The Protestant ReformationAt this point in history there is only one church in the West -- the Catholic Church --under the leadership of the Pope in Rome. The Church had been for some time anotoriously corrupt institution plagued by internal power struggles.Martin Luther began the Reformation in 1517 by posting his "95 Theses" on the doorof the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.At first, the Church ignored Martin Luther, thinking that he would just go away. Whenthat didnt work, they excommunicated him. Luthers ideas quickly spread throughoutEurope. The Churchs response to the threat from Luther and others during thisperiod is called the Counter-Reformation.In 1545 the Church called the Council of Trent to deal with the issues raised by Luther.Luthers Reformation is the first real challenge to the Churchs authority in Europe andrepresents the end of its grip on power.
The BaroqueBaroque art is the style of the late 1500s and 1600s. The important thing to keep inmind now is that the Baroque style in Italy is the direct result of the Counter-Reformation. The Church needs a powerful style of art to use in the fight againstMartin Luther.Caravaggio is probably the quintessential Baroque artist. His works embody all of theaspects important to the power of images to affect emotion.Drama: usually, there is a very dark background with little to no detail. The figures arelit dramatically, as if from a spotlight, to heighten the dramatic tension.Space: one of the main characteristics of Baroque art is the breakdown of the barrierbetween our space and the space of the painting, so we feel like were really part of it.Realism: not only do the figures look "regular," but the artist is giving us a very realsense of this moment. The body of Christ looks truly dead, the figures struggle to holdthe dead weight of his body and ease him down gently into his tomb. They are all veryordinary looking and not idealized at all.Baroque art wants to get to you in your body—so you really feel it, and relate to it.When you know something in your mind it is one thing, but when you experience itwith your body it is really different. Baroque art wants you to have an experiencethats located in your body—unlike the High Renaissance, which appealed to themind.
The EnlightenmentThe thinkers of the Enlightenment, influenced by the scientific revolutions of theprevious century, believed in shedding the light of science and reason on the world,and in order to question traditional ideas and ways of doing things. The scientificrevolution gave the impression that the universe behaved according to universal andunchanging laws. This provided a model for looking rationally on human institutionsas well as nature. The Enlightenment was a period of profound optimism, a sense thatwith science and reason human society would improve.The Enlightenment encouraged criticism of the corruption of the monarchy (at thispoint Louis XVI), and the aristocracy. They condemned Rococo art for being immoraland indecent and called for a new kind of art.In 1789 the French Revolution began. The Neo-classicists, such as Jacques-LouisDavid, preferred the well-delineated form—clear drawing and modeling. The Neo-classical surface had to look perfectly smooth—no evidence of brush-strokes shouldbe discernable to the naked eye. The Neo-classicists wanted to express rationality andsobriety that was fitting for their times. David supported the rebels through an art thatasked for clear-headed thinking, self-sacrifice to the State and an austerityreminiscent of Republican Rome.
David became closely aligned with the republican government and his work wasincreasingly used as propaganda with the Death of Marat proving his mostcontroversial work. David sought to transfer the sacred qualities long associated withthe monarchy and the Catholic Church to the new French Republic. He painted Marat,martyr of the Revolution, in a style reminiscent of a Christian martyr, with the face andbody bathed in a soft, glowing light.The Revolution was extreme in its excesses and soon gave way to The Terror, ofwhich both David and Marat played a pivotal role. The painting was used heavily as astrong piece of pro-revolutionary propaganda but waned in influence as the revolutionwaned.By the time Napolean declares himself emperor of France, David has escapedexecution for his role in The Terror and is appointed first painter for Napolean,glorifying him in much the same way as Louis the XVI.
