Art from 1900-1919

I have added notes or responses to my tutor feedback for this assignment at the end of these notes and also have made any necessary amendments.

I fully admit that ‘modern art’ from the beginning of the 20th Century is not something I have much understanding or knowledge on and have struggled much more to understand it even after reading the chapters and hence I feel that it is better to leave clearer notes that I can reference and understand rather than summarise and abbreviate to an extent I question what I have written and hence I have decided to leave my notes in a slightly longer version than is required by my course assignment.

As I have written these notes I have changed my mind on whether I like or dislike each period and certainly Futurism is a period that fascinates me due to its use of colour and dynamic forms which give a real impression of the speed and beauty of the mechanical age of the automobile – perhaps my reasoning for this is a love of cars but also this is now the period in which one grandfather was born and the other was just about to come to England from Southern Ireland to join the British Army so now the art and ideals are of a time which has a personal connection.  I am starting to understand the principals and ideas of the different variations of Cubism and Expressionism but the point where abstraction becomes total is the point for me that art goes beyond art and almost becomes another form in itself – a visual form of art that does not conform to a traditional or non-traditional definition of art.

So onto the notes – longer than required but necessary for understanding:


Queen Victoria died 1901.  World War I 1914-1918. Architects in Germany – ‘alliance with leftist political utopianism …. ’ (meaning creating a perfect society) … ‘with artistic avant-gardes’ at its height (p. 778 WHA) – creativity/imagination ideology lead to forms of anarchism. Futurist ideals spread throughout Europe – better known than Cubism – replacing old Italian past with new arts, poetry & society reflecting beauty of speed – the time of the automobile – WW1 cut short movement – architect Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916) unable to build designs (… for me reminiscent of the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci) – attempt to revive after war failed due to alliance with Fascism.  Abstract art can be linked with contemporary/political theory of the early 20th C due to its acquiring a ‘sense of social destiny’ (p. 793 WHA).  Russian Revolution. De Stijl artists – Calvinist backgrounds – morally high ideals believing man/woman to become balanced both in society and individually.


Henri Matisse – major artist of the Fauves. Henri Rousseau – greatest and only naïve artist who lived. Artists clearly reached levels of fame through their works/exhibitions both in Europe and in 1910 in Russia – some due to their expertise within their artistic movements.  Chief patrons of Matisse and Picasso around 1910 onwards – wealthy Moscow merchants with private collections open to public which meant Russian artists including Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964), Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) in 1912/13 at start of Russian abstract movement (also comes under heading of Styles and Movements).


Revolt against all forms of naturalism – new methods and ideas – painting, sculpture, architecture.  Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – Picasso – conceived as a flat or nearly flat painting of ‘complex invented forms – revolutionary break with Western illusionistic art.  Picasso abandoned human form in traditional artistic views and re-ordered it – no single viewpoint or proportions – figure comprising geometrical lozenges/triangles – new treatment of space/form + unexpressed emotions/states of mind – no coherences of representational art. Kandinsky – 2nd great breakthrough –  ‘Improvisations’ work being 1st of his abstract works which had what he termed spiritual relationship with primitive art and artists – instinctive and differing from Picasso’s which I feel was more planned. Process of Fauve and Expressionist style – self observant and introverted with Matisse concentrating on expressing himself through each brushstroke and how he reacted so that his works became subconscious reactions. Der Blaue Reiter group in Munich – first abstract works of art – non-objective –  Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) amongst those eliminated references in his work – Composition IV – Kandinsky – no worldly appearances in regards to forms or coloured shapes – landmark in history of painting. German Expressionists architects – style of high ceiling surrounding central circular stage in Gross Schauspielhaus in Berlin by Erich Mendlesohn (1887-1953) innovative in theatre design – other buildings designed to be expressive of the use within (AEG turbine factory in Berlin in 1909 by Peter Behrens).   Picasso – collage developed further by Braque with Papiers colles – illusionistic space eliminated and totally flat – abstract scheme but colour and form of the objects used still signified – objects used to create collages meaningless. Cubist sculpture – Picasso 1912 – first in sheet metal and wire – changed whole nature of sculpture.


2 tendencies: 1. Subjectivism of Symbolists 2. Objectivism plus transcendent ‘otherness’ of Cezanne – taken to limits – end of artistic traditions dating from 14th C – at end of one direction dilemma described as trying to decide between ‘cult of pure form and cult of inner truth’ (p. 768 WHA).  Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) – naïve artist – technicality combined with conceptual naivity – working in his studio only – tropical jungles combined with imagination creating mysterious and ‘menacing’ works (p. 769 WHA) – written about by poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) (p. 769 WHA) – is his work a new style or new development? Monet’s Nympheas (Water Lilies) series painted – Impressionist style which Picasso’s Les Demoiselles reacted against – Monet aimed to present his impression of nature and in doing so created almost abstract view of his water-lily pool with its light, atmosphere and colour.  Fauve painters – Henri Matisse (1869-1954) major artist within the group – works at exhibition in 1905 described in WHA as ‘strident colours, rough handling and distorted anti-naturalistic drawing’ (p. 774) – colours clashing and expressive but flat areas, perspective used to denote depth, light functional, space minimised, forms simplified into linear patterns, some remaining influences of Art Nouveau – Harmony in Red by Matisse excellent example – no artistic theory developed by the Fauves. Georges Rouault (1871-1958) – described in WHA as ‘finest religious painter of the 20th C – style is that of expressions of spiritual anguish in his faith – separate to the Fauves and closer to German expressionists than French. Emil Nolde (1867-1956) – conveyed his deeply religious feelings in his style. German Expressionism – developed in pre-WWI years as a way of expressing moods and atmosphere – primitive art combined with Christianity affected simplifications and colours of works of Emil Nolde.  German Expressionist also affected architectural style – noted above in ‘Development’ – also seen in Centennial Hall at Wroclaw by Max Berg (1870-1945).   Kandinsky – expressed through use of colour and form – colour expressed emotion and formed direct influences on development of abstract works.  Franz Marc (1880-1916) – Blaue Reiter group – work dominated by his feelings for animals – non-representational forms with spiritual energy – seen in Fighting Forms (unfinished when he was called up for service in WW1).  Cubism – movement – ‘figuration as against abstraction as a conscious and serious issue’ (p. 782 WHA) – intended to be non-representational – Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) – perspective abandoned, figures broken into faceted angles, lighting from different directions and not to give impression of perspective – paintings worked as independent construction (‘tableau-objet’ p. 784 WHA) – Georges Braque (1882-1963) + Picasso invented Cubism in close collaboration – semi-abstract – overlapping planes that tilted towards viewer instead of inwards – 1913 – Armory Show, New York introduced movement to America.  Analytical Cubism (1910-1912) – Picasso and Braque – ‘painterly dissolution of their 1908/9 manner’ (p. 784) WHA – term introduced years later by Juan Cris (1887-1927) Spanish Cubist (misnomer) due to implication of ration process – fragmented forms, no visual model or still life – abstraction/intellectual painting to point of unrecognisable form – colours primarily ochres/silvery greys) – subject matter unimportant.  Synthetic Cubism – mirror image of Analytical Cubism working back towards representation – different forms to object depicted used – subject recognisable – Picasso’s Harlequin example in WHA (p. 788). Orphic Cubism – Francis Picabia (1879-1953), Marcel Duchamp (1884-1968), Sonia Delaunay-Terk (1885-1979), Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), Fernand Leger (1881-1955) – described as ‘prismatic colours dispersed evenly across the canvas in simulataneous contrast and change’ (p. 789 WHA) – dynamic, full of energy/colour – Leger’s style little different with concentration on contrasts including line, form and colour and representing tensions of modern life with its discords or dynamisms.  Futurism – emphasis on intuition, action, ‘simultaneity’ (p. 790 WHA) – sculpture has movement and spontaneity as if moving – Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913 described as having ‘pure plastic rhythm’ (p. 791 WHA) – semi-abstract depiction of the action of a body – sculpture including Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918) The Horse 1914 bronze cast done as mechanized image/abstract form but clearly recognisable. Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), Romanian, possibly stimulated or influenced by Futurism but also folk/African art resulted in The Prodigal Son and other wood sculptures  – the hand-made quality and organic feel hated by the Futurists but Bird in Space (p. 829) embodies the movement with perfect eloquence. Abstract/non-objective art – implication of Cubism resisted by Picasso/Braque – described as ‘absolutely self-sufficient entity of value entirely in and for itself’ (p. 793 WHA) – originate in Romantic theories – avant-garde art pre-war Czarist Russia plus Paris in exhibitions – Western art exhibited in Moscow/St Petersburg – 1910 onwards – Rayonism – Russian abstract movement called by Larionov due to his works resembling rays of lights – Constructivist movement including Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) formed during and after Revolution and main focus was the artistic theory/inspiration of the Rayonism artists – Malevich’s style he himself called ‘Cubo-Futuristic’ (p. 794 WHA) developed towards total abstraction which he then called ‘Suprematism’ (ended 1922) – simple ‘elemental visual forms, which convey the supremacy of idea over matter, over the chaos of nature’ (p. 794 WHA) – shapes not naturally found, bold colours. De Stijl Dutch group of painters – cerebral/idealistic abstract movement – Amsterdam 1917 – founded by painters Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931), architect Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud (1890-1963) – Mondrian pursued spiritual form of art and although used Cubist colours and total abstraction subject matter included trees which gave texture and vibrancy to the works. American architecture – Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959) – architectural designs that blended in with nature and grew out of their environments – symmetry in ‘prairie’ houses disappeared, interior spaces determined both interior and exterior form. International Style architecture – post –War – Adolf Meyer (1881-1929) and Walter Gropius (1883-1969) [both German) – described as glass curtain-walling, flat roof, no cornice, cubic block with no support at corners and little ornamentation with appearance of ‘transparent volume, not solid mass’ (p. 797 WHA) – Germany held solid position in architecture and theory for next few decade.


African and Oceanic art (latter means peoples of  Pacific islands, Australia going across to Hawaii and Easter Island) – only seen at time in anthropological and ethnographical museums – direct influence on artists including Expressionists/Cubists – primitive art (including ‘Negro’ art) plus naïve, folk and children’s art also influenced. African sculpture direct influence on Picasso plus other artists due to energy and ‘creative revelation’ (p. 771 WHA). Influence of Matisse and Cezanne– latter with large figure compositions representing final attempt to recreate Classical tradition and his ‘injunction to treat nature in terms of the sphere, the cylinder and the cone’ (p. 783 WHA) – Cezanne predominant influence  .  Iberian sculpture (pre-Roman Spanish) influence on Picasso plus Cezanne before African art – latter deemed to be depending on knowing rather than seeing. Fauvre painters introduced Picasso to African art – German artists including Emil Nolde more deeply influenced than any others. Der Blaue Reiter Expressionist group – influenced by art from Easter Island, Malay Peninsula, Cameroons, New Caldedonia, Brazil, Mexico plus Russian and Bavarian folk art. Influence and origins of Romantics on abstract art – Roger Fry realised in 1913. Influence of folk arts on Expressionists including Kandinsky and Gabriele Munter (1877-1962).  Music and colour directly influenced abstract painting. Symbolist influence on Cubism. Cubist and Expressionist influence on Futurism. Futurism influence all artistic movements and reached America – Battle of Lights, Coney Island by Joseph Stella example in WHA (p. 791).  Influence on artists by other artists – Malevich’s works influenced El Lissitzky, Vladimir Tatin,, Alexander Rodchenko amongst others particularly during post-Revolutionary period.


Henry Bergson (1859-1941) plus Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) – French and Italian philosophers – parallels between artistic innovations and philosophy.   Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) – Interpretation of Dreams – work involved theories of the subconscious including sexual urge – transformed 20th C attitudes and values – work on understanding instinctual side of human nature with emphasis on emotions/sensations being more important than rational thought. Andre Gide, writer, declared ‘the time for gentleness and dilettantism is past.  What are needed now are barbarians’ (p. 769 WHA). Elie Faure, art historian described Fauvres in 1905 exhibition catalogue as young ‘primitives’ (p. 774 WHA).  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) – philosopher – influenced writers and artists central Europe all of whom who had sense of foreboding in the oppressive atmosphere – Franz Kafka (1883-1945) writer of novels prime example.  Writer Wilhelm Worringer (1881-1965) –  in ‘Form in Gothic and Abstraction and Empathy’ first coined term ‘Expressionist’ in regards to van Gogh and Matisse before being used for artists and architects. Bergson – French philosopher – advanced thoughts of the time – ‘importance of the intuitive in the apprehension of truth’ (p. 779 WHA) – Kandinsky’s thoughts on abstract art in keeping with his theories.  Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) – occult and theosophical theories felt that both artistic experiences and art were the best stimulants for understanding spiritual matters – Kandinsky believed representation of nature was not needed in his art and he was anti-materialist as well as mystical so it is thought he attended Steiner’s lectures as both were living in Munich at the time.  1908 – Worringer – Abstraction and Empathy published – referring to abstract tendencies in art and the withdrawing from the material world.  1912 – Kandinsky – published book Concerning the Spiritual in Art.  Poet Archibald MacLeish – described how Cubism as a term for the movement of a group of artists who exhibited together in 1911.  Albert Gleizes (1881-1953) + Jean Metzinger (1883-1956) – artists who wrote book called Du Cubisme.   Georges Braque – aphorisms on art published 1917.  Marius de Zayas recorded Picasso’s only recorded discussion on Cubism 1923.  Apollinaire – art critic/poet/writer – spoke of Orphic Cubism as ‘pure painting’ (p. 789 WHA). Emilio Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) – launched Futurism 1908 – manifesto published Paris 1909 – sculptor/painter Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) responsible for manifestos on Futurist painting 1910 plus  Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture 1912 – latter parallels Picasso’s breakthrough in sculpture and describes using non-traditional materials (this should also come under Development of Materials/Processes). Adolf Loos (1870-1933) – Austrian architect – Ornament and Crime – 1908 almost biblical book of modern movement in architecture at the time.


Fleming, J and Honour, H. 1984. A World History of Art. Seventh Edition. London.  Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

NLS Design and Visual Arts (date unknown).  Revision Fauvism [online]. [Date Accessed:  27 October 2016].  Available from:

Tutor feedback and notes:

I note my tutor’s comment in her feedback referencing the different demands and criteria as well as limitations regarding architectural innovation and history when you take into consideration the fact that architecture of the 20th century was such a huge topic.  I have a personal interest in the architecture of the 20th century as I worked with for a town planner and architects firm for 2 years so learning about the different movements of the early part of the 20th century has been fascinating.  

My tutor poses a question in her feedback – “Art as more than a mere visual representation of objective reality:  why is there such a shift in the visuality of art around 1900?  What motivating factors are there?” This is a time of economic and political change and unrest as the 19th century ended and the 20th century began which involved considerable invention and innovation in technology – for instance the first wireless transmission took place in 1901 and also automobiles began to be produced which in turn influenced the Futurists.  There was a move away and a rejection of naturalism and a move towards Expressionism.  As I have stated in my notes above abstract art can be directly linked with contemporary/political theory of the early 20th century.  .

A second question is:  “Art as a reflection of history:  how do  historical events or changes direct the course of art in the early twentieth century?” I do not feel that art is a reflection of history but a reflection of society at the time which then becomes historical and is a record of history in much the same way as the artists of today are visually recording the events of my own modern era.  The historical events or changes were visually recorded by the artists or directly influenced the style of their art as they sought to express themselves in new ways and forms – the new innovations of the period and the events of the time meant that the artists sought to react either for them or against them expressively.  The artists sought to express the world around them and art is not a reflection of history but history judges the artists due to their art.  


This entry was posted in ASSIGNMENT 5, ASSIGNMENTS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s