Research notes – Between the two World Wars

These notes are an extended version of my assignment notes which I did in preparation and during the course of research and reading and have decided to include them in my blog for possible future reference and also as they enabled me to gather my thoughts.


WWI – great impact on Western Culture – ended long period of material progress/prosperity plus cut short creative genius of late 19th & 20th centuries (p. 798 WHA) – Western civilisation not yet recovered.  Russian Revolution. USSR established 1923.  Great Depression – 1930’s – Wall Street Crash 1929. Dada movement political implications particularly during early post-war years – Max Ernst (1891-1976) with entry to an exhibition through a public lavatory – gestures like that mocked pompous bourgeois society and what was considered art and culture – Dada members wanted new order in artistic, intellectual and social terms but in same vein not many positive intentions however the Surrealists did and they were the successors.  Surrealists – connections to political revolution including Communism – latter only lasted 4 years. Braque & Matisse & Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) celebrated bourgeois values in their art – opposite to Dadaists and Surrealists. Diego Rivera played key part in ‘cultural relations’ between North and South America (p. 805 WHA) – most relevant artist in debated over ‘indigenous or national as against international styles in art’ (p. 805 WHA) – debated both in America (North and South) & Europe between Communists and Fascists – End of Mexican civil war government wanted public art available to all. Rivera possibly accepted commissions by American capitalists with hope of getting across political and social awareness and also Communist agenda – had spent a year in Soviet Union and Great Depression had begun. Surrealism – similar vein to Dada being against the bourgeois society plus disruptive but without the spontaneous anarchy – a movement rather than style with theory and program – 1939 Surrealists fled to sanctuary of New York where they continued to work and exhibit & subsequentially set in motion the new post-war movements. John Heartfield used photomontages for anti-Nazi purposes – exhibition, London, 1939, One Man’s War Against Hitler exhibition – originally works done for posters or periodicals. Photomontages also used by Nazi’s for propaganda and advertising due to false reality impression. Photography also used to portray the economic downturn and propaganda of the Great Depression – photographers included Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) & Walker Evans (1903-1975) – Lange also took photographs of the homeless or unemployed (joined Roy E. Stryker (1893-1976)); Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1972), photographer, & novelist Erskine Caldwell – recorded social scene of southern stages for book You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) –  portrayed reality of rural life for those who live in the city. Post-WW1 Germany – belief artist could help new social conditions – creating new ‘visual environments (p. 821 WHA) – The Bauhaus, Weimer – centre of this feeling throughout Europe. 1936 – Spanish Civil war began – April 1937 Guernica destroyed by Nazi bombers – Picasso depicted the scene (Guernica, 1937 oil on canvas) – art depicted life with the pictorial techniques of the modern age but now in such a way that the work could be understood by all.


Artists/intellectuals had sought neutral countries – including musicians (Igor Stravinksy), writers such as James Joyce – avoided war and protested against society that came from it.  Murals painted in Mexico City 1923-1928 established Rivera’s reputation and hence gained American patrons who wanted public art launched in U.S. – works for those patrons portrayed American capitalists as villains (!). Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) – wife of Diego Rivera but later divorced – given prominent status by Surrealists in way not seen before  but status defined in Freudian masculine terms and still viewed as something for male needs and desires – welcomed into the Surrealist movement but resisted & stayed outside of it … “They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams, I painted my own reality” – mainly painted self-portraits with exploration of her own body and in doing so explored cultural & sexual identity. Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) – 1902 founded Photographic Secession – 1905 collaborated with Edward Steichen (1879-1973) to exhibit photographs alongside works of art by Picasso/Matisse/African sculptures (first time in America) – promoted work of Georgia O’Keeffe (became Stieglitz’s wife) & Arthur G. Dove amongst other artists – he introduced the artistic ideas of Europe to the U.S.A. with photography to express them. After Russian Revolution artists/architects had brief period of official recognition.  1932 Russia suppressed artistic groupings – shift in Soviet artistic policy towards revival styles & Socialist realism (former in architecture and latter for figurative arts) which created official style lacking in creativity.  The Bauhaus – launched 1919 by Gropius – combined Schools of Arts and Crafts + Fine Arts into one (Bauhaus means House of Building).


