Dictionary of Art and Artists



History of

Architecture and Sculpture

























In our account of art in the modern era, we have already discussed a succession of "isms": Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Divisionism, and Symbolism. There are many more to be found in twentieth-century artso many, in fact, that nobody has made an exact count. These "isms" can form a serious obstacle to understanding: they may make us feel that we cannot hope to comprehend the art of our time unless we immerse ourselves in a welter of esoteric doctrines. Actually, we can disregard all but the most important "isms." Like the terms we have used for the styles of earlier periods, they are merely labels to help us sort things out. If an "ism" fails the test of usefulness, we need not retain it. This is true of many "isms" in contemporary art. The movements they designate either cannot be seen very clearly as separate entities, or have so little importance that they can interest only the specialist. It has always been easier to invent new labels than to create a movement in art that truly deserves a new name.

Still, we cannot do without "isms" altogether. Since the start of the modern era, the Western world (and, increasingly, the rest of the world) has faced the same basic problems everywhere, and local artistic traditions have steadily given way to international trends. Among these we can distinguish three main currents, each comprising a number of "isms," that began among the Post-Impressionists and have developed greatly in our own century: Expressionism, Abstraction, and Fantasy. The first stresses the artist's emotional attitude toward himself and the world; the second focuses on the formal structure of the work of art; the third explores the realm of the imagination, especially its spontaneous and irrational qualities. We must not forget, however, that feeling, order, and imagination are all present in every work of art. Without imagination, it would be deadly dull; without some degree of order, it would be chaotic; without feeling, it would leave us unmoved.

These currents are not mutually exclusive, and we shall find them interrelated in many ways. An artist's work often belongs to more than one, which may in turn embrace a wide range of approaches, from the realistic to the completely non-representational (or non-objective). Our three currents, then, do not correspond to specific styles but to general attitudes. They represent parallel responses to the realization, intuitive as well as intellectual, that after 1900 people were living in a different age. The primary concern of Expressionism is the human community; of Abstraction, the structure of reality; and of Fantasy, the labyrinth of the mind. And we shall find that Realism, which is concerned with the appearance of the world around us, has continued to exist independently of the other three, especially in the United States, where art has often pursued a separate course. These strands bear a shifting relation to each other that reflects the complexity of modern life. To be understood, they must be seen in their proper historical context. Beginning in the mid-1930s, however, the distinction between them begins to break down, so that after 1945 it is no longer meaningful to trace their evolution separately.

In examining twentieth-century art, we shall find it anything but tidy. On the contrary, we quickly discover the visual arts are like soldiers marching to different drummers. A purely chronological approach would reveal just how out of step they have generally been with each otherbut at the cost of losing sight of their internal development. Does this mean that the other visual arts have shared none of the same concerns? No, that is not the case either. The three main currents we outlined in paintingExpressionism, Abstraction, and Fantasymay be found as well in sculpture, architecture, and photography before 1945. But they are present in different measure and do not always carry the same meaning. For that reason, the parallelism between them should not be emphasized.




The twentieth century may be said to have begun five years late, so far as painting is concerned. Between 1901 and 1906, several comprehensive exhibitions of the work of Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cezanne were held in Paris, as well as Germany. For the first time the achievements of these masters became accessible to a broad public. The young painters who had grown up in the "decadent," morbid mood of the 1890s were profoundly impressed by what they saw. Several of them formulated a radical new style, full of the violent color of Van Gogh and bold distortions of Gauguin, which they manipulated freely for pictorial and expressive effects. When their work first appeared in 1905, it so shocked critical opinion that they were dubbed the Fauves (wild beasts), a label they wore with pride. Actually, it was not a common program that brought them together, but their shared sense of liberation and experiment. As a movement, Fauvism comprised a number of loosely related individual styles, and the group dissolved after a few years, most of its members unable to sustain their inspiration or adapt successfully to the challenges posed by Cubism. It was nevertheless a decisive breakthrough, for it constituted the first unequivocably modern movement of the twentieth century in both style and attitude, one to which every important painter before World War I acknowledged a debt.

Henri Matisse.

Its leader was Henri Matisse
(1869-1954), the oldest of the founders of twentieth-century painting. The Joy of Life (fig. 1036), probably the most important picture of his long career, sums up the spirit of Fauvism better than any other single work. It obviously derives its flat planes of color, heavy undulating outlines, and the "primitive" flavor of its forms from Gauguin (see fig. 996). Even its subject suggests the vision of humanity in a state of Nature that Gauguin had pursued in Tahiti. But we soon realize that Matisse's figures are not Noble Savages under the spell of a native god. The subject is a pagan scene in the classical sense: a bacchanal like Titian's (compare fig. 670). The poses of the figures have for the most part a classical origin, and in the apparently careless draftsmanship resides a profound knowledge of the human body. (Matisse had been trained in the academic tradition.) What makes the picture so revolutionary is its radical simplicity, its "genius of omission." Everything that possibly can be has been left out or stated by implication only, yet the scene retains the essentials of plastic form and spatial depth. What holds the painting together is its firm underlying structure. (Matisse venerated Cezanne and owned one of his paintings.)

