Art of the 20th Century



A Revolution in the Arts

 



Art Styles in 20th century Art Map

 

 


Expressionism
- 1905

EXPLORATION: Edvard Munch
EXPLORATION: Amedeo Modigliani
EXPLORATION: Francis Bacon


Fauvism - 1905


Die Brucke - 1905

Erich Heckel
Ernst Kirchner
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Max Pechstein
Emil Nolde
Otto Mueller
James Ensor
Egon Schiele
Oskar Kokoschka

Artists Groups - 1905-1907
The Eight
[Cz. Osma].
Group of Bohemian painters, 1906
Bezalel. Israeli Academy of Arts and Design, 1906
Deutscher Werkbund - 1907
Canadian Art Club. Society of artists in Toronto, 1907
Young Ones. Swedish group of artists, 1907

Vasily Kandinsky
Paul Klee
Ernst Barlach
Max Beckmann
Emile Antoine Bourdelle
Lovis Corinth
Jacob Epstein

Otto Dix
Josef Fenneker
Lucian Freud
George Grosz
Renato Guttuso

Willem Hofhuizen
Kathe Kollwitz
Wilhelm Lehmbruck
Marino Marini
Paula Modersohn-Becker
Jules Pascin
Christian Schad
Jose Gutierrez Solana 
Chaim Soutine
Max Weber
Ossip Zadkine

 

 





The First Avant-gardes



 

 

The intense artistic experimentation that took place duing the period 1905 to 1916 gave rise to several trends and movements: the Expressionism, Fauvism, Die Brucke, Der Blaue Reiter, CubismFuturism, Orphism, Suprematism, Constructivism, Vorticism, and Dadaism. These groups investigated new ideas of pictorial language -particularly the use of abstraction - and explored the expressive possibilities of materials and techniques not previously used in art. Part of their motivation was to urge people to abandon their conventional way of seeing things and adopt a fresh look at the ever-changing world. The messages voiced by these groups sometimes baffled society, broadening the gap between traditional culture and avant-garde art. This prompted them to define themselves with clear values and objectives, which were often broadcast using posters and pamphlets. As a unit, the groups could identify and develop alternative ways of exhibiting their art, such as private galleries, cabarets, theatres, and political organs.
 

   


Avant garde


(from the French for vanguard) Just as the word 'revolution' was adopted after the French Revolution for abrupt changes in cultural as well as other human affairs, 'avant garde' came in both to suggest that progressive artists could scout out the territory ahead in search of new styles and of themes of greater importance than the establishment permitted, and to undermine that establishment. Romanticism had claimed that 'poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world' (Shelley, 1821), implying confrontation with all authority, especially that of the institutions formed long ago to legislate in the arts. Victor Hugo's victory, in 1830, over ancient literary and dramatic conventions was hailed as successful revolt against all restrictions on creative freedom. In 1845 a French book on the social role of art and artists argued that art's mission was to guide the human race and that therefore, to know 'whether an artist truly belongs to the avant garde, you have to know where humanity is going', associating the arts with ideology. In the visual arts enmity became open when, in 1850 and 1851, with Europe's political revolutions of 1848 a vivid memory, the London press savaged pictures by the three young Pre-Raphaelites, shown at the Royal Academy, as blasphemous and subversive. Ruskin came to their defence in 1851, the first great champion of an avant-garde cause. In 1855, Courbet, finding his best canvases excluded from the art section of the Paris

World Exhibition, built himself a gallery nearby and labelled it Realism; Champfleury was Courbet's champion. By the time the impressionists borrowed a photographer's studio to exhibit together, in 1874, the battlelines were clear: on one side the academies as citadels of time-honoured values, successive avant-garde movements on the other. The Russian revolutionary Bakunin published an anarchist periodical entitled Avant-garde in 1878, linking the term to political radicalism and turning some progressive writers etc. against its use for artistic matters. But it soon came to be used more for these than for politics, signalling new creative ideas and individuals but associating these with an anarchistic, anti-bourgeois ideology. It only remained for their succession to speed up and diversify, so that quite soon yesterday's avant garde could become the target of today's. Movements promising radical innovation followed hard upon each other's heels from the 1890s on and rarely lasted long after their launching and initial propaganda. For a time, Paris was both the main stronghold of convention and the nursery of avant-garde groups, events and institutions, but many cities in Europe and America saw similar developments and, in so far as these were responding to Paris, a diminishing time-lag. From the 1960s on, with the promotion of Post-Modernism as a broad and vague movement countering Modernism's supposed dogmaticism and narrowness, the term and notion 'avant garde' was derided and declared obsolete. Pluralism was now the theoretical position, not backing this or that innovation.

 

 





 

 







Expressionism

Many of the first avant-garde movements can be loosely united under the term Expressionism in that they rejected Impressionist art for its superficial relationship with the world. With positivist culture in crisis, a new concept of time and history based on vitalism and evolution exposed Europe to a less certain vision. New scientific lines of thought, such as Einstein's theory of relativity, combined with social unrest to create a growing lack of consensus, while international disputes were soon to explode into major conflict. Such political tension had a marked effect on the artistic climate. The critic Hermann Bahr wrote of this period: "Never has there been a time so disturbed by desperation, by the horrors of death.... Never has man been smaller. Never has he been more troubled. Never has joy been more absent and freedom more dead. Here is the cry of desperation; man cries out for his soul, a lone cry of anguish rises out of our time. Art also cries out in the dark, calling for help, appealing to the spirit: this is Expressionism." He added: "What the Expressionist is looking for has no model in the past: a new art is beginning. Whoever sees an Expressionist painting... cannot fail to recognize it: what is in front of him is truly without equal. There is only one thing, after all, that all these groups have in common. What unites them is the fact that they have turned their back on, or rather that they are against, Impressionism." Bahr's account explains the evolution of art in Germany and some countries in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Artistic developments in France during the same period were more concerned with exploring formal values to express a new outlook on the world than with denouncing the world's problems with a violent Expressionist will as they affect one's physical and spiritual nature. Following on from the Neo-Impressionism of Seurat and Signac and the Synthetism of Gauguin and Denis, the artists known as the Fauves

wanted to reform art by revising its formal elements. They abandoned a realistic use of colour and applied pigment with the aim of creating harmonic unity. Matisse stated: "If the methods are so worn out (as in 19th-century painting) that their expressive force is exhausted, then one must go back to the basics.... Our paintings are therefore a form of purification... they speak with immediacy... with elementary material that searches the depths of the human soul. This is the departure point for
Fauvism: the courage to rediscover purity in the medium."
 

 



 


Fauvism

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)
 

Style of painting that flourished in France around the turn of the 20th century. Fauve artists used pure, brilliant colour aggressively applied straight from the paint tubesto create a sense of an explosion on the canvas.

The Fauves painted directly from nature, as the Impressionists had before them, but Fauvist works were invested with a strong expressive reaction to the subjects portrayed. First formally exhibited in Paris in 1905, Fauvist paintings shocked visitors to the annual Salon d'Automne; one of these visitors was the critic Louis Vauxcelles, who, because of the violence of their works, dubbed the painters fauves (“wild beasts”).

The leader of the group was Henri Matisse, who had arrived at the Fauve style after experimenting with the various Post-Impressionist approaches of Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat. Matisse's studies led him to rejecttraditional renderings of three-dimensional space and to seek instead a new picture space defined by movement of colour. He exhibited his famous Woman with the Hat (1905) at the 1905 exhibition. In this painting, brisk strokes of colour—blues, greens, and reds—form an energetic, expressive view of the woman. The crude paint application, which left areas of raw canvas exposed, was appalling to viewers at the time.

The other major Fauvists were Andre Derain, who had attended school with Matisse in 1898–99, and Maurice de Vlaminck, who was Derain's friend. They shared Matisse's interest in the expressive function of colour in painting, and they first exhibited together in 1905. Derain's Fauvist paintings translate every tone of a landscape into pure colour, which he applied with short, forceful brushstrokes. The agitated swirls of intense colour in Vlaminck's works are indebted to the expressive power of van Gogh.

Three young painters from Le Havre, France, were also influenced by Matisse's bold and vibrant work. Othon Friesz found the emotional connotations of the bright Fauve colours a relief from the mediocre Impressionism he had practiced; Raoul Dufy developed a carefree ornamental version of the bold style; and Georges Braque created a definite sense of rhythm and structure out of small spots of colour, foreshadowing his development of Cubism. Albert Marquet, Matisse's fellow student at the École des Beaux-Arts in the 1890s, also participated in Fauvism, as did the Dutchman Kees van Dongen, who applied the style todepictions of fashionable Parisian society. Other painters associated with the Fauves were Georges Rouault, Henri Manguin, Charles Camoin, and Jean Puy.

For most of these artists, Fauvism was a transitional, learning stage. By 1908 a revived interest in Paul Cézanne's vision of the order and structure of nature had led many of them to reject the turbulent emotionalism of Fauvism in favour of the logic of Cubism. Matisse alone pursued the course he had pioneered, achieving a sophisticated balance between his own emotions and the world he painted.
 

 




 



Matisse Henri 
The Joy of Life
1905
 


see also:



The Fauves


***


Henri Matisse


"CUT-OUTS"

 

 






 

 


Expressionism

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

artistic style in which the artist seeks to depict not objective reality but rather the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in him. He accomplishes his aim through distortion, exaggeration, primitivism, and fantasy and through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal elements. In a broader sense Expressionism is one of the main currents of art in the later 19th and the 20th centuries, and its qualities of highly subjective, personal, spontaneous self-expression are typical of a wide range of modern artists and art movements. Expressionism can also be seen as a permanent tendency in Germanic and Nordic art from at least the European Middle Ages, particularly in times of social change or spiritual crisis, and in this sense it forms the converse of the rationalist and classicizing tendencies of Italy and later of France.

More specifically, Expressionism as a distinct style or movement refers to a number of German artists, as well as Austrian, French, and Russian ones, who became active in the years before World War I and remained so throughout much of the interwar period.

