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Early Modernism “The Artist as Idea Maker”. Vol. 1 -1904-1920s. A series of “isms” Local traditions in art have given way to international trends Three “isms” are most important and have branched off throughout the 20th century- Expressionism, Abstraction, and Fantasy

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Early Modernism

“The Artist as Idea Maker”

Vol. 1 -1904-1920s


A series of “isms”

  • Local traditions in art have given way to international trends
  • Three “isms” are most important and have branched off throughout the 20th century- Expressionism, Abstraction, and Fantasy
  • Expressionism- the human community
  • Abstraction- the structure of reality
  • Fantasy- the individual human mind
  • Realism continues as a trend along with other movements throughout the 20th century
  • Modernism allowed artists to assert their freedom to create in a new style and provide them with a mission to define the meaning of their times
  • Influenced by- the beginning of the atomic age
  • -existentialism (Nietzsche)- “God is Dead”
  • -the invention of psychoanalysis
  • Freud-inner drives control human behavior
  • Jung-collective unconscious
  • -The Russian Revolution
  • -The Great War (humanity’s inhumanity)
  • -The Great Global Depression
  • -the rise of the “Avant Garde”


  • -release of the artist’s inner vision
  • -evoke feelings from the viewer
  • Fauvism- very short-lived
  • full of violent color and bold distortion, brutal brushstrokes
  • Shocking to the critics and the public
  • Called “Fauves”- wild beasts
  • Artists wore the label with pride
  • Sense of liberation and experimentation held the group together
  • Color’s structural, expressive, and aesthetic capabilities

Henri Matisse, The Joy of Life, 1905-06

  • Flat planes of color, bold outlines come from Gauguin-also humanity in a state of nature- pagan scene like a bacchanal
  • “genius of omission”- radical simplification
  • The act of painting was joyous for him and his paintings show this

Believed that color was the formal element most responsible for pictorial coherence

  • Color was not meant to imitate nature, but to express inner emotions

Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911


Fauvism with political connotations

  • Reminiscent of stained glass because Roualt was an apprentice
  • A figure of merciless authority clutching flowers

Roualt, The Old King, 1916-37


German Expressionism- “Die Brucke” (The Bridge)

  • Color is important, but equal to that of distortion of images and violent brushstrokes
  • Movement centered in Dresden, Germany and led by Ernst Kirschner
  • Thought of themselves as bridging the old age of art with the new
  • Influenced by medieval craft guilds- lived and worked together equally
  • Focused on the detrimental effects of industrialization

Kirschner, Self Portrait, 1915


Most of Emile Nolde’s paintings were religious like Roualt

  • Slashing, violent brushstrokes for non-angry subject matter

Nolde, Wildly Dancing Children, 1912


Austrian painter related to the group

  • Like Van Gogh- saw himself as an inner visionary, a witness to inner truth
  • Tortured psyche influenced by Freud’s work

Kokoschka, Self Portrait, 1913


Kathe Kollwitz

  • Worked almost exclusively in printmaking and drawing
  • Themes of inhumanity and injustice
  • The plight of workers and war victims
  • Pacifist- son died in WWI

Kollwitz, The Survivors, 1923


Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)- another German Expressionist movement

  • Produced feeling is visual form

Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913

  • Complete abstraction- non-objective work-elimination of representation
  • Knew about music, literature, science (the atomic theory)- material objects have no structure or purpose
  • Orchestration of color, form, line, and space- blueprints for an enlightened and liberated society, emphasizing spirituality

Armory Show of 1913 introduced America to Fauvism and German Expressionism

  • Started in NY and traveled to Chicago and Boston
  • Armory show contained over 1600 pieces of art- exposed American viewers and artists to work going on in Europe
  • Very controversial- NY Times called it “Pathological”
  • Alfred Steiglitz, a photographer, was pivotal in supporting American abstractionists
  • Marsden Hartley was an American living in Munich and was directly influenced by these European movements

Hartley, Portrait of a German Officer, 1914


Followed Matisse’s “genius of omission”

  • Disturbed the basic shape of the material as little as possible
  • Interested in primitive carvings and their formal simplicity and coherence

Brancusi, Golden Bird, 1919


Moore, Reclining Figure, 1935-36

  • Henry Moore- simplicity of form continued
  • Also influenced by prehistoric- Monoliths
  • Classical motif that has been eroded


  • The process of analyzing and simplifying observed reality
  • First “rediscovered” by Cezanne
  • Picasso- staggering contributions to the history of art and the development of abstraction
  • Traditional artist in that he made careful studies of his work
  • Quest for innovation, insistence on challenging established views, constant experimentation
  • Found inspiration from African sculpture (due to widened colonialism)
  • Fractured shapes, jagged planes, illegible space-tension between 2d and 3d
  • Inconsistency of treatment of the women

Picasso, Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, 1907

“I paint forms as I think them, not as I see them”



  • a radical turning point in the history of art
  • Dismissal of pictorial illusionism
  • Cezanne’s idea of the cylinder, sphere, and cone
  • New logic of design
  • Painting moved far beyond the depiction of reality- mirrored society’s fears of the uncertainty of a non-Newtonian world
  • Received its name after Matisse described a work by Braque as having been painted in “little cubes”

Analytical Cubism

  • Little contrast in color
  • Complex and systematic design
  • Faceted shapes, translucent divisions of space
  • Differing views of the same subject in the same work
  • Invented by Picasso and George Braque- at the same time, but not really in collaboration
  • Retains some sort of depth

Picasso, Portrait of Vollard, 1910


Synthetic Cubism

  • Invented by Braque and Picasso
  • Puts forms back together after breaking them apart
  • “Collage Cubism” after the French word for “paste-ups”
  • Foreign materials are pasted onto the design- makes the collage look like a real surface
  • Scraps are changed and painted on, giving them a double meaning
  • Both represent and present (be themselves)
  • Picture plane is in front of the surface

Braque, Gillet, 1914

New Space Concept- first since Masaccio


Started to add color to Cubsim in the 1920s

  • Renaissance perspective gone wrong
  • Jumble of flat shapes turn into a slight image
  • Dog beats to a rhythm

Picasso, Three Musicians, 1921


Cubism in sculpture

  • Fragmented, dissolved form
  • Split into many planes
  • Parallels with Braque and Picasso

Lipchitz, Bather, 1917


Movement of Purism invented by architect Le Corbusier, the architect

  • Opposed Synthetic Cubism because it was out of touch with the machine age
  • Thought that design should come from the clean functional lines of machines
  • Ferdinand Leger- clean lines mixed with Cubist sensibility
  • Very precise and very large!! (7’X9’)

Leger, The City, 1919



  • Cubism was adapted to stand for the dynamism of modern life- always moving and changing
  • Futurists rejected the past and exalted the beauty of the machine
  • Showed motion in a static image
  • 2oth century energy
  • Many of the artists of the movement were killed in WWI- by the machines that they loved

Boccioni, Dynamism of a Cyclist, 1913



  • Started as a reaction to the horrors of WWI and Nihilism
  • Began independently in Zurich and NY
  • French for “hobbyhorse”
  • Believed that reason and logic had been responsible for war
  • Only hope was anarchy, irrationality, and intuition
  • Pessimism and disgust of the artists helped them reject tradition-
  • Arp pioneered the use of chance in artwork- releassed him from the role of artist
  • For Dadaists, the idea of chance comes from the unconsciousness- influenced by Freud

Jean Arp, Collage Arranged According to the Laws of Chance, 1916-17


Duchamp was the central figure in NY Dada scene

  • Exhibited his first “ready-made” sculptures- mass produced common products “selected” by the artist
  • Free from the opinions of the population- neither good or bad taste
  • Forces viewers to see the “artness” of objects

Duchamp, Fountain, 1913



  • most Dada artists joined the Surrealist movement as well
  • Included many similar ideas -used Dada techniques to “release the unconscious”
  • Exploration of ways to express in art the world of dreams and the unconscious
  • Inspired by Freud and Jung- interested in the nature of dreams
  • In dreams, people moved beyond the constraints of society
  • To bring inner and outer reality together
  • Two forms of Surrealism;
    • Biomorphic (interested in life forms)- Miro
    • Naturalistic (recognizable scenes of nightmare or dream images)-Magritte, Dali

Precursor to Surrealism

  • Disquieting sense of forboding and creepiness
  • As if another world exists beneath the one that is visible- influenced by Nietzsche who said “foreboding tha underneath this reality in which we live and have our being, another altogether different reality lies concealed”

De Chirico, Melancholy and Mystery of a Street, 1914


Interested in Collage and “decalcomania”- transferring oil paint from another surface

  • Used rubbings called “Frottage”- joined fragmented images from newspapers and magazines to create a disjointed image

Max Ernst, La Toilette de la Mariee, 1940


Salvidore Dali, Illuminated Pleasures, 1929

  • The celebrity of the group
  • Dreamlike, disquieting combination of images- sexual in nature, convincingly real

Joan Miro- organic forms that expand and contract visually

  • Used automatism- planned accidents
  • Element of hallucination
  • Began paintings as collages so that he could move elements around at will
  • Combination of unconscious and conscious image-making

Miro, Le Petit Rose, 1933


Klee, Golden Fish, 1922

  • Used fantasy images to represent the non-visible world
  • Thought that humanity’s deeper nature could be found in primitive shapes and symbols
  • Studied nature and science, especially the processes of growth and change

Oppenheim, Luncheon in Fur, 1936

  • Humor and eroticism of Surrealism translated into sculpture
  • Magical transformation of forms and textures to show the absurdness of everyday objects