When do Art Historians think Modernism began? Well, they don’t all agree, but most will say that Realism was definitely part of modernism. Modern ways of thought and interpreting the human experience through art began by the mid 19th century. The role of the artist changes as technology and society experience dramatic changes.
Dramatic changes were underway in Europe, and to some extent, the United States. The end of the Napoleonic wars in the mid 1800s allowed for economic growth and the rise of a capitalistic economy. New technology changed the society from agricultural to urban. Trains carried people easily for long distances, and cities grew, helped by the use of iron in building. Photography also gave humanity a new way to document reality, which also changed the role of the traditional artist.
Photographers and artists however, were interested in the difficulties faced by the new laboring class, who struggled to survive in the laissez faire attitude of this time period.
The plight of the urban poor was quite extreme. Immigrants moved to the large cities to work in factories, but living and working conditions were terrible in many places. Major thinkers of the day were Darwin, Comte, and Marx as science was applied to social issues. Photographers and painters exposed the daily life of the hard working laborers.
The first World’s Fair celebrated the technological advances of the time. The Eiffel Tower graced the Fair entrance, symbolizing unity as people worked together to build this tall, iron structure.
In New York city, major advances in suspension bridge technology helped Augustus and Roebling build the Brooklyn Bridge, which is still used today by millions.
In this time period, artists and photographers were no longer interested in classical traditions. Courbet famously said: “Show me an angel, and I’ll paint you one.” Realists wanted to show daily life around them, not mystical angels or Greek Gods. In France, painters such as Daumier, Courbet, and Bonheur showed us nobility and dignity in ordinary events and people.
Courbet gave us the Stonebreakers with their back-breaking labor. Courbet was rejected by the Salon for portraying everyday workers, but went on to become one of the most successful artists of his generation.
Jean Francois Millet’s The Gleaners has the poorest of the poor picking up scraps of grain that are leftover from the harvest. This was seen as a socialist painting at the time. His contemporary, Rosa Bonheur
Bonheur fought for women’s rights and animal rights, and became one of the most noted animal painters in France. She was scandalous because she wore trousers and went out into the farm fields to study animals.
Daumier was an illustrator and political cartoonist, who made many social criticisms through his artwork. He actually went to jail for making fun of the King. In this piece, he shows the dehumanizing nature of mass transportation.
Across the pond, realists were not so involved in social issues but were interested in every day life. Thomas Eakins was one of these. He taught anatomy to art students and figure drawing to medical students, and here documents a dissection in a medical school. He also pioneered letting black and female students study art and draw nudes.
Henry Tanner answered the ugly stereotypes about African Americans with unsentimental yet dignified paintings like The Banjo Lesson. Tanner was one of few African American painters in the U.S.
Homer documented a real life rescue at sea, as well as being a magazine illustrator.
Sargent was a famous portrait painter who was interested in capturing the psychological nature of his subjects. His portrait of Madame X caused a scandal in Paris with her haughty pose and expression.
Not everyone was a realist.. The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood looked back to the Venetian Renaissance for style and medieval times for subjects.
The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood was closely involved with the arts and crafts movement in furniture, textile, and metal arts. William Morris led a return to handcrafted furniture, textiles, in response to what he saw as a lot of mass produced crap.
You can see the Arts and Crafts style today in Home Depot, Target, and so forth with simple, clean designs. Ironically, most of todays Mission Style or Arts and Crafts Style are mass produced in China.
Manet is often confused with Monet, and maybe because they exhibited together. Manet started out as a Realist but became more of an Impressionist, after causing a lot of uproar with his modern painting, Luncheon on the Grass. He did not understand the controversy, as Giorgione’s Pastoral Concert was his inspiration.
Manet later would become more Impressionistic as he organized exhibits for artists rejected by the Paris Salon. I will leave you with one question, which truly gets to the nature of Modern Art. Who is the man in the mirror? And who are you?
