Until recently, the word ‘modern’ was used to refer generically to the contemporaneous; all art is modern at the time it is made. In the history of art, however, the term ‘modern’ is used to refer to a period dating from roughly the 1860s through the 1970s and describes the style and ideology of art produced during that era. It is this more specific use of modern that is intended when people speak of modern art.So quite clearly then it is used to refer to Contemporary Art: Art from the 1960's or 70's up until this very minute i.e. Postmodern Art.No doubt we are familiar withterm Postmodernism, although admittedly you may not pertain to understand fully what it may mean.Postmodernism itself with its prefix of ‘post’ means after modernism but this is a misnomer. Postmodernism is not Anti-Modernism, and as we work through the course you will be able to identify particular inheritances from Modernism in contemporary or Postmodern art practice and theory. In that sense Postmodernism is not necessarily a rupture, a break.Indeed we see a refreshed attention to Modernism’s potentials in a number of contemporary artist work.
ModernismAt the beginning of the twenty-first century our relationship to Modernism is complex. The built environment that we live in today was largely shaped by Modernism. The buildings we inhabit, the chairs we sit on, the graphic design that surrounds us have all been created by the aesthetics and the ideology of Modernist design. We live in an era that still identifies itself in terms of Modernism, as post-Modernist or even post-post-Modernist.Modernism was the movement that revolutionised the world around us and the way we live it.
The intentions of this suite of lecture is to adopt a much broader perspective on of modernism. It is within this larger context that we can discover the underpinnings of the philosophy of modernism and identify its aims and goals. It will also reveal another dimension to the perception of art and the identity of the artist in the modern world.
Modernism as a term is typically associated with the twentieth-century reaction against realism and romanticism within the arts. ThereforeModernism can be thought of as the self-conscious response in the arts to the experience of modernity.A radically altered aesthetic form and perspective: the modernist stress upon art as a self-referential construct instead of as a mirror of nature or societyModernism is generally used as a way of referring to an aesthetic approach dominant in European and American art and literature in the period, from the late 19th century to the mid to late 20th century.The principles of formalism and the autonomy of art are generally assumed to be key features of Modernism.
Modernism valorized personal style. This presupposes a unique individuality—a private identity or self (subject)— that generates his or her own style according to a personal vision.
*That said, we will see in progressive weeks that despite the fact that Modernism had been closely associated with left-wing politics. In the 1930s, however, it proved surprisingly adaptable to different political systems, including dictatorships.
It is important to make clear the distinction between Modernity and Modernism.
WHAT IS MODERNITY?The project of modernity is one with that of the Enlightenment: to develop spheres of science, morality and art according to their inner logic. It was dependent on the belief in universal laws and truths, and the idea that knowledge is objective, independent of culture, gender, etc. Modernity was posited on the notion that progress is based upon knowledge, and man is capable of discerning objective absolute truths in science and the arts. It is often associated with capitalism and notions such as progress.Modernity is fundamentally about order: about rationality and rationalization, creating order out of chaos. The assumption is that creating more rationality is conducive to creating more order, and that the more ordered a society is, the better it will function.Thus modern societies rely on continually establishing a binary opposition between "order" and "disorder," so that they can assert the superiority of "order." In western culture, then, disorder becomes "the other"—defined in relation toother binary oppositions. Thus anything non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-hygienic, non-rational, (etc.) becomes part of "disorder,” and has to be eliminated from the ordered, rational modern society.The "project of Modernity" can be thought of as the development of science, philosophy, and art, each according to its own inner logic. We will see in later weeks how these idea can to the fore in the latter part of modernism as it was articulated by the notable ad influential critic Clement Greenberg. (you will be hearing al lot more about him in later weeks)
There were a number of key developments that had a big impact on artists working in the 19th centuryFor instance, the Enlightenment, which was characterised by an impulse towards modernity in matters of government, politics, religion and aesthetics. The transformations and changes happening in Europe between led to demand new ways of looking at, understanding and explaining things and events through the social science. The Enlightenment was a cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th-century Europe, that sought to mobilize the power of reason, in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstitionThis preoccupied many great thinkers to theorize on the phenomena of changes. They were motivated by feelings of beneficent humanity, that they were on the side of the future and that the future was on their side. In spite of its allegiance to the classical tradition, the Enlightenment was a modernising force, keen to review and regenerate culture and society.In its desire to replace outmoded, irrational ways of thinking by the rational, the sensible and the progressive, the Enlightenment was self-consciously modern. A manifestly scientific age and the visible advancement of knowledge in the eighteenth century required, it was felt, an overhaul – or at least a careful critical and radical scrutiny – of culture, society and their institutions.The Enlightenment project of modernity stressedthe importance of truth and abstract reason;universalizing grand narratives that aspire to completeness; the distinction between "high" and "low" or popular culture.
Another modernising force in the period was the growing pace of industrialisation, as the methods of cottage outworkers were gradually replaced by mass factory production of goods. As people moved increasingly to work in towns, old social communities and values were under threat.Philosophy of Modernism, was also the rejection of religion, of myths etc, asthe shift was towards rationalism, logic.The concept of ‘modernity’ is often associated with the secular, rational and progressive aspects of the Enlightenment, more specifically with the growing status of secular public opinion.The process of ‘modernising’ permeated culture in all kinds of ways, however, and was certainly not restricted to the secular. There were those, however, who questioned the rapid momentum and effects of change.The Industrial RevolutionModern city as symbolic of modernity, progress and innovationPower of man over nature, man at the centre of the universe, domesticating, managing natureIdea of a better tomorrow (modernity), this utopian idea is something we have perhaps lost as cynicism crept in in the 1970sHowever as Seurat’s painting demonstrates there is a radical ambiguity at play here…critique of modernity…chimneys, factories, workers etcModernism and modernity are by now mortal antagonist, not blood brotherse.g. Seutat’s ‘Bathers of Asnieves’ (1884)
The Salon des Refusés, was, as the name implies, an exhibition of rejects. It was also one of the defining moments of modernism.
The SalondesRefusés was held in 1863 and featured artworks that were rejected by the Académiedes Beaux-Arts' official Paris Salon Exhibition. More than half of the submissions to the official Salon were rejected, including Manet’sLe Déjeunersurl'herbe (Lunch on the Grass)TheSalon des Refuséswas set up under the order of Emperor Napoleon III after many people publicly questioned the legitimacy of the selection process. The SalondesRefusés is understood as a watershed moment in Western art; highlighting in the most public of ways the fissure between the "approved" academic approach to painting and the style of the early modernists.Why did Manet paint Le Déjeunersurl'herbe and Olympia? The standard answer is: Because he was interested in exploring new subject matter, new painterly values, and new spatial relationships.But there is another more interesting question beyond this: Why was Manet exploring new subject matter, new painterly values and spatial relationships? He produced a modernist painting, yes, but why did he produce such a work?
Introduction to Modernism week 1
Modernism in Art: An Introduction Week 1Salon des Refusés: Breaking with the Academy email@example.com
Aims of this course• To help you understand the various theoretical, historical and methodological developments within society, culture and art from the mid 19th century to 1970.• Help you to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of art during this time period.• To highlight how modernist ideas and core issues still inform contemporary practice.
Aims of this lecture• To provide a general understanding of the broader factors influencing the way European artists worked before and during the 19th century.• To explain what the Salon des Refuses of 1863 signified and how it represented changes in society and culture.• To provide a clear definition of Modernism, Modern Art and Modernity.
What is Modern Art?NOT Contemporary Art: Art from the 1960sor 70s up until this very minute i.e.Postmodern Art.Modernism’s legacydoes have a continuinginfluence oncontemporary art. Tate Modern
ModernismAt the beginning of the twenty-first century our relationship toModernism is complex.We live in an era that still identifies itself in terms ofModernism, as post-Modernist or even post-post-Modernist.
What is Modernism? Discussions of Modernism in art have been couched largely in formal and stylistic terms. Art historians tend to speak of modern painting, for example, as concerned primarily with qualities of colour, shape, and line applied systematically or expressively, and marked over time by an increasing concern with flatness and a declining interest in subject matter.
What is Modernism?• Typically associated with the twentieth-century reaction against realism and romanticism within the arts.• The self-conscious response in the arts to the experience of modernity.• A radically altered aesthetic form and perspective. Picasso Les Demoiselles dAvignon (1907)
ModernismModernism was not conceived as a style but a loose collectionof ideas. It was a term which covered a range of movementsand styles that largely rejected history and applied ornament,and which embraced abstraction.Modernism valorized personal style, generated by an artistspersonal vision. Jackson Pollock
ModernismModernists believed in technology as the key means toachieve social improvement and in the machine as a symbol ofthat aspiration.All of these principles were frequently combined with socialand political beliefs (largely left-leaning) which held that designand art could, and should, transform society. Scene from Metropolis Fritz Lang (1927)
ModernismOften linked with notions of the avant-garde, (avant-gardebeing more political than modernism), modernist artists testedconvention, both aesthetically and materially, and weretroubled by their relationships to politics and institutions. Picasso, Guernica (1937)
ModernismAt the core of Modernism lay the idea that the world had to befundamentally rethought.Many artists were intoxicated by the endless possibilitiesoffered by science and technology. Charlie Chaplin Modern Times (1936)
Modernism is related to but not to be confused with Modernity.Modernity relates to the massive changes in cultureand society due mainly to the developments broughtabout by the industrial revolutions and subsequentpolitical unrest within Europe.Modernism is an answer to modernisation andmodernity.
What is Modernity?Modernity was posited on the notion that progress is basedupon knowledge, and man is capable of discerning objectiveabsolute truths in science and the arts.The project of modernity is one with that of the Enlightenment:to develop spheres of science, morality and art according totheir inner logic. It was dependent on the belief in universallaws and truths, and the idea that knowledge is objective,independent of culture, gender, etc.
The Enlightenment The Enlightenment was a cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th-century Europe, that sought to mobilize the power of reason, in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectualDelacroix interchange and opposedlLiberty Leading the People superstition.(1830)
Industrial RevolutionGreat Exhibition set in the vast Crystal Palace in Londons Hyde Park (1851)
The Salon des RefusésAn exhibition of rejectsOne of the defining moments of Modernism
“Let the public decide” Emperor Napoleon II (1863)The first modern painting is known to be Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (Manet, 1863)
Modernism: Reading ListKey texts you will find these general works useful as anintroduction to many of the themes covered in the course.Foster, H. ed. (2004) Art since 1900: Modernism, AntiModernism, Postmodernism. London, Thames & Hudson.Cottington, D. (2005) Modern Art – A Very Short Introduction.Oxford, University Press.Lechte, J.(1994) Fifty Key thinkers from Structuralism toPostmodernity. London, Routledge.Clark, TJ (1999) Farewell to an Idea. London, Yale UniversityPress,
Reading List cont…Wood, P. (2004) Varieties of Modernism. Yale, The OpenUniversity. Meecham, P & Sheldon, J. (2000) Modern Art: ACritical Introduction. London, Routledge.Harrison, C. (1997) Modernism. London, Tate Gallery.Harrison, C& Wood, P. ed. (2003) Art in Theory. Oxford, Blackwell.Chadwick, W. (2002) Women, art, and society. New York, Thames& Hudson.Crow, T (1996) Modern Art in the Common Culture. London, OpenUniversity Press.
Reading List cont…Fer & Batchelor & Wood Ed. (1993) Realism, Rationalism,Surrealism – Art between the Wars. London, Open UniversityPress.Harrison, Frascina, Perry. Ed. (1993) Primitivism, Cubism,Abstraction – The early Twentieth Century. London, OpenUniversity Press.Frascina & Harris. Ed. (1992) Art in Modern Culture. London,Phaidon.Perry, G. (1999). Gender and Art.Yale University Press.Wood, Frascina, Harris, Harrison. Ed. (1993) Modernism inDispute – Art Since the Forties. London, Open University Press.