RomanticismThe modernist thinking which emerged in the Renaissance began to take shape as alarger pattern of thought in the 18th century. Mention may be made first of the so-called ‘Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns’, a literary and artistic dispute thatdominated European intellectual life at the end of the 17th century and the beginningof the 18th century. The crux was the issue of whether Moderns (i.e. contemporarywriters and artists) were now morally and artistically superior to the Ancients (i.e.writers and artists of ancient Greece and Rome).As the 19th century progressed, the practice of artistic freedom became fundamentalto progressive modernism. Artists began to seek freedom not just from the rules ofthe Academy, but from the expectations of the public. It was claimed that artpossessed its own intrinsic value and should not have to be made to satisfy anyedifying, utilitarian, or moral function.The Romantics saw this freedom in the wild abandon of nature. They believed that thepath to intellectual awakening lay in the ability to be awed by the power of nature, itsspectacle and grandeur. This concept, The Sublime, was a fundamental aspect of theRomantic period in art.The real turning point came with the invention of photography in the mid 19 th century.The ability to capture reality allowed artists to concentrate on more individualizedperceptions of nature and existence.
Early ModernismCharacteristics of Impressionist paintings include relatively small, thin, yet visiblebrush strokes; open composition ; emphasis on accurate depiction of light in itschanging qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time); common,ordinary subject matter; the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of humanperception and experience; and unusual visual angles.The impressionists are interested in new advances in science and ways of seeing.They took a strong interest in how reality is perceived through different types of light.Other variants of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism focus on other aspects ofvisual perception:Pointilism and Fauvism focus on the uses of color and the way the eye mixes color inthe mind.Expressionism focuses on emotion and feeling rather than scientific analysis.Many of these artists are rejected by the French academy, either for their techniquesor their subject matter. Eduard Manet sets up his own exhibition of rejected works andbegins a tradition of Modernism opposing the status quo and establishment ideas.
Cubism and FuturismBy the beginning of the 20th century, the industrial revolution has given way to a fullscale explosion in mass-production and technological advancement. Moving pictures,radio transmissions, skyscrapers, trains, automobiles all allow for a new perspectiveof the world and there is a great faith that industry will allow for a progressiontowards a utopian ideal.With this perception, there is also an embrace of the picture plane as a space forartistic experimentation in capturing the spirit of the age, one of speed, progress, andadvancement.Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque invent Cubism in Paris. It is an attempt to depictmultiple views of an object or scene in a single picture. It also draws on the simplifiedabstraction of indigenous art from Africa. These experiments also lead to theinvention of collage, in which elements from the real world are introduced into thepictorial space.Futurism is an Italian art movement that obsessed over the promise of mechanizationand saw beauty only in speed and movement. They saw the future of humanity in themachine and saw the current age as decadent and inept. The only answer, they said,was to use mechanical warfare as a way to cleanse humanity and rebuild a newtechnological utopia.
WWI and CultureWWI begins in 1914 and consumes all of Europe, eventually drawing in the UnitedStates and ending in 1918. It represents a number of major changes in the world,socio-economically and culturally.Primarily, it ends the love affair between art and technological progress. Once the fullpower of the machine is put to use in warfare, it becomes clear that industry held thepotential to not only progress humanity but also to destroy it.WWI also marked the final end of the Age of Empires in Europe. Following the war,representative democracy takes hold across the continent.The war also provides grounds for cynicism in the arts. Many thousands ofintellectuals died in the war, and the few who returned no longer had the sameenthusiasm for war. Rather than a path to glory, it was only a mindless slaughter,orchestrated by wealthy elites.Dadaism is first invented in Zurich in 1916 but spreads after the war to Berlin and onto the US. These artists were all horrified by the war, which they blamed on Westerncivilization itself. To express their revolt, they organized "anti-art" events. Theseevents were principally directed against Western art, which the Dadaists saw as thehighest expression of the culture they abhorred.
Between the WarsBerlin and Paris become cultural capitals in the years between the wars.The Weimar Republic in Germany allows for a broad freedom of expression but soonleads to corruption and decadence. Berlin is a hotbed of political activism as well as apromiscuous nightlife. The New Objectivists are interested in capturing this worldwith all its imperfections. Otto Dix and George Grosz depict this side of Berlin:prostitutes, cabarets, disfigured war veterans, as well as mocking the bureaucracyand financial elites.The Surrealist movement was founded in Paris 1924 by a small group of writers andartists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of theimagination. Disdaining rationalism and literary realism, and powerfully influenced byFreud, the Surrealists believed the conscious mind repressed the power of theimagination, weighting it down with taboos. Influenced also by Marx, they hoped thatthe psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spuron revolution. Their emphasis on the power of the imagination puts them in thetradition of Romanticism, but unlike their forbears, they believed that revelationscould be found on the street and in everyday life.
