Research extended notes for Post-War to Post-Modern

These are my extended notes for this period – I have decided to keep them in my blog for potential future reference.


1945 – WW2 ends. New York over takes Paris as Western focal point for art – end of WW2 ended European imperialism and rule overseas including losses of economic & political powers & consequentially ended cultural predominance in the West (p. 832 WHA). Artists/intellectuals emigrated to USA during 1930’s – political/racial refugees from Germany including Albert Einstein, Igor Stravinksky, Hans Hofman, Gropius & many more – 1940 with fall of France artists/sculptors fled Paris including Mondrian, Dali, Max Ernst… Purist-Abstract & Surrealist transferred to New York from European. Post-war austerity replaced by ‘consumer-society affluence and prosperity’ (p. 841 WHA) + years of optimism of the Kennedy lead years. Art no longer needed a gallery – art in 1970’s/late 1960’s became subject to same economic vagirities as any other consumer object but now lacked ‘a unique object to sell’ (p. 855 WHA).  Computers – fledgling technology in 1970’s


Status of many depended on economic status of countries – many fled from Nazi Germany and became founders/members of new artistic movements.  Photography – new opportunities including commercial work for magazines/newspapers but with some who turned their backs on fashion magazines to document life with the expertise of experience giving insight.


Hans Hofmann – experimented with ‘drip’ techniques & mixed media created form with colour & his own definition of composition; use of colossal sized canvases by Jackson Pollock & Clyfford Still. Matisse – 1947 – book (called ‘Jazz’) filled with cut/gouache coloured papers/arranged by him – abstraction – designs could be used for wall decorations or stained glass windows etc. Helen Frankenthaler – 1952 – stained un-sized canvas by pouring pigment – inspired the Colour Field Painting. Rauschenberg – developed/adapted frottage technique that Andy Warhol had tried out … transfer of pictures from newspaper/magazine using silk-screen stenciling by inking/screening directly onto the canvas in grid-like patterns influenced by Dada with addition of drips or swirls of paint. Andy Warhol – first to use silk-screen technique for painting.  Video commercially available – 1960’s.


