Art of the 20th Century

A Revolution in the Arts



Art Styles in 20th century Art Map



The Great Avant-garde Movements




Artists Groups - 1920
Scuola Labronica. Group of 18 Italian artists-1920
Stupid group. German group of artists in Cologne-1920
Group of Seven. Canadian group of painters-1920
Group X. Group of British artists-1920
Societe Anonyme. Association founded in New York in 1920

(Cubist Realism) America - 1920

Charles Demuth
Charles Sheeler
Ralston Crawford
Georgia O'Keeffe

Artists Groups - 1920 -1921
(Rus.: ‘Institute of Artistic Culture’
Vkhutemas. (Rus.: Higher Artistic and Technical Workshops)-1920
Makovets. Association of Russian painters in Moscow- 1921

The Mexican Muralists
- 1921

Jose Orozco
Diego Rivera
David Alfaro Siqueiros
Rufino Tamayo

Artists Groups - 1922 -1924
Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia
. 1922

Rhythm group
. Polish group of artists-1922
Eugeniusz Zak

Der Ring. Organization of architects in Berlin-1923
Four Arts Society of Artists. Soviet exhibiting society, Moscow-1924
Society of Easel Painters. Russian exhibiting society-1924
Elementarism. Term applied to painting and architecture-1924






Scuola Labronica

Group of 18 Italian artists, all born in or around Livorno. It was officially founded in 1920, though its members had met regularly at the Caffč Bardi, in the centre of Livorno, since 1908. It continued until about 1950. The members were Adriano Baracchini Caputi (1886–1968), Benvenuto Benevenuti (1881–1959), Mario Borgiotti (1906–77), Eugenio Carraresi (1893–1973), Mario Cocchi (1898–1957), Carlo Domenici (1898–1981), Cafiero Filipelli (1889–1973), Raffaello Gambogi (1874–1943), Lando Landozzi (1887–1959), Giovanni Lomi (1889–1969), Giovanni March (1894–1974), Manlio Martinelli (1884–1974), Corrado Michelozzi (1883–1965), Renato Natali (1883–1979), Gastone Razzaguta (1890–1950), Renuccio Renucci (1880–1947), Gino Romiti (1881–1967) and Giovanni Zannacchini (1884–1939). Giovanni Fattori, whom most of them knew as a friend and teacher, was the single most important influence, and Romiti, in particular, remained true to his example. These artists were also strongly influenced by the Divisionist movement in Italy, led by Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, and several of them exhibited in Paris in 1907 at the Salon des Peintres Divisionnistes Italiens, the Divisionist exhibition held at Cours la Reine. Having published a newsletter, Niente da dazio? (1909–13), the group held its first show at the Palace Hotel, Livorno, in August 1920 with a manifesto loosely describing its aims as nurturing local young artists. There was no unifying style; they were all figurative painters who were inspired by their local scenery and whose aim was to depict the everyday life of their city. Naturalism was combined with a sense of modernity, particularly in Romiti’s paintings, such as the Livorno Shipyard (c. 1930; Florence), which are bolder in colour and form than those of the other artists. Their clientele was local and nearly all of their oils and graphics are now in private collections. Some are, however, in the collection of the Bottega d’Arte, Livorno, which was run by Gustavo Mors, who promoted their work as well as that of the Macchiaioli. Razzaguta, the group’s secretary from 1920 to 1950, recorded its activities in Virtů degli artisti labronici (Livorno, 1943).



Benvenuto Benevenuti

La nascita di Venere

Cafiero Filipelli

Il Ponte di Rialto




Stupid group

German group of artists founded in Cologne in 1920 by Franz Seiwert (1894–1933), Anton Räderscheidt, Marta Hegemann (1894–1970), Heinrich Hoerle (1895–1935), Angelika Hoerle (née Fick, 1884–1923) and Willy Fick (1893–1967). During 1918 and 1919 they had participated in Cologne Dada, contributing to Der Ventilator and to the catalogue Bulletin D. However, they had distinguished themselves by their explicitly Communist response to the volatile political situation, demonstrated in the folio of linocuts The Living Ones (1919), by Räderscheidt, Seiwert, Angelika Hoerle and Peter Abelen (1884–1962), which portrayed such political martyrs as Rosa Luxemburg. After internal disagreements, they distanced themselves from the ‘Dada Weststupidien 3’ (Max Ernst, Johannes Theodor Baargeld and Hans Arp) to form the Stupid group. They established a permanent exhibition in Räderscheidt’s studio at Humboldplatz 9 and published their only catalogue, Stupid 1. The break with Dada was inconclusive and contacts continued, but under Seiwert’s guidance the group proposed a ‘proletarian’ art inspired by the work of children and by 15th-century painting in Cologne. No homogeneous style was established, but they began to set simplified figures in flattened geometric structures (e.g. Seiwert, Workman I, 1920; Cologne, Kstgewmus.). Although reflecting friendships that persisted into the 1930s, the name Stupid was not reused after 1920; however the group constituted a preliminary phase for the GRUPPE PROGRESSIVER KÜNSTLER.



Factories, 1926

Franz Seiwert

Artist associated with the Dada
movement in Cologne.

Self-portrait, 1928

Demonstration, 1925



Heinrich Hoerle

Arbeiter, 1923

Denkmal der unbekannten Prothesen, 1930

Zeitgenossen, 1931




Group of Seven

Canadian group of painters. It was named in May 1920 on the occasion of an exhibition held in Toronto and was initially composed of Frank Carmichael (1890–1945), Lawren S. Harris (1885-1970), A. Y. Jackson (1882-1974), Franz Johnston (1888–1949), Arthur Lismer (1885-1969), J. E. H.MacDonald (1873-1932) and Fred Varley (1881-1969). On Johnston’s resignation in 1926, A. J. Casson (1898–1992) was invited to join. The group later expanded to include two members from outside Toronto, Edwin H. Holgate from Montreal (in 1930) and Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald from Winnipeg (in 1932). The essential character of the group’s style and approach to landscape painting was in evidence well before their official formation in 1920, and some of their most important pictures also pre-date that first exhibition. Although they continued to show together officially only until December 1931 and disbanded in 1933, when former members helped establish a successor organization with a much larger membership drawn from all over the country (the Canadian Group of Painters), the term continued to be applied to the later works of the group’s original members.