Paper colles – letting torn paper fall and bonding to fix into abstract patterns – see Dada. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) – ready-made art – objects that were art purely due to the fact the artist chose them [personal note:  described in WHA has having visual attracting and distinction but for me an object cannot become art just because someone says it is – this is the antithesis of art rather than art but I have to bear in mind Duchamp’s anarchist personality and the other factor that WHA points out is that the object as art raises aesthetic questions so if an object is considered art and it causes discussion is it then art or still the originating object? Definition of what constitutes art comes into play].  Bonnard, Vuillard & others wanted to paint colour as it is actually is in nature. Charles Sheeler – pioneered sharp-focus effects in photography. Max Ernst developed frottage (rubbing) – literally rubbed surfaces and created images – not compatible with the poets automatic writing. Dada & Surrealist – sculpture/art works made of combination of scrap metal and junk – artists studios suddenly gained metals/iron – Picasso took his Cubist sculptures and now moved sculpting from closed form to open form (revolutionary for sculpture);  Alexander Calder (1898-1976) & David Smith (1906-65), Americans, based suspended sculptures on wires (described in WHA, p. 814 as ‘flat biomorphic shapes’) – Miro’s paintings inspiration – kinetic sculpture followed which moved due to air currents –  named ‘mobiles’ and the free-standing immobile sculptures by Calder called ‘stabiles.  Photography – Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966) – Vortographs invented – ‘non-representational images’ (p. 816, WHA); Man Ray – Photograms – objects place on sensitized paper with light turned on very briefly & print developed – 12 published in Les Champs delicieuses 1922 –  images made without use of camera – Surrealist;  Photomontage – type of collage – Dada group, Berlin; Mart Stam (1899-1986), Dutch architect – introduced cantilever principle 1924; Marcel Breuer (1902-81), Hungarian architect, – first chromium plated chairs – used at the Bauhaus 1925.


Matisse & Braque – post-war style refined colour/texture/handling – landscapes, nudes, still life… signs of ‘bourgeois comfort’ (p. 798 WHA).  Picasso – 2/3 totally different styles not just Cubism – for a short period succumbed to the post-war call to order. Dada and Surrealism – started pre-1914. Dada – origins – cabaret in Zurich in 1916 – deemed a state of mind (not artistic/literary movement) – described in WHA (p. 800) as ‘anarchic, nihilistic and disruptive’ – opposed traditional ideas of good taste or established values for art/literature – name is made up and literally means nothing – major artists Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943), Jean (Hans Arp) (1887-1966) … paper colles. Dada group, in wartime, formed with Duchamp and Francis Picabia (1879-1953), Cuban, – simplified drawings incorporating real or invented mechanical forms by Picabia which paralleled Duchamp’s most baffling piece The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even [Large Glass] which strikes as almost mixed media. Matisse style – refined, restrained and well-bred as desired by bourgeois society – pure and serene in style. ‘Nabis’ – name for group of painters including Bonnard and Jean Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) – meaning of name is ‘prophets’ – originally part of Symbolist movement but 1920’s saw them painting intimiste works i.e. scenes of ‘provincial domesticity’ (p. 802 WHA) – pieces were intensely private and pleasure loving so were not taken seriously during the post-war period but now considered perfect ideal of French modest but civilised lifestyle – impressionist style with soft colours. Edward Hopper (1882-1967) & Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) – technically Realist movement but refused classification or association with any Realist American groups including American Scene Painters or Regionalist painters (New Deal era – group included John Steuart Curry (1897-1946), Grant Wood (1891-1942), Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)) – style was or urban scenes through close-observation of down-town Neighbourhood and subsequential effects of the Great Depression. Charles Sheeler – origins in photography – style specialism was architectural subjects – painted works of buildings with unusual perspectives developed into Precisionism style – geometry and technology combined mirroring modern American of his era – landscapes painted had all man-made objects and without figures. Mexican Muralists – Diego Riviera (1866-1957), Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) & David Alfaro Sequeiros (1894-1974) – leaders of Mexican art – Rivera’s style was faces/bodies of peasants referring to Pre-Columbian sculptures + Italian Renaissance frescoes (studied extensively in Italy and Europe 1908-1921) combined with mechanical shapes – later work American patrons work was less political and more nationalistic in style including pieces painted for Dwight D. Morrow, American ambassador – latter work distinctly secular/materialistic but monumental with use of geometry. Surrealism – Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) – notable painter of the movement – disturbing style seemingly bland with works focused on dreams/nightmares before changing style to more academic deliberate style; first Surrealist exhibition Paris 1925 – former Dadaists exhibiting included Max Ernst & Hans Arp – style came from the unconscious mind – Ernst recorded dreams in his collage novel series Les Femmes 100 tetes – 1929 – 149 collage images of various sources but primarily 19th C book illustrations (wood-engraved); Salvador Dali (1904-89) – ‘hand-painted dream photographs’ including The Persistence of Memory – disturbing style depicting the mind of the dreamer and passing of time – disturbing and disruptive imagery used by the group including Rene Magritte (1898-1967); Joan Miro (1893-1983) – works of semi-abstract nature derived from his sub-conscious; Picasso – style of open sculpture – collaborated with Julio Gonzalez (1876-1942), metalworker to make wire figures first open-form figures from Picasso’s drawings – Gonzalez more daring & combined welding & assembly which was his pre-WW1 work; Calder’s sculpture work was primarily abstract; David Smith – style of ‘space frames’ (WHA, p. 814) – ‘pictorial frame for a frontal yet three-dimensional composition’ (WHA, p. 814).  Alfred Stieglitz – style similar to past but styles of others differed including that of Man Ray (Emanuel Rudnitsky (1890-1976)); Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) – captured different aspect of social life as a ‘casual observer’ (p. 818 WHA) – ‘Brussels’ most memorable image; Photography separated from visual arts. Constructivism – architects, sculptors, designers – El (Eleazer Markevich) Lissitzky (1890-1941), Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953) – latter totally abstract works – architectural – style spirit  ‘utilitarian simplicity and respect for the logic of materials (p. 819 WHA) – ideology … anti-aesthetic –  aims .. ‘social, utilitarian and materialistic’ (p. 819 WHA) – role of artist was to express the movement – most influential work in exhibition design, typography & publicity + architecture; Lissitzky – Prouns … meaning ‘For the New Art’ (p. 820 WHA)  – his paintings – architectural style;  Constructivist ideas spread to the West; Tatlin’s photomontages – ‘visual expressions of the ‘ideals of the Revolution’ (p. 820 WHA) – paintings eventually evolved into abstract-expressionist style. Bauhaus style – moved towards simplicity and functionality particularly for industrial design – Gropius encouraged individuality in students – style of steel beams supporting expansive glazed walls with reinforced concrete with exterior walls reducing to minimal white strips at top & bottom, absence of moldings/ornamentation, cubic style and precision … became known as International Style surviving WW2 & for next 50 years – German school closed by Nazis 1933, moved to USA through staff including Gropius – Chicago Institute of Design opened 1937 founded by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) former Bauhaus teacher – Kandinsky and Paul Klee (Swiss painter) (1870-194) members of Bauhaus; Klee – small scale works based on elemental symbols and ‘essentials of form’ (p. 822, WHA) – previous to Bauhaus had been part of the Blaue Reiter group pre-WW1; Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1964)  Schroder House, Utrecht – International Style. Piet Mondrian, former De Stijl painter, – wanted to create art with purity and renunciation of ‘physical appearances’ (p. 823 WHA) – I summarised in a note as abstract art but designed tension with limited palette of primary colours plus black & white without symmetry or balance – ambiguous works that were open to interpretation – Fox Trot A: Lozenge with Three Lines 1929-30 prime example. Architectural style:  Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, Swiss painter/architect (1887-1965) known as Le Corbusier + Ludwig Mies van de Rohe (1886-1969), German architect/designer – buildings had same straightforward qualities as Mondrian’s work which also applied to work of Auguste Perret (1874-1954), France + Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), England – latter designed/built WW1 memorials including Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval;  Le Corbusier – homes designed with rational thought in same way as cars/aeroplanes (other architects/designers inspired by same ideals) – Villa Savoye, 1928-9 – functionality in relation to forms which is recognizable (p. 825 WHA) – primarily used ferro-concrete but Miles van der Rohe preferred steel & glass … skeleton construction enabled open architecture & spatial freedom – reinforced concrete pillars known as ‘pilotis’ used in construction of Villa Savoye – style of villa’s building was no definitive front/back & therefore no single viewpoint; Mies van der Rohe, 1931, Berlin project – walls constructed as moveable screens – furniture also impression of machine precision made but in fact required hand-finishing. Constantin Brancusi, sculptor  – all work done by himself by hand – often cast marble sculptures in bronze – no trace of his hand is seen on his work as his precision is such they look machine-made – had habit of constantly refining his ideas so there are many versions of any one piece; Henry Moore (1898-1986), British sculptor – variety of materials including pynkado wood, marble or concrete amongst others – used qualities of his materials to depict form or subject – abstract works without being open or closed in appearance; Art Deco – parallel with International style – prime example Chrysler Building, New York or Radio City Hall – streamlined designs. Urban planning, 1920s – Le Corbusier – Rockefeller Centre at heart of 14 buildings  but without the park which Le Corbusier required for his urban plans of skyscrapers arranged symmetrically in a park setting combined with lower height buildings plus traffic circulation – introduced ‘a living city centre a unified planning concept on the large scale he had imagined’ (p. 831 WHA).