Abstract style – many artists in USA were loners – Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946) … 1910 works amongst earlier abstract works in the world … used elemental aspects of nature and simplified to ‘colour and force lines and substances’ (p. 833, WHA) – Fog Horns (1929) illustrates his style; Georgia O’Keefe (1887-1986) – creation of forms that can be interpreted either abstractly or as representation as she transformed them into symbols. Abstract Expressionism –Clyfford Still (1904-1980), Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Willem de Kooning (1904-97),  Barnett Newman (1905-1970), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974), Jackson Pollock (1912-56), Franz Kline (1910-1962)  – no specific stylistic traits so each with own variations – no manifestos – colossal style of works – Abstract Expressionism or Action Painters name derived from critics – main point of style was to put paint on canvas in an active manner; Hans Hofmann – his New York art-school became focus of combination of Cubism & Fauvism which reflected his ‘duality of the world of art’ (p. 834 WHA); Ashley Gorky (1905-1948) – combination of abstraction & surrealism in works; Jackson Pollock – style based on actively making marks on the canvas & personal participation in the art with his whole body in same way as Indian sand painting – not part of any art group; Willem de Kooning – Dutch origin – raw colours, heavy in texture, aggressive but with element of representation particularly in his use of the human figure as a main theme (Excavation, 1950 prime example); Franz Kline – black/white/red abstract works inspired by violence/dynamism of urban American (p. 837 WHA); Second group of Abstract Expressionists (Action Painters are the first) – colour-field painters including Rothko, Still and Newman – Still could fit in both groups – move away from traditional Western culture; Still – use of ‘planar formations’, thick layers of colours which do not overlap but also are not separate from each other – no feeling of depth or space but one of density; Rothko – Russian origin – committed suicide 1970 and sombre state of mind increasingly shown in his works – paintings described as ‘the spiritual dimensions attainable in abstract art’ (p. 837 WHA) .. personal note:  that one phrase has helped me to understand Rothko’s works – texture of the canvas allowed to remain as opposed to Pollock who used the texture of the paint; Barnett-Newman – Vir Heroicus Sublimis 1950-51 – style focused on subject-matter even if impression is of colour/space – reduces pictorial elements to their most basic (p. 839 WHA) – style of sculpture … simplistic and conceptual with timeless quality; David Smith – sculptor – worked as if with a painting from the front with gravity being defied – open/linear/pictorial/3-dimensional – Cubi XVIII & Cubi XVII – examples. Matisse – The Snail 1953 – abstraction using collaged coloured papers; Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) – bronzed figures seen from the front – elongated style figures with ‘optical distance becomes an inherent quality’ (p. 841 WHA) in tune with Existentialism philosophy of the time – subjects of figures close intimates with aim of capturing the essence of the personality rather than the likeness. Post-Painterly Abstraction/Colour Field Painting – inspired by Helen Frankenthaler – elegant, restrained, cool – prime artists Jules Olitski (b. 1922), Kenneth Noland (b. 1924) & Morris Louis (1912-1962) -; Louis – work included juxtaposed hues combined with ‘projection and recession’ (p. 842 WHA) – Unfurled Series (Alpha-Phi) 1961 – paint soaked into the canvas instead of being applied to sit on top of it therefore the canvas becomes dyed cloth. Optical Art – described as ‘geometrical abstraction’ (p. 843 WHA) – the ‘exploitation of the physiology of seeing’ (p. 843 WHA). Neo-Dada – only vague connection to Jasper Johns (b. 1930) or Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925) – objects and imagery recognised with Johns painting Three Flags in encaustic (old master technique) – background as important as foreground – familiar objects but in unfamiliar depiction/abstraction and questions what art is; Robert Rauschenberg – ‘Bed’ – takes object similar to Duchamp’s ready-mades and leans against a wall questioning the meaning of art again – also combines paintings with objects or photographs or collage elements so ‘painting’ becomes a three-dimensional ‘sculpture/painting’. Pop Art – Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) – Big Painting No. 6  prime example – described in WHA as ‘gestural manipulation of paint as a means of unfettered, spontaneous self-expression’ (p. 845) – definition of Pop art … “’making impersonality a style’” (p. 845 WHA); ‘Just what is makes today’s homes so different? So appealing?’ – Richard Hamilton (b. 1922) – first Pop art – collage of consumer/society based images/packaging/movies & automobile heraldry as well as male/female pin-ups …. Personal note:  for me this is the epitome of the style. American Pop Art – differs slightly to European – more ambivalent/complex  – Claes Oldenberg (b. 1929) … Giant Hamburger – sailcloth material inflated to 2 metres across with foam stuffing – becomes new form of sculpture in that it is soft but with great volume – invites the viewer to look at something not previously considered as art; Andy Warhol (1927-1987) – creator Pop lifestyle – work done by assistants in a studio – repetitive images with commonplace objects (e.g. soup tins) or famous men/women – much work dealt with death or ‘nihilism of the contemporary media-saturated world’ (p. 847 WHA). Nouveau Realisme – French Pop Art – named by critic Pierre Restany in attempt to regain Paris as central position in contemporary art world & included American Pop Art – Yves Klein’s art sought ‘weightless existence in a spiritual void’ (p. 847 WHA) which was at odds with the rest … he quoted in 1959 “We will become aerial men” (p. 847 WHA) just 2 years before first manned space flight – style of exhibitions were that of space with indications of Klein blue the colour that dominates his paintings/sculptures; Arman – used rubbish for his installations/sculptures – unavoidable result of consumerism/mass production & commodities of Pop ; Germany- artists such as Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg, Wof Vostel – term often used for Pop Art was Capital Realism … event called Demonstration for Capitalist Realism by first 3 artists gave the name …. Name had critical force due to erection of Berlin Wall 1961 with the other side being part of the Soviet bloc with its Socialist Realism state sanctioned art. Photography – stylistic variations capturing the mood/life whether palatable or harsh reality – Diane Arbus (1923-1971), Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) – many took trips – photographed public events, people, urban scenes with detachment  or different view points – latter example was work of Stephen Shore – Alberto Korda captured Che Guevara, 1960 a revolutionary …. Image is the most famous of all visual images of the time with even as I write it is still being produced on commercial items (personal note: my fiancé has both a keyring and t-shirt with this image). Minimal Art – Minimalism – totally American style – Frank Stella (b. 1936) – literally taking art back to the bare minimum – linear with no self-expression or gestures – Donald Judd (1928-1994) – minimalist sculpture with concept that if an artist stated something was art then it was art – rectangular forms or vertical units, identical, arranged on walls vertically or horizontally – Fibonacci or other mathematical sequence creating variation – use of different materials such as metal, plywood or Plexiglass – other artists of similar style of bare surfaces or mechanical precision included Robert Morris (b. 1931) or Carl Andre (b. 1935) – Andre’s work often site specific with spectator’s use of the space directly in mind; John McCracken (b. 1934) – use of colour to build his forms – pigmented resin on top of fibreglass-resined wood. Conceptual Art/Conceptualism – ‘idea over individual making’ (p. 853 WHA) – all planning/decisions made before which in turn means the actual working of the art is perfunctory – if concept was clear then actual artist could be irrelevant with question of connection between idea and material form demonstrated in ‘One and Three Chairs’ by Joseph Kosuth (b. 1945) …comes back to the question of what is considered art – art no longer needed to be displayed in a gallery – photography becomes intrinsic part of the style and used to explore visually or for imagination demonstrated by Vito Acconci (b. 1940) or Edward Ruscha (b. 1937), John Baldessari (b. 1931).  Arte Povera – literally poor/impoverished art – use of cheap/available materials – simplicity in poverty which challenged traditional ideas concerning art – Mario Merz (1925-2003) use of Fibonacci sequencing to portray humans with the journeys undertaken – Michaelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933) changed his work to 3-dimensional from 2 in such ‘sculptures’ as ‘Orchestra of Rags’ (1968) created using rags, singing kettles and glass – challenged the considered norms of art. Process Art – described as ‘focus on process and manipulation of material’ (p. 853 WHA) – Barry Le Va (b. 1941), Richard Serra – relating ‘passage of time to experience of art’ (p. 857 WHA) reappears – Splashing (1969) by the latter formed by the hurling of molten lead (in ladles) towards the angle of the floor and wall whereby it solidifies and his actions are recorded – Eva Hess (1936-1970) also shows her process in her work with sculptural arrangements with use of impermanent materials … also used a picture frame for Hang Up with a play of both 2-dimensional & 3-dimensional aspects to show how what is considered a normal object to an artist plays a role in their self-expression. Body art – Bruce Nauman (b. 1941) – used his own body for artistic performances such as Self-Portrait as a Fountain with the help of video – debt to Duchamp’s ready-made – style of art almost anarchic against the established art market. Earth and land art – personal note … this is one of my favourite forms due to the White Horse chalk folk art on our hillsides albeit ancient ones – Robert Smithson (1928-1973) created Spiral Jetty, Utah – use of landscape to create art and artistic expression…some artists ideas were transient such as those by Christo Javacheff (b. 1935) with those than were completed now dismantled but the concepts survive in sketches, notes, instructions or photographs; Roden Crater Project – described as the ‘ultimate earthwork’ (p. 860 WHA) – Arizona – area taken over to be used as a cosmic viewing site with 4 concrete sewer/drainage tubes placed in an X-shape – James Turrell (b. 1943) & Nancy Holt (b. 1938); Gordon Matt-Clarke (1943-1978) – worked on urban projects using city detritus including condemned buildings – Splitting (1974) which literally split a house was done to question ‘accepted ideas about the role and function of architecture in constructing domestic spaces’ (p. 861 WHA).  Photo-realism – trompe l’oeil in execution but literally painting to create photo-realistic images – Richard Estes (b. 1936) best artist of this field according to WHA. New Image/New Figurative paintings – late 1960’s/USA – David Hockney/Balthazar Klossowski de Rola (1908-2001) were European figurative painters – Francis Bacon (1909-1991) – used images included photographs for his work – incongruous depiction of his theme or subject in Three Studies for a Crucifixion.  New Deal Style – Philip Guston (1913-1980) revived figuration 1967-68 – grotesque depictions of subject; Leon Grubb (1922-2004) concentrated on human corruptability – Chicago ‘monster school’ painters – scraped/roughened canvases – giant paintings – life-sized humans in depictions of torment – sensitive handling of paint; Cy Twombly – works that seem incomplete with aspects of memories/calligraphy or musings.  Modernism/Post-Modernism – sculpture had become more like architecture – metal/glass skyscrapers – USA Lever House, New York by Gordon Bunshaft (1909-1990) – works elegant, simple with no adornments, precise detail …. Austere roots of the International Style  Le Corbusier – Expressionism architecture seen in Notre Dame du Haut, France – curvaceous, irregular and expressive in meaning – opposing style High Court Building in Chandigarh, India…  geometric, and easily moulded or shaped (plasticity) with monumentality.  International Modernism – one of several historically based styles – Pizza d’Italia by  Charles Willard Moore (1925-1993) –columns, temple front, colour and historical references; Michael Graves (b. 1934) – Public Service Building, Portland, Oregon – prime example of International Modernism style – appeals to professionals or the common man. High Tech – concept/approach more than a style – use of modern technology to create precision engineered architecture – purely English in origin with elegance and sophistication.