Frank Carmichael

Autumn, 1921

A Grey Day, 1926

A Grey Day, 1928


Franz Johnston

Spring Snow

The Fire Ranger, 1921

Fire-swept, Algoma, 1920


J. E. H.MacDonald

Mist Fantasy

The Tangled Garden

Falls, Montreal River




Fred Varley


Alice Massey, 1924

Gypsy Head, 1919

Portrait of Maud, 1925



Lawren S. Harris

Mountain Forms
, 1928

Arthur Lismer

Cathedral Mountain, 1928

A. Y. Jackson

A Dutch Windmill at Night, 1909




Group X

Group of British artists formed in 1920. It exhibited at the Mansard Gallery, Heal’s, in London, between 26 March and 24 April of that year. The nucleus of the group, whose name had no precise significance, was a regrouping of the Vorticism, comprising Wyndham Lewis, Jessica Dismorr (1885-1939), Frederick Etchells (1886 - 1973), Cuthbert Hamilton, William Roberts and Edward Wadsworth; these artists were joined by Frank Dobson, Charles Ginner, McKnight Kauffer and John Turnbull. Although the artists were united in a belief that ‘the experiments undertaken all over Europe during the last ten years should be utilized directly and developed, and not be lightly abandoned or the effort allowed to relax’, the works exhibited were characterized chiefly by a tendency to angular figuration; the critic Frank Rutter (1876–1937) wrote in the Sunday Times (28 March 1920) that ‘the real tendency of the exhibition is towards a new sort of realism, evolved by artists who have passed through a phase of abstract experiment’.



Jessica Dismorr


Portrait of a young girl

Frederick Etchells
(1886 - 1973)

Portrait of a young girl, 1911




Societe Anonyme
, Inc.

Association founded in New York in 1920 by Katherine Sophie Dreier and Marcel Duchamp to promote the work of the international avant-garde. With the initial support of Man Ray they organized an extensive series of exhibitions, lectures, symposia and publications and established a reference library and acquisitions programme. Dreier modelled the association on the broad-ranging events and contemporary art exhibitions sponsored by Herwarth Walden’s Sturm-Galerie in Berlin. The name Société Anonyme was suggested by Man Ray to emphasize the association’s commitment to treating artists and art movements with impartiality. Following the group’s decision to form a corporation, making them the Société Anonyme, Inc., there was an obvious redundancy in their name that underscored their early links to Dada. This aspect of the association’s character waned with the departure of Duchamp and Man Ray to Paris at the end of the first year.





(Cubist Realism) America, 1920's to 1930's

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

smooth, sharply defined painting style used by several American artists in representational canvases executed primarily during the 1920s. While Precisionism can be seen as a tendency present in American art since the colonial period, the style of 20th-century Precisionist painters had its origins in
Cubism, Futurism, and Orphism. Unlike the artists affiliated with the latter movements, the Precisionists did not issue manifestos, and they were not a school or movement with a formal program. During the 1920s, however, many of them exhibited their works together, particularly at the Daniel Gallery in New York City. Among the artists associated with Precisionism were Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler, Ralston Crawford, and Georgia O'Keeffe.

Favourite subjects for these artists included skylines (both urban and rural), buildings and machinery, the industrial landscape of factories and smokestacks, and the country landscape of grain elevators and barns. Because the Precisionists used these motifs primarily to create formal designs, there is a certain amount of abstraction in their works. Precisionism is thus not an art of social criticism; when the Precisionist artist painted the city street, factory, or farm landscape, he was not making a comment on the environment depicted. Precisionism is a “cool” art, which keeps the viewer at a distance; the artist's attitude seems to be one of complete detachment, which he achieves largely by smoothing out his brushstrokes, erasing, as it were, his personal handwriting. Moreover, the scenes are always devoid of people or signs of human activity. The light of a Precisionist painting is idealized—brilliant and sharply clear—as in
Sheeler's Upper Deck (1929). The forms chosen in these works are frequently geometric, either inherently, as in the cylinders of the cowls and motors of Upper Deck and the grain elevators of Demuth's My Egypt (1927), or because the artist exaggerates these qualities through Cubist techniques.

The Precisionists' style greatly influenced Pop artists.
Demuthh's painting I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928) was particularly influential, in both technique and imagery, on the works of proto-Pop artist Jasper Johns and Pop artist Robert Indiana.




Charles Demuth

Charles Sheeler

Ralston Crawford

Georgia O'Keeffe



Georgia O'Keeffe

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born November 15, 1887, near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, U.S.
died March 6, 1986, Santa Fe, New Mexico

One of the foremost painters in 20th-century American art.

O'Keeffe grew up and attended schools in her hometown of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and, from 1902, in Williamsburg, Virginia. Determined from an early age to be a painter, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1904–05) and the Art Students League of New York (1907–08), and afterward she supported herself by doing commercial art. She then taught art at various schools and colleges in Texas and other Southern states from 1912 to 1916, and in the latter year her drawings were discovered and exhibited by the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz praised and promotedher work, and the two artists began a lifelong relationship, marrying in 1924. The hundreds of photographs Stieglitz tookof her form a notable and extended portrait series. O'Keeffe moved to New York City after meeting Stieglitz; she later spent periods in New Mexico, to which she moved after her husband's death in 1946.