The roots of the German Expressionist school lay in the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and James Ensor, each of whom in the period 1885–1900 evolved a highly personal painting style. These artists used the expressive possibilities of colour and line to explore dramatic and emotion-laden themes, to convey the qualities of fear, horror, and the grotesque, or simply to celebrate nature with hallucinatory intensity. They broke away from the literal representation of nature in order to express more subjective outlooks or states of mind.

The second and principal wave of Expressionism began about 1905, when a group of German artists led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner formed a loose association called Die Brucke. The group included Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Fritz Bleyl. These painters were in revolt against what they saw as the superficial naturalism of academic Impressionism. They wanted to rein fuse German art with a spiritual vigour they felt it lacked, and they sought to do this through an elemental, primitive, highly personal and spontaneous expression. Die Brücke's original members were soon joined by the Germans Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, and Otto Müller. The Expressionists were influenced by their predecessors of the 1890s and were also interested in African wood carvings and the works of such Northern European medieval and Renaissance artists as Albrecht Durer, Matthias Grunewald, and Albrecht Altdorfer. They were also aware of Neo-Impressionism, Fauvism, and other recent movements.

The German Expressionists school developed a style notable for its harshness, boldness, and visual intensity. They used jagged, distorted lines; crude, rapid brushwork; and jarring colours to depict urban street scenes and other contemporary subjects in crowded, agitated compositions notable for their instability and their emotionally charged atmosphere. Many of their works express frustration, anxiety, disgust, discontent, violence, and generally a sort of frenetic intensity of feeling in response to the ugliness, the crude banality, and the possibilities and contradictions that they discerned in modern life. Woodcuts, with their thick jagged lined and harsh tonal contrasts, were one of the favourite media of the German Expressionists.

The works of Die Brücke artists stimulated Expressionism in other parts of Europe. Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele of Austria adopted their tortured brushwork and angular lines, and Georges Rouault and Chaim Soutine in France each developed painting styles marked by intense emotional expression and the violent distortion of figural subject matter. The painter Max Beckmann, the graphic artist Käthe Kollwitz, and the sculptors Ernst Barlach and Wilhelm Lehmbruck, all of Germany, also worked in Expressionist modes. The artists belonging to the group known as Der Blaue Reiter are sometimes regarded as Expressionists, although their art is generally lyrical and abstract, less overtly emotional, more harmonious, and more concerned with formal and pictorial problems than that of Die Brücke artists.

Expressionism was a dominant style in Germany in the years immediately following World War I, where it suited the postwar atmosphere of cynicism, alienation, and disillusionment. Some of the movement's later practitioners, such as George Grosz and Otto Dix, developed a more pointed, socially critical blend of Expressionism and realism known as the Neue Sachlichkeit. As can be seen from such labels as Abstract Expressionism and Neo-Expressionism, the spontaneous, instinctive, and highly emotional qualities of Expressionism have been shared by several subsequent art movements in the 20th century.

Expressionism in literature arose as a reaction against materialism, complacent bourgeois prosperity, rapid mechanization and urbanization, and the domination of the family within in pre-World War I European society. It was the dominant literary movement in Germany during and immediately after World War I.

In forging a drama of social protest, Expressionist writers aimed to convey their ideas through a new style. Their concern was with general truths rather than with particular situations, hence they explored in their plays the predicaments of representative symbolic types rather than of fully developed individualized characters. Emphasis was laid not on the outer world, which is merely sketched in and barely defined in place or time, but on the internal, on an individual's mental state; hence the imitation of life is replaced in Expressionist drama by the ecstatic evocation of states of mind. The leading character in an Expressionist play often pours out his woes in long monologues couched in a concentrated, elliptical, almost telegrammatic language that explores youth's spiritual malaise, its revolt against the older generation, and the various political or revolutionary remedies that present themselves. The leading character's inner development is explored through a series of loosely linked tableaux, or “stations,” during which he revolts against traditional values and seeks a higher spiritual vision of life.

August Strindberg and Frank Wedekind were notable forerunners of Expressionist drama, but the first full-fledged Expressionist play was Reinhard Johannes Sorge's Der Bettler (“The Beggar”), which was written in 1912 but not performed until 1917. The other principal playwrights of the movement were Georg Kaiser, Ernst Toller, Paul Kornfeld, Fritz von Unruh, Walter Hasenclever, and Reinhard Goering, all of Germany.

Expressionist poetry, which arose at the same time as its dramatic counterpart, was similarly nonreferential and sought an ecstatic, hymnlike lyricism that would have considerable associative power. This condensed, stripped-down poetry, utilizing strings of nouns and a few adjectives and infinitive verbs, eliminated narrative and description to get at the essence of feeling. The principal Expressionist poets were Georg Heym, Ernst Stadler, August Stramm, Gottfried Benn, Georg Trakl, and Else Lasker-Schulerof Germany and the Czech poet Franz Werfel. The dominant theme of Expressionist verse was horror over urban life and apocalyptic visions of the collapse of civilization. Some poets were pessimistic and contented themselves with satirizing bourgeois values, while others were more concerned with political and social reform and expressed the hope for a coming revolution. Outside Germany, playwrights who used Expressionist dramatic techniques included the American authors Eugene O'Neill and Elmer Rice.

Strongly influenced by Expressionist stagecraft, the earliest Expressionist films set out to convey through decor the subjective mental state of the protagonist. The most famous of these films is Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), in which a madman relates to a madwoman his understanding of how he came to be in the asylum. The misshapen streets and buildings of the set are projections of his own crazy universe, and the other characters have been abstracted through makeup and dress into visual symbols. The film's morbid evocation of horror, menace, and anxiety and the dramatic, shadowy lighting and bizarre sets became a stylistic model for Expressionist films by several major German directors. Paul Wegener's second version of The Golem (1920), F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), and Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), among other films, present pessimistic visions of social collapse or explore the ominous duality of human nature and its capacity for monstrous personal evil.

While some classify the composer Arnold Schoenberg as an Expressionist because of his contribution to the Blaue Reiter almanac, musical Expressionism seems to have found its most natural outlet in opera. Among early examples of such Expressionist works are Paul Hindemith's operatic settings of Kokoschka's proto-Expressionist drama, Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (1919), and August Stramm's Sancta Susanna (1922). Most outstanding of the Expressionist operas, however, are two by Alban Berg: Wozzeck, performed in 1925, and Lulu, which was not performed in its entirety until 1979.

The decline of Expressionism was hastened by the vagueness of its longing for a better world, by its use of highly poetic language, and in general the intensely personal and inaccessible nature of its mode of presentation. The partial reestablishment of stability in Germany after 1924 and the growth of more overtly political styles of social realism hastened the movement's decline in the late 1920s. Expressionism was definitively killed by the advent of the Nazis to power in 1933. They branded the work of almost all Expressionists as degenerate and forbade them to exhibit or publish and eventually even to work. Many Expressionists went into exile in the United States and other countries.
 



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"I Painted the Clouds like Real Blood"

 

The shadows of a bleak childhood

 


One evening I was walking along a street,
tired and ill, with two friends:
the city and the fjord lay below us.
The sun was setting and the clouds turned blood red.
Then I heard the colours of nature scream -
and that shrill cry echoed over the fjord.
 

Edvard Munch, From My Diary, 1929

 


Edvard Munch had a hard life.
A doctor's son, he had a bleak childhood in Oslo. "My home was the home of illness, agony and death", he was to write in his memoirs. His mother died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty, leaving behind four children. Edvard was only six at the time. In her letter of farewell she wrote: "And now, my dear children, my sweet little ones, I say farewell to you. Your father will be able to tell you about how to get to Heaven better than I can. I'll be there waiting for you all." A pious woman who accepted her fate, all she could do was to hope for joy in the world to come — certainly not a legacy likely to inspire happiness and a zest for living in her children. Until he was thirteen, every time Edvard had a fever he was convinced that he was going to die. Influenced by his mother's negative way of viewing things, he vowed never to look forward to anything again. His father, at heart a good man, was distressing to his children. A sister of Munch's had already died of tuberculosis and, after the death of his beloved wife, Munch's father took refuge in fanatical pietism, forcing a strict regimen of prayer on his children.
 


 

Edvard Munch
Death in the Sick-Room
1893/94

Painted after the deaths of his mother and sister.

When he was older, Edvard argued incessantly with his father, while a second sister became a religious fanatic who was eventually declared insane.

From around 1889 onwards, Edvard became increasingly depressive, suffering from occasional fits of terror. Yet, by the age of seventeen, he had discovered another language with which to express his feelings of desperation: painting. It promised relief, consolation and hope.

In a state of feverish excitement, he concluded that "the curse on mankind has become the undertone of my art — and my paintings pages in my diary". His visits to Paris and Berlin proved to be a great inspiration and, at the age of twenty-eight, he painted The Scream — an archetype of human experience on canvas. All the terrors of human existence seem to concentrate in the face, twisted with fear. Like so many other paintings of his, The Scream is, as Edvard Munch said himself, "a bitterly earnest scene — and a child of sleepless nights, which have taken their toll in blood and nerves".
 


Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893


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MODIGLIANI'S PARIS DEBUT
 

Born in Leghorn, Italy, Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) arrived in Paris in 1906, when Fauvism was flourishing and Cubism was taking root. The artistic climate was a stimulating contrast to the artist's cultural background, which included I4th-centurv Sienese painting and Tuscan Mannerism. Working at first as a sculptor, Modigliani joined the lively community at Montparnasse, where Soutine, Chagall, Brancusi, and Zadkine were based. These were some of the artists who were at the centre of that intense concentration of artistic activity that became known as the Ecole de Paris. Modigliani developed a very personal and distinctive style, which combined formal elegance with expressive immediacy. His use of line, with its sinuous, curving rhythms, recalls Botticelli and the Sienese painters, while his succinct and incisive style came from Brancusi and African tribal art. Modigliani was also influenced by the work of Cezanne, which became his main inspiration for the large series of portraits that he produced, after 1914, when the outbreak of war ended his supply of material for sculpture. After working to resolve the problem of the relationship between solid form and background, he attempted to give integrity and depth to inner feelings and moods: his figures show an anguish and resignation that inspires compassion. His poetic figures are slender, with thin necks, blue eyes, and dreamy expressions, while his nudes are erotic, created with sensitive and elegant lines that are more modelled than drawn.