War great influence on the artistic movement including WW1 & Spanish Civil War on works of artists such as Miro whose mind & paintings darkened in response.  Large Glass by Duchamp influential on all genres of artists – visually opposite to what is the accepted normal concept of art. Matisse still great influence on other artists. Cubism – style that had same influence on Western art and changed it as much as the Renaissance naturalistic style did.  Great Depression – direct influence on Edward Hopper’s work due to living through it. Surrealism – ideas original in Freud’s theories & methods which then became the model for exploring the unconscious for artists/writers.  Freud’s symbolism directly influenced work of Dali and other Surrealists including Meret Oppenheim (1913-85) & Rene Magritte. Photography continued to influence artists including Giacomo Balla, Italy & Marcel Duchamp. Picasso influenced Vladimir Tatlin. Original influence for the Bauhaus – Viennese Sezession group, Werkstatte, William Morris, English Arts and Crafts movement + Expressionism – later influence De Stijl including Lissitzky who had joined temporarily.


Tristan Tzara (1886-1963) – Romanian poet – spokesperson for Dada movement. Clement Greenberg – art critic – 1948 article – asked question concerning Bonnard’s paintings that didn’t tie in with a logical series of art styles or movements and why Bonnard and Matisse who he considered late Impressionists were able to maintain performance consistency at higher rate than those of the Cubists and immediate successors.  Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) – artist, film-maker, playwright & poet – promoted post-war call to order. Andre Breton (1896-1966) – leader/theorist – wrote first Surrealist manifesto – Paris – 1924 – primarily literature & poetry but very little visual arts – 3 precursors of movement Trotsky, Freud Comte de Lautramont (Isadore Ducasse). Andre Breton – published book What is Surrealism – 1934). Lincoln Kirstein – 1938 – poet/critic – wrote of photography of likes of Lange & Evans of Great Depression. Paul Klee – lectures Pictorial Thinking – German Romantic philosophy + psychology writings of Jung & Freud formed basis for his thoughts which Surrealists took up. Theo van Doesburg – De Stijl theorist – lectured at Bauhaus 1922. Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) – German thinker – ‘applied a critically analytical intelligence to photography’ (p. 815 WHA) – A Small History of Photography 1931.

DICTIONARY: Paradigm – distinct set of concepts or thoughts …. noted due to use in WHA.



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

Goodreads Inc. 2016. Frida Kahlo Quotes [online]. [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:

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