.ColumnNaum Gabo, c. 1923.Perspex, wood, metal, glass. 3’5” tall.
American Art1900-1935• Increasingly common transatlantic travel resulted in greaterexchange of artistic ideas among European and American artists.• Some artists, like Whistler and Cassatt, moved from the US toEurope. On the other hand, many European artists (especiallybefore and after WWI) moved to the US.• The early years of American art, still unexposed to therevolutionary work of their European counterparts, continued inRealism, depicting an unvarnished look at American life.• The most prominent group of American Realist artists wereknown as The Eight, lead by their teacher Robert Henri.• Because their images depicting the rapidly changing urbanlandscape of New York City often captured the bleak and seedyaspects of city life, The Eight eventually became known as the AshCan School.• The relative isolation of American artists from developmentsacross the Atlantic came to an abrupt end in March 1913 when theArmory Show opened in New York City.Sixth Avenue and 30thStreet, New York City,John Sloan, 1907.
Armory Show• Today, the Armory Show is considered a seminal event in thebeginning of American modernism, but at the time it was hated bycritics. The show, held in the 69thRegiment Armory in NYC, exhibitedover 1,600 artworks by American and European artists.• The show was organized by Walt Kuhn and Arthur Davies, whosegoal in exhibiting American and European art side-by-side was to helpthe American artists consider whether the had “fallen behind.”• European artists exhibited included Duchamp, Matisse, Picasso,Braque, Kandinsky, Kirchner, and Brancusi.• Perhaps the most reviled artwork of the show was Duchamp’s NudeDescending a Staircase, No. 2, which (unlike his usual Dadaist work) isstylistically similar to Futurists and Cubists.• Critics used the following words to describe the show: pathological,menace, lunatic, depraved, alien, perilous.• The show also travelled to Boston and Chicago.Nude Descending aStaircase, No. 2Marcel Duchamp,1912.Oil on canvas,4’10” x 2’11”
Man Ray• Man Ray (original name Emmanuel Radnitzky) was anAmerican artist, but as a close friend of Duchamp’s, his artreflected a strong Dadaist sensibility.• Although primarily known for his photography, he alsocreated ready-mades of found objects, such as his Gift.• Ray was interested in mass-produced objects andtechnology, as well as a dedication to exploring thepsychological realm of human perception.• Man Ray was trained as an architectural draftsman andengineer, and earned a living as a graphic designer andportrait photographer.• His interest in portraiture is evident in his many portraits ofhis contemporaries, including Duchamp (as Rrose Selavy)and Meret Oppenheim, a Surrealist artist.• In his famous image, Ingres’ Violin, Man Ray referencedIngre’s depictions of the nude female, such as in Odalisqueand the Bather of Valpincon. He painted the f holes onto thephotograph, then took a second photograph of the original.What does the image suggest?Ingres’ ViolinMan Ray, 1924.Gelatin silver print, 11.5” x 9”.GiftRrose SelavySelf-PortraitWith CameraMeret OppenheimTears
Georgia O’Keeffe• In her early career, Wisconsin-born O’Keeffe was a Precisionist(an American movement that celebrated the beauty of mechanicalprecision). In 1918, she moved to NYC, where she focused on theawe-inspiring complexity of the city, as in New York, Night.• While in NYC, she met Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer who alsoowned an art gallery called 291 that regularly exhibited the latestEuropean and American art.• Stieglitz was impressed with O’Keeffe’s talent, and drew her intohis artistic circles. Eventually, the pair married.• In 1929, looking for new inspiration, and to get away fromsummers in rural New York with Stieglitz’s family, O’Keeffe, wentwith a friend to New Mexico. Inspired by the quiet beauty of thelandscape, she returned annually to paint, and moved therepermanently in 1949 (after the death of Stieglitz).• In addition to the New Mexico landscapes, O’Keeffe is known forpainting close-ups of flowers. Her flower paintings stripped theflowers to their purest forms and colors to heighten theirexpressive power.• Exhibiting the natural flow of curved planes and contour,O’Keeffe simplified the form almost to the point of completeabstraction. Her painting is like quiet, graceful poetry, reflectingthe slow, controlled motion of growing life.Jack in the Pulpit, No. IVGeorgia O’Keeffe, 1930.Oil on canvas, 40” x 30”.