O'Keeffe's early pictures were basically imitative, but by the early 1920s her own highly individualistic style of painting had emerged. Frequently her subjects were enlarged views of skulls and other animal bones, flowers and plant organs, shells, rocks, mountains, and other natural forms. O'Keeffe delineated these forms with probing and subtly rhythmic outlines and delicately modulated washes of clear colour. Her mysteriously suggestive images of bones and flowers set against a perspectiveless space inspired a variety of erotic, psychologic, and symbolic interpretations. The precision and austerity of her works owe something to the Precisionist paintings of Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth, but her ability to invest biomorphic forms with an abstract beauty was entirely her own. Her style is typified in such paintings as Black Iris (1926) and Cow's Skull, Red, White and Blue (1931).

O'Keeffe painted her best-known works in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, but she remained an active painter into the '80s. Her later works frequently celebrate the clear skies and desert landscapes of New Mexico. A retrospective exhibition of her art held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970 assured her reputation as one of the most original and important artists in modern American painting.

Her autobiography, Georgia O'Keeffe, was published in 1976.



Alfred Stieglitz

Portraits of Georgia O'Keeffe















[Institut Khudozhestvennoy Kultury; Rus.: ‘Institute of Artistic Culture’].

Soviet institute for research in the arts that flourished from 1920 to 1926. Inkhuk was a dominant force in the development of Soviet art, architecture and design in the 1920s. Founded in Moscow in May 1920, with affiliations in Petrograd (now St Petersburg) and Vitebsk, it attracted many members of the avant-garde, especially Lyubov Popova and Alexander Rodchenko; its key administrative positions were occupied by Vasily Kandinsky (Moscow), Vladimir Tatlin (Petrograd) and Kazimir Malevich (Vitebsk). At one time Inkhuk maintained contact with Berlin (through El Lissitzky and the journal Veshch’/Gegenstand/Objet), the Netherlands, Hungary and Japan, although it never really had the chance to develop these international connections. One of the principal aims of Inkhuk was to reduce the modern movements such as Suprematism and Tatlin’s concept of the ‘culture of materials’ to a scientifically based programme that could be used for educational and research purposes—a development analogous to the initial endeavours of the Russian Formalist school of literary criticism, which attempted to analyse literature in terms of formal structures. In its aspiration to elaborate a rational basis for artistic practice, Inkhuk encouraged discussions on specific issues of artistic content and form, such as the debate on ‘composition versus construction’ in 1921.





[Vysshiye (Gosudarstvennyye) Khudozhestvenno-Tekhnicheskiye Masterskiye; Rus.: Higher (State) Artistic and Technical Workshops].


Soviet school of art and architecture, active in Moscow from 1920 to 1930. It was established by state decree on 29 November 1920, on the basis of the first and second State Free Art Studios (Svomas), which had themselves been set up in December 1918 by fusing the old Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture with the Stroganov School of Applied Art. The Vkhutemas was conceived explicitly as ‘a specialized educational institution for advanced artistic and technical training, created to train highly qualified master artists for industry, as well as instructors and directors of professional and technical education’. Official concerns reflected contemporary artistic discussions on the role of art in the new society and its participation in industrial production; this was called ‘production art’, although the term covered a wide range of approaches, from applied and decorative art to the emerging concept of design promoted by the First Working Group of Constructivists, who were committed to the fusion of the artistic, ideological and industrial. These various attitudes were reflected in the composition and teaching of the school.






Association of Russian painters and graphic artists active in Moscow from 1921 to 1926. The name is that of the hill at Sergiyev Posad, on which the monastery of the Trinity and St Sergius, a centre of Russian Orthodoxy, is located, although until 1924 the group was known as the ‘Art is Life’ Union of Artists and Poets (Rus. Soyuz khudozhnikov i poetov ‘Iskusstvo–zhizn’). Sergey Gerasimov (1885-1964), Lev F. Zhegin (1892–1969), Konstantin K. Zefirov (1879–1960), Vera Ye. Pestel’ (1896–1952), Sergei M. Romanovich (1894–1968), Artur Fonvizin, Vasily Chekrygin, Nikolai M. Chernyshov (1885–1973), Aleksandr Shevchenko and others joined the association. They were greatly influenced by the aesthetics of Pavel Florensky, who was the spiritual leader of the group.



Portrait, 1925

Sergei Gerasimov

(b Mozhaysk, 26 Sept 1885; d Moscow, 20 April 1964). Russian painter. He trained in Moscow, at the Stroganov Institute (1901–7) and the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1907–12), under Sergey Ivanov and Konstantin Korovin. His early Post-Impressionist sensitivity for the modelling of form through colour was embodied in expressive portraits of social types . The austere, almost monochrome Oath of the Siberian Partisans (1933) contrasts with the optimistic, broadly impressionistic Collective Farm Holiday (1937), while the experiences of the war years are expressed in the heroic, emotional Partisan’s Mother (1943–50). Gerasimov’s work represents a compromise between Socialist Realist tendentiousness and the quick sensitivity of a painting style full of lyrical sincerity. The latter emerged with particular clarity in the poetic and reflective Mozhaysk Landscapes (1954). The artist’s painting style is also used in his book illustrations, such as those for Maksim Gorky’s Delo Artamonovykh (The Artamonov case, 1939–54).