South-west Indian art including sand painting + artists such as Albert Pinkham-Ryder & Thomas Hart Benton & Mexican artists such as Jose Clemente Orozco as well as Picasso & Surrealism – influenced Jackson Pollock; Picasso & Gonzalez sculptures directly influenced David Smith. Matisse continued to influence artists of different genres. John Cage – composer – influenced Rauschenberg – working in the ‘gap between art and life’ (p. 844 WHA).  Rauschenberg along with other artists influenced by the home TV set. Brancusi – direct influence on sculptors/artists such as Carl Andre who described his work as ‘laying Brancusi flat’ (p. 852 WHA).  Photographers such as John Baldessari became influential on later developments and students. New Deal style – influenced by Mexicans & American Regionalists


Harold Rosenberg – art critic, writer and philosopher – became unofficial spokesman for Abstract Expressionists. Jean-Paul Satre – Existentialism philosopher – wrote about Giacometti’s sculptures  and that he would come closer than ‘any previous artist “to achieving the impossible when his portraits would affect us with all the force of a corporeal presence”’ (p. 841 WHA). Clement Greenburg – critic who wrote of what lay ahead for the artists after Abstract Expressionism and the need for a more formal or disciplined art.  Gene Swenson – critic – wrote of British Pop Art describing it as ‘”made by librarians’” (p. 846 WHA). Lucy Lippard – critic – late 1960’s/early 1970’s “’demateralisation’ of the art object”. Germano Celant – Italian critic – named style known as Arte Povera in 1967.


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

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