Amedeo Modigliani
Portrait of a Woman in a Black Tie

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The Poetic Nude

Absinthe and transfiguration

 


Wouldn't you like to rest?
With these words her gestures assumed a new softness so that
I trembled in the innermost fiber of my being as if to a voice never heard and indefinable.
She felt me, and over her eyes descended a heavy veil and
I fell on my knees and with my eager hand on her body,
she stood up, her body taut and quivering like a living harp.

 

Gabriele d'Annunzio, Intermezzo, V 111 - 117 (1883)

 

His name stood for scandal. Amedeo Modigliam was a wild aesthete after the manner of his time. He loved Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde and Gabriele D'Annunzio, smoked hashish, drank absinthe, danced naked on the tables of third-rate cafes, fought with the police and spent many an odd night locked up. He is supposed to have been intimate with many waitresses, painter's models and prostitutes. Once a model schoolboy, he was also tubercular and the English writer Beatrice Hastings left him when he decided to find his happiness and health in alcohol and drugs. She was fed up with getting up early every day to write the articles and poetry that put food on their table — while he slept until noon.

The young Italian, who had moved to Paris in 1910, forgot her soon enough. He met the love of his life at Mardi Gras: a girl fourteen years younger than himself, Jeanne Hebuterne. Friends warned him to keep away from her because she came from a family which had sired celebrated clerics. Her parents would find him a disgusting character. But Modigliani was not to be deterred. The tragic aesthete who, despite the excesses of his Paris life, still retained at thirty-three the beauty of his youth, had fallen deeply in love. He found in her the incarnation of the "lady with the swan-like neck" whom he had painted many hundreds of times. It was love at first sight for both of them and the power of love removed all obstacles. Jeanne defied her family to be Modigliam's permanent model. His fame grew, chiefly due to the series of paintings of which Nude with Necklace is one. The critic Francis Carco wrote in 1919 on the series: "Animal suppleness, waiting motionless in abandonment of self, in delicious languor, has never been more tellingly interpreted by a painter." Others praised Modigliam's poetic nudes as "hymns to a sensitive beauty".
 


Amedeo Modigliani
Nude with Necklace

 

The elegiac melancholy of these paintings reflects the tragedy and uncertainty of their creators own life. For the first time he had enough money to live on, yet his health was collapsing.

He died of meningitis on 24 January 1920. He was thirty-six and an incurable alcoholic. Jeanne Hebuterne, who was nearly nine months pregnant, committed suicide the following morning by jumping out of a window of her parents' fifth-floor flat.
 

Plagued by misfortunes: Modigjliani's Self-Portrait of 1919, and his wife Jeanne Hebuterne, 1918


 

 


see EXPLORATIONS:

Edvard Munch

*

Amedeo Modigliani

"The Poetry of Seeing"

*

Francis Bacon

"The Theater of the Body"
 

 




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Francis Bacon
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion


 
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Claustrophobic Fear

Francis Bacon and the pope

 

I have always been very moved by the movements of the mouth
and the shape of the mouth and the teeth.
People say that these have all sorts of sexual implications ....
I like, you may say, the glitter and colour that comes from the mouth,
and I've always hoped in a sense to be able
to paint the mouth like Monet painted the sunset.
 

David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon: 1962-1979,1975

 

Pope Innocent X was a magnanimous prince of the Church and a discerning lover of the arts but was said to have less influence over the Vatican Curia than his brother's widow, whose intercession was sought out by cardinals and ambassadors. Yet Innocent X was thought to be a good Pope — especially in Spain. He had taken the Spanish side in some royal quarrels and his portrait was painted in 1650 by the court painter of King Philip IV, Diego Velazquez (1599—1660). Nearly 300 years later, Velazquez's portrait became the fascination of a very modern artist. In 1909 Francis Bacon was born to English parents living in Dublin, but his fascination for this portrait did not develop until 1949: "I think it is one of the greatest portraits that has ever been made, and I became obsessed by it. I buy book after book with this illustration in it of the Velazquez Pope (Innocent X), because it haunts me, and it opens up all sorts of feelings...".

Bacon executed over twenty-five variations on Velazquez's work, among them Head VI. Bacon said that he had intended to work over the picture plane to make it look like "the skin of a hippopotamus", though in other respects the picture was painted to be "like Velazquez". Yet Bacon had never seen Velazquez's original portrait, which hangs in the Galleria Doria Pamphili in Rome. Bacon claimed that for nearly two or three years he was so entranced by this portrait, that he attempted to paint a work equal to it. Bacon speculated that it was partly due to the magnificent handling of colour which intrigued him. Or the high office of Innocent X, who surveyed the world from a sovereign's throne. Pope Innocent X had the appearance of a tragic hero. This is what Bacon wanted to portray, but, unlike Velazquez, he tore off the official facade to reveal the inner man. Bacons Pope Innocent X does not look at us ex cathedra.

He is a private person, a solitary being whose sufferings, brought on by loneliness, are wrenched from him in a scream — as if his isolation had induced claustrophobic fear.

Head VI may remind us of Albert Camus's The Stranger, Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit or perhaps even Sergey Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. Eisenstein's film of the 1925 Russian revolution contains a brutal close-up: a screaming woman is being hit m the eye by a bullet, losing control of the pram she has been pushing. The scene is a distillation of existential fear; a still photo of it was hanging in Bacon's studio when he painted Head VI.

 


Francis Bacon, April 1992;
The pope setting an example: Diego Velazquez, Pope Innocent X, 1650;
Shot in the eye: A still from Sergey Eisenstein's film The Battleship Potemkin, 1925;
Francis Bacon, Head VI, 1949.
 


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Die Brucke 
(Centered in Dresden, 1905-1913)
 




Erich Heckel




Ernst Kirchner




Karl Schmidt-Rottluff




Max Pechstein





Emil Nolde





Otto Mueller


 



At the same time as the Fauves were establishing themselves in Paris, a parallel group, Die Brucke (''The Bridge''), was forming in Dresden. While the Fauve artists had not produced any manifestos, and their solidarity was founded on recognition of their stylistic affinities, Die Brucke defined itself as a movement; its intention was to break with the past and create a new art that was relevant to modern life. Ernst Kirchner formulated a manifesto, which he transcribed onto a woodcut: "With faith in evolution, in a new generation of creators and connoisseurs, we call together all youth.... We want to create for ourselves freedom to move and to live opposite the well-established older forces. Everyone belongs with us -who renders with immediacy and authenticity everything that compels him to be creative." These were not so much aesthetic as existential statements; an appeal to the viewing public as well as artists for a new approach to art. The name "Die Brucke " probably came from the prologue of Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", where man is described as a bridge "between beast and Superman," but the name also indicates their desire for a link with other forward-thinking artists. Die Brucke was founded in 1905 by four architecture students -
Erich Heckel, Ernst Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Fritz Bleyl - who had halted their studies to dedicate themselves to painting, despite having little or no formal art training. The following year, they were joined by the Swiss artist Cuno Amiet; the German Expressionist and graphic artist Max Pechstein (1881-1955). who later formed a link with the Fauves while in Paris; and Emil Nolde (1867-1956), who was invited to join the group because its members admired his mainly religious paintings, which were judged as "storms of colour". In 1910, when activities transferred to Berlin, Otto Mueller (1874- 1930) also became a member. In his Chronik der Brucke (1913), Kirchner wrote that much of the inspiration for a change in art came from the city of Dresden itself, with examples of German masters such as Cranach and Durer, as well as the Oceanic sculpture preserved in the city's Ethnographic Museum. No less important for these young artists was Van Gogh, to whom a retrospective show was devoted in Dresden in 1905. The emotional fervour of Ensor and Munch, communicated in their unusual, violent works with striking and unnatural colours, were also a fundamental influence on the Expressionists. These influences can be found in the paintings of Kirchner, Nolde, Mueller and Heckel, which are often crudely and hastily sketched so as to maintain their expressive impact. Their subjects included busy urban life, particularly its seamy side, and its antidote, the countryside. Unlike the Fauves' optimistic vision of the world, which was influenced by the intuitionism of French philosopher Henri Bergson, the members of Die Brucke expressed dissatisfaction and their work is more subjective, with a psychological charge and a Nietzschean sense of the struggle of the individual against oppressive reality. As well as painting, Die Brucke artists were especially interested in xylography (the art of engraving wood). The appeal of the woodcut was strong for many reasons: its precise marks, which created stark contrasts between black and white; the expressive simplification of form that it encouraged; the sometimes distorted and uncontrolled lines produced by the gouge; and the potential for reproduction and distribution. After the group's first exhibition, of which nothing remains, others followed, held in a suburb of Dresden from 1906 to 1910, and in Berlin from 1911. Various members of the group settled in Berlin in search of an atmosphere that was more open to cultural exchange. Their work was shown at Der Sturm Gallery, owned by Herwarth Walden, who is credited with introducing the term "Expressionism". Walden played host to the protagonists and various trends of Expressionism, from Der Blaue Reiter to the Fauves as well as the Belgians Ensor and Wouters. Expressionism also found fertile ground in the artistic climate of Vienna. Austrian Expressionism was rooted in the work of Gustav Klimt and the Norwegian Edvard Munch, whose powerful images relied on extreme graphic tension in the emotive lines and distorted forms. Such work was a source of inspiration for Egon Schiele (1890-1918) and Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980). From Klimt, his teacher, Schiele took precious and elegant linework, which he subjected to lacerations and distortions, suggesting the inner contradictions of a reality that appears to be straightforward and serene but is really dominated by death and destruction. His exceptionally skilful drawings were mainly dedicated to erotic themes, expressed explicitly in a bitter and aggressive style. Meanwhile, Kokoschka created a series of portraits noted for their psychological depth, as well as some graphic work that features a nervous, all-expressive line.

 


James Ensor



 



Die Brucke
(German“The Bridge”)

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

organization of German painters and printmakers that from 1905 to 1913 played a pivotal role in the development of Expressionism.
The group was founded in 1905 in Germany by four architectural students in Dresden—Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who gave the group its name, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Other artists joined the organization over the next several years, including Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Otto Müller, the Swiss artist Cuno Amiet, the Finnish artist Akseli Gallén-Kallela, and the Dutch Fauvist painter Kees van Dongen. These young artists formed an idealistic, communal atmosphere in which they shared techniques and exhibited together.
From their first manifesto, written by Kirchner in 1905, Die Brücke sought to create an authentic art that defied the conventions of traditional painting as well as the then-dominant schools of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. The paintings and prints by Die Brücke artists encompassed all varieties of subject matter—the human figure, landscape, portraiture, still life—executed in a simplified style that stressed bold outlines and strong colourplanes. Like many avant-garde artists at the time, Kirchner and Heckel admired the apparent lack of artifice in art from places such as Africa and the Pacific islands and emulated this supposedly “primitive” quality in their own work. Similarqualities were being explored at the same time by the French Fauve artists, yet manifestations of angst, or anxiety,appear in varying degrees in the works of Die Brücke painters and generally distinguish their art from Fauvist art, which treats form and colour in a more lyrical manner. Die Brücke art was also deeply influenced by the expressive simplifications of late German Gothic woodcuts and by the prints of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. The movement contributed to the revival of the woodcut, making it a powerful means of expression in the 20th century.
The first Die Brücke exhibition, held in 1906 in the Seifert lamp factory in Dresden, marked the beginning of German Expressionism. From this date until 1913, regular exhibitions were held. (By 1911, however, Die Brücke's activities had shifted to Berlin, where several of the members were living.) The group also enlisted “honorary members” to whom they issued annual reports and gift portfolios of original prints, which are highly valued collector's items today.
There were already volatile relationships among the artists, but these rifts increased in the years after 1911. In 1913, provoked by Kirchner's highly subjective accounts of their activities in the Chronik der Künstlergemeinschaft Brücke, the group disbanded.

 

 

 


 




Egon Schiele








 


SCHIELE IMPRISONED FOR PORNOGRAPHY


NEULENGBACH, 1912

 

FINALLY SOME RELIEF FROM MY SUFFERING!

FINALLY SOME PAPER, A PENCIL, BRUSHES AND PAINTS!


Painter Egon Schiele was arrested on April 13 by the police of Neulengbach (Lower Austria), where he has frequently stayed since last year. A certain Mossig, a retired navy officer, has accused him of having seduced his daughter. Tatjana-Georgette-Anna, an enticing young person of fourteen. In addition, he was accused of having pornographic drawings lying around his studio while very young models posed for him.

The artist, who had thought that he had found a working haven in Neulengbach, is actually a victim of provincial lack of understanding for modern art. It is true that Schiele makes erotic drawings of adolescent girls, or paints them in watercolor, and it is also true that the girls let their nudity show. But although his works express the troubled beginnings of sexuality, their exceptional artistic quality saves them from the sin of pornography. Regarding the accusation of corrupting a minor, what else can it be but the fantasy of an overprotective father?

Schiele is quite bitter about the injustice of the accusations. "Finally! Finally! Finally! Finally some relief from suffering! Finally some paper, a pencil, brushes and paints, to draw and write with. The torture of these wild hours, vague, cruel, endless, shapeless, gray monotonous hours when I had to live deprived of everything, robbed of everything, between these four naked cold walls, like an animal." Schiele wrote this on April 16, after receiving the painting materials he had been incessantly asking for.

Born on June 12, 1890, in Tully. a small town on the Danube, about 40 miles from Vienna. Schiele is the sixth child of an Austrian railway clerk. He showed precocious talent for drawing and, after mediocre secondary studies, enrolled in the Art Academy of Vienna. He was expelled in 1909 because he rebelled against the old-fashioned teaching of Christian Griepenkerl, who directed painting classes. The same year, he was discovered by Gustav Klimt, who invited him to exhibit four paintings at the Internationale Kunstschau Wien. He gained instant recognition.

Understandably so. His drawings and paintings are free from any pose and grandiloquence. They translate profound feelings, show extreme virtuosity, a rare sense of color, and an acute sense of execution. Their composition is incisive, nervous, refined, sometimes Expressionistic and desperate.

After twenty-seven days of detention, Schiele was tried on May 7 by the judge of Sankt Polten, a neighboring town to which he had been transferred. The judge symbolically burned one of the incriminating drawings and imposed a fine, but acquitted him of the main accusation: corruption of a minor. He probably was sensitive to the seriousness and talent of a twenty-two-year-old genius.
_________

   
 

 



Oskar Kokoschka
 


THE ART OF KOKOSCHKA
 

Oskar Kokoschka studied at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna. At first, his output was as much literary as artistic, culminating in a series of Expressionist plays. As a member of the Wiener Werkstatte from 1908, he exhibited illustrations for "The Dreaming Boys", his poem dedicated to Klimt. Another exhibit, a painted clay bust entitled Warrior, was bought by the architect Adolf Loos, whose relationship with Kokoschka proved to be fundamental. It was Loos who persuaded the artist to abandon the Wiener Werkstatte and his decorative fans and postcards for more radical cultural circles and develop his own Expressionist style. The next year, Kokoschka presented Murderer Hope of Women at the Kunstschau, dedicated to Loos. The sketches he prepared for this work were wild and impetuous, and the provocative poster used the religions motif of the pieta to represent the struggle between the sexes. In about 1909, Kokoschka painted a series of portraits of Viennese intellectuals and worked as an illustrator for Herwarth Walden's Der Sturm magazine in Berlin. The portraits featured scratchy and tortuous linework and a probing analytical treatment of his sitters, which shows them at their most defenceless. This has led to many comparisons with the psychoanalytical work of Sigmund Freud, who was also working in Vienna at this time.
 




 

_____________

The Eight (Cz. Osma
)

Group of Bohemian painters established in 1906 with the aim of making colour the dominant element in their art. The members, all graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, were Emil Filla, Friedrich Feigl (1884–1965), Antonín Procházka, Willy Nowak (1886–1977), Otokar Kubín, Max Horb (1882–1907), Bohumil Kubista and Emil Artur Pittermann-Longen (1885–1936). Filla, Feigl and Procházka had undertaken further study journeys in Europe, which had opened up their artistic horizons and convinced them of the need for innovation in Czech art. At their initial meetings, held at a Prague coffee-house, the Union, they planned to publish their own magazine and put on an exhibition in the prestigious Topic salon in Prague. Eventually they succeeded in renting a shop in Králodvorská Street, Prague, where a hastily organized exhibition was opened on 18 April 1907, with a catalogue consisting of a sheet of paper headed Exhibition 8 Kunstausstellung. The number 8 in the title of the exhibition was intended to represent the number of members in the group; in fact there were only seven, because Pittermann-Longen was only allowed at his own request to exhibit ‘behind the curtain in the cubby-hole’, since he was still a student at the Academy. The catalogue was in German as well as Czech, as Nowak, Horb and Feigl were of German birth. The majority of the paintings exhibited showed the artists’ tendency towards an expressionism in the manner of Munch (who had an exhibition in Prague in 1905), van Gogh, Honoré Daumier and Max Liebermann. Only Max Brod gave the exhibition a positive review; otherwise the reaction of the public and critics was negative. A second exhibition of the Eight took place in the Topic salon in 1908, though it was without the participation of Horb (who had died) and Kubín (who was in Paris). The new exhibitors were Vincenc Benes and Linka Scheithauerová (1884–1960), the future wife of Procházka. The catalogue of exhibitors does not include Pittermann-Longen, and they were therefore once again seven. Among the artists’ aims on this occasion was the enhancement of expression (Filla) and the liberation of colour splashes (Procházka). The exhibition produced an even more negative reaction than the first. Although it was never officially disbanded, the members of the group maintained contact until 1911, when some of them were co-founders of the Cubist-orientated Group of Plastic Artists. Kubín and Filla turned to Neo-primitivism, and Nowak to Neo-classicism; Feigl remained in the Expressionist tradition.
_____________

 

Emil Filla
(1882 - 1953)

Basket with Fruits, 1916
 

Friedrich Feigl
(1884–1965)


Figures in a street, Jerusalem

Antonin Prochazka
(1882-1945)


Still Life


 

_____________

Bezalel (Heb. Betsal’el
)

Israeli Academy of Arts and Design. It takes its name from the biblical artist Bezalel, son of Uri, one of the craftsmen whom Moses commissioned to build and decorate the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 31:1–5,35:30–32). It was founded in Jerusalem in 1906 by Boris Schatz (1866–1932), a Jewish artist of Latvian origin, and was at first known as the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. Schatz also founded the Bezalel Museum (incorporated into the Israel Museum). The inhabitants of 19th-century Palestine, both Jewish and non-Jewish, had produced mostly folk art, ritual objects and olive-wood and shell-work souvenirs, so the founding of Bezalel provided a professional and ideological framework for the arts and crafts in Jerusalem. A major part of Schatz’s school was the workshops, which, starting with rug-making and silversmithing, eventually offered 30 different crafts; they employed workers and students, of whom there were 450 in 1913, in manufacturing, chiefly for export, decorative articles ranging from cane furniture, inlaid frames and ivory and wood carvings, to damascened and filigree objects. For Schatz, Bezalel was not merely a commercial enterprise, but a stage towards a Utopian society, as adumbrated by John Ruskin, whom he admired. Intended to create an original national style, Bezalel artefacts were a mixture of oriental styles and techniques with Art Nouveau features and influences from the Arts and Crafts Movement. The subjects were a combination of traditional Jewish images, Zionist symbols, biblical themes, views of the Holy Land and depictions of the flora and fauna of Palestine.
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Deutscher Werkbund

German association of architects, designers and industrialists. It was active from 1907 to 1934 and then from 1950. It was founded in Munich, prompted by the artistic success of the third Deutsche Kunstgewerbeausstellung, held in Dresden in 1906, and by the then current, very acrimonious debate about the goals of applied art in Germany. Its founder-members included Hermann Muthesius, Peter Behrens, Heinrich Tessenow, Fritz Schumacher and Theodor Fischer, who served as its first president.

_____________

 

_____________

Canadian Art Club

Society of artists active in Toronto from 1907 to 1915. Among its 20 members were William Brymner, Maurice Cullen, Clarence Gagnon, James Wilson Morrice, Edmund Morris (1871–1913), A. Phimister Proctor (1860–1950), Horatio Walker, Homer Watson and Curtis Williamson (1867–1944). The Club was formed in reaction to the low standards and ‘truth to nature’ aesthetics of the Ontario Society of Artists and was modelled on Whistler’s International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. Its eight exhibitions concentrated on small, carefully hung groups of works by leading Canadian artists and attempted to establish a high standard for other artists. The Club applauded individual achievement and was nationalistic in persuading expatriates to exhibit at home but, unlike the Group of Seven, defined nationality in only the broadest terms. The artists who exhibited at the Club were influenced by the Barbizon school, the Hague school and British plein-air painting, by Whistler and the Impressionists. Their works were well received by critics, and the Club’s activities were an important catalyst for artistic and institutional change. Its major influence was that of its Quebec Impressionist members on the emerging Group of Seven. After the death of Morris in 1913, however, and with the distractions of World War I, the Club disbanded; personalities clashed, finances were shaky and the membership was too dispersed to sustain the enthusiasm to keep it alive.

_____________
 

William Brymner
(1855-1925)


In the Orchard (Spring), 1892

James Wilson Morrice
(1865-1924)


Effet de Neige




 

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Young Ones (Swed. De Unga
)

Swedish group of artists active from 1907 to 1911. The members included Isaac Grunewald, Leander Engstrom, Birger Jörgen Simonsson (1883–1930), GOSTA SANDELS, Tor Sigurd Bjurström (1888–1966), Carl Magnus Ryd (1883–1958), Nils Tove Edward Hald (1883–1980) and Ejnar Nerman (1888–1983). At their first exhibition, in Stockholm (1909), they were described by the critic August Brunins as ‘Men of the Year 1909’ (‘1909 ĺrs män’). The group had two more exhibitions, both in Stockholm (1910, 1911), after which the group disbanded to form the short-lived group The Eight (De ĺtta), containing several of the original members of the Young Ones, as well as EINAR JOLIN, NILS DARDEL and SIGRID HJERTÉN. The Eight had only one exhibition, in 1912, before drifting apart.
_____________
 

Isaac Grunewald
(1889-1946)


Lyftkranen, 1915

Leander Engstrom
(1914-1985)


Woman with Embroidery

 

_______________
_______________________
_______________
 

 

 


Abstraction and Kandinsky

 

The exhibitions organized by the New Artists' Association of Munich in 1909 and 1910 provided an opportunity to compare the various avant-garde trends in Europe. The association's Russian-born president Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) set out the group's aesthetic principles, which later became the basis of the major Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter. Instead of Die Brucke's form of Expressionism, where emotions were released onto the canvas in aggressive colours and deformed shapes, he declared that the object of art was to reveal the spiritual side of reality by using natural instinct. The artist should divorce himself from the opinion of the masses and the material concerns of society and focus inwards to explore his own character and follow" an "inner necessity". Claiming that "objects damage-pictures". Kandinsky created his first abstract painting. He justified his choice with the observation that "the more frightening the world becomes (as indeed it is today), the more art becomes abstract". Kandinsky's move towards abstraction was rooted in Symbolism. It was this influence that gave rise to his concern with hidden meanings beyond the appearance of reality and with achieving in painting music's ability to stir the soul without reference to the objects of the physical world. Another influence was Jugendstil, a German style linked to Art Nouveau. which tended towards abstraction in its linework, using arabesques and other decoration. For these artists, the concept of representation or imitation of reality took second place to formal invention, which was allowed to flow" freely without regard for rules of symmetry or three-dimensionality. The exclusion of naturalistic references through linear stylization coincided with the publication of "Abstraction and Empathy" by Wilhelm Worringer (1908). This essay looked at the long-standing tendency in art to evoke reality by using symbolic forms, colours, and lines that exerted a psychological influence on the viewer.
 


Vasily Kandinsky
Untitled

Worringer recognized the ability of an abstract language to communicate meanings that could not be captured in other ways. As well as making a lucid contribution to the theory of abstraction, he produced some of the most direct and pleasing examples of "lyrical" abstraction. Further inspiration for Kandinsky came from a variety of cultural sources: Goethe's Theory of Colour. naive and primitive art from Russia; the cult of theosophy; and the expression of synaesthetic experience, for which he studied Schoenberg's work. The Czech artist Frantisek Kupka and the Lithuanian Mikolajus Ciurlionis (1875-1911) are sometimes cited as precursors of abstraction. They both had Symbolist tendencies and experimented with the translation of music into colours and forms. Ciurlionis created a composition of chromatic waves entitled The Stars Sonata, Allegro, while Kupka abandoned representation in his Piano Keys - Lake.

 



 

 


Vasily Vasilyevich Kandinsky

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Dec. 4 [Dec. 16, New Style], 1866, Moscow, Russia
died Dec. 13, 1944, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Fr.

Russian in full Vasily Vasilyevich Kandinsky Russian-born artist, one of the first creators of pure abstraction in modern painting. After successful avant-garde exhibitions, he founded the influential Munich group Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”; 1911–14) and began completely abstract painting. His forms evolved from fluid and organic to geometric and, finally, to pictographic (e.g., “Tempered Élan,” 1944).

Early years

Kandinsky's mother was a Muscovite, one of his great-grandmothers a Mongolian princess, and his father a native of Kyakhta, a Siberian town near the Chinese border; the boy thus grew up with a cultural heritage that was partly European and partly Asian. His family was genteel, well-to-do, and fond of travel; while still a child he became familiar with Venice, Rome, Florence, the Caucasus, and the Crimean Peninsula. At Odessa, where his parents settled in 1871, he completed his secondary schooling and became an amateur performer on the piano and the cello. He also became an amateur painter, and he later recalled, as a sort of first impulse toward abstraction, an adolescent conviction that each colour had a mysterious life of its own.

In 1886 he began to study law and economics at the University of Moscow, but he continued to have unusual feelings about colour as he contemplated the city's vivid architecture and its collections of icons; in the latter, he once said, could be found the roots of his own art. In 1889 the university sent him on an ethnographic mission to the province of Vologda, in the forested north, and he returned with a lasting interest in the often garish, nonrealistic styles of Russian folk painting. During that same year he discovered the Rembrandts in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, and he furthered his visual education with a trip to Paris. He pursued his academic career and in 1893 was granted the degree equivalent of a doctorate.

By this time, according to his reminiscences, he had lost much of his early enthusiasm for the social sciences. He felt, however, that art was “a luxury forbidden to a Russian.” Eventually, after a period of teaching at the university, he accepted a post as the director of the photographic section of a Moscow printing establishment. In 1896, when he was approaching his 30th birthday, he was forced to choose among his possible futures, for he was offered a professorship in jurisprudence at the University of Dorpat (later called Tartu), in Estonia, which was then undergoing Russification. In what he called a “now or never” mood, he turned down the offer and took the train for Germany with the intention of becoming a painter.


Munich period.

He already had the air of authority that would contribute to his success as a teacher in later years. He was tall, large-framed, impeccably dressed, and equipped with pince-nez glasses; he had a habit of holding his head high and seeming to look down at the universe. He resembled, according to acquaintances, a mixture of diplomat, scientist, and Mongol prince. But for the moment he was simply an average art student, and he enrolled as such in a private school at Munich run by Anton Azbé. Two years of study under Azbé were followed by a year of work alone and then by enrollment at the Munich Academy in the class of Franz von Stuck. Kandinsky emerged from the academy with a diploma in 1900 and, during the next few years, achieved moderate success as a competent professional artist in touch with modern trends. Starting from a base in 19th-century realism, he was influenced by Impressionism, by the whiplash lines and decorative effects of Art Nouveau (called Jugendstil in Germany), by the dot technique of Neo-Impressionism (or Pointillism), and by the strong, unrealistic colour of central European Expressionism and French Fauvism. Often he revealed that he had not forgotten the icons of Moscow and the folk art of Vologda; sometimes he indulged in patterns of violent hues that would have delighted his Asian ancestors. He exhibited with the vanguard groups and in the big nonacademic shows that hadsprung up all over Europe—with the Munich Phalanx group (of which he became president in 1902), with the Berlin Sezession group, in the Paris Salon d'Automne and Salon des Indépendants, and with the Dresden group that called itself Die Brücke (“The Bridge”). In 1903 in Moscow he had his first one-man show, followed the next year by two others in Poland. Between 1903 and 1908 he traveled extensively, from Holland to as far south as Tunisia and from Paris back to Russia, stopping off for stays of several months each in Kairouan (Tunisia), Rapallo (Italy), Dresden, the Parisian suburb of Sčvres, and Berlin.

In 1909 Kandinsky and the German painter Gabriele Münter, who had been his mistress since 1902, acquired a house in the small town of Murnau, in southern Bavaria. Working part of the time in Murnau and part of the time in Munich, he began the process that led to the emergence of his first strikingly personal style and finally to the historic breakthrough into purely abstract painting. Gradually, the many influences he had undergone coalesced. His impulse to eliminate subject matter altogether was not, it should be noted, due merely or even primarily to strictly aesthetic considerations. No one could have been less of an aesthete, less of an “art for art's sake” addict, than Kandinsky. In addition, he was not the sort of born painter who could enjoy the physical properties of oil and pigment without caring what they meant. He wanted a kind of painting in which colours, lines, and shapes, freed from the distracting business of depicting recognizable objects, might evolve into a visual “language” capable—as was, for him, the abstract “language” of music—of expressing general ideas and evoking deep emotions.

The project was not, of course, entirely new. Analogies between painting and music had long been common; many thinkers had attempted to codify the supposed expressiveness of colours, lines, and shapes; and more than one fairly ancient sketch might compete for the honour of being called the first abstract picture. Moreover, in these years just before World War I, Kandinsky was by no means alone in his attack on figurative art. By 1909 the Cubists were turning out intellectualized and fragmented visions of reality that baffled the ordinary viewer. Between 1910 and 1914 the list of pioneer abstract artists included many fine painters. A strict examination of works and dates can show, therefore, that Kandinsky does not quite deserve to be called, as he often is, the “founder” of nonfigurative painting; at least he cannot be called the only founder. But, when this historical point is conceded, he remains a pioneer of the first importance.

Kandinsky's widely accepted claim to historical priority restsmainly on an untitled work dated 1910 and commonly referred to as “First Abstract Watercolour.” On the basis of research done in the 1950s, however, this work can be dated somewhat later and can be regarded as a study for the 1913 “Composition VII”; and in any event it must be considered merely an incident—among many for which the evidence hasnot been preserved—on Kandinsky's route. In “Blue Mountain” (1908) the evolution toward nonrepresentation is already clearly under way; the forms are schematic, the colours nonnaturalistic, and the general effect that of a dream landscape. In “Landscape with Steeple” (1909) similar tendencies are evident, together with the beginning of what might be called an explosion in the composition. By 1910 “Improvisation XIV” is already, as its somewhat musical title suggests, practically abstract; with the 1911 “Encircled,” there has definitely developed a kind of paintingthat, though not just decoration, has no discernible point of departure in the depiction of recognizable objects. After that come such major works as “With the Black Arch,” “Black Lines,” and “Autumn”; in such pictures, done between 1912 and 1914 in a slashing, splashing, dramatic style that anticipates the New York Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s, most art historians see the peak of the artist's achievement.

Kandinsky was an active animator of the avant-garde movement in Munich, helping to found in 1909 the New Artists' Association (Neue Künstlervereinigung). Following a disagreement within this group, he and the German painter Franz Marc founded in 1911 an informally organized rival group, which took the name Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), from the title of one of Kandinsky's 1903 pictures.

Russian interlude.

When World War I was declared in 1914, Kandinsky broke off his relationship with Gabriele Münter and returned to Russia by way of Switzerland, Italy, and the Balkans. An early marriage to a cousin had been dissolved in 1910 after a long period of separation, and in 1917 he married a Moscow woman, Nina Andreevskaya, whom he had met the previous year. Although he was past 50 and his bride was many years younger, the marriage turned out to be extremely successful, and he settled down in Moscow with the intentionof reintegrating himself into Russian life. His intention was encouraged by the new Soviet government, which at first showed itself anxious to win the favour and services of avant-garde artists. In 1918 he became a professor at the Moscow Academy of Fine Arts and a member of the arts section of the People's Commissariat for Public Instruction. His autobiographical Rückblicke (“Retrospect”) was translated into Russian and published by the Moscow municipal authorities. In 1919 he created the Institute of Artistic Culture, became director of the Moscow Museum for Pictorial Culture, and helped to organize 22 museums across the Soviet Union. In 1920 he was made a professor at the University of Moscow and was honoured with a one-man show organized by the state. In 1921 he founded the RussianAcademy of Artistic Sciences. But by then the Soviet government was veering from avant-garde art to Social Realism, and so, at the end of the year, he and his wife left Moscow for Berlin.

In spite of the war, the Russian Revolution, and official duties, he had found time to paint during this Russian interlude and even to begin a quite drastic transformation of his art. Whereas in his Munich work as late as 1914 one can still find occasional allusions to landscape, the canvases and watercolours of his Moscow years show a determination to be completely abstract. They also show a growing tendency to abandon the earlier spontaneous, lyrical, organic style in favour of a more deliberate, rational, and constructional approach. The change is evident in such pictures as “White Line” and “Blue Segment.”


Bauhaus period.

By this time Kandinsky had an international reputation as a painter. He had always, however, been interested in teaching, first as a lecturer in law and economics just after getting his university degree, then as the master of a painting school he had organized in Munich, and more recently as a professor at the University of Moscow. He seems not to have hesitated, therefore, when early in 1922 he was offered a teaching post at Weimar in the already famous Bauhaus school of architecture and applied art. At first his duties were a little remote from his personal activity, for the Bauhaus was not concerned with the formation of “painters” in the traditional sense of the word. He lectured on the elements of form, gave a course in colour, and directed the mural workshop. Not until 1925, when the school moved from Weimar to Dessau, did he have a class in “free,” nonapplied painting. In spite of the somewhat routine nature of his work, however, he appears to have found life at the Bauhaus rewarding and pleasant. The climate was one of research and craftsmanship combined with a certain amount of aesthetic puritanism; it was classical, to use the term rather loosely, by comparison with the warm romanticism of his pre-1914 days in Munich.

Kandinsky responded to this climate by continuing to evolve in the general direction of geometric abstraction, but with a dynamism and a taste for detail-crowded pictorial space that recall his earlier sweeping-gesture technique. That Kandinsky was keenly interested in theory during these years is evident from his publication in 1926 of his second important treatise, Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (“Point and Lineto Plane”). In his first treatise, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, he had emphasized in particular the supposed expressiveness of colours, comparing yellow, for example, to the aggressive, allegedly earthly sound of a trumpet and comparing blue to the allegedly heavenly sound of the pipe organ. Now, in the same spirit, he analyzed the supposed effects of the abstract elements of drawing, interpreting a horizontal line, for example, as cold and a vertical line as hot.

Paris period.

Although he had been a German citizen since 1928, he emigrated to Paris when, in 1933, the Nazis forced the Bauhaus to close. The last, and one of the finest, of his German pictures is the sober “Development in Brown”; its title probably alludes to the Nazi brown-shirted storm troopers, who regarded his abstract art as “degenerate.” He lived for the remaining 11 years of his life in an apartment in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, becoming a naturalized French citizen in 1939.

During this final period his painting, which he began to prefer to call “concrete” rather than “abstract,” became to some extent a synthesis of the organic manner of the Munich period and the geometric manner of the Bauhaus period. The visual language that he had been aiming at since at least 1910 turned into collections of signs that look like almost-decipherable messages written in pictographs and hieroglyphs; many of the signs resemble aquatic larvae, and now and then there is a figurative hand or a lunar human face. Typical works are “Violet Dominant,” “Dominant Curve,” “Fifteen,” “Moderation,” and “Tempered Élan.” The production of such works was accompanied by the writing of essays in which the artist stressed the alleged failure of modern scientific positivism and the need to perceive what he termed “the symbolic character of physical substances.”

Kandinsky died in 1944. His influence on 20th-century art, often filtered through the work of more accessible painters, was profound.

Roy Donald McMullen

 



 




 

 


PAUL KLEE
 

Paul Klee (1879-1940) had a multi-faceted artistic personality, reflecting a broad spectrum of interests and aptitudes that ranged from romantic sensibility to theoretical lucidity. He was in temporary allegiance to various avant-garde movements without adhering to any one tendency. The constant, central theme of Klee's long and varied career as a painter was the analysis of artistic language. His interest lay in discovering a truly expressive medium that would draw from past and contemporary experiences those aspects that could most readily be communicated and which could express cosmic totality. Klee's parents and wife were all musicians and he spent several years pursuing a musical career. His devotion to painting sprang from a visit to Italy early in the century, where Leonardo da Vinci's works made a lasting impression on him. He settled in Munich and made contact with the Blaue Reiter artists, sharing their interest in children's drawing and in non-European cultures that provided stimuli and suggestions for a new. primordial vocabulary or images and signs. For Klee, what children or primitive peoples saw. or the forms that derived from what they saw, were very important insights. Through Delaunay's theories (Klee had translated and published his essay "De la lumiere" in Der Sturm in 1913) he had discovered the imaginathe power, rhythm, and dynamism of contrasting colours. Klee accompanied Macke on a visit to Tunisia in Easter 1914. Overwhelmed by the colour of the Mediterranean countryside, he wrote, "colour and I are both one: I am a painter". His starting point was always the natural world ("the object of painting is the world, even if it is not this visible world"), which prompted Klee to organize the two-dimensional space of his pictures in free geometric shapes and in areas of brilliant colour, which actually refer to reality through mere hints of poetic association. Following the turmoil of World War I. Klee created a new iconography that combined elements of a figurative language (including the sun, stars, arrows, and birds) with geometric forms in a "pictographic" writing that unified content and image, poetry and painting. It was during this period that Klee was invited to the Bauhaus in Weimar, where he taught from 1920 to 1929. The artist encouraged his students to transform the unreal into the real, the irrational into the rational, and to portray that which exists only in the emotions in graphic terms. These were also the years in which Klee painted his series of "magic squares". These works were confined exclusively to the expression of colour relationships and harmonic rhythms, echoing Schoenberg's polyphonies of the same period. They are based on mathematical schemas. in which the series of numbers found in the division of the canvas produce the same total in a horizontal or a vertical direction, mimicking the "magic square" from which they took their name.
Klee was a versatile and profilic artist, his complete output estimated at almost 8.000 works. In both his art and his teaching, he had an important influence on the art of the 20th century.
 

 


Paul Klee
Castle with Setting Sun

 

 


Paul Klee

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Dec. 18, 1879, Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switz.
died June 29, 1940, Muralto, near Locarno

Swiss painter who was one of the foremost artists of the 20th century.

Early life and education

Klee's mother, née Ida Maria Frick of Basel, and his German-born father, Hans Klee, were both trained as musicians. By Swiss law, Paul Klee held his father's nationality, and though late in life he applied for Swiss citizenship, he died before it could be granted. A gifted violinist, he briefly considered music as a career, and between 1903 and 1906 he played occasionally in the Bern symphony orchestra. Klee was educated in the classical Literarschule (a literary secondary school) in Bern. As a youth he wrote poetry and even tried his hand at writing plays. The diaries he kept from 1897 to 1918 are valuable documents rich with detailed accounts of his experiences and his observations on art and literature.

As a boy Klee did delicate landscape drawings, in which he and his parents saw the promise of a career, and he filled his school notebooks with comic sketches. Upon graduating from the Literarschule in 1898 he left for Munich, which was then the artistic capital of Germany, and enrolled in the private art school of Heinrich Knirr. In 1899 he was admitted to the Munich Academy, which was then under the direction of Franz von Stuck, the foremost painter of Munich. Stuck was a rather strict academic painter of allegorical pictures, but his emphasis on imagination proved invaluable to the young Klee.

Klee completed his artistic education with a six-month visit to Italy before returning to Bern. The beauty of the art of ancient Rome and of the Renaissance led him to question the imitative styles of his teachers and of his own previous work. Giving vent to his generally sardonic attitude toward people and institutions, Klee fell back on his undisputed talent for caricature, making it one of the cornerstones of his art. His first important works, a series of etched “Inventions” undertaken in 1903–05 after his return from Italy and drawn in a tight technique inspired by Renaissance prints, are grotesque allegories of social pretension, artistic triumph and failure, and the nature and perils of woman.

In 1906 Klee married Lily Stumpf, a pianist whom he had met while an art student, and that year he settled in Munich to pursue his career. His public debut that year—an exhibition of his “Inventions” in Frankfurt am Main and Munich—was largely ignored. He tried to earn a living by writing reviews of art exhibits and concerts, teaching life-drawing classes, and providing illustrations for journals and books. He had one small success as an illustrator: the drawings he did in 1911–12 for Voltaire's satirical novel Candide . Among his most accomplished early works, these drawings attempt to capture the humour and universality of Voltaire's satire by reducing characters, settings, and details to comic flurries of lines. As for Klee's caricatures, they were rejected as too idiosyncratic, and for many years Klee's small family—increased to three in 1907 by the birth of their only child, Felix—was supported largely by Lily's piano lessons.

Over the next several years Klee began to address his relative ignorance of modern French art. In 1905 he visited Paris, where he took special note of the Impressionists, and between 1906 and 1909 he became successively acquaintedwith the work of the Postimpressionists Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne and of the Belgian artist James Ensor. He also began to explore the expressive possibilities of children's drawings. These varied influences imparted to his work a freedom of expression and a willfulness of style equaled by few other artists of the time.

Klee caught up with the avant-garde in 1911, when he entered the circle of Der Blaue Reiter, an artists' organization founded in Munich that year by the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky and the German painter Franz Marc. Kandinsky was then in the process of formulating his influential theory of abstract art as spiritual expression, and while Klee had only limited tolerance for his mysticism, the Russian artist, together with Marc, showed him how far abstraction and a visionary approach to content could be taken. Klee also came to know a wide variety of French Cubist painting from Der Blaue Reiter exhibitions of 1911–12and from a visit he made to Paris in April 1912. He was especially impressed with the Orphic Cubism of the French artist Robert Delaunay.

Klee's own adoption of the abstracted geometric style of the Cubists is seen in a number of drawings he did in 1912–13 that range from comic images of lust and mayhem to symbolic representations of fate. They are not as complex as Cubist compositions—that would come later, after Klee had assimilated his new discovery—but instead resemble, and were largely inspired by, the simple patterns of children's drawings. Klee joined Cubism to children's art because both, he believed, returned art to its fundamentals: children's art by its direct and naive renderings, and Cubism by its timeless geometry. Together with Klee's taste for caricature, these elements result in a characteristic union of the farcical and the sublime, two seemingly contradictory qualities held in suspension by Klee's rigorous compositions and later by the beauty of his colour. From Cubism Klee also derived the frequent use of letters and other signs in his works; in Cubism these are usually simple indicators of the objects represented, but with Klee they become objects in their own right, imbuing his scenes with portents and enigmatic significance.


Artistic maturity.

Until 1914 Klee found it difficult to paint; he felt a lack of confidence in his abilities as a colourist, and most of his workto that time had been in black and white. But in April of that year he took a two-week trip to Tunisia with his boyhood friend Louis Moilliet and fellow painter August Macke of Der Blaue Reiter. Klee's intense response to the North African landscape and the example of Macke's more advanced use of Delaunay's colourful Cubism brought him new assurance as a painter. His lyrical watercolours of Tunisia, in which the landscape is simplified into transparent coloured planes, arehis first sustained body of work in colour. They would be the basis, in subject and style, for much of his painting in subsequent years.

As a German citizen, Klee was called up for service in the German army in 1916 during World War I. As a Swiss he felt little of the patriotic zeal and martial enthusiasm shown by many German artists and intellectuals, and he was spared front-line duty by recently enacted legislation exempting artists from combat. He remained in Bavaria, where he was able to continue his art. Many of the paintings Klee did during the war years are romantic, childlike landscapes, where war makes its appearance indirectly in images of demons or conflicts with fate. Their charm proved popular with the public, and his work began to sell.

With the end of the war in 1918 and the ensuing abortive November Revolution, Klee, like many other German artists, saw the hope of a new society. His political optimism may explain the exuberance of his work at this time. He continuedto paint evocative landscapes, but he returned as well to the farcical imagery he had drawn before the war. He visited the Dadaists in Zürich, and his work approaches theirs in its humour and spirit of absurdity. Among Klee's most striking pictures of the postwar period are his oil transfer paintings, created with a distinctive technique he devised in 1919. Essentially coloured drawings, they were made by tracing a drawing—usually onto watercolour paper—through a transferpaper coated with sticky black ink or paint, and colouring the result. Their characteristically fuzzy, spreading lines are unlike anything else in the period and lend a rich patina to Klee's droll or whimsical images. Among them are such well-known works as “Room Perspective with Inhabitants” (1921), whose inhabitants dwell not in the room but within the perspective lines that create it; and “Twittering Machine” (1922), which depicts a comic apparatus for making birds sing.

In 1920 Klee received an appointment to teach at the Bauhaus, the school of modern design founded in 1919 in Weimar, Ger., by the architect Walter Gropius. Klee's principal duty, like that of his fellow Bauhaus artists Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy, was to lecture in the basic design program on the mechanics of art. His lectures atthe Bauhaus, recorded in more than 3,300 pages of notes and drawings, were a remarkable attempt to show how the formal elements of art—simple linear constructions and geometric motifs—could be used to build complex symbolic compositions. Klee expounded his own methods in the Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch (1925; Pedagogical Sketchbook).

The prevalent geometric aesthetic of the 1920s and Klee's attempts to teach a methodology of art led him to rationalizehis own practice as well. His work of the Bauhaus decade is more geometric than before, and the number of forms employed in a given composition is sharply reduced. Among the many types of compositions resulting from this practice are pictures made entirely of coloured squares, horizontal striations, or patterns resembling basket weave and, among his most evocative, a number of paintings in which puzzlingly disparate objects—faces, animals, goblets, heavenly bodies—coexist in a black, undifferentiated space.

By the mid-1920s Klee's reputation had spread far beyond Germany, and in 1925 he received his first one-man show in Paris, the capital of European art. As the decade progressed, his biweekly lectures and administrative duties, and the almost constant tension in the Bauhaus over policy and politics, became increasingly onerous, and in 1931 he resigned for a less demanding position at the Dusseldorf Academy. He continued to work with geometric forms, most notably in his richly but painstakingly rendered “pointillist” paintings of 1930–32, with their mosaic-like surfaces of coloured dots—among them his largest single painting to date, “Ad Parnassum” (1932). But most of his pictures of the early and mid-1930s show varying attempts at loosening his style, with freer compositions and brushwork.

Klee remained at the Dusseldorf Academy until 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power; from then on, it was no longer possible to work in Germany. As a modern artist, Klee was dismissed from his position, and his house and studio were searched by the Gestapo on account of his known left-wing sympathies. Despite these difficulties, Klee continued to work without restraint. The drawings he did at this time are mostly representational and even narrative; many directly reflect the political disturbances of the day, dealing in ironic fashion with demagogy, militarism, political violence, and emigration.

But Klee's creative activity was not to continue uninterrupted. At the end of 1933 he returned to the relative artistic isolation of Switzerland, where the disruptions caused by his move, along with his sudden financial uncertainty, took a toll on both the quality and quantity of his work. His difficulties were compounded in the summer of 1935 by the onset of an incurable illness. At first misdiagnosed as a variety of lesser ailments, it was eventually recognized as scleroderma, an affliction in which the body's connective tissues become fibrous. Its severe initial symptoms, which ranged from a rash to glandular disturbances and respiratory and digestive difficulties, left Klee incapable of working for over a year. But in 1937 the temporary remission of his illness led to a remarkable outpouring of creative energy that was sustained until only a few months before his death in 1940.

Klee's late paintings and drawings are strongly influenced by the harsh distortions of Pablo Picasso's work of the 1920s and '30s. What the Spanish master gave to Klee in these finalyears was a means of expressing the urgency Klee felt as hishealth declined. The small details and delicate shadings and tints that had given his previous work its characteristic refinement are replaced by bold, simple strokes and a new intensity of colour. The sense of humour in these last works is now muted by the gravity of Klee's style and above all by images of dying and death. Among such works are wry drawings of angels (1939–40), who are still half-attached by memories and desires to their former selves, and “Death and Fire” (1940), Klee's evocation of the underworld, in which a rueful face of death is placed in an infernal setting of fiery red. These late images are among the most memorable of all Klee's works and are some of the most significant depictions of death in the history of art.
Assessment.