Aleksandr Shevchenko

(1883-1948) was a highly influential Russian avant-garde painter and theorist. In 1913 he wrote the book 'Neo-primiivizm', from which the Russian art movement derives its name.
He studied at the Stroganov School in Moscow (1895–1905 and 1907) and in Paris (1905–6) with Eugčne Carričre and at the Académie Julian under Etienne Dinet (b 1861) and Jean-Paul Laurens. From 1907 to 1909 he attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, but protested against the traditional methods of teaching and was expelled. Between 1910 and 1914 he joined the circle around Mikhail Larionov and produced a number of paintings in the Rayist style in 1913 and 1914. In his book Neo-Primitivizm (1913) he propounded his own version of modern painting (NEO-PRIMITIVISM), which combined influences from Cézanne, Cubism, Futurism and popular Russian art forms. After leaving the army he became Professor of Painting at the first Svomas in Moscow (1918–20) and then at Vkhutemas (1920–29). Together with Aleksandr Rodchenko, Boris Korolyov (1885–1963) and a group of architects, he was a member of the experimental commission on the synthesis of painting, sculpture and architecture, Zhivskul’ptarkh (1919–20); at the same time, he was involved in the organization of the Museum of Artistic Culture in Moscow. With a group of his pupils he organized a series of exhibitions in Moscow under the titles Tsvetodinamos i tektonicheskiy primitivizm (‘Tsvetodinamos (colour dynamism) and tectonic primitivism’; 1919) and Tsekh zhivopistsev (‘The guild of painters’; 1926–30), and from 1922 to 1926 he was a member of the Makovets group of Symbolist painters. A one-man exhibition in the Tret’yakov Gallery in Moscow contributed to Shevchenko’s authoritative position in the artistic life of the 1920s.

Scene familiale Year, 1913

Landscape, 1920


Still life with melon Year, 1931

Georgian girls Year, 1931




In his "Call to the Artists of America", published in the Spanish review Vida Americana in 1921, David Alfaro Siqueiros urged artists to renew contact with the original art of their land, and to depict scenes of everyday life of the indigenous, local people. Together with Diego Rivera, whom he had met in Paris in 1919, Siqueiros worked on an initiative supported by the Mexican government that sought to combat illiteracy and educate the populace through art. using readily accessible and recognizable images to convey information. The best means of creating art for the people was to paint murals on public buildings ("the streets will be our museums") — easel paintings were better suited to a cultural elite. Stylistically, the murals were realistic interpretations with symbolic allusions, strong in narrative content and full of references, both to contemporary artistic media (such as the cinema) and the Pre-Columbian artistic tradition. The artists' admiration for Italian frescos, which they had studied during a visit to Italy in Mexican life. This touched on work and hardship and the contrasting lives of rich and poor people, as well as celebration and fiestas. The message was articulated in such a way that it could be understood on several levels and appealed to a cross-section of society. Following the assassination of General Obregon and subsequent changes in the political make-up of Mexico, the critical messages conveyed by these murals were no longer tolerated by the government, and the three great muralists - Rivera, Siqueiros, Jose Orozco and Rufino Tamayo -were forced to leave their homeland. During the period of Roosevelt's New Deal in the US ( 1933-40), these artists were commissioned to paint large murals on buildings in New York and California.