Painting, Matisse seems to say, is not a representation of observed reality but the rhythmic arrangement of line and color on a flat plane. But it is not only that. How far can the image of nature be pared down without destroying its basic properties and thus reducing it to mere surface ornament? "What I am after, above all." he once explained, "is expression . .. [But] ... expression does not consist of the passion mirrored upon a human face. . . . The whole arrangement of my picture is expressive. The placement of figures or objects, the empty spaces around them, the proportions, everything plays a part." What, we wonder, does The joy of Life express? Exactly what its title says. Whatever his debt to Gauguin, Matisse was never stirred by the same agonized discontent with the decadence of our civilization. He instead shared the untroubled outlook of the Nabis, with whom he had previously associated, and the canvas derives its decorative quality from their work (compare fig. 998). He was concerned above all with the act of painting. This to him was an experience so profoundly joyous that he wanted to transmit it to the beholder.

Matisse's "genius of omission" is again at work in The Red Studio (fig. 1037). By reducing the number of tints to a minimum, he makes color an independent structural element. The result is to emphasize the radical new balance he struck between the "two-D" and "three-D" aspects of painting. Matisse spreads the same flat red color on the tablecloth and wall as on the floor, yet he distinguishes the horizontal from the vertical planes with complete assurance using only a few lines. Equally bold is Matisse's use of pattern. By repeating a few basic shapes, hues, and decorative motifs in seemingly casual, but perfectly calculated, array around the edges of the canvas, he harmonizes the relation of each element with the rest of the picture. Cezanne had pioneered this integration of surface ornament into the design of a picture (see fig. 984), but Matisse here makes it a mainstay of his composition.

1036. Henri Matisse. The Joy of Life. 1905-6.
1037. Henri Matisse. The Red Studio. 1911. Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Georges Rouault.

The other important member of the Fauves, Georges Rouault (1871-1958), would hardly have agreed with Matisse's definition of "expression." For him this had still to include, as it had in the past, "the passion mirrored upon a human face"as we can tell from his Head of Christ (fig. 1038). But the expressiveness does not reside only in the "image quality" of the face. The savage slashing brushstrokes speak equally eloquently of the artist's rage and compassion. If we cover the upper third of the picture, it is no longer a recognizable image. Yet the expressive effect is hardly diminished.

Rouault was the true heir of Van Gogh's and Gauguin's concern for the corrupt state of the world. However, he hoped for spiritual renewal through a revitalized Catholic faith. His pictures, whatever their subject, are personal statements of that ardent hope. Trained in his youth as a stained-glass worker, he was better prepared than the other Fauves to share Gauguin's enthusiasm tor medieval art. Rouault's later work, such as The Old King (fig. 1039), has glowing colors and compartmented, black-bordered shapes inspired by Gothic stainedglass windows (compare fig. 510). Within this framework he retains a good deal of the pictorial freedom we saw in the Head of Christ, which he uses to express his profound understanding of the human condition. The old king's face conveys a mood of resignation and inner suffering that reminds us of Rembrandt, Daumier, and Van Gogh.

1038. Georges Rouault. Head of Christ. 1905.
Georges Rouault. The Old King. 1916-36.

German Expressionism

Fauvism exerted a decisive influence on the Expressionist movement that arose at the same time in Germany. Because Expressionism had deep historical roots that made it especially appealing to the Northern mind, it lasted far longer in Germany, where it proved correspondingly broader and more diverse than in France. For these reasons, Expressionism is sometimes applied to German art alone, but such a limit ignores the close ties and numerous similarities between them. To be sure, Fauvism was generally less neurotic and morbid, but although German Expressionism was characterized by greater emotional extremes and a more spontaneous approach, the two branches were not separated by any fundamental difference in style or content.

Die Brucke.

Ernst Kirchner.

Expressionism in Germany began with Die Briicke (The Bridge), a group of like-minded painters who lived in Dresden in
1905. Through its totally bohemian lifestyle, Die Briicke cultivated a sense of immanent disaster that is one of the hallmarks of the modern avant-garde. Their early work not only reveals the direct impact of Van Gogh and Gauguin but also shows elements derived from Munch, who was then living in Berlin and deeply impressed the German Expressionists. Self-Portrait with Model (fig. 1040) by Ernst Kirchner (1880-1938), the group's leader, reflects Matisse's simplified, rhythmic line and loud color. Yet the contrast between the coldly aloof artist and the brooding model, who looks as if she has been violated, has a peculiar expressiveness that can have come only from Munch, whose work was often fraught with a palpable sexual tension.

1040. Ernst Kirchner.
Self-Portrait with Model.


Erich Heckel.

The artists of Die Brucke were idealists who sought to revive German art. Toward that end, they took up woodcuts, which they regarded as a uniquely national medium. The first to do so was Kirchner, but the finest printmakcr of the group was Erich Heckel (1883-1970). Under the influence of ethnographic art and Gauguin's woodcuts (see fig. 997), Heckel's prints, such as our Woman before a Mirror (fig. 1041), imitate the straightforward manner of the early German "primitives" (compare figs. 562 and 713) rather than the example of Durer that had originally inspired Die Brucke.

1041. Erich Heckel.
Woman Before a Mirror.

Emil Nolde.

One Brucke artist, Emil Nolde (1867-1956), stands somewhat apart. Older than the rest, he was already working in an Expressionist style when he was invited to join the movement in 1906. Nolde shared Rouault's preference for religious themes, and his figures show a like sympathy for the suffering of humanity. The thickly encrusted surfaces and deliberately clumsy draftsmanship of The Last Supper (fig. 1042) reject pictorial refinement in favor of a primeval, direct expression inspired by Gauguin. Ensor's grotesque masks, too, come to mind (see fig. 1003), as does the blocklike monumentality of Barlach's peasants (see fig. 1013).

1042. Emil Nolde.
The Last Supper.


Oskar Kokoschka.

Another artist of highly individual talent was the Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980). In 1910, he was invited to Berlin by the publisher of Der Sturm (The Storm), which soon attracted members of Die Brucke and Der Blaue Reiter. His main contribution is the portraits he painted before World War I, such as the moving Self-Portrait in figure 1043. Like Van Gogh, Kokoschka sees himself as a visionary, a witness to the truth and reality of his inner experiences (compare fig. 994). The hypersensitive features seem lacerated by a great ordeal of the imagination. We may find in this tortured psyche an echo of the cultural climate that also produced Sigmund Freud.

Kokoschka's most memorable work is The Bride of the Wind (fig. 1044). Based on Romantic paintings of Dante's tragic lovers Paolo and Francesca, it shows the artist with Alma Mahler, the "muse" who inspired so many of Germany and Austria's leading cultural figures. In this awesome canvas, the entire universe resounds in a great chord of exaltation at the lovers' embrace.

Oskar Kokoschka. Self-Portrait. 1913.
1044. Oskar Kokoschka. The Bride of the Wind. 1914.

Wasily Kandinsky.

The most daring and original step beyond Fauvism was taken in Germany by a Russian, Wasily Kandinsky
(1866-1944), the leading member of a group of Munich artists called Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) after one of his early paintings. Formed in 1911, it was a loose alliance united only by its mystical tendencies. Kandinsky began to forsake representation as early as 1910 and abandoned it altogether several years later. Using the rainbow colors and the free, dynamic brushwork of the Paris Fauves, he created a completely non-objective style. These works have titles as abstract as their forms: our example, one of the most striking, is called Sketch I for "Composition VII" (fig. 1045). Perhaps we should avoid the term "abstract," because it is often taken to mean that the artist has analyzed and simplified visible reality into geometric forms. (Compare Cezanne's dictum that all natural forms are based on the cone, sphere, and cylinder.) Kandinsky did indeed derive his shapes from the world around him landscapes that he freely inventedbut by transforming rather than reducing them.

1045. Wasily Kandinsky.
Sketch I for "Composition VII.
" 1913


As the first part of his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, published in 1912, makes clear, Kandinsky s aim was to charge form and color with a purely spiritual meaning (as he put it), one that expressed his deepest feelings, by eliminating all resemblance to the physical world. To him, the only reality that mattered is the artist's inner reality. Kandinsky acknowledged the Symbolists as his ancestors. Like Gauguin, he wanted to create an art of spiritual renewal. But in contrast to Rouault or Nolde, his was an art without a specific spiritual program, though it has close affinities with the theosophy of Rudolf Steiner, which influenced many early modern artists in Germany. Kandinsky believed with Steiner that humanity had lost touch with its spirituality through attachment to material things, and he sought to rekindle that dreamlike consciousness through his art.

The second part of the book is concerned exclusively with the formal aspects of painting, above all color. Kandinsky studied the color theories of Seurat and his followers, as did many other Expressionists, but the meaning he attached to specific hues was no less individual than Van Gogh's. However, not until after his return from Russia in 1922 were the implications of his discussion of form fully realized when he adopted geometric abstraction.

What does all this have to do with Kandinsky's paintings themselves? The character of his art is best summed up by his later statement: "Painting is the vast, thunderous clash of many worlds, destined, through a mighty struggle, to erupt into a totally new world, which is creation. And the birth of a creation is much akin to that of the Cosmos. There is the same vast and cataclysmic quality belonging to that mighty symphonythe Music of the Spheres."

Kandinsky's antinaturalism was inherent in Expressionist theory from the very beginning. Whistler, too, had spoken of "divesting the picture from any outside sort of interest." He even anticipated Kandinsky's "musical" titles (fig. 964). But it was the liberating influence of the Fauves that permitted Kandinsky to put this approach into practice: when the upper third of Rouault s Head of Christ (fig. 1038) is covered, we recall, the rest becomes a non-representational composition strangely similar to Kandinsky's in its slashing brushwork and charged forms.

How valid is the analogy between painting and music? Although Kandinsky was careful to acknowledge the differences between the two art forms, he sought a painting that, like music, was an absolute because it was divorced entirely from the "objective," material realm. When a painter like Kandinsky carries it through so uncompromisingly, does he really lift his art to another plane? Or could it be that his declared independence from representational images now forces him instead to "represent music," which limits him even more severely? Kandinsky's advocates like to point out that representational painting has a "literary" content, and they deplore such dependence on another art. But they do not explain why the "musical" content of non-objective painting should be more desirable. Is painting less alien to music than to literature? They seem to think music is a higher art than literature or painting because it is inherently non-representational. This point of view has an ancient tradition that goes back to Plato and includes Plotinus, St. Augustine, and their medieval successors. The attitude of the non-objectivists might thus be termed "secular iconoclasm." They do not condemn images as wicked, but denounce them as non-art.

The case is difficult to argue, and it does not matter whether this theory is right or wrong, for the proof of the pudding is in the eating, not in the recipe. Kandinsky'sor any artist's ideas are not important to us unless we are convinced of the importance of the work itself. The painting reproduced here has such density and vitality that it impresses us with its radiant freshness of feeling, even though we may be uncertain what exactly the artist has expressed.

Franz Marc.

The subject matter of Franz Marc (1880-1916) was the unconscious life of animals in nature. Motivated by the pantheistic feeling of the Romantics, which was heightened by his association with Kandinsky, the artist's paintings represent humanity's desire to return to a state of harmony with the universea central concept of Rudolf Steiner's theosophy. Marc devised a color symbolism as personal as that of Van Gogh, who had inspired his early work. He wrote: "Blue is the masculine principle, robust and spiritual. Yellow is the feminine principle, gentle, serene, sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy" But it was the Orphism of Robert Delaunay, with whom he formed a friendship in 1912, that showed Marc the full potential of color to express his mystical beliefs. Later that year, Futurism enabled him to depict the dynamism of nature by creating rhythms that echo those of the cosmos, or so he believed. In Animal Destinies (fig. 1046), Marc's poetic vision has attained apocalyptic intensity. With its interpenetrating crystalline forms looking like so many pieces of jagged stained glass, the picture is even more terrifying than Stubbs' Lion Attacking a Horse (fig. 863) in evoking the cataclysmic forces that overwhelm these uncomprehending beasts. Here the artist was indeed on the verge of depicting a "higher" symbolic reality. Small wonder that a year later he abandoned representation almost entirely for an abstract style no less advanced than Kandinsky's. Soon, however, he was drafted into the war, which claimed his life.

1046. Franz Marc. Animal Destinies. 1913

Marsden Hartley.

Americans became familiar with the Fauves through exhibitions from 1908 on. After the pivotal Armory Show of 1913, which introduced the latest European art to New York, there was a growing interest in the German Expressionists as well. The driving force behind the modernist movement in the United States was the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who almost single-handedly supported many of its early members. To him, modernism meant abstraction and its related concepts. Among the most significant works by the Stieglitz group are the canvases painted by Marsden Hartley in Munich during the early years of World War I under the direct influence of Kandinsky.

Portrait of a German Officer
1047) is a masterpiece of design from 1914, the year Hartley (1887-1943) was invited to exhibit with Der Blaue Reiter. He had already been introduced to Futurism and several offshoots of Cubism, which he used to discipline Kandinsky's supercharged surface. The emblematic portrait is testimony to the militarism he encountered everywhere in Germany. It incorporates the insignia, epaulets, Maltese cross, and other details from an officer's uniform of the day.

1047. Marsden Hartley.
Portrait of a German Officer.




The second of our main currents is Abstraction. When discussing Kandinsky, we said that the term is usually taken to mean the process (or the result) of analyzing and simplifying observed reality into geometric shapes. Literally, it means "to draw away from, to separate.'' Actually, abstraction goes into the making of any work of art, whether the artist knows it or not, since even the most painstakingly realistic portrayal can never be an entirely faithful replica. The process was not conscious and controlled, however, until the Early Renaissance, when artists first analyzed the shapes of nature in terms of mathematical bodies. Cezanne and Seurat revitalized this approach and explored it further. They are the direct ancestors of the abstract movement in twentieth-century art. The difference, as one critic has noted, is that for the latter, abstraction has been both a premise and a goal, not simply a reductive refinement. Abstraction has been the most distinctive and consistent feature of modern painting to which even its most vocal opponents have responded.


It is difficult to imagine the birth of modern abstraction without Pablo Picasso. About
1905, stimulated as much by the Fauves as by the retrospective exhibitions of the great Post-Impressionists, he gradually abandoned the melancholy lyricism of his Blue Period (see fig. 1006) for a more robust style. He shared Matisse's enthusiasm for Gauguin and Cezanne, but he viewed these masters very differently. In 1907 he produced his own counterpart to The Joy of Life, a monumental canvas so challenging that it outraged even Matisse (fig. 1048). The title, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon ("The Young Ladies of Avignon"), does not refer to the town of that name, but to Avignon Street in a notorious section of Barcelona. When Picasso started the picture, it was to be a temptation scene in a brothel, but he ended up with a composition of five nudes and a still life. But what nudes! Matisse's generalized figures in The joy of Life (see fig. 1036) seem utterly innocuous compared to this savage aggressiveness.

The three on the left are angular distortions of classical figures, but the violently dislocated features and bodies of the other two have all the barbaric qualities of ethnographic art. Following Gauguin's lead, the Fauves had discovered the aesthetic appeal of African and Oceanic sculpture and had introduced Picasso to this material. Nonetheless it was Picasso, not the Fauves, who used primitivist art as a battering ram against the classical conception of beauty. Not only the proportions, but the organic integrity and continuity of the human body are denied here, so that the canvas (in the apt description of one critic) "resembles a field of broken glass."

Picasso, then, has destroyed a great deal. What has he gained in the process? Once we recover from the initial shock, we begin to see that the destruction is quite methodical. Everythingthe figures as well as their settingis broken up into angular wedges or facets. These, we will note, are not flat, but shaded in a way that gives them a certain three-dimensionality. We cannot always be sure whether they are concave or convex. Some look like chunks of solidified space, others like fragments of translucent bodies. They constitute a unique kind of matter, which imposes a new integrity and continuity on the entire canvas. The Demoiselles, unlike The Joy of Life, can no longer be read as an image of the external world. Its world is its own, analogous to nature but constructed along different principles. Picasso's revolutionary "building material," compounded of voids and solids, is hard to describe with any precision. The early critics, who saw only the prevalence of sharp edges and angles, dubbed the new style Cubism.

1048. Pablo Picasso.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.


Analytic Cubism

That the Demoiselles owes anything to Cezanne may at first seem incredible. However, Picasso had studied Cezanne's late work (such as fig. 986) with great care, finding in Cezanne's abstract treatment of volume and space the translucent structural units from which to derive the faceted shapes of Analytic (or Facet) Cubism. The link is clearer in Portrait of Ambroise Vollard (fig. 1049)Vollard was one of the leading print publishers and dealers of the timewhich Picasso painted three years later. The facets are now small and precise, more like prisms, and the canvas has the balance and refinement of a fully mature style.

Contrasts of color and texture, so pronounced in the Demoiselles, are now reduced to a minimum; the subdued tonality of the picture approaches monochrome, so as not to compete with the design. The structure has become so complex and systematic that it would seem wholly cerebral if the "imprismed" sitter's face did not emerge with such dramatic force. Indeed, this is as commanding a portrait as Ingres' Louis Berlin (fig. 886), one that fully conveys the power of his complex personality. Of the "barbaric" distortions in the Demoiselles there is no trace; they had served their purpose. Cubism has become an abstract style within the purely Western sense, but its distance from observed reality has not significantly increased. Picasso may be playing an elaborate game of hide-and-seek with nature, but he still needs the visible world to challenge his creative powers. The non-objective realm held no appeal for him, then or later.

1049. Pablo Picasso.
Portrait of Ambroisc Vollard.

Synthetic Cubism

By 1910 Cubism was well established as an alternative to Fauvism, and Pablo Picasso had been joined by a number of other artists, notably Georges Braque (1882-1963), with whom he collaborated so intimately that their work at that times is difficult to tell apart. Both of them (it is not clear to whom the chief credit belongs) initiated the next phase of Cubism, which was even bolder than the first. Usually called Synthetic Cubism because it puts forms back together, it is also known as Collage Cubism, after the French word for "paste-up," the technique that started it all. We see its beginnings in Picasso's Still Life with Chair Caning of 1912 (fig. 1050). Most of the painting shows the now-familiar facets, except for the letters; these, being already abstract signs, could not be translated into prismatic shapes. But from beneath the still life emerges a piece of imitation chair caning, which has been pasted onto the canvas, and the picture is "framed" by a piece of rope. This intrusion of alien materials has a most remarkable effect: the abstract still life appears to rest on a real surface (the chair caning) as if it were on a tray, and the substantiality of this tray is further emphasized by the rope.

Within a year, Picasso and Braque were producing still lifes composed almost entirely of cut-and-pasted scraps of material, with only a few lines added to complete the design. In Le Courrierhy Braque (fig. 1051) we recognize strips of imitation wood graining, part of a tobacco wrapper with a contrasting stamp, half the masthead of a newspaper, and a bit of newsprint made into a playing card (the ace of hearts). Why did Picasso and Braque suddenly prefer the contents of the wastepaper basket to brush and paint? In wanting to explore their new concept of the picture as a tray on which to "serve" the still life, they found the best way was to put real things on the tray. The ingredients of a collage actually play a double role. They have been shaped and combined, then drawn or painted upon to give them a representational meaning, but they do not lose their original identity as scraps of material they remain "outsiders" in the world of art. Their function is both to represent (to be a part of an image) and to present (to be themselves). In this latter capacity, they endow the collage with a self-sufficiency that no Analytic Cubist picture can have. A tray, after all, is a self-contained area, detached from the rest of the physical world. Unlike a painting, it cannot show more than is actually on it.

The difference between the two phases of Cubism may also be defined in terms of picture space. Analytic Cubism retains a certain kind of depth, so that the painted surface acts as a window through which we still perceive the remnants of the familiar perspective space of the Renaissance. Though fragmented and redefined, this space lies behind the picture plane and has no visible limits. Potentially, it may even contain objects that are hidden from our view. In Synthetic Cubism, on the contrary, the picture space lies in front of the plane of the "tray." Space is not created by illusionistic devices, such as modeling and foreshortening, but by the actual overlapping of layers of pasted materials. The integrity of the non-perspective space is not affected when, as in Le Counter, the apparent thickness of these materials and their distance from each other are increased by a bit of shading here and there. Synthetic Cubism, then, offers a basically new space concept, the first since Masaccio. It is a true landmark in the history of painting. Before long Picasso and Braque discovered that they could retain this new pictorial space without the use of pasted materials. They only had to paint as if they were making collages. World War I, however, put an end to their collaboration and the further development of Synthetic Cubism, which reached its height in the following decade.

1050. Pablo Picasso. Still Life with Chair Caning. 1912
Georges Braque. Newspaper, Bottle, Packet of Tobacco (Le Courrier). 1914



Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delauna

The Cubism of Picasso and Braque was little concerned with color
an issue addressed finally by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) and his wife, Sonia Delauna-Terk (1885-1979). They evolved a totally abstract style, called Orphism, after the legendary Orpheus, by the poet Apolli-naire (1880-1918), the chief theorist of the movement. Following the concepts of Chevreul, Seurat, and Gauguin, they sought to produce pure color harmonies as independent of nature as music. Late in 1912, Delaunay began to paint his series Simultaneous Contrasts (fig. 1052), in which the swirling movement is meant to evoke the rhythms pulsating throughout the universe. The idea was in the air: at almost the same time the Czech painter Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957), working independently in Paris, came to the identical solution. It was soon taken up as well by the Americans Stanton Macdon-ald-Wright (1890-1973) and Morgan Russell (1886-1953), also active in Paris, who called their movement Synchromism. Orphism proved to be short-lived, however. Even the Delaunays were able to maintain this non-objective style for only a few years and soon turned to Futurism. Nevertheless, the movement proved of great importance. Among its early members were Marcel Duchamp and his brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon. In addition to Franz Marc, it also affected Fernand Leger, Marc Chagall, and even Paul Klee.

1052. Robert Delaunay.
Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon.


As originally conceived by Picasso and Braque, Cubism was a formal discipline of subtle balance applied to traditional subjects: still life, portraiture, the nude. Other painters, however, saw in the new style a special affinity with the geometric precision of engineering that made it uniquely attuned to the dynamism of modern life. The short-lived Futurist movement in Italy exemplifies this attitude. In 1909-10 its disciples, led by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, issued a series of manifestos violently rejecting the past and exalting the beauty of the machine.

Umberto Boccioni.

At first they used techniques developed from Post-Impressionism to convey the surge of industrial society, but these were otherwise static compositions, still dependent upon representational images. By adopting the simultaneous views of Analytic Cubism in Dynamism of a Cyclist (fig. 1053), Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), the most original of the Futurists, was able to communicate the energy of furious pedaling across time and space far more tellingly than if he had actually depicted the human figure, which could be seen in only one time and place in traditional art. In the flexible vocabulary provided by Cubism, Boccioni found the means of expressing the twentieth century's new sense of time, space, and energy that Albert Einstein had defined in 1905 in his special theory of relativity. Moreover, Boccioni suggests the unique quality of the modern experience. With his pulsating movement, the cyclist has become an extension of his environment, from which he is now indistinguishable.

1053. Umberto Boccioni. Dynamism of a Cyclist.


As its name implies, Cubo-Futurism, which arose in Russia a few years before World War I as the result of close contacts with the leading European art centers, took its style from Picasso and based its theories on Futurist tracts. The Russian Futurists were, above all, modernists. They welcomed industry, which was spreading rapidly throughout Russia, as the foundation of a new society and the means for conquering that old Russian enemy, nature. Unlike the Italian Futurists, however, the Russians rarely glorified the machine, least of all as an instrument of war.

Central to Cubo-Futurist thinking was the concept of zaum, a term which has no counterpart in English. Invented by Russian poets, zaum was a trans-sense (as opposed to the Dadaists' nonsense) language based on new word forms and syntax. In theory, zaum could be understood universally, since it was thought that meaning was implicit in the basic sounds and patterns of speech. When applied to painting, zaum provided the artist with complete freedom to redefine the style and content of art. The picture surface was now seen as the sole conveyer of meaning through its appearance. Hence, the subject of a work of art became the visual elements and their formal arrangement. However, because Cubo-Futurism was concerned with means, not ends, it failed to provide the actual content that is found in modernism. Although the Cubo-Futurists were more important as theorists than artists, they provided the springboard for later Russian movements.

The new world envisioned by the Russian modernists led to a broad redefinition of the roles of man and woman, and it was then in Russia that women emerged as artistic equals to an extent not achieved in Europe or America until considerably later.

The finest painter of the group was Lyubov Popova
(1889-1924), who studied in Paris in 1912 and visited Italy in 1914. The combination of Cubism and Futurism that she absorbed abroad is seen in The Traveler (fig. 1054). The treatment of forms remains essentially Cubist, but the painting shares the Futurist obsession with representing dynamic motion in time and space. The jumble of image fragments creates the impression of objects seen in rapid succession. The furious interaction of forms with their environment across the plane threatens to extend the painting into the surrounding space. At the same time, the strong modeling draws attention to the surface, lending it a relieflike quality that is enhanced by the vigorous texture.

1054. Lyubov Popova.
The Traveler.


Kasimir Malevich.

The first purely Russian art of the twentieth century, however, was Suprematism. In one of the greatest leaps of the symbolic and spatial imagination in the history of art, Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) invented the Black Quadrilateral, as seen in figure 1055. How is it that such a seemingly simple image should be-so important? By limiting art to a few elementsa single shape repeated in two tones and fixed firmly to the picture plane he emphasized the painting as a painting even more radically than had his predecessors. Simultaneously, he transformed it into a concentrated symbol having multiple layers of meaning, thereby providing the content missing from Cubo-Futurism. The inspiration for Black Quadrilateral came in 1913 while Malevich was working on designs for the opera Victory over the Sun, a production that was one of the most important artistic collaborations in the modern era. In the context of the opera, the black quadrilateral represents the eclipse of the sun of Western painting and of everything based on it. Further, the work can be seen as the triumph of the new order over the old, the East over the West, humanity over nature, idea over matter. The black quadrilateral (which is not even a true rectangle) was intended to stand as a modern icon. It supersedes the traditional Christian Trinity and symbolizes a "supreme" reality, because geometry is an independent abstraction in itself; hence the movement's name, Suprematism.

According to Malevich, Suprematism was also a philosophical color system constructed in time and space. His space was an intuitive one, with both scientific and mystical overtones. The flat plane replaces volume, depth, and perspective as a means of defining space. Each side or point represents one of the three dimensions, while the fourth side stands for the fourth dimension, time. Like the universe itself, the black surface would be infinite were it not delimited by an outer boundary, the white border and shape of the canvas. Black Quadrilateral thus constitutes the first satisfactory redefinition, visually and conceptually, of time and space in modern art. Like Einstein's formula E=mc2 for the theory of relativity, it has an elegant simplicity that belies the intense effort required to synthesize a complex set of ideas and reduce them to a fundamental "law." When it first appeared, Suprematism had much the same impact on Russian artists that Einstein's theory had on scientists: it unveiled a world never seen before, one that was unequivocally modern. The relation between art and science is closer than we might think, for despite the differences in approach, they are united by the imagination. In fact, the key to solving the theory of relativity came to Einstein as a visual image.

Later, Malevich began to tilt his quadrilaterals and simplify his paintings still further in search of the ultimate work of art. Malevich's efforts culminated in Suprematist Composition: White on White (fig. 1056), his most famous composition, which limits art to its fewest possible components. It is all too tempting to dismiss such a radical extreme as a reductio ad absurdum. Seen in person, however, the canvas is surprisingly persuasive. The shapes, created by two subtly different shades of white, have a revelatory purity that makes even Black Quadrilateral seem needlessly complex.

The heyday of Suprematism was over by the early 1920s. Reflecting the growing diversity and fragmentation of Russian art, its followers defected to other movements, above all to the Constructivism led by Vladimir Tatlin.

1055. Kasimir Malevich. Black Quadrilateral, . 1913-15.
Kasimir Malevich. Suprematist Composition: White on White. 1918



Our third current, Fantasy, follows a less clear-cut course than the other two, since it depends on a state of mind more than on any particular style. The one thing all painters of fantasy have in common is the belief that imagination, "the inner eye," is more important than the outside world. We must be careful how we use the term fantasy. It originated in psychoanalytic theory, and meant something very different in the early twentieth century than it does now. It was thought of as mysterious and profound, anything but the lighthearted and superficial view we take of it today.

Why did private fantasy come to loom so large in twentieth-century art? We saw the trend beginning at the end of the eighteenth century in the art of Goya and Fuseli (see figs. 877 and 899); perhaps this suggests part of the answer. In fact, there seem to be several interlocking causes. First, the cleavage that developed between reason and imagination in the wake of rationalism tended to dissolve the heritage of myth and legend that had been the common channel of private fantasy in earlier times. Second, the artist has a greater freedomand insecuritywithin the social fabric, giving him a sense of isolation and favoring an introspective attitude. Then, too, the Romantic cult of emotion prompted the artist to seek out subjective experience, and to accept its validity. Needless to say, this process took time, so that in early-nineteenth-century painting, private fantasy was still a minor current, but by 1900 it had become a major one, thanks to Symbolism on the one hand and the naive vision of artists like Henri Rousseau on the other.

Giorgio de Chirico.

The heritage of Romanticism can be seen most clearly in the astonishing pictures painted in Paris just before World War I by Giorgio de Chirico
(1888-1978), such as Mystery arid Melancholy of a Street (fig. 1057). This deserted square with endless diminishing arcades, nocturnally illuminated by the cold full moon, has all the poetry of Romantic reveriebut it has also a strangely sinister air. This is an "ominous" scene in the full sense of the term: everything here suggests an omen, a portent of unknown and disquieting significance. The artist himself could not explain the incongruities in these paintings the empty furniture van, or the girl with the hoopthat trouble and fascinate us. De Chirico called this Metaphysical Painting: "We who know the signs of the metaphysical alphabet are aware of the joy and the solitude which are enclosed by a portico, by the corner of a street, or even in a room, on the surface of a table, or between the sides of a box.... The minutely accurate and prudently weighed use of surfaces and volumes constitutes the canon of the metaphysical aesthetic." Later, after he had returned to Italy, he adopted a conservative style and repudiated his early works, as if he were embarrassed at having put his dream world on display, even though he secretly continued to paint copies to meet the commercial demand for them.