New YorkThe Armory Show in 1913 is Americas first introduction to European Modernism. It isnot taken seriously at first. Alfred Stieglitz is an early champion and shows many ofthe moderns at his 291 gallery.America has a strong artistic tradition based on a social realism. The GreatDepression sees many artists commissioned by the government to depict themes ofhard work, perseverance, and the spirit of the people. Regionalism is the label appliedto artists working in different areas of the Midwest and focused on mythologizing theAmerican Experience.The Ashcan School in NYC takes the immigrant experience of the city as itsinspiration. John Sloan and Robert Henri depict the vibrancy of life in the tenementswhile Edward Hopper captures the alienation of the individual among the teemingmasses.The Harlem Renaissance is a strong cultural force for African Americans in the city.Jacob Lawrence and Stuart Davis take more influence from the European modernistsin their depiction of life in the black community.By the end of the 1930s, the influx of intellectuals escaping Europe cements NY as thenew capital of the art world.
Abstract ExpressionismDuring and following WWII, artists in New York begin making work in a new style:large, athletic, aggressive and masculine. They are influenced by the Europeanmodernists living among them, especially the Surrealists and their focus on thesubconscious as a means for expression. However, they also embrace anexistentialist view, in which the artist alone creates his perception of an absurd andchaotic universe. Ab-Ex would be the last big movement of High Modernism.Jackson Pollock used hardened brushes, sticks, and even basting syringes as paintapplicators. Pollocks technique of pouring and dripping paint is thought to be one ofthe origins of the term action painting. With this technique, Pollock was able toachieve a more immediate means of creating art, the paint now literally flowing fromhis chosen tool onto the canvas. By defying the convention of painting on an uprightsurface, he added a new dimension by being able to view and apply paint to hiscanvases from all directions.The hallmark of de Koonings style was an emphasis on complex figure groundambiguity. Background figures would overlap other figures causing them to appear inthe foreground, which in turn might be overlapped by dripping lines of paint thuspositioning the area into the background. During this period he also created otherpaintings of women. Aggressive brushwork and strategically placed high-key colors inthese paintings merged with images of toothy snarls, overripe, pendulous breasts,enlarged eyes and blasted extremities to reveal a woman seemingly congruent withsome of modern mans most widely held sexual fears.
Movements After 1945Pop Art rejected the intellectualism of High Modernism in favor of a celebration of“Low Culture”: cartoons, comic books, television, celebrity and advertising. They sawno need to create new ideas and imagery but rather felt free to appropriate the culturethey saw around them. Andy Warhol was obsessed with creating art that looked like ithad been mass-produced while Roy Lichtenstein copied panels from comic books,enlarging them and placing them in a new context.Minimalismwas shaped by a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. Minimalistswanted to remove suggestions of self-expressionism from the art work, as well asevocations of illusion or transcendence - or, indeed, metaphors of any kind, though assome critics have pointed out, that proved difficult. Unhappy with the modernistemphasis on medium-specificity, the Minimalists also sought to erase distinctionsbetween paintings and sculptures, and to make instead, as Donald Judd said:"specific objects."Land Art sought to eliminate the effect of market forces on art. They created artoutside the gallery and museum, in nature, often in massive scale. They wanted the artto be experienced and to affect the senses rather than be collected and sold. Thismovement also coincided with a broader interest in ecology and the environment.Installation art was a movement that tried to overwhelm the viewers senses. It createdenvironments that completely surrounded the viewer and forced them to movethrough spaces and experience the art in a temporal sense.
In creating entire environments for the viewer, artists also became interested in newtechnologies to engage the senses. Sound art and video art offered new possibilitiesfor disrupting normal perceptions of the world. It borrowed from many previousmovements but also embraced the most current recording and playback technology.This allowed it to take the form of many versions of popular culture and thereforesuccessfully subvert them in order to examine and challenge their structures.Street Art is the most recent of the art movements weve discussed. It incorporatesmany aspects of modernism: challenges to the status quo, cynicism of authority,radical politics and new ways of depicting images. It also operates in the public space,allowing for a dialog between it and other imagery we see on a daily basis.