Mural painting

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

A painting applied to and made integral with the surface of a wall or ceiling. The term may properly include painting on fired tiles but ordinarily does not refer to mosaic decoration unless the mosaic forms part of the overall scheme of the painting.
Mural painting is inherently different from all other forms of pictorial art in that it is organically connected with architecture. The use of colour, design, and thematic treatment can radically alter the sensation of spatial proportions of the building; in this sense mural is the only form of painting that is truly three-dimensional, since it modifies and partakes of a given space. Byzantine mosaic decoration evinced the greatest respect for organic architectural form. The greatartists of the Renaissance, on the other hand, attempted to create an illusionistic feeling for space; and the masters of the subsequent Baroque period obtained such radical effects as to seem to dissolve almost entirely the walls or ceilings. Apart from its organic relation to architecture, a second characteristic of mural painting is its broad public significance. The mural artist must conceive pictorially a social, religious, or patriotic theme on the appropriate scale in reference both to the structural exigencies of the wall and to the idea expressed.
In the history of mural painting many techniques have been used: encaustic painting, tempera painting, fresco painting, ceramics, oil paint on canvas, and, more recently, liquid silicate and fired procelain enamel. In classical Greco-Roman times the most common medium was encaustic, in which colours are ground in a molten beeswax binder (or resin binder) and applied to the painting surface while hot. Tempera painting was also practiced from the earliest known times; the binder was an albuminous mediumsuch as egg yolk or egg white diluted in water. In 16th-century Europe, oil paint on canvas came into general use for murals. The fact that it could be completed in the artist's studio and later transported to its destination and attached to the wall was of practical convenience. Yet oil paint is the least satisfactory medium for murals: it lacks both brilliance of colour and surface texture, many pigments are yellowed by the binder or are affected by atmospheric conditions, and the canvas itself is subject to rapid deterioration.
The Romans used mural painting to an extraordinary extent. In Pompeii and Ostia the walls and ceilings of almost all buildings, public and private, were painted in unified, inventive decorative schemes that encompassed a wide range of pictures, including landscape, still life, and figured scenes. However, at no other time before or since has mural decoration received a higher degree of creative concentration by artist and patron than in the period of the European Renaissance. A continuously inventive spirit and inquiring mind, a wealth of support from patrons, and an ever-awakening attitude toward new creative possibilities are characteristics of this remarkable age. One speaks by and large of an Early Renaissance (15th century), a High Renaissance (1500–30), and a Late Renaissance, or Mannerist, style (second and third quarters of the 16th century). The centres of activity were the various cities and the rival personalities and families who dominated each area as political and cultural leaders.
In Florence, undoubtedly the most important centre, the development reveals an emphasis on specific problems of form almost to the point of obsession. It began with the concentration on the monumental figure by Masaccio, whereby the solidly built forms in a three-dimensional space are closely integrated by gesture and light and shade to produce a dramatic unity. The skill seems to have been recognized and developed by succeeding artists such as Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca, and Melozzo da Forli. The grandiose frescoes of Luca Signorelli (chapel of San Brizio, Orvieto) reveal the concentration on anatomy and thewell-modeled structure of many nude figures to achieve greater strength and articulation. This then becomes the point of departure for the great art of Michelangelo in the next century.
A second tradition is the more conservative and Gothic one exemplified by the pure and mystic expression of Fra Angelico (San Marco, Florence
). A third tradition is a kind of romantic realism to be found in the frescoes by Fra Filippo Lippi (the cathedral at Prato) and Benozzo Gozzoli (Medici Palace chapel, Florence). Both of these reveal an awareness of the artistic problems of Masaccio but also a new interest in nature and its recognizable and realistic representation. Finally, these heterogeneous elements are combined into a highly sensitive and decorative style during the last quarter of the 15th century, particularly in the frescoes of Domenico Ghirlandajo and Sandro Botticelli.
The High Renaissance is dominated by great individuals whose spectacular projects were often left unfinished or completed by pupils. Leonardo da Vinci's rich and universal genius is best demonstrated in the dramatic movement of figures and tensely psychological interpretation of content shown in his two most important mural projects: the “Battleof Anghiari” in the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence (destroyed but known through partial copies) and the famous “Last Supper” (Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan; see photograph).
Michelangelo, more intense and deeply religious than the scientifically minded Leonardo, sought to channel his expression through the human figure alone. Thus the dramatic movement of the figure carries the total design of his first mural (the “Battle of Cascina”) for the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence (lost but known through drawings and engravings). The stupendous project for the decoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling for Pope Julius II followed the samemethod with increasing concentration on the figure, and the later “Last Judgment” on the end wall in the same room shows greater interest in the movement of larger figure masses in space with considerable dramatic freedom and intensity.
Raphael represents the most perfect balance and integrationof all the problems of form, space, and decorative unity that had been experimented with through the preceding century. Perfection of form is identified with the juxtaposition of the “Disputation on the Holy Sacrament” and the “School of Athens” in the Stanza della Segnatura (Vatican). The later historical murals of the Stanzas reveal an increasing interestin movement.
Correggio is the last of the High Renaissance mural painters.His frescoes in the cathedral and the church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma reflect the transition to the new concept of Mannerism.
Two factors condition the development of mural decoration in the Baroque style of the 17th century. One is the enormous building enthusiasm engendered by the Counter-Reformation, particularly through the Jesuit order. The other is the importance given to palaces and homes of the ruling aristocracy throughout Europe as the centres of society's cultural life. The roots of the style are to be found again in the work of the Renaissance masters but as interpreted and taught by the new institution of the Academy (e.g., that of the Carracci at Bologna, Italy, and the French Academy, founded in 1648). Its development can be followed from the allegorical decoration of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome by Annibale Carracci to the increasingly elaborate wall and ceiling frescoes of Domenichino, Pietro da Cortona, and Andrea Pozzo whereby the dramatic movement of foreshortened figures and perspective blends with the architecture to achieve a total unified and endless illusion of space.
The most prolific and indeed most important single Baroque artist from the decorative point of view is Peter Paul Rubens, whose designs for tapestries, historical paintings (the Marie de Médicis series in the Luxembourg Palace, now in the Louvre), and decorations for the Jesuit churches in Antwerp and the Banqueting hall, Whitehall, London, as well as his own home in Antwerp, reflect both the universality of his productive genius and his international acceptance.

n late 18th- and 19th-century Europe there was hardly any further development in style or technique. In the 20th century, however, mural decoration reemerged strongly in three major phases. One is the more abstract and expressionistic form stemming from the experimental easel painting of the Cubist and Fauves groups in Paris and developing into the large projects of Pablo Picasso (Unesco, Paris), Henri Matisse (chapel at Vence, Fr.), Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, and Marc Chagall (decorations of the Paris Opéra and Lincoln Center, New York City). The second is that which developed out of the revolutionary movement in Mexico with the remarkable series of frescoes by José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo. With the ensuing acceptance of 20th-century concepts of design and structure in architecture, the new large-scale use of mosaics became a distinctive feature (e.g., the National Autonomous University of Mexico). A third phase was the short-lived American mural movement of the 1930s developed under U.S. federal sponsorship. The wide geographic distribution of the work in U.S. public buildings and the freedom given to both individual and experimental modes of expression as well as to the interpretation of socialand political problems provided an artistic impetus to mural decoration. Examples are murals of Ben Shahn, Boardman Robinson, Thomas Hart Benton, Reginald Marsh, and John Steuart Curry.




Jose Clemente Orozco

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Nov. 23, 1883, Ciudad Guzmán, Mex.
died Sept. 7, 1949, Mexico City

Mexican painter, considered the most important 20th-century muralist to work in fresco.

Early life and training.

Orozco first became interested in art in 1890, when his family moved to Mexico City. Going to and from school each day, he paused in the open workshop of José Guadalupe Posada, Mexico's first great printmaker, whose grotesque caricatures and illustrations appeared in sensational news sheets devoted to reporting lurid crimes and political scandals. Orozco was captivated by Posada's strong images and vivid style and for the rest of his life acknowledged the early influence of the master engraver.

Orozco's prodigious skill was immediately recognized, and he began night classes in drawing at the Academy of San Carlos. Toward the end of the decade, his pursuit of art was interrupted when he was forced to study for careers as an agronomist and, later, as an architectural draftsman. When he was 17, however, he lost his left hand in a laboratory accident, and he abandoned his architectural studies for painting. He reentered the Academy of San Carlos in 1905 with a renewed passion for painting and set about assiduously to become a competent painter.