7. Giorgio de Chirico.
Mystery and Melancholy
of a Street.


Marc Chagall

The power of nostalgia, so evident in Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, also dominates the fantasies of Marc Chagall (1887-1985), a Russian who went to Paris in 1910. I and the Village (fig. 1058) is a Cubist fairy-tale, weaving dreamlike memories of Russian folk tales, Jewish proverbs, and the look of Russia into one glowing vision. Here, as in many later works, Chagall relives the experiences of his childhood. These were so important to him that his imagination shaped and reshaped them for years without their persistence being diminished.

1058. Marc Chagall.
I and the Village.


Marcel Duchamp

In Paris shortly before World War I we encounter yet another artist of fantasy, the Frenchman Marcel Duchamp
(1887-1968). After basing his early style on Cezanne, he initiated a dynamic version of Analytic Cubism, similar to Futurism, by superimposing successive phases of movement on each other, much as in multiple-exposure photography (see fig. 1035). His Nude Descending a Staircase (fig. 1059), done in this vein, caused a scandal at the Armory Show of modern art in New York in 1913 because it went against all traditional notions of what a nude should look like. Although his objective was simply to paint "a static representation of movement," this parody of the human figure already shows the ironic wit that was to underlie his work.

Soon, however, Duchamp s development took a far more disturbing turn. In The Bride (fig. 1060), we look in vain for any resemblance, however remote, to the human form. What we see is a mechanism that seems part motor, part distilling apparatus. It is beautifully engineered to serve no purpose whatever. The title cannot be irrelevant: by lettering it right onto the canvas, Duchamp has emphasized its importance. Yet it causes us real perplexity. Evidently the artist intended the machine as a kind of modern fetish that acts as a metaphor of human sexuality. By "analyzing" the bride until she is reduced to a complicated piece ol plumbing that seems utterly dysfunctional, physically and psychologically, he satirized the scientific outlook on humanity. Thus the picture represents the negative counterpart of the glorification of the machine, so stridently proclaimed by the Futurists. We may further see in Duchamp's pessimistic outlook a response to the gathering forces that were soon to be unleashed in World War I, toppling the political order that had been created 100 years earlier at the Congress of Vienna.

1059. Marcel Duchamp.
Nude Descending a Staircase No.
2. 1912
Marcel Duchamp. The Bride. 1912




In America, the first wave of change was initiated not by the Stieglitz circle but by the Ash Can School, which flourished in New York just before World War I. Centering on Robert Henri, who had studied with a pupil of Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy, this group of artists consisted mainly of former illustrators for Philadelphia and New York newspapers. They were fascinated with the teeming life of the city slums, and found an endless source of subjects in the everyday urban scene, to which they brought the reporter's eye for color and drama. Despite the socialist philosophy that many of them shared, theirs was not an art of social commentary, but one that felt the pulse of city life, discovering in it vitality and richness while ignoring poverty and squalor. To capture these qualities they relied on rapid execution, inspired by Baroque and Post-Impressionist painting, which lends their canvases the immediacy of spontaneous observation.

George Bellows

Although not among its founders, George Bellows
(1882-1925) became the leading representative or the Ash Can School in its heyday. His masterpiece. Stag at Sharkey's (fig. 1061), shows why: no painter in America belore Jackson Pollock expressed such heroic energy. Stag at Sharkey 's reminds us of Eakins' William Rush Carving His Allegorical Figure of the Schuylkill River (see fig. 967), for it continues the same Realist tradition. Both place us in the scene as if we were present, and both use the play of light to pick out the figures against a dark background. Bellows' paintings were fully as shocking as Eakins' had been. Most late-nineteenth-century American artists had all but ignored urban life in favor of landscapes, and compared with these, the subjects and surfaces of the Ash Can pictures had a disturbing rawness.

1061. George Bellows.
Stag at Shharkey's.


The Ash Can School was quickly eclipsed by the rush toward a more radical modernism set off by the Armory Show held in New York in
1913. It was an outgrowth of the Independents Show three years earlier, which had showcased the talents of a group of rising young artists known as the Eight, who soon founded the American Association of Painters and Sculptors. The Armory Show was intended to foster a "new spirit in art" by introducing Americans to the latest trends from Europe and the United States. The exhibition began with a survey of French painting from the Romantics to the Post-Impressionists, especially the Symbolists. Needless to say, the modern section was also heavily French, with a major emphasis on Matisse and Picasso. There were curious lapses as well: German Expressionism was poorly represented, while Futurism was omitted completely, although Orphism had a prominent place. The selection of sculpture was haphazard at best. The American art, which made up by far the largest part of the exhibition, included works by members of the Ash Can School, the Stieglitz Group, and the Eight. While it failed to promote the interests of its organizers, the Armory Show did succeed in its goal of introducing a new cosmopolitanism into the American art scene. It proved a succes de scandale with the public, who bought an astonishing number of works from the exhibition.


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