Mid 19th Century Art & Architecture: The Birth of Modernism Changing the role of art and artists
1848-1860s - Economy• Three class system – capitalists --> centralized economic control – laborers--> poor education & living conditions – middle class --> “laissez-faire”
Tenement Interior in Poverty Gap, an English Coal Heaver’s Home, Jacob Riis, 1889. Published study in NY called How the Other Half Lives http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZl4KXsaKVE
Social Realism & PhotoJournalismMathew Brady, Civil War photographer…generals, battlefields...
Realism: Social & Political Equality• Marx’ theory of communism• Darwin theory of evolution• Comte: positivism…all knowledge comes from tested scientific proof
Eiffel Tower, Gustav Eiffel,Paris, 1889, iron.Taller than Notre Dame andother buildings in Paris.Created for 1889 Worlds Fair
Brooklyn BridgeJohn Augustus and WashingtonAugustus Roebling, NY, 1867-1883• Greatest construction achievement of era.• Roebling, German Immigrant, had major breakthrough in suspension bridge technology (web truss).
Realism & Role of Art– Role of Artist: • no longer to simply reveal beautiful & sublime • aimed to tell the truth • not beholden to higher, reality (i.e., God)– Subjects: • ordinary events and objects • working class & broad panorama of society • “Show me an angel, and I’ll paint you one…”
Realism in France: Courbet (1850) The Stonebreakers, 1850Miserable job; socialist ideals; Monumentality of everyday -Self educated artist, SALON REJECT …
Millet’s The Gleaners (c. 1857) •Barbizon School of French painting •Poorest of the poor, picking up scraps of grain •Figures become part of landscape •Haystacks and wagon reflect shapes of gleaners •Seen as socialist painting
Rosa Bonheur’s Plowing on the Ninverais (c. 1850)Influenced by Positivism.. Large canvas, virtues of simple country living in asweeping panorama… noted animal painter who fought for women’s rights
Daumier’s Third Class Carriage (c. 1865) Influence of William Hogarth Daumier was jailed for satirizing king political cartoon Dignity of working class, even though crammed together in mass transportation 1st piece showing dehumanizing mass transport
US Realism: Eakins’ The Gross Clinic (c. 1875) Triangular composition with Baroque lighting Noted anatomist who taught anatomy & figure drawing, pioneered letting black and female students study and draw nudes
Henry O. Tanner The Banjo Lesson, 1883 •American realist taught by Eakins •1st noted black painter •Painterly brushwork, monumental forms •Dignity of exchange between generations; answers ugly stereotypes of African Americans •Unsentimental yet affectionate
US Realism: Winslow Homer’s The Lifeline •Homer began as freelance illustrator Spent a year on N. Sea Coast of England •Sketches of an actual event
John Singer Sargent’s Madame X, 1988 •American portrait artist much sought after in US and Europe •This portrait caused a scandal in the Paris salon of 1888 •Sargent moved to England and painted quasi impressionist •Captured personality of his subjects •Painterly brushwork, outstanding capture of clothing/fashions
English – Pre-Raphaelites: the anti-Realists• Dante Gabriel Rosetti - poet & painter• Returned to more Venetian styles; influenced Symbolism• Medieval stories & spirituality“I have been here before, But when or how I cannot tell: I know the grass beyond the door, The sweet keen smell, The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.” The Roman Widow, Rosetti, 1848
English Realism – Arts and Crafts• Ruskin - loss of fine craft through Industrialization• Movement leader: Morris, ardent socialist, poet, artist• Dehumanized factory labor; loss of pride in work… search for nature• Female artisans in metal working, textile arts, etc.• Morris worked w/PRB artists like Rosetti and Burne-Jones Flora Tapestry, 1885, William Morris
US Arts and Crafts Movement• In US,: home design, furniture, and ceramics – still in use today• Stickley furniture (Mission Style) -buy today !• Home Depot Authentic Mission Style Lighting Collection• Simplicity, Honesty, Truth• Emphasizing wood grain Mission Media Cabinet, Walnut, Target, Assembly Required, $159.99
ÉDOUARD MANET, Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), 1863. 22