Alfred Stieglitz• Alfred Stieglitz, O’Keeffe’s husband, was an accomplishedphotographer in addition to gallery owner.• He worked to promote photography as a form of “fine art” likepainting, rather than a hobby or tool of necessity.• Although he photographed a wide variety of subjects,including portraits of loved ones and shifting clouds in the sky,he is perhaps most well known for his images of urbanity.• During a voyage to Europe in 1907, he grew tired of hiswealthy companions in first class. He wandered forward on theship to the end of the first class level, and looked out upon thesteerage passengers – people the US government sent back toEurope after refusing them entrance into the country.• In addition to the depiction of “simple people,” Stieglitz wasalso interested in the formal elements of his composition. Partof what struck him when he took The Steerage was the variousintersecting diagonal lines, which created strong trianglesthroughout the work.• Stieglitz wanted his photographs to be as honest as possible,and developed his photos using the basic photographictechniques (no “tricks” such as double exposures or otherwiseadding things to the image).The SteerageAlfred Stieglitz, 1907.Photogravure (ontissue),1’ x 10”
Frank Lloyd Wright• Wisconsin-born architect Frank Lloyd Wright moved to Chicagoand joined the modern architecture firm headed by Sullivan.• He believed in natural, organic, nonsymmetrical buildings that fitinto their environments. He aimed to develop an organic unity ofplanning, structure, materials, and site, through continuity.• In Robie House, Wright designed what he called a “Prairie House”due to its long, sweeping, ground hugging lines that captured theexpansiveness of the Midwest.• Features of Robie House: no façade, hidden entrance, extendedroof past walls, asymmetrical, closed bedrooms, open commonspace arranged around a hearth, enclosed patios, and stripwindows to let in light.• Fallingwater was designed as a weekend home for thedepartment store magnate Edgar Kaufmann Sr.• Built OVER a waterfall (instead of next to it). Emphasis onintegrating the architecture into the surroundings.• Building designed using cantilevered terraces that extend outover the water below. Variety of textures (stone, glass, paintedmetal, and concrete) enliven the surface of the building.• Focus on defining space, not mass.• Later in life, designed smaller, less expensive prairie house likedwellings called Usonian houses (United States of North America).Fallingwater(Kaufmann House)F. L. WrightBear Run, Penn.1936-39.Robie House,Chicago, 1907-1909.
Chrysler Building• Art Deco was a movement in the 1920s-30s which sought toupgrade industrial design to “fine art” while using new materialsand decorative patterns that reflected the simplifying trends inmodernist architecture.• A descendant of Art Nouveau, Art Deco had a streamlined,elongated symmetrical aspects, characterized by flat shapesfilled with hard-edged patterns.• The focus on stream-lined, aerodynamic design began withtrains, cars, and boats, and the popular appeal of these objectslead to the streamlined aesthetic to be applied to all sorts ofobjects (furniture, jewelry, utensils, illustrations, etc.).• The masterpiece of Art Deco architecture is the ChryslerBuilding in New York City, designed by William van Alen.• In the Roaring Twenties, American millionaires andcorporations competed with one another to raise the tallestskyscrapers in the biggest cities.• Built up of polished stainless steel diminishing fan shapes, thespire glitters triumphantly in the sky, a resplendent crownhonoring the business achievements of the great auto-maker.• A temple of commerce, the Chrysler Building celebrated theprinciples and success of American business before the GreatDepression of the 1930s.Chrysler BuildingWilliam van Alen, Art Deco spire.New York, NY, 1928-1930.