Though Klee belonged to no movement, he assimilated, and even anticipated, most of the major artistic tendencies of histime in his work. Using both representational and abstract approaches, he produced an immense oeuvre of some 9,000 paintings, drawings, and watercolours in a great variety of styles. His works tend to be small in scale and are remarkable for their delicate nuances of line, colour, and tonality. In Klee's highly sophisticated art, irony and a sense of the absurd are joined to an intense evocation of the mystery and beauty of nature. Claiming art to be a parable of the Creation, Klee represented everything from human figures and foibles to landscapes and microcosms of the plant and animal kingdoms, all with an eye that mocked as much as it praised; he was one of the great humorists of 20th-century art and its supreme ironist. Music figures prominently in his work—in his many images of opera and musicians, and to some extent as a model for his compositions. But literature had the greater pull on him; his art is steeped in poetic and mythic allusion, and the titles he gave to his pictures tend to charge them with additional meanings. Klee's work was too personal to found a school or style, but it has had wide and profound influence.

Marcel Franciscono
 

 

 



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see also collections:


 



Ernst Barlach



Emile-Antoine Bourdelle



Lovis Corinth



Max Beckmann



Jacob Epstein



Josef Fenneker



Otto Dix



Lucian Freud



Kathe Kollwitz



Renato Guttuso



Max Weber


Ossip Zadkine



Willem Hofhuizen



Wilhelm Lehmbruck



Marino Marini



Christian Schad



Paula Modersohn-Becker



Jose Gutierrez Solana 



Chaim Soutine



Jules Pascin



George Grosz
 

 


 

 


Abstract Art


Art that does not represent aspects of the visible world; also referred to as non-objective, non-representational and non-figurative art. All art requires some degree of abstraction. Naturalistic art can come close to deceiving us, as in "trompe l'oeil painting, but even the art based on close observation of nature has required some factual and aesthetic deviations from physical truth in order to become an art object. It was when aesthetic organization and expression were given priority over what the academies taught as artistic verisimilitude, during the last twenty years of the 19th century, notably in Post-Impressionism, that abandoning academic norms and everyman's apprehension of reality could become programmatic. The Cubism of Braque and Picasso included many works that in their titles refer to a figure or still-life subject which the viewer might fail to find in the work. Such paintings or drawings imply a process of abstraction, that is of departure from representational legibility, but by 1912—13 some painters, including Picasso, were producing pictures that appear to be wholly abstract - they do not allude to objects in the real world. Thus they broke the chain of principle which had obtained in western art since ancient time, whereby art's first duty was to provide a recognizable scene or object, however much varied by the demands of style or medium.

The decorative arts had always been free of this principle; in some cultures indeed -notably Jewish and Islamic - the representation of living beings was forbidden, and thus ornamental designs were developed that made sophisticated use of patterns and of line and colour, including script. In the West, the emergence of abstract art was preceded by a period when ornamental design, influenced both by the anti-naturalism of Post-Impressionism and by close study of natural forms, played so prominent a role as to close the gap between fine and decorative art: this was the period of Art Nouveau, which also saw theoretical analysis of the affective properties of forms and colours. In the foundation text of abstract painting, Kandinsky's On the Spiritual in Art, some theoretical prehistory and experiential justification is offered for the analysis of, especially, colour's expressive functions, but his recommendation of abstract art as the way into a more profoundly spiritual art, away from the materialistic focus of almost all 19th-century art, was accompanied by both a surprising recognition and a warning,

that is, to worlds other than this Earth, and it may be significant that his wife, Sonia, was born and grew up in Russia and until 1914 remained in touch with artistic developments there.

This suggests that the move towards and into abstract art came from a need to make art capable once again of dealing with elevated themes, after a century during which art seemed to have descended into triviality or to honouring routine representations of serious subjects. The literature (more than the art) of Symbolism had similarly sought to give fresh significance to religious themes, but it had also placed emphasis, notably in the work of Mallarme, on purification, that is, the economical use and cleansing of the means of each art form in order to release the resonances inherent in them but covered over by centuries of elaboration. This too led to work with sacred subject-matter, and it was in this spirit that Maurice Denis in 1890 wrote that a picture was, first and foremost, a 'flat surface covered with colours arranged in a certain order'. Often quoted as a statement on behalf of abstract painting, Denis's words were intended to give priority to aesthetic formulation over naturalism and to flatness seen as natural to painting and thus expressing a moral truth. A statement often quoted twenty or so years later was that of Plato, who, in 4th-century BC Greece, had Socrates commending as 'eternally and absolutely beautiful' two- and three-dimensional forms produced by mathematics and machinery. This unambiguously referred to non-representational forms and implied non-expressive purposes, and so it served the champions of a modern art not derived by abstraction from seen objects, an art which honoured and sometimes imitated the forms and products of modern technology and that started not from nature but from such a manmade base as mathematics. While Dadaists used references to machinery as a way of mocking humanity, abstract artists who worked with strictly geometrical forms could quote Plato on the unconditional beauty of their work. Those who used materials and sometimes processes belonging to technology, initially the Constructivist artists of early Soviet Russia, could also claim to be reaching out to the socially necessary world of industry and even to be contributing to it.

The meeting of Russian Suprematist and Constructivist ideas and art (principally in the person of Lissitzky) with the principles and practice of the De Stijl group (Van Doesburg) in 1920s Germany produced an Elementarist trend that affected all progressive design practice in central Europe and subsequently abroad, which, partly through the presence of Moholy Nagy, flourished at the Bauhaus from 1923 on. Just as the emergence of the Dutch De Stijl group, in 1917, had been an idealistic riposte to the bloodiest of wars being pursued in Flanders, so Elementarism answered Dadaisrn's accusation that art had failed, and would always fail, in so far as it did not prevent that war. Clear geometrical design, devoid of individualist expression and pursued in the name of functionalism (though rarely justifiable in terms of function: its products were thought to look functional), would serve the real world and everyone in it, while also providing models of a perfect manmade future. This double aspiration - as opposed to the modern dynamics the Italian Futurists tried to bring into their art - powered a broad geometrical-abstract movement that centred on Paris at the end of the 1920s with the Cercle et Carre group and its successor, the even more international  Abstraction-Creation group.

By this time, however, a free-form and intensely personally expressive form of abstract painting had emerged in Surrealism with the art of Miro, as well as a semi-abstract kind of imagery in the fantasy-art of other Surrealists such as Tanguy. Moreover, Klee, even before he taught beside Kandinsky at the Bauhaus, had developed a programme of free, instinctual invention which took major impulses from the materials employed and the marks made and developed an abstract composition or a partly representational image from these seeds. Thus he explored a vast range of forms and colours without adhering to either side of the abstract versus figurative divide which had become explicit from the very start, and established what he called his generative process as an increasingly influential principle in modern art.
 

Similarly the sculptor Brancusi, working in Paris, had made much simplified figurative sculpture that spoke of stone and chisels as well as of humanity and had gone on to use simplified forms, as of birds and fishes, to develop a sophisticated three-dimensional art that belonged to nature more than to technology but spoke eloquently of the timeless shaping spirit of humanity. Arp made paintings and sculpture that also, though in a more playful spirit, look abstract while feeling natural. Mondrian, the most persuasive and enduring of the great pioneers of abstraction, working in a geometrical manner, cared little for geometry or the forms of machinery as such, but patiently developed his style as a counter statement to civilization's confusion and emotionalism: the issue for him was one not of forms and colours but of the relationship of these to each other and to the surface on which they are displayed.

As all expectation of even a vestige of representation fades from art, it becomes possible to speak of a picture or sculpture as an object existing in its own right, a human invention; though it seems likely that the choices involved in producing such objects will always reflect values implanted in us by the forms of the world around us. Turning to mathematical forms and to such devices as random numbers can serve to reduce this influence, and in 1930 Van Doesburg initiated the term concrete art for such wholly abstract work. Max *Bill adopted the term for exhibitions he organized during and after the Second World War, and was himself an outstanding concrete artist, together with another Swiss, Richard Lohse.

Sculptors, inheriting a long tradition of an art dealing almost exclusively with the human image, were slow to essay complete abstraction. Still-life sculptures were made from 1912 on by Picasso, Boccioni, Magnelli and others. It was Moore and Hepworth, who, in the 1930s, made wholly abstract sculpture, he only intermittently, always drawn back to the figure, she more consistently, at first as almost geometrical solids that may have been inspired by Brancusi but were not abstracted from living forms, and then in larger wood carvings and bronzes that bore connotations of ancient standing stones and of the sea. At this time, Calder, close to the Surrealists in Paris, began to make his mobiles that may evoke nature (leaves in a breeze, fishes in water) but rarely imitate natural forms.

During the 1940s and 50s, Abstract Expressionism emerged in the USA and also its European counterpart under various names including Art informel. Both sprang from pre-war developments in geometrical and non-geometrical painting, drawing on earlier abstraction as well as on Surrealism, but insisting on personal modes of expression as opposed to Concrete art's impersonal voice, and requiring each artist to establish a hallmark idiom in a rule-less and apparently limitless field of production. Sculpture as well as painting took renewed energy from these movements, not least because of their reliance on the expressive potential of diverse materials. David Smith and Anthony Caro emerged as dominant figures in a new vein of abstract, constructed and coloured metal sculpture that exercised great influence and bore diverse fruit as younger sculptors brought in new materials (e.g. resin with glass fibre) and thus also new forms. A figurative element is sometimes discernible in post-war abstract art but was not its aim; the interesting point is that no guilt now attached to incorporating such references in work considered abstract. Since then the abstract/figurative opposition has become uninteresting and less noticeable, similarly the geometrical/free-form division within abstraction, as barriers have been transgressed or marriages across them have been entered into. Conceptual art may deliver its ideas in abstract or figurative terms. When it employs emphatically real objects, as in the work of Damien Hirst, it demonstrates that even the old assumption, that art must always involve a degree of abstraction, no longer holds.

 

 

 

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