About this time Orozco became acquainted with a radical student named Gerardo Murillo. Violently opposed to the cultural anti-Mexicanism in vogue, Murillo assumed the Aztec name of Doctor Atl and urged artists to reject the cultural domination of Europe and to cultivate in their work Mexican traits. Accordingly, Orozco began conscientiously to explore Mexican themes and to draw more directly from scenes of daily life. He became a caricaturist for an opposition newspaper and haunted the barrios, or slums, of Mexico City, painting a series of watercolours dealing with the lives of prostitutes and collectively titled “House of Tears.” When civil war broke out again in Mexico in 1914, Orozco supported the forces of General Venustiano Carranza as a satirical artist on the revolutionary paper La vanguardia (“The Vanguard”), which was edited by Atl.

Mature work and later years.

In 1917 the reaction of critics and moralists to the exhibition of his “House of Tears” paintings forced Orozco to leave Mexico for the United States, where he lived for several unhappy years in San Francisco and New York City. On his return to Mexico in 1920, he found that the new government of President Álvaro Obregón was eager to sponsor his work, and, along with his colleagues Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others, he was commissioned to paint murals on the walls of the National Preparatory School; these artists' efforts initiated the Mexican muralist movement. Orozco's early (1923–27) murals there, such as “Maternity” and “Christ Destroying His Cross,” were derivative, and Orozco himself destroyed many of them. Those dating from 1926, however, show him coming into his own style, achieving in such works as “Cortés and Malinche” and “The Trench” (both in the National Preparatory School) a monumentality unprecedented in Mexican art.

In 1927 government patronage and protection were withdrawn from Orozco and his fellow muralists, and the subsequent attacks of critics and moralists or conservatives again forced him to flee to the United States. Humiliated in his own country, he consciously strove, after settling in New York City, to forge an international reputation that would force his countrymen to recognize his value as an artist. He slowly became known in American art circles and finally was commissioned in 1930 to paint a major mural in the refectoryof Pomona College, Claremont, Calif. In choosing to do a mural of Prometheus, Orozco temporarily abandoned socialcriticism and historical subjects in favour of a more universaltheme: the self-sacrificing titan from ancient Greek mythology, bringing man fire, which enlightens, liberates, and purifies but also consumes. Orozco also turned away from the relative stylistic repose of his earlier murals. Recalling Atl's drawings and enthusiastic descriptions of the tortured figures in Michelangelo's “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel, he portrayed Prometheus as a monumental pseudo-Michelangelesque giant, straining his powerful muscles against the burden of his fate. By contrast, his murals (1930–31) at the New School for Social Research in New York City, dealing with the themes of universal brotherhood and social revolution, suffer by the slavish use of “dynamic symmetry,” a theory fashionable in the 1920s, which purported to represent the ancient Greek system of proportions.

In 1932 Orozco made a brief trip to Europe, where he viewedthe art of England, France, Spain, and Italy. Although he was impressed with the paintings of Pablo Picasso, his even deeper admiration of the Byzantine mosaics of Rome and Ravenna is reflected in his great series of murals (1932–34) in the Baker Library at Dartmouth College. Orozco divided this vast scheme into two series of murals correlated to the two main scenes, “The Coming of Quetzalcoatl” and “The Return of Quetzalcoatl.” This dichotomy contrasted the stages of man's progression from a primeval, non-Christian paradise to a Christian, capitalist hell. Byzantine mosaics also clearly influenced the pictorial style of “Modern Migration of the Spirit,” but such scenes as “Stillborn Education” and the Quetzalcoatl murals achieve unique levels, respectively, of grotesqueness and of sweeping force.

His art enriched and matured and his reputation firmly established, Orozco in 1934 returned triumphantly to Mexico, where he completed the illustration of his view of history in the mural “Catharsis” (Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City). This eschatological work displayed a laughing prostitute lying among the debris of civilization's last cataclysm, showing the constantly increasing pessimism that culminated in his Guadalajara murals (1936–39). His murals painted in the lecture hall of the University of Guadalajara, the Governor's Palace (1937), and the chapel ofthe orphanage of Cabańas Hospice (1938–39) recapitulate the historical themes developed at Dartmouth and in “Catharsis” but with an intensity of anguish and despair he never again attempted. Here, history is blindly careening toward Armageddon. The only hope for salvation is the self-sacrificing creative man, the “Man of Fire,” painted in the hospice dome.

Orozco's subsequent murals, such as those in the Gabino Ortíz Library in Jiquilpan (1940), in the Palace of Justice in Mexico City (1941), and in his last great work, “National Allegory” (1947–48; Normal School, Mexico City), neglect universal themes and dwell almost exclusively on nationalism. Canvases such as “Metaphysical Landscape” (1948), however, hint at a growing mysticism, and its abstract style indicates that Orozco may have been on the brink of nonfigurative painting when he died. His easel paintings, such as “Zapatistas” (1931; Museum of Modern Art, New York City), often attain the grandeur of his murals, which remain his definitive vehicles of expression, the touchstones of his genius.

Orozco became a national hero in his later years, honoured as the leader among those who raised Mexican art to a position of international eminence. In 1947 the president of Mexico awarded him a prize as the outstanding Mexican figure in the arts and sciences during the preceding five years.



Jose Orozco

Gods of the Modern World




Diego Rivera

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Dec. 8, 1886, Guanajuato, Mex.
died Nov. 25, 1957, Mexico City

In full Diego María Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao De La Rivera Y Barrientos Acosta Y Rodríguez Mexican painter whose bold, large-scale murals stimulated a revival of fresco painting in Latin America.

A government scholarship enabled Rivera to study art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City from age 10, and a grant from the governor of Veracruz enabled him to continue his studies in Europe in 1907. He studied in Spain and in 1909 settled in Paris, where he became a friend of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and other leading modern painters. About 1917 he abandoned the Cubist style in his own work and moved closer to the Postimpressionism of PaulCézanne, adopting a visual language of simplified forms and bold areas of colour.

Rivera returned to Mexico in 1921 after meeting with fellow Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros. Both sought to create a new national art on revolutionary themes that woulddecorate public buildings in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. On returning to Mexico, Rivera painted his first important mural, Creation, for the Bolívar Auditorium of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City. In 1923 he beganpainting the walls of the Ministry of Education building in Mexico City, working in fresco and completing the commission in 1930. These huge frescoes, depicting Mexican agriculture, industry, and culture, reflect a genuinely native subject matter and mark the emergence of Rivera's mature style. Rivera defines his solid, somewhat stylized human figures by precise outlines rather than by internal modeling. The flattened, simplified figures are set incrowded, shallow spaces and are enlivened with bright, bold colours. The Indians, peasants, conquistadores, and factory workers depicted combine monumentality of form with a mood that is lyrical and at times elegiac.

Rivera's next major work was a fresco cycle in a former chapel at what is now the National School of Agriculture at Chapingo (1926–27). His frescoes there contrast scenes of natural fertility and harmony among the pre-Columbian Indians with scenes of their enslavement and brutalization by the Spanish conquerors. Rivera's murals in the Cortés Palace in Cuernavaca (1930) and the National Palace in Mexico City (1930–35) depict various aspects of Mexican history in a more didactic narrative style.

Rivera was in the United States from 1930 to 1934, where he painted murals for the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (1931), the Detroit Institute of Arts (1932), and Rockefeller Center in New York City (1933). His Man at the Crossroads fresco in Rockefeller Center offended the sponsors because the figure of Vladimir Lenin was in the picture; the work was destroyed by the centre but was later reproduced by Rivera at the Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City. After returning toMexico, Rivera continued to paint murals of gradually declining quality. His most ambitious and gigantic mural, an epic on the history of Mexico for the National Palace, Mexico City, was unfinished when he died. Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo, was also an accomplished painter.



Diego Rivera

A Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park




David Alfaro Siqueiros

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Dec. 29, 1896, Chihuahua, Mex.
died Jan. 6, 1974, Cuernavaca

Mexican painter and muralist whose art reflected his Marxist political ideology. He was one of the three founders of the modern school of Mexican mural painting (along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco).

A political activist from his youth, Siqueiros studied at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts, Mexico City, before leavingin 1913 to fight in the army of Venustiano Carranza during the Mexican Revolution. Later he continued his art studies in Europe.

In 1922, after returning to Mexico, Siqueiros helped paint the frescoes on the walls of the National Preparatory School and also began organizing and leading unions of artists and workingmen. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), he commanded several brigades for the Republicans. Over four decades, his labour-union work and his communist political activities led to numerous jailings and periods of exile. He visited the United States, the Soviet Union, and many Latin American countries as a lecturer and guest artist.

Most of Siqueiros' large murals are in government buildings in Mexico. His murals are distinguished by great dynamism and compositional movement, monumental size and vigour, a sculptural treatment of forms, and a limited colour range that is subordinated to dramatic effects of light and shadow. Siqueiros and his followers produced thousands of square metres of vivid wall paintings in which numerous social, political, and industrial changes were portrayed from a left-wing perspective. He commonly used synthetic lacquer colours sprayed from paint guns in order tospeed up the process of decorating large public buildings. Healso did many easel paintings, the best known of which is perhaps “Echo of a Cry” (1937).



David Alfaro Siqueiros

La nueva democracia




Rufino Tamayo

Encyclopaedia Britannica)

(b. Aug. 26, 1899?/1900?, Oaxaca, Mex.—d. June 24, 1991, Mexico City), painter who combined modern European painting styles with Mexican folk themes.

Tamayo attended the School of Fine Arts, Mexico City, but was dissatisfied with the traditional art program and thereafter studied independently. He then became head of the department of ethnographic drawing at the National Museum of Archaeology (1921–26) in Mexico City, where he became interested in pre-Columbian art. Tamayo reacted against the epic proportions and political rhetoric of the paintings of the Mexican muralists, who had dominated the country's art production since the Mexican Revolution. Instead, he chose to work on small canvases, using Cubist, Surrealist, and other European styles and fusing them with a basically Mexican subject matter involving figures, still lifes,and animals. By the 1930s he had become a well-known figure on the Mexican art scene. He exhibited his paintings at the Venice Biennale in 1950, and the success of his work there led to international recognition. He went on to design murals for the National Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City (“Birth of Nationality” and “Mexico Today,” 1952–53) and for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in Paris (“Prometheus Bringing Fire to Man,” 1958), among others.

The varied styles of Tamayo's easel paintings range from the stolid Cubist figures in “Women of Tehuantepec” (1939) to the expressive violence of the barking mongrels in “Animals” (1941). Tamayo generally used vibrant colours and solid compositions to depict natural subjects in a symbolic, stylized, or semiabstract mode.


Rufino Tamayo





Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia
[AKhRR; Rus. Assotsiatsiya Khudozhnikov Revolyutsionnoy Rossii].

Soviet group of artists active in Moscow and Leningrad (now St Petersburg) in 1922–32. It was established in January 1922 by a group of artists, including Aleksandr Grigoryev (1891–1961), Yevgeny Katsman (1890–1976), Sergey Malyutin and Pavel Radimov (1887–1967), who were inspired by the 47th exhibition of the Peredvizhniki (the Wanderers). It was first called the Association of Artists Studying Revolutionary Life (Assotsiatsiya Khudozhnikov Izuchayushchikh Revolyutsionnyy Byt), then the Society of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (Obshchestvo Khudozhnikov Revolyutsionnoy Rossii) and finally, after the first group exhibition in Moscow in May 1922, the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia.




Pavel Radimov

The Laura of the Holy Trinity and St.Sergius", 1930




Rhythm group
[Pol. Rytm; Stowarzyszenie Artystów Plastyków Rytm: Rhythm Association of Plastic Artists].

Polish group of artists that flourished between 1922 and 1932, although Rhythm exhibitions continued to be held after the group’s disbandment (11 held up to 1932 by the group itself). Members included the painters Waclaw Borowski (1885–1954), Eugeniusz Zak (1884–1926), Tadeusz Pruszkowski (1888–1942), Zofia Stryjenska and Romuald Kamil Witkowski (1876–1950), the graphic artists Tadeusz Gronowski (b 1894) and Wladyslaw Skoczylas (1883–1934) and the sculptors Henryk Kuna (1885–1945) and Edward Wittig. The Rhythm group had no clearly defined programme. It emerged after the disbanding of Revolt (Bunt) and the Formists, before the advent of colourism and the avant-garde groups, with the aim of organizing exhibitions of a high standard. The Rhythm artists favoured classicism and appreciated stylized drawing, rhythmic compositions and decorative effects. They represented the Polish Art Deco style, and they achieved their greatest success at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925 and at the ‘Fine book exhibition’ (Paris 1931).


Eugeniusz Zak


Waclaw Borowski

Diana, 1927

Narkotyk, 1939




Der Ring

Organization of architects set up in Berlin in 1923 or 1924 to promote the cause of Modernism. It continued until 1933, when growing opposition from the Nazis forced it to disband. It began with a group calling itself the Zehnerring (‘Ring of Ten’), which met at the office shared by Mies van der Rohe and Hugo Häring. The name was chosen to symbolize the fact that the Zehnerring was a democratic union of equals. Apart from Mies van der Rohe and Häring, it included Otto Bartning, Peter Behrens, Erich Mendelsohn, Hans Poelzig, Walter Schilbach, Bruno Taut and Max Taut. Zehnerring’s stated purpose was ‘to struggle against impractical and bureaucratic resistance for the establishment of a new concept of building’.





Four Arts Society of Artists
[Rus. Obshchestvo Khudozhnikov ‘4 Iskusstva’].

Soviet exhibiting society, active in Moscow from 1924 to 1932. The society was planned to include representatives of all ‘Four Arts’, painting, sculpture, graphics and architecture. Among its members were the painters Martiros Saryan (1880-1972) and Konstantin Istomin (1887–1942), the graphic artists Pyotr Miturich, Lev Bruni (1894-1947) and Vladimir Favorsky, the sculptor Aleksandr Matveyev and painters such as Pavel Kuznetsov and Kuz’ma Petrov-Vodkin, who had previously exhibited with the Blue Rose group. At different times the group included such architects as Ivan Zholtovsky, Aleksey Shchusev, Vladimir Shchuko and El Lissitzky, together with artists such as Ivan Klyun, Vladimir Lebedev (1891–1967) and the sculptor Vera Mukhina contributing to one or more of the society’s four Moscow exhibitions (1925, 1926, 1928 and 1929).



Martiros Saryan

Love, 1906

Armenia, 1923

Under the Date Palm


Lev Bruni
(Russian, 1894-1947) 

Paysage imaginare

Osip Mandelshtam
Portrait by Lev Bruni, c. 1917

see also:

EXPLORATION (in Russian):


Osip Mandelshtam


Osip Mandelshtam





Society of Easel Painters
[Rus. Obshchestvo khudozhnikov-stankovistov; OST].

Russian exhibiting society formed in 1924, active until 1930. It included some of the most talented artists of the post-revolutionary generation and was influential in the 1920s. David Shterenberg, its chairman and guiding spirit, defined its aims as opposing abstraction and the genre pictures associated with the Wanderers, rejecting ‘pseudo-Cézannism’ and ‘sketchiness’, while advocating technical mastery, ‘revolutionary contemporaneity’ and ‘unambiguous subject-matter’. Like the Constructivists, the members of the Society of Easel Painters were keenly aware of the impact of technical and industrial progress on the arts, but they were committed to a Revolutionary Socialism that strongly rejected non-representational painting; in practice, however, abstract art was tolerated. The work of the Society was clearly influenced by Dada, German Expressionism and early Surrealism: the working men and women of the proletarian world who lived in modern housing blocks were austerely presented with spiky angularity in clear colours.


David Shterenberg

(b Zhitomir, Ukraine, 26 July 1881; d Moscow, 1 Jan 1948).
Painter. He lived for a time in Paris, where he trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (1906–12) and at the Académie Vitti, studying with Kees van Dongen and others. From 1912 he exhibited regularly at the Salon d’Automne. An habitué of the Café Rotonde, he was in contact with Modigliani, Chaďm Soutine, Jacques Lipchitz, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and many others. He drew on Cézanne’s works in paintings such as Flowers and Plaster (1908–9), on early Cubism in View from a Window (1913–14), and in 1916 he produced at least one abstract painting, Abstract (1916; Moscow, Tret’yakov Gal.).

Zia Sasha, 1922-23


The Artist's Wife Nadezhda Shterenber

Still-life with Lamp





Term coined by Theo van Doesburg and applied to painting and architecture to describe the constructive use of line, plane, volume and colour not only as the primary means of art but as an end in itself. In his article, ‘L’Elémentarisme et son origine’, he stated that the movement had been born in Holland in 1924 via the DE STIJL group. He then listed Elementarist contributors to the arts: ‘Georges Antheil in music, César Domela, Vordemberge-Gildewart and the author of this article (the founder of the movement) in painting, Constantin Brancusi in sculpture, Mies van der Rohe, van Eesteren, Rietveld and the author in architecture, I. K. Bonset [one of van Doesburg’s pseudonyms] in literature, Friederich Kiesler in the rejuvenation of the theatre’. The term is intimately related to the notion of abstraction and has roots extending back as far as Plato’s Philebus. In its broader definition it can provide an insight into the development of abstraction. As early as 1915, in his article on the development of modern art, van Doesburg wrote about the ‘fundamental elements’ of art and analysed how they had been treated during different historical periods.


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