Painting Review: Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911

Following on from my Cubism Research, and in preparation for assignment 5 annotations I have decided to research Georges Braque’s Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece 1911. The obvious choice of Cubist painting to annotate would be a Picasso which is precisely why I choose one by Braque. Picasso is the household name of Cubism but it seems from my research that they participated fairly evenly in the collaboration, even at times so closely as to be indistinguishable. This was the period known as ‘Analytical Cubism’. Additionally, I could go and see this one in person which always helps me!

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. I went to the Tate Modern to see it (apolgies for the wonky picture, there was a rope around an adjacent exhibit so I couldnt start square on to get the photo).

Georges Braque –
Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece (Clarinette et bouteille de rhum sur une cheminée),
1911, Oil paint on canvas, Support: 810 x 600 mm
frame: 935 x 723 x 74 mm, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The section in the middle triangle with the bottle, the clarinet & scrolls of paper (?), then the writing Valse, then the glass.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? Your eyes rove around the painting from plane to plane trying to make sense of what you’re looking at from one recognisable bit to the next to try and piece together what is there.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? I looked at it all but I still don’t understand many elements.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? The little round bit under the clarinet because I know it should be recognise it but I’m still not sure what it is.
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.


  1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very narrow colour palate typical of Analytical Cubism has been used to concentrate the viewer on the forms.
  2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Not really
  3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? slightly warm colours
  4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? The colours are muted and earthy to concentrate on the forms
  5. In what way is dark and light colour used? dark and light colour is used to separate the planes

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Very wide from light to black

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out the various planes of the work. The light is not coming from any clear direction.

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are in places used to model three-dimensional forms, for example the clarinet mouthpiece and holes, which in this part of the painting is lit from above.

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? In contrast to tradition paintins where the distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition, light here is used almost randomly to separate the various planes and sections.


  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? The oil paint has been applied in various ways across the surface of the painting. Thinly in places, for example at the edges where you can see the the texture of the canvas. The black lines and white space opaque smooth:
    [Detail 1] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
    and some parts are rather more thickly applied it little dabbing brushstrokes for texture:
    [Detail 2] Georges Braque – Clarinet and Bottle of Rum on a Mantelpiece,
    1911, Tate, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It doesn’t seem very conventional, but nothing about Cubism is!
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? the planes sort of shimmer above the canvas. its an odd effect.
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? yes, the different paint textures mean you associate different sections with different elements


Representation of depth Technique: Effect:
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what.
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale.
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective.
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top.
(e) linear perspective N


One of the tenants of Cubism is the abolishment of single point perspective to explore forms ‘plastically’

Looking at this a bit longer I’ve changed my mind here, there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious.

(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above.

I found it hard to see just by looking and making a sketch helped me here:

The different view points overlay so its a bit confusing so here I’ve tried to break down what i see i my head as separate views. I started with the bottle, on which the scheme seems to rest on. it has serveral view on it. the most obvious being the frontal view, where you can also see the glass and the nail. I’ve left the clarinet out of this picture because i dont think it was placed behind the bottle on the mantelpiece.

Here is one view that i think sets out the main pieces in their places on the mantelpiece. I see the clarinet, the rum, a glass, a scroll of paper (probably sheet music given the words written on it) it looks to me like he has pages under the objects which jut out and overlap the edge of the mantelpiece.

Perspective view from the edge of the mantelpiece

Its possible that this view in blue below is the same scene from the other end of the mantelpiece.

this is my suspected bits of mantelpiece views, from all different directions including underneith to see the corbel.




here i thought these were scrolls of music sheet

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal): There are plenty of diagonal lines radiating out and upwards from the bottom like a fan and a slight overall pyramidal feeling to the composition. The main elements are in an internal triangle section. Internally to that there are bisecting vertical planes and pieces (eg the Clarinet is horizontal and the bottle is vertical) and various little triangles made of overlapping planes of various textures and detail

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness. There are thick contour lines all around the painting but many are for the contours of the plane not actual for an object as such.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’/ Context & Meaning:

I’ve blocked these two together because without understanding the concepts Cubism it’s really hard to read the painting and understand any of its ‘evidence’ or even what you’re looking at.

In Harrison & Woods Art in theory 1900-2000 anthology there were quite a few articles which helped me understand this painting (and Cubism in general).


mostly I put my research straight into the annotations, the other painting review here and the main research notes page here.


Berger, J. (2001) Selected Essays. New York: Vintage

Clark, K. (1960) Looking at Pictures. Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York

Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago
Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing


Painting Review: Georges Braque – Yellow Seacoast

Following on from my Assignment 5 prep looking at a Cubist painting by Georges Braque, here I’m going to look at a Fauvist painting also by Braque – Yellow Seacoast also known as Boats on the Beach, L’Estaque. Braque came Fauvism late and left early but for a time was fully engaged. I picked this Fauve painting for annotation over the more obvious choices of Matisse or Derain because I thought it would be more interesting to compare two paintings of the same artist from the two (opposing) avant-garde styles of that period. I specifically picked this one because it seemed like this was when Braque was at his most Fauvist, you can tell that by the time he painted The Large Trees, L’Estaque, that he’s starting to waver.

I tried to keep in mind Terry Smith’s four ways of looking as per assignment 3 feedback. Unfortunately, unlike the Cubist painting, I could not actually visit this one in person so I has to analyse an online reproduction. They vary so much too, here are just two of the ‘versions’ of reproductions I could see online. I have choose to use the one from the official website where the painting resides (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) as (hopefully) this should be the most faithful.

Boats on the Beach
Georges Braque (France, 1882-1963)
France, 1906
Oil on canvas
19 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (49.53 x 69.85 cm) Frame: 27 × 31 × 4 in. (68.58 × 78.74 × 10.16 cm)
Gift of Anatole Litvak (53.55.1)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© 2015 Georges Braque / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Again, I’ve tried again to apply the techniques I learned in reading about the OU study diamond to this painting review. The grid format wasn’t that great for the blog so I’ve split into more of a questions and answers format, but I keep the comparison grid that my tutor liked on the previous assignment feedback.

Effects & techniques:

  1. What initially catches your eye? Where do you go next? And after that? The boat in the foreground, then the boats behind in the middle ground, then the sky.
  2. Where do you end up? Do your eyes stray away from the work altogether? My eyes strayed out of the picture at the sky and then back in on the reflection on the water and the boats on the right.
  3. Is there anything that you didn’t notice at first but saw later in your reading? The little town in the background looks like it has a smoking chimney stack in it.
  4. Did your eyes keep coming back to a particular part of the art work? That boat at the front
  5. Is there anything that you didn’t look at or thought wasn’t important? no.


    1. Has a wide or narrow palette of colours been used? A very wide colour palate which is not all realistic but conveys an atmosphere of joy.
    2. Have contrasting colours been placed next to each other? Yes, seemingly everywhere
    3. Are there more warm colours than cool colours or vice versa? It’s mostly balanced but perhaps a bit on the warm side or that could be an optical illusion of the colours.
    4. Would you describe the colours as being bright or dull? Are there more bright colours than dull colours (or vice versa)? All the colours are bright.
    5. In what way is dark and light colour used? The only dark colours really are blues, greens and purples. The purples form the shadows and the colour of the distant hills, the blue is in the water is quite dark, and in the dark blue contours and there are some darker greens as shadowy bits in the boats and in the background.

I. How wide is the range of colour values featuring in the art work? Not as wide as it first looks, there’s no blacks or whites

II. Are contrasting colour values present in the art work? Use of contrasting colour values pick out areas of interest, the boats on the water, the lands edge and the boats masts against the dramatic sky

III. Are contrasting colour values used to model three-dimensional forms? Contrasting colour values are also used to model three-dimensional forms and boundaries such as where the water meets the land

IV. In what way are the colour values distributed throughout the art work? The distribution of the colour values helps pull your eye around the composition and model shadows without using dark and light tints.


  1. Does the medium impose any limitations on the way the artist works, or allow any particular effects? Like the Cubist work, the paint has been applied smoothly in some places and in little dabbing strokes in others. Unlike the Cubist work, here the brush strokes are much looser. Its difficult to tell from the small online reproduction anything about the texture or thickness of the application.
  2. Is the medium used unconventionally or is the medium itself unconventional and, if so, does this contribute to the expressive effect of the art work? It’s not really the medium that is used unconventionally but the colours.
  3. Does the medium used suggest a particular mood? The mood is a joyous reflection of nature
  4. Does the medium used prompt the spectator to read the work in a particular way? not especially

need this large gap because the table runs into the side of the blog



Representation of depth Technique: Clarinet & Bottle of Rum Effect: Clarinet & Bottle of Rum Technique: Yellow Seacoast Effect: Yellow Seacoast
(a) overlapping Y The scene feels 3 dimentional because of the many overlapping layers, but they dont overlap in a traditional sense. Its a bit confusing what object is what. Y The boat in the foreground overlaps the water, the masts of the background boats are  overlapping the town on the horizon and the pontoon
(b) diminishing scale N As far as I can tell there is no diminishing scale Y  The painting has tradition one point perspective with large close boats in the foreground and smaller boats in the background
(c) atmospheric perspective N The space behind is a limited space of the mantelpiece so even if this was painted traditionally this would not have atmospheric perspective Maybe Its hard to tell if the colour purplish in the background hills is to represent atmospheric perpective of just because he wanted them purple
(d) vertical placement Y Yes, you can read the canvas from the bottom up to the bottle at the top Y  The boats in the background are above the ones in the forground
(e) linear perspective Y there is linear perspective on one or two of the view points which are not immediately obvious Y  You can tell by the boat in the forground and the one just behind it, there might as well be drawn on  guide lines
(f) modelling Y there is a slight modelling on some aspects for example the curl of something in detail 1 picture above Y Yes but very slight. There is slight modelling on the boats using colours

Use of lines:

Directional lines (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal):  There are implied diagonal lines as you look up the beach from the stern of the boat in the foreground. From there your eye zigzags across the painting along the towns horizontal line, up the slope of the hills to be carried across by the texture in the sky. Several points in this visual zigzag are broken by ship masts pointing into the sky or from the edge of the sky, down the masts into their reflections on the water and across the other colourful water reflection lines.

Contour lines – can also be used to outline forms; such contour lines can be described in terms of their thickness and sharpness.  True to Fauvist style many of the main objects (such as the boats and waters edge) are outlined in thick contour lines. This has the effect of breaking the colours reactions to each other by circling in dark blue. Other elements are not outlined, allowing the colours to react against each other, for example in the purple of the hills and the red of the sky.

Meaning – initial thoughts from the observed ‘evidence’

It looks like he’s expeimenting with colour theory. Many places that I’ve read that the fauves and the expressionists were similar but I don’t think so at all. Superficially maybe, they both use lots of bright direct colours in their work, not necessarily naturalistic either. They also use similar subject matter. But the expressionists seem to be full of anger, doom and gloom. Their colours are used to spit in your eye. The colours in this painting are clearly coming from a different place.

Context & Meaning:

much of my Fauve background reading notes I’ve left in this blog post

The name of The Fauves is from the French Les Fauves, wild beasts, this was a derogatory term coined from the first Exhibition where these bright colourful canvases were hung all together in one room with a Henri Rousseau and more traditional sculpture for maximum contrast. Colour was freed from descriptive representation and used to represent emotions. Braque came to Fauvism late and left early to move towards a more geometric look before fully developing Cubism with Picasso.

Fauvism’s hallmark was amplifying colours and making them richer than they are in real life. A pale red leaf might become a fiery red colour in a Fauvist painting, whilst a splash of watery yellow sunset on the sea would become a strong, bold yellow. (, 2017)

André Derain, Landscape of the Midi, oil on canvas, 1906, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The choppy dabbing brushstrokes are reminiscent of Van Gogh, or some contemporary work by André Derain but the space on the picture plain is less flat than Derain’s work (eg Landscape of the Midi, 1906)




‘The principles of Fauvism may be listed briefly as follows: construction of space with colour, purity and simplification of technique, economy of means’. (Ferrier, 1995)

Braque had plenty of opportunities to paint boats and their masts up on the sky when he lived in Antwerp in 1906 with Friesz eg Le Mat – Le Port d’Anvers, 1906. As with those paintings, here he paints across the water, with no figures and a sense of separateness from the local town although the bright Mediterranean light would have been a much intense than the grey atmosphere of Antwerp.

The composition follows the Impressionists basis for framing the landscape in a 1:2 sky/land ratio, and weighted in the lower left corner. Due to social and economic changes in French tourist towns between the visits from the Impressionists and the Fauves, the Fauves were more likely to make their landscapes nonspecific and idealistic.

Braque painted the same scene over and again until he’d worked out the nuances of the water, wood and rock. Eg Paysage a L’Estaque  (landscape at L’Estaque), 1906 and Le Port de L’Estaque (the port of L’Estaque) 1906, Fridart Foundation. They evoke a more daytime feeling that this one which seems like it might be painted at sunrise or sunset when you see the three together you can see more of the colours are representational after all. Painting L’Estaque was a rite of passage for the Normans, allowing them into the fauve circles.

Georges Braque – Paysage a L’Estaque (landscape at L’Estaque), autumn 1906, Oil on Canvas, 49.9x 61cm, Private collection
Georges Braque – Le Port de L’Estaque (the port of L’Estaque) autumn 1906, Oil on Canvas,, 50×61 cm, Fridart Foundation

Dufy, Braque & Friesz all came from Le Havre, in Normandy. Dubbed The Fauves Havrais, they have a slightly different take than the more Southern Fauves.  Friesz & Dufy had been taught by the same local art teacher, Charles Lhuillier of Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Braque his successor. At different times they all received a grant to go to Paris. Also at different times they all entered the studio of Leon Bonnat at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Braque initially studied art at night school and had an apprenticeship with House painter Laberthe. He did military service 1901-2, then off to Academie Humbert, Paris. All three artist spent some time together in the studio of Bonnat in 1903, having an impressionistic style in muted colours.

The Fauve landscape book has a fascinating timeline featuring all the fauves, I picked out the Braque bits:

Start of 1904  – Braque studying in Paris and living at 48 rue d’Orsel.

Summer 1904  – he holidays in Brittany and Normandy. Spends time in Le Pouldu near pont-aven where Gauguin painted.

Summer 1905  – he stays with sculptor Manolo (Manuel Martinez Hugue) & the critic Maurice Raynal in Honfleur and Le Havre. According to note 52 (G. Habasque, Les Soirees de Paris, 1954, p37), (Freeman, J, 1990) he acquired a Gabon mask from a sailor.

1906 June – September – Braque and Friesz stay in Antwerp painting the harbour.

Mid-september to Oct 1906 – He’s back in Paris after staying with friesz in nearby Durtal at painter Alexis Axilette’s home.

October – Nov 1906 Fourth Salon d’Automne exhibition features many Fauve works (not braque yet thou)

October 1906 Cezanne died

October – February 1906/7 – Braque stays in L’Estaque at the Hotel Maurin. Starts painting in Fauve style.

Nov – Dec 1906 – Derain back in L’Estaque and writing to Vlaminck notes that Braque, Friesz, Girieud are there and most of the artists from the Salon des Independants are in the region. Matisse spends 8 days there on his was to Collioure.

1907 Mar – april – Matisse is on the hanging committee of the 23rd Salon des independents. Braque exhibits & sells six paintings including those made at L’Estaque. 5 bought by Uhde and 1 by Kahnweiler. Vauxcelles describes the fauve movement as dangerous (Freeman, J, 1990) p101

1907 spring – After possibly travelling to Le Havre to prepare for the Cercle de l’Art Moderne exhibition that is open in early June, Braque and Friesz go to the south of France. Derain convinces Picasso to visit the ethnographic museum at the Palais de Trocadero. (Freeman, J, 1990) p101

1907 April – Braque meets Kahnweiler, who’d already met Picasso.

1907 may-early September – Braque and friesz in La Ciotat

1907 early june – Braque exhibits two in 2nd exhibition of the Cercle de l’Art Moderne along with other fauves.

1907 summer – Kahnweiler buying many paintings from the fauves including braque.

1907 July – Braque & Friesz stay at the Hotel Cendrillion, Cassis, and the visit Derain (note 190: 9/7/1907 postcard from Friesz to Druet)

1907 July/Aug – Braque & Friesz at La Ciotat and Matisse visits on his way to Italy.

1907 late August – Braque in l’Estaque, sends his Salon submission recommendations to Kahnweiler

1907 September – Braque and Friesz return to Paris. Braque sees Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon with Apollinaire (notes 199, 200: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 346-47) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1907 Autumn – Matisse exchanges paintings with Picasso. ‘Mercure de france publishes Cezanne’s correspondence with Bernard, which serves as the clearest statement published to date of cezanne’s ideas about composition and form’ (Freeman, J, 1990) p106

1907 Nov – ‘Braque goes to l’Estaque, following the Cezanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne’ (note 206:  Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 347), (Freeman, J, 1990) p106

1907 Oct – 5th Salon d’Automne. Braque only one painting. Matisse and Marquetry fauves on the jury.

1907 Nov-Dec – Matisse and Derain maybe see Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

1907 Dec – Braque begins to pain Nu (completed in June 1908)

1908 February – Braque and Picasso make drawings of deaf female model, (Freeman, J, 1990) p109

1908 March – May – 24th Salon des Independants. Braque shows 5. ‘In his review Apollinaire says that Braque’s work is the most original effort of the Salon’ p110 ( note 218: Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘Les Salon des Independants’ Les Revue des lettres et des arts, May 1, 1908) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 April – may – Braque shows 5 in Salon de la Toison d’Or, Moscow

1908 April – Burgess and Inez Haynes Irwin visit Braque’s Parisian studio (note 222: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 350) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 after May 2nd – Braque goes to help organise Cercle de l’Art Moderne in Le Havre

1908 Mid may – Braque stays for a 3rd visit in L’Estaque, this time at Hotel Maurin.

1908 June – Braque shows 2 in Cercle de l’Art Moderne exhibition

1908 summer – Braque joined in l’Estaque by Dufy. He possibly visited Derain in Martigues

1908 September – Matisse sees Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon according to Gertrude Stein (note 237: Museum of Modern art, Picasso and Braque, pp 354-441) (Freeman, J, 1990)

1908 October – Nov – 6th Salon d’Automne. Matisse has his own section which gets positive reviews from the critics (note 239: Louis Vauxcelles, ‘Les Salon d’Automne’, Gil Blas, Sept 30,1908), (Freeman, J, 1990). Matisse and Marquet on the jury. 6 pictures by braque rejected, Marquet saved one. Braque removed himself entirely to show later that November at Kahnweilers gallery. It was his first one man show. 27 works 1906-8 with catalogue text by Apollinaire. Vauxcelles repeats Matisse cube observations in his review.

1908 Nov – Picasso hosts a banquet for Rousseau. Apollinaire, Braque, Friesz, Marie Laurencin Andre Salmon Gertrude Stein + others also attended.

1908 Late Nov – Braque in Le Havre

1908/9 Dec/jan – Braque shows six in group exhibition Gallerie Notre-Dame-Des-Champs.

1908 December – Matisse published notes of a painter

See the final annotation here.


Cooper, D. (1972) Braque: The Great Years. The Art Institute of Chicago

Freeman, J. [et al.]. (1990) The Fauve Landscape. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Ferrier, J. (1995). The Fauves. Paris: Terrail. (2017). Yellow Seacoast by Georges Braque. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2017].

Harrison, C. & Wood, P. (2003). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. (New ed). Blackwell Publishers.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

The Museum of Modern Art. (2017). Georges Braque. The Large Trees. L’Estaque 1906-07 | MoMA. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2017].

New Sketchbook

Doing so much reading about art and no ‘doing’, I’ve started a sketchbook. I haven’t had a sketchbook (or really a desire for one) since I did my A-level art about 20years ago. I’m really enjoying it too. I’ll have more time for it once the course finishes obviously but I try to get to it every few days. I’ve even gone to a couple of drop in life drawing classes. At the moment there’s lots of half-finished things in there. Now I’m coming up to my final assignment and see the light at the end of the book reading tunnel I’ll be able to go back to it.

I kept a visual diary of for July, trying to see or do something visually interesting every day. I’m not planning to submit it for the course (I still plan on a digital only submission) but I thought I’d mention it as a positive affect the course has had. I also have a pin hole camera to start playing with once the course ends. It will be really interesting to go back to those chapters in the WHA and re-evaluate in light of practical application (but again this will be once the course finishes for my own development).

Fauvism experiment

I was finger painting with my daughter (who only has primary colours) and tried a little experiment to paint her in a fauvist manner. It turns out to be really hard. The dodgy brushes notwithstanding, choosing the colours for the face from primary colours is quite alarming.

Essential Reading WHA: Post-War to Post-Modern

Political, economic or social factors

WW2 ended 1945, with it European imperialism/overseas rule/economic power. NY overtakes Paris as cultural capital of West. Many intellectuals fled to US during 30s, including Einstein, artists, musicians & Bauhaus figures (as previously mentioned) who established Institute of Design, Chicago. After fall of France in 1940, many more, eg Surrealists & Purist-abstracters eg Leger, Mondrian, thus transferring the 2 major movements. O’Keeffe & others became cultural heroine for new liberated women. Horror of USA atomic bombing Hiroshima, 1945. Mid-50s Abstract expressionism ‘could be interpreted as an expression of American liberalism in contrast with the Social Realism prescribed in the Soviet Bloc’ p843. Berlin wall erected in 1961, Capitalist Realism of West Germany forming the front line against soviet bloc Socialist Realism. Consumer affluence & optimism of Kennedy years replaced post-war austerity in 1960s bringing changes in artistic climate. Home TV sets with satellite transmission from 1962. Kennedy assassinated 1963. Martin Luther King assassinated 1968. Space race between US & USSR. 1st man in space 1961, man on moon 1969. 1960s Revolutionary Cuba, Che Guevara (killed 67 guerrilla fighting against right wing Bolivian gov).Offbeat generation, student uprisings of 1968. Golub’s raw disturbing pictures only became acceptable after nightly TV reports of Vietnam War (1961-73), intended to shock, giant images seen in galleries not just on banal TV. Art no longer needed a gallery in 60s/70s, exhibitions/works in catelogs/books/magazines. Art market denied a ‘unique object to sell’ p855 eg Dan Graham’s Figurative in Harper’s Bazaar, 1965. Art just another commodity. Mass media, ‘rampantly consumerist society’ p855 & fledgling computer technology in 70s. Greenberg’s ‘extreme version of modernism can now be seen as belonging essentially to the cold War years’. P844

Changes to status or training of artists

Che Guevara, 1968. Painting by Andy Warhol

NY painters of 40’s/50’s of similar age & all knew each other but didn’t form a movement.  NY art school of Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) was central melting pot of Cubism, Fauvism & abstraction. Work of artists such as Warhol & Hamilton foreshadowed importance of Photography from 1980s onwards eg Gilbert and George, Cindy Sherman etc. Many commercial photographers turned to documentary/art, eg Warhol, Arbus etc. Che Guevara, 1960, Korda is best known image of time & most famous revolutionary image ever, interesting it is a photograph (not any other form of art). Reproduced in every format imagined rather writing since.

Alberto Korda – Che Guevara, 1960, Photograph
This 5-story relief sculpture of it can be found next to the Plaza of the Revolution in central Havana, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye
Artists unknown, Graffiti, Havana, Photo by Suzy Walker-Toye

Development of materials and processes

Hofmann experimented with ‘drip’ techniques & mixed media. Pollock furiously abandoned trying/failing to master traditional painting techniques & externalised struggle by making act of painting its own subject by pouring/throwing/dripping paint onto huge unstretched canvas on floor with his whole body. Liberated from representation, a record of his emotions in his transported state engaging with paint, creating texture eg Autumn Rhythm, 1950. Equally colossal, Rothko soaked paints into surface leaving opulent colour & canvas texture which he thinly scumbled over creating effect of luminous grandeur p838. Matisse coloured paper in gouache, then cut & arranged them. Created book: Jazz, 1947 & large scale cutouts eg The Snail, 1953. Joyous & lyrically ebullient. He said ‘cutting into colour reminds me of the direct action of the sculptor carving stone’ p841.

The Snail 1953 Henri Matisse 1869-1954 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962
Jasper Johns – Three Flags, 1958, Encaustic on canvas, 77.8 × 115.6 × 11.7 cm, © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928) stained unsized canvas by pouring on pigment. Jasper Johns Three Flags, 1958, painted in Old Master technique of encaustic, giving a ‘fine-art’ surface, not clear if he was mocking the flag, art or sophisticated public. 1950’s Leon Golub used technique of scraping/roughening unstretched canvas with a meat cleaver to give impression of tendons/muscles in his lifesize paintings of fleshless figures. Rubbed raw. Rauschenberg adapted frottage technique to transfer newspaper images using silk-screen stencilling by inking/screening directly onto canvas in Dadaist grid-like patterns, adding drips/swirls of paint. He also participated with Cage in 1 of 1st ‘happenings’, anticipating Beuys p845 and experimented with future uses of technology in art. Andy Warhol 1st to use silk-screen technique for painting, & got his assistants in the ‘factory’ to make his works. Donald Judd also had his work fabricated for him. Liechtenstein painted in closely spaced dots to simulate Benday pattern shading of comics/commercial art to achieve impersonal look. Downplay on craft skills/materials for conceptual art. Planning/decisions upfront & execution perfunctory. Texts, maps, plans, images etc found in conceptual art termed ‘information’, linking it to mass media & fledgling computers. Photographs had significant place as carrier of concept, undermining accepted ideas of photographic art & silver gelatine print eg Vito Acconi (b 1940), Edward Rusha (b 1937) & John Bernhard (b 1931).

Bruce Nauman – Self Portrait as a Fountain, Eleven Color Photographs, 1966-67, printed 1970, Chromogenic print, Image 49.5 × 59.1 cm, Edition 7/8, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, © artist or artist’s estate

Video commercially available 1960’s, Bruce Nauman (b 1941) filmed himself walking around a square in his studio in Minimalist spoof. He used his body for his work eg Various flexible materials separated by layers of grease with holes the size of my waist and wrists. See Process Art below.



Styles and movements

Early pre-war Abstract style of several US loner ‘gifted mavericks’ such as Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946) & Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). Doves ‘extraction’, 1910 among earliest abstracts anywhere. Nature’s elements simplified to colour/force lines, eg Fog Horns 1929.

Arthur Dove – Foghorns, 1929

NY painters of Abstract Expressionism in 40’s/50’s had no common style eg Jackson Pollock (1912-56), Franz Kline (1910-62), Willem de Kooning (1904-97), Ad Reinhardt (1913-67), Robert Motherwell (1915-91), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-74), Mark Rothko (1903-70), Clyfford Still (1904-80) & Barnett Newman (1905-70) but common ‘feverish energy & extremism as typically American as their taste for the colossal’ P84.1st group labelled by critics as Action Painters, they enacted their expression onto canvas. Hoffman created form with colour tensions. Arshile Gorsky (1905-48) catalyst between European & American painting, combining Hoffmans abstract painterliness with surrealism. Disturbed/melancholy loner Pollock created ‘portable murals’ with sense of limitlessness, delicacy & neurotic volatility p836. Similarly, Kline ‘painted experiences’ NY city scenes & abstract B&W paintings. De Kooning remained somewhat representational, theme of human figure but more abstract action works harsh/raw colour/thick texture of reworked paint eg Excavation 1950.

Willem de Kooning
American, born Netherlands, 1904–1997
Excavation, 1950
© 2017 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

2nd group, colour-field painters. Clyfford Still, similar to Pollock in size of work & temperament & reoriented away from European traditions. Asymmetric planes in thick paint, feeling of density but not space, earthy colours & scaly texture lend primitive power of American West landscapes. He, Rothko & Gottlieb defined Abstract expressionism in letter to NY times in ‘43. ‘simple expression of complex thought’ p837 Wanted to reassert the picture plane, revealing truth with flat forms & impact with large size. Rothko, just as depressed (suicide in 1970), later works deeply religious/spiritual. Demand silence & complete viewer absorption (as I can attest having seen some in person). Not interested in colour relationships but conveying human emotion. Similarly, Newman wanted art with human significance, unknowable & sublime. Eg vir heroicus sublimis, 1950,& Broken Obelisk, 1963/7.

Barnett Newman – Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950-51 , Oil on canvas, 242.2 x 541.7 cm, © 2017 Barnett Newman, Foundation / Artists rights
Society (ARS), New York
David Smith – Hudson River Landscape, 1951, Welded painted steel and stainless steel, 123.8 × 183.2 × 44 cm, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, © Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

‘Abstract configurations carrying implications akin to meaning and with references to human hopes and anxieties’ p839 also created by Sculptor David Smith who made 3D scenes enclosed in ‘space frames’, approached from front like a picture eg Hudson River Landscape, 1951. Later work eg Cubi series, started new era in US sculpture. In contrast to Abstract Expressionism, ‘blatantly representational’ p843 images of Jasper Johns (b 1930) & Robert Rauschenberg (b 1925) were known as Neo-Dada. Incorporated commonplace objects such as flags that ‘suggest the world rather than suggest the personality’ p843. John’s later work becoming even more paradoxical/complex eg Periscope (Hart Crane), 1963. Rauschenberg ‘bed’, 1955, was his own bed, smeared with paint (action painter like) & stood against gallery wall.

Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram, 1955-59, Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Purchase 1965 with contribution from Moderna Museets Vänner/The Friends of Moderna Museet.

His ‘combines’ paintings incorporated real 3d objects & collage eg Monogram, 1959. Both artists questioned meaning of Art. Meanwhile in Europe, Matisse summed up his life quest for naive art with his large scale abstract cut outs. Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) made bronzed figures seen from front, famous elongated figures anticipating Existentialist philosophy with aim to capture essence of personality rather than likeness.


Morris Louis – Alpha Phi, 1960-1961, 102 x 180 1/2 in. (259.1 x 458.5 cm), Acrylic resin (Magna) on canvas, du400, © 2014 MICA Rights administered by Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Frankenthaler broke through from Abstract Expressionism to pioneer Post-Painterly Abstraction/Colour Field Painting. Cool, elegant & restrained. Morris Louis (1912-62), Jules Olitski (b 1922) & Kenneth Noland (b. 1924). Louis ‘unfurled’ series, 1961 allowed paint to drip down, & soak into, channels in folded fabric, juxtaposed hues creating ‘optical phenomenon of projection & recession’ p843. This style justified Greenberg’s Formalism. Spiritual unease of 1960s conveyed by geometrical abstraction & optical illusion of Op (Optical) Art eg Bridget Riley.

Roy Lichtenstein – Big Painting No. 6, 1965, 235 cm × 330 cm

Another rejection of Abstract Expressionism was Pop Art, defined as ‘making impersonality a style’ p845. eg Big Painting No. 6, 1965 by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97) ironically depersonalizes their brushwork, commenting on their ‘cult of the gestural manipulation of paint as a means of unfettered, spontaneous self-expression’ p845 Style emerged simultaneously in UK & US.

Just what was it that made yesterday’s homes so different, so appealing? (upgrade) 2004 Richard Hamilton 1922-2011 Presented by the artist 2004

1st pop art work, collage (of pinup, TV, pulp romance, consumerism etc) ‘Just what is makes today’s homes so different? So appealing?’, 1956 by Richard Hamilton (b.1922) was aiming at new witty, low-cost & glamorous art, not ‘sardonic comment on our society’ p846 as critics took it. Mass media images not glamorous for Americans so US pop art more complex/ambivalent/awkward/provocative. Eg Claes Oldenburg (b 1929), Giant Hamburger, 1962, 2m across foam filled sailcloth burger, brings focus of Art to something ordinary that doesn’t look like art. Andy Warhol (1928-87) too. Commercial artist turned painter/sculptor/film-maker/writer/creator of a Pop Lifestyle. ‘He stood all theories of mass culture on their heads, notably the Marxist predictions of Walter Benjamin concerning the suffocation of art in the glut of commercial images’ p846. Repeating images of commonplace/infamous/glamorous echoed mass media making subject meaningless. ‘nihilism of the contemporary media-saturated world’ p847. Pop sensibilities named Nouveau Realisme in France by critic Pierre Restany in attempt to reassert Paris as central in contemporary art world. Torn posters of Raymond Hains & Jacques de la Villegle, ‘zen-inspired theatrics of Yves Klein’ p847 & accumulated rubbish of Arman. Who literally blew apart relationship of artist/patron/ gallery with White Orchid, 1963 (he dynamited patrons car as commission), alluding to cultural issue of obscuring horrors by spectacles.

Arman (Armand Pierre Fernandez) –
White Orchid , 1963, Exploded sports car mounted on wooden plate, MMK Museum of Modern Art Frankfurt am Main, Photo © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017, Axel Schneider
250 x 510 x 130 cm
Yves Klein – IKB 79, 1959, Purchased 1972
Diane Arbus, Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C., 1967, National Gallery of Australia

Klein sought weightless existence in a spiritual void p847, Klein blue dominated his paintings/sculptures. German version was Capitalist Realism, artists Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg, Wolf Vostell used images from media. Tensions of the time expressed most memorably by photography eg Boy with a straw hat… 1967, by Diane Arbus (1923-71). Attention to misfits & twins. Walker Evans harsh realities. Book The Americans by Robert Frank. Garry Winogrand (1928-84) 50s & 60s split by public event images & individual spontaneous, detached work. 70s large format work by Stephen Shore, after working in Warhol’s factory, recalled 19thC landscape pioneers & transformation into contemporary America eg Uncommon Places. Alberto Korda (1928-2001), Che Guevara, 1960, ‘extremely forceful projection of a peculiarly mid-20th century hero’ p851. ‘Self-consciously AmericanMinimalismaimed at complete purity & integrity, the reduction of Art to that which is intrinsic to its medium’ p851.

[title not known] 1967 Frank Stella born 1936 Purchased with assistance from an anonymous donor 2000
Frank Stella, Black paintings, pinstripes eliminating any individual gesture/expression. Donald Judd (1928-94) pointed to a tendency towards 3d – Stella’s stripes, Rauschenberg’s combines, John’s Targets, his own minimal sculptures of rectangular forms in mathematical sequences eg Fibonacci. Art is what an artist says it is. Similar mechanical precision used by Robert Morris (b 1931) & Carl Andre (b 1935), eg Equivalents.

Equivalent VIII 1966 Carl Andre born 1935 Purchased 1972

Andre foreshadowed Conceptual art, creating for a specific installation/user interaction/experience, transformation from form/structure to place. Unfolding relationship of viewer & work/environment over time challenges traditional art timelessness. Dan Flavin (1933-96) commercially available fluorescent lights bring colour to gallery space with nod to Russians. John McCracken (b 1934) used colour to build his forms (pigmented resin on fibreglass-resined wood). Conceptual Art de-emphasis of material aspects such as uniqueness/permanence, attractiveness, aka dematerialisation, precursors including 50s happenings, Japanese Gutai artists & Fluxus group. Idea over making, emotionally & intellectually interesting to viewer. If concept was clear then actual implementing artist irrelevant. Questions on nature of Art eg One and Three Chairs by Joseph Kosuth (b 1945).

Joseph Kosuth – One and Three Chairs, 1965, Wood folding chair, mounted
photograph of a chair, and mounted photographic enlargement of the dictionary definition of “chair” , Chair 82 x 37.8 x 53 cm, photographic panel 91.5 x 61.1 cm, text panel 61 x 76.2 cm, Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund, © 2017 Joseph Kosuth / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
Mario Merz – Objet Cache-Toi, 1968, Iron rods, wire mesh, linen bags filled with wooden wool, 5-piece fluorescent lamp marking, ©Mario Merz, VG Picture Art, Bonn 2016, Photo: Helge Mundt

Photography intrinsic to style to spread ideas. Bernhard commentary on media saturated society full of hidden/paradoxical meanings. European style Arte Poverty, poor/impoverished art, used cheap/available materials. Straightforward/poetic rejection/challenge of glorious artistic tradition eg Igloos covered with glass, Objet Cache Toi, 1968 by Mario Merz (1925-2003) & his use of Fibonacci to portray human nomadic journeys. Michelangelo Pistoletto (b 1933) moved from 2 to 3d in Minus Objects series. Pistoletto’s ‘Orchestra of Rags’ created using rags, singing kettles and glass, challenged considered norms of art. Process Art focused on visibly showing process of work,

Eva Hesse – Hang Up, 1966, Acrylic paint on cloth over wood; acrylic paint on cord over steel tube, 182.9 x 213.4 x 198.1 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Through Prior Gifts of Arthur Keating and Mr and Mrs Edward Morris © Estate of Eva Hesse

‘passage of time to experience of art’ p857 eg Richard Serra’s molten lead quickly solidifying as splashes on gallery floor, Splashing, 1969. Barry Le Va (b 1941) ‘distributional sculpture’, Eva Hesse (1936-70) used pliant impermanent materials, hung from ceiling, or lent against wall, almost Dadaist parody of picture frame, eg Hang Up. Body Art ‘practices threw attention onto physical activity & presence of artist’s body’ p857 eg Nauman’s work. Related to earlier performance art of happenings & spectacles but with deeper suspicion of Art market where they hoped to elude the system.

James Turrell – Roden Crater project, 1974

Art moved out from galleries into landscape which became medium/materials for artistic expression in Earth & land art. Nothing comparable since Peruvian earthworks BC. Eg Spiral Jetty, in Utah’s great salt lake by Robert Smithson (1928-73). Mainly American responses to landscape. Walter De Maria (b 1935) lightning field in New Mexico. Huge ‘transient works’, often wrapping coastline/buildings in fabric, by Christo Javacheff (b 1935) often survive only as concepts with detailed plans etc. James Turrell (b 1943) took over a volcano for Roden Crater project, 1974 to function as observatories for celestial events. Gordon Matta-clark (1943-78) urban projects condemned buildings eg splitting houses open for view in Splitting, 1974. Anti-monuments. Photo realism, rejection of minimalism but just as targeted. Trompe l’oeil of flat snapshot of illusionistic space/images. Richard Estes (b 1936), Chuck Close (b 1940), gigantic heads. No connection to New Image /New Figurative painters of 1960s US. Representation had never been abandoned in Europe eg Balthus (Balthazar Klossowski de Rola 1908-2001), Francis Bacon (1909-91) & David Hockney (b 1937). Bacon used existing images as starting point to open imagination/feelings eg Three studies for a crucifixion, 1962. US dismissed his work as ‘decadent, irrelevantly European’ p862.

Francis Bacon – Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962, Oil with sand on canvas, three panels
198.1 x 144.8 cm each, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, © 2017 The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved./ARS, New York/DACS, London

Hockney settled in California, artistic /sexual liberation. In US return to figurative seen as rejection/challenge, launched 1967 by Abstract Expressionist Philip Guston (1913-80), who also invented New Deal Style murals mid-century. His New Image painting, grotesque figures with deliberately brash handling, subjects: Ku Klux Klan, menacing still lifes & huge heads. Leon Golub (1922-2004) Chicago ‘Monster school’, obsessed with human corruption. Cy Twombly (b 1929) art that seems incomplete, scattered memories/musings, combination of pictures, words, numbers, lines.

Architecture :

Modernism/Post-Modernism, last stage of modernism seen as purist trends from post painterly abstraction to minimalism during 70s. Charged as ‘artistic narcissism’ p865 sculpture like architecture, minimal grid emblem eg So LeWitt’s Untitled Cube, 1968. Post modernists such as John Perrault were ‘sick to death’ of silent cubes, white walls & monotonous curtain wall metal & glass skyscrapers eg Lever House, NY, (1951-2) by Gordon Bunshaft (1909-90) p865. Polarized most in architecture, Mies van der Rohe’s purist International Style designs implemented in opportunistic post war US. Not everyone a fan, Dr Farnsworth tried to sue him because her house too expensive to live in. Le Corbusier & Frank Lloyd Wright also felt hostility after 1945.

Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp
Photo : Cemal Emden 2015 © ADAGP

Expressionism crept into formers designs about 1950 eg Church Notre Dame du Haut, Ron chap, curves, irregular plan & biometric forms. High Court building, Chandigarh, India, 1956, less conflict between plasticity & geometrics. Powerfully monumental. These sparked worldwide Brutalist style, sculptural, irregular, rough, aggressive & chunky, eg Paul Rudolph (1918-97), James Stirling (1926-92), Kenzo Tange (b 1913) etc. 70s publications by Venturi & Scott-Brown sparked Post-modernism, more democratic, less idealistic/earnest eg Piazza d’Italia, 1978/9, New Orleans, Charles Willard Moore. International Modernism/revisionist, blend of several historically based styles eg Michael Graves (b. 1934), Public Service Building, Portland, Oregon, 1979/82, skyscraper with art deco/Nouveau trimmings & classical elements. Europeans Ricardo Bofill (b 1939) & Aldo Rossi (1931-97) autonomous architecture derived from past. Former, grandiose public housing and latter taken from Boullee & mostly remained unrealised. English founded High Tech, a concept/approach to architecture more than style, opposed to Postmodernism. Use modern technology to create precision engineered architecture eg Lloyd’s of London, 1986 by Richard Roberts (b 1933) & Hong-Kong & Shanghai bank, Hong Kong, 1986, by Norman Foster.

Inside and outside influences

Dove influenced by Romantics & nature. Surrealist techniques influenced Abstract expressionists. Influential teaching of Hoffman.  Pollock influenced by south-west Indian art/sand painting, Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917), apprenticeship with Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), social realism of Mexican artists David Alfaro Siqueiros (1898-1974)/Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), Picasso & Surrealism. David Smith influenced by open form of Picasso, Gonzalez, Surrealism, abstract expressionism, crude metals, large machines & experiences as assembly line welder. Giacometti also influenced by surrealism, Picasso, Gonzalez, Calder, post-war climate & relationship to brother eg Head of Diego II, 1955. Matisse continued to influence all sorts of artists eg Louis. Jasper Johns influenced by Hart Cranes labyrinthine poem ‘Cape Hatterass’ & Duchamp. Rauschenberg influenced by Duchamp, composer John Cage & home TV sets. Andre influenced by Brancusi’s plinth separation, ‘laying Brancusi flat’ p852 Minimalism influenced by Duchamp, Russians Malevich & Tatlin (eg Flavin), & Bauhaus teaching of Josef Albers (1888-1976). Duchamp influences Conceptual/Process artists, art can be made from anything. Eg Nauman’s Self-portrait as a fountain, 1966. Walker Evans inspired new generation of photographers. Stephen Shore influenced Thomas Struth & Andreas Gursky. Photographers eg John Baldessari became influential on later developments and students. Pistoletto influenced by Picasso & minimalists. New Deal style influenced by Mexican Muralists & American Regionalists eg Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975). Twombly influenced by oriental art/scrolls & Mediterranean culture. Architect Charles Willard Moore (1925-93) inspired by Disneyland.

Critics, thinkers and historians

Critic Harold Rosenberg unofficial spokesman of Action Painters, 1952. Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that Giacometti’s sculptures would come closer than any previous artist ‘to achieving the impossible when his portraits would affect us with all the force of a corporeal presence’ p841. Critic Clement Greenberg wrote of artistic possibilities after Abstract Expressionism calling for a more formalist/disciplined art & essential qualities of flatness & it’s delimit action. He defined formalism, saw art object as self-contained, independent of maker/viewer/cultural context. Art characterised by surface & pattern. Critic Gene Swenson commented that British Pop Art looked like it was ‘made by librarians’ p846. Robert Morris texts on minimalist sculpture & the anti-form. Critic Lucy Lippard commented on late 1960’s/early 1970’s ’dematerialisation’ of the art object p853. Sol LeWitt wrote ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’, 1967. Italian critic Germano Celant coined the term Arte Povera in 1967. Jane Jacobs Death and life of Great American Cities, 1961,appeal to return to traditional urban life. Critic Lewis Mumford wrote against Van der Rohe in The Case against modern architecture, 1964. 70s publications Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi (b 1925) & Learning from Las Vegas by Denise Scott Brown (b 1931).


I feel like information overload. I’m sure my notes are massively overboard as I struggled to get to grips with the concepts. I’ll have to be ruthless for the assignment. This chapter tied up a few things but I think was slightly confusing too. Clearly this and the last couple of chapters have been talking about Modernism but this is the first time that’s really laid out. The difference between Modernism and Formalism is confusing, if I’m understanding correctly Formalism is a subset, a radicalisation of Modernism. Postmodernism is really only touched on by architecture. Seems like architecture has been the turning force for both thou, with Modernism clearly embodied by Gropius & Le Corbusier in the 1920s and the post modernisation being pushed again by architects.

Clearly in this century artists have been struggling with the need to ‘feel of their own time’ (p844) and reject the past in the process.


Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Essential Reading WHA: Between the Two World Wars

Political, economic or social factors

Western civilisation never recovered from WWI, ending long period of progress/prosperity & cutting short creative genius of late 19th/20thC. Artist were less innovative/adventurous. Paris still centre of haute couture/arts but lost influence in other cultural/scientific fields p799. In post-WW1 Germany, belief artists could help new social conditions, The Bauhaus, launched 1919 by Walter Gropius, centre of this aspiration in Europe.

Russian Revolution, 1917. Revolutionary exiles, artists & intellectuals flocked to wartime Switzerland or US (before it joined war in 1917). After the revolution, avant-garde art flourished in Russia, supported by officials such as Lunacharsky & Trotsky. Constructivism short lived once Lenin’s New Economic Policy introduced in 1921 & artists left Russia, by 1932 artistic groupings suppressed.

Dada/Surrealist movements political implications for new artistic/intellectual/social order by mocking current culture eg Max Ernst (1891-1976) entrance to 1920 exhibition thru toilet. Surrealists had connections to political revolution including Communism. Meanwhile Braque/Matisse celebrated bourgeois values eg The moorish screen, 1921/2.

Henri Matisse – The Moorish Screen, 1921
Oil on canvas, 1921, 91.9 x 74.3 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Bequest of Lisa Norris Elkins, 1950
© Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Communist Diego Rivera (1866-1957) played key role in ‘cultural relations between North and South America’ p805. Most relevant artist in hotly debated indigenous/national vs international styles between fascists & communists in Europe & US. He & Freda joined Mexican national movement after end of 10yr Mexican civil war. Gov wanted public art for masses. Then commissions from millionaire capitalists in US. Eg Rockefella, JPMorgan, Ford, San Francisco stock exchange. Had spent a yr in communist USSR (established 1923). Hoped to spread communist ideals in US during Great Depression (caused by Wall Street Crash 1929), Rockefella work rejected when he refused to remove Lenin. Both Trotsky & Breton stayed with Riveras, collaborating on 1938 anti-Stalinist manifesto.

Spanish civil war, 1936. Then nazi bomber took out town of Guernica in ‘37, eg Picasso commemoration, dying horse of bullfighting paintings now universal tragic protagonist & surrealist minotaur, irrational forces of man/nature, wounded limbs/agonised heads based on impact of events, modern work could be understood by all.

Pablo Picasso – Guernica, 1937 (May 1st-June 4th, Paris)
Oil on canvas, 349,3 x 776,6 cm
© Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

WWII, 1939, Surrealists fled to New York, carried on exhibiting & sewing ‘the seeds of postwar American movements, notably Abstract Expressionism’ P813 Dadaist John Heartfield/Helmut Herzfeld (1891-1968) used photomontage to express chaos of capitalist society & later, anti-Nazi exhibition,One Man’s War Against Hitler, London, 1939 eg A pan-German, 1933,p818. Works make stronger point than hand drawn because they are photographic, falsified reality, so photomontages taken up by Nazi propaganda/ads.

John Heartfield – A pan-German, 1933, Photomontage

Photographs of abject poverty of Depression turned into ‘object of enjoyment’, p817 US official farm security administration documented evicted sharecroppers to justify gov spending, photographer such as Walker Evans (1903-75), Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) & Roy E. Stryker (1893-1976), powerfully shocking with ‘clear, hideous & beautiful detail’ wrote poet Lincoln Kirstein in 1938 P817. Eg Lange’s Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936. Photographer Margaret Bourke-White (1904-71) & novelist Erskine Caldwell documented rural social reality of southern states for city dwellers in book You have seen their faces, 1937

Dorothea Lange – Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936, Photograph
Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California, © Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540

Changes to status or training of artists

Rivera established reputation with gigantic Mexico city murals (1600m^2) in 1923-1928, then rich US patrons. No movement gave women prominence like Surrealism, Meret Oppenheim & Frida Kahlo (1907-54) ‘discovered’. Although roles defined in masculine Freudian terms, as projection of male needs/desires. Freda painted self-portraits (exploration of her body/cultural & sexual identity), rejected being labelled surrealist to retain independence of vision & identity. Her marriage to Rivera subordinated her as seen in The Two Fridas, 1939, painted during her divorce, p812.

Frida Kahlo, The Two Fridas (Las dos Fridas), 1939, oil on canvas, 67-11/16 x 67-11/16 inches (Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City)

Photography still regarded as inferior art to even etching, pictures taken by millions of amateurs. During war years photographers joined pictorial avant-garde. Photographer/gallery director Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) founded Photographic Secession, 1902 in NY, introducing artistic ideas from Europe expressed by photography. Exhibited many artists eg Picasso/Duchamp/Georgia O’Keeffe (who he married 1924). The Bauhaus influential teaching institution.

Development of materials and processes

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1999

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) ready-mades, everyday commercial objects ‘selected’ as art. Eg Fountain, 1917. Automatism experiments (sticking down fallen torn paper) by Dadaists Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943)/Jean(Hans) Arp(1887-1966) made beautiful papiers colles. Surrealists used automatism techniques to release the mind from ‘conscious control so that images from the subconscious could float to the surface’ p809. Max Ernst developed the visual equivalent, frottage (rubbings on surfaces). Rene Magritte (1898-1967) used banal technique of poster design to challenge assumptions about art in truly disruptive way p811.

Dada/Surrealists combined junk & scrap metal to make sculpture eg Picasso’s Head of a Bull, made from bits of bike. Iron introduced to studio caused 2nd sculptural revolution when Picasso moved from closed to open form works, welded around empty space when he collaborated with metalworker Julio Gonzalez (1876-1942). Picasso’s parts were still recognisable but Gonzalez completely reworked items into constant state of flux as viewer moves. Eg Woman combing her hair II, 1934. This extended further by Alexander Calder (1898-1976), who invented mobiles/stabiles & David Smith (1906-65) inventor of ‘space forms’ p814

Sheeler pioneered sharp-focus in photography. Technical developments of sharpness/instantaneous vision out of phase with other arts. 1917, Alvin Langdon Court (1882-1966) invented Vortographs (made by a kaleidoscope type device). Dadaist Man Ray invented photograms (unique camera-less photos) by placing objects on light sensitive paper & lighting it, ‘images of strange ambiguity, concrete & abstract at the same time’ p816. 12 published as Les Champs delicieuses (Delectable fields), 1922, see online here. Hannah Hoch (1889-1979) & Heartfield extended collages with photography into Photomontage.

Constantin Brancusi. Bird in Space. 1928. Bronze, 54 x 8 1/2 x 6 1/2″ (137.2 x 21.6 x 16.5 cm). Given anonymously. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Architect Mart Sam (1899-1986) introduced cantilever principle 1924 & Marcel Breuer (1902-81), evolved 1st chromium plated chairs at the Bauhaus 1925 but der van Rohe chairs with poise & immaculate finish (hand crafted to look machine made) regarded as statement of revolutionary Bauhaus design. Unlike most sculptors, Brancusi made everything by hand but so that they look machine made, constant refining work eg 15 versions of Bird in space, 1923+. Conveys dreams of flight. Likewise, Henry Moore (1898-1986) tactile with wide variety of materials, which suggest both form & subjects eg two forms, 1934,vulnerability/protection/mother/child. Eventually over reliance on size for impact & Conservative sensibility lead to decline of post WW2 work.

Henry Moore – Two Forms, 1934 , Pynkado wood , 27.9 x 54.6 x 30.8 cm including oak base, Credit Sir Michael Sadler Fund

Styles and movements

Relaxed tension reflected in post war style of Braque/Matisse/Picasso, colour/texture/handling/subjects refined by ‘good taste’/bourgeois comfort p798 Picasso painted in multiple styles at once. Matisse ‘achieved art of balance, of purity & serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter’ p802. ‘Nabis’ (prophets) Symbolist group of painters throughout 20s & 30s including Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Jean Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) & Paul Serusier (1864-1927), painted intimiste works, scenes of ‘provincial domesticity’ p802. Private/pleasure loving French ideal, extension of impressionist style with soft natural colours. Picasso thought them old-hat. Meanwhile, Dada launched from Swiss cabaret, 1916, ‘state of mind’ rather than movement. ‘anarchic, nihilistic & disruptive‘ they mocked traditional values/good taste/anything taken seriously/’art’. Dada nonsense word. Cult of non-art negated itself. Mostly writers/poets in Zurich. Anarchist Marcel Duchamp caused scandal with his futurist Cubism Nude Descending a staircase, 1912 but his Dadaist ready-mades represent total rejection of artistic canon. He & Francis Picabia (1879-1953) formed NY wartime group. Picabia’s simplified drawings of mechanical forms paralleled Duchamp’s insoluble enigma The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even/Large Glass, 1915-23. Only completed by being accidentally broken in transit in 1927.

Marcel Duchamp – The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915-1923, Oil, varnish, lead foil, lead wire, and dust on two glass panels, 277.5 × 177.8 × 8.6 cm, © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Succession Marcel Duchamp

It’s successor, Surrealism continued provocative gestures eg visitors to an exhibition were handed an axe to destroy the work. Lead by poet/theorist Breton with the aim of exploring Freud’s ideas of subconscious, mixing dreams & reality to create surreality, Freudianism, . He called Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) ‘the supreme surrealist painter’. He denied authorship of his 1911-19 work of disturbing desolate Italian piazzas when praised, made inferior copies to confuse, going onto contrived academic styles which embarrassed the Surrealists. Very odd. 1925, 1st surrealist exhibition included them all except Dali/Magritte who joined later. Ernst recorded dreams (‘trompe l’oeil fixing’) in his collage novel series Les Femmes 100 tetes, 1929, 149 collage images p810. Salvador Dali (1904-89) made ‘hand-painted dream photographs’ eg The Persistence of Memory, 1931.

Salvador Dalí – The Persistence of Memory, 1931. Oil on canvas, 24.1 x 33 cm, © 2017 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Time stops in dreams/Freud’s unconscious, so watches are limp & decomposing. Aimed for constant state of confusion however cynical self-promotion lead to Breton kicking him out. Magritte used ambiguous titles, reality challenges in works without meaning eg Le viol. Joan Miro (1893-1983) went from style to style (Fauvism/Cubism/Dada/Surrealism), semi-abstract childlike innocence from psychic automatism, darker ‘biomorphic’ forms in later works. Open form sculpture Picasso/Gonzalez lead to Calder’s abstract kinetic sculpture eg lobster trap and fishtail, 1939 & Smith’s iron/steel ‘drawings in space’ p815.

Alexander Calder – Lobster Trap and Fish Tail, 1939 , Painted steel wire and sheet aluminum , 260 cm x 290 cm in diameter , Credit: Commissioned by the Advisory Committee for the stairwell of the Museum, © 2017 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Style of Edward Hopper (1883-1967) & Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) hard to place, perhaps Realist but refused classification/association with any Realist American groups including American Scene Painters/Regionalist painters eg Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Grant Wood (1891-1942) & John Steuart Curry (1897-1946) who embraced ‘jingoistic form of American artistic isolationism’ p804, they turned to conservative Midwestern agricultural values whilst Hopper depicted lonely urban New York during the Depression. Sheeler also city loving, photographer/painter/filmmaker, specialising in sharp focus, daring perspectives of architectural subjects turned into Precisionism style where strict geometry & technology combined mirroring modern America. Landscapes man made but unpopulated. Mexican Muralists, Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco & David Alfaro Siqueiros – leaders of Mexican art. Rivera’s style v political, combined mechanical shapes with faces/bodies of peasants. Later work less political more secular.

Stieglitz photography was traditional except clouds, Equivalents, 1927, similarly Edward Weston (1886-1958), sharply focused plants/fruit/abstract body parts. Dadaist photographic approach entirely different, Man Ray (Emanuel Rudnitsky, 1890-1976), ‘photographed the dust gathering on Duchamp’s Large Glass’ p816 & making photograms. US homeless photography (see above). French Street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) caught vagaries of human behaviour as impartial observer. Eg Brussels, 1932 p818.

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Brussels, 1932, printed later, photograph, gelatin silver print, 24.29 cm x 36.35 cm, Credit: Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Mr and Mrs Frank Spadarella, © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Saif, Paris / VAGA, New York
Vladimir Tatlin – Monument to the Third International, 1919/20

Constructivism, short-lived progressive movement in Russia whose Marxist spirit was anti-aesthetic, utilitarian simplicity & respect for logic of materials P819, led by architects/sculptors/designers, El (Eleazer Markevich) Lissitzky (1890-41) & Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953), who made completely abstract assemblages, turning architectural later. Unrealised design of Monument to the 3rd International, 1919/20 became symbol of revolutionary modernism p819. Most influential work in architecture/typography/publicity/exhibition design. Lissitzky’s Prouns (for the new art) paintings are architectural style, isometric projection/abstract. Photomontages by Alexander Mikhailovich Rodchenko (1891-1956) visually expressed Revolution,in ‘40s, his paintings evolved into abstract-expressionist style, anticipating Pollock. Constructivism officially suppressed in favour of revival of various architectural styles & Socialist Realism banality of Russian Official style. The Bauhaus in Germany provided a melting pot for arts/crafts & fine arts to unify. Distinguished artists such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg & Paul Klee (1870-1940) joined/visited to lecture. Gropius aim was for artists & architects to work together. Craft products gave way to machine aesthetic/prototypes for mass production Eg Marcel Breuer’s tubular Steel chair. 1925, Bauhaus moved to new building whose unadorned pleasing, cubic, asymmetrical design of glazed walls supported by steel & concrete skeleton, feeling of openness/weightlessness and minimal white strips became International Style for 50yrs, Eg Schroder House, Utrecht, 1924 by De Stijl architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1964). Befo

Paul Klee – Sunset, 1930, Oil on canvas, 46.1 x 70.5 cm, Signed, l.l.: “Klee”, Gift of Mary and Leigh Block, 1981.13, © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

re WW2, Gropius & other teachers moved to US to teach, & others to Israel to build ‘White City’. Klee’s work was small scale & intellectual, based on elemental symbols/essentials of form. Eg Sunset, 209,1930. Piet Mondrian resigned from De Stijl 1924 over a principle. Wouldn’t allow diagonals! Totally abstract ambiguous works, primary/b&w colours, foreground plane with lines and rectangles to create ‘an art of pure relations’ with ‘life giving tension’ p823 eg Fox Trot A, 1929/30.

Piet Mondrian – Fox Trot A, 1930, Oil on canvas
78.2 x 78.3 cm, Gift of the artist for the Collection Société Anonyme, Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery, © 2012 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA, Washington, DC

Similar straightforwardness marks work of 2 leading architects, Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeaneret (1887-1965)) & Ludwig Mies van de Rohe (1886-1969), ‘30s director of Bauhaus. Eg Villa Savoye, 1928/30 & single-family House project for Berlin, 1931 p825. Similar ambivalence in work of sculptor Brancusi at this time, approached ideal absolute form from mystic/spiritual/subjective pov. Paralleled with International style, Art Deco streamlined designs in 20s/30s, but exuberant vitality of popular cultural. Forward looking urban planning, of Le Corbusier, marginalised (skyscrapers in parkland, complex traffic systems etc). Notable in NY: Chrysler building/Rockefella centre 14 building/3 blocks coordinated as unit.

Inside and outside influences

WWI great influence on all artists. Cubism impacted Western Art as radically as Renaissance naturalistic style did. Rivera spent time with Picasso but was unaffected by Cubist aesthetic other than love of geometry. Heavily influenced by Italian Renaissance frescoes & Pre-Columbian sculptures. Spanish Civil War influence on works of artists such as Miro & Picasso eg Head of a Woman, 1938 & Guernica 1937. Moore rejected traditional sculpture for vitally/vigour from Mexican/Sumerian/non-European sculpture. Nabis group foreshadowed later developments. Hopper, similar spirit to urban scenes as German Expressionists, with their hysteria, mostly influenced by Manet/19thc French art and living thru Great Depression. Klee influenced by German Romantic philosophy, psychology (Freud/Jung), art of children, German expressionists. Matisse still great influence on many artists. Dadaists/Surrealists grudgingly admitted beauty of Matisse work but ‘deplored his influence & everything he stood for’p802 Duchamp’s influential Large Glass, became a talisman for artists for compelling active viewer participation p801. Dada a protest against the purely visual. Surrealism directly influenced by Freud, Breton also named Trotsky & obscure author Comte de Lautramont (Isadore Ducasse) from whose sadistic prose they got their motto ‘as beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella’ p809 and various other writers. Freud’s symbolism eg phallic noses/fetishist hair, in many works by Dali/Magritte et al, eg Luncheon in Fur, object, 1936 by Meret Oppenheim (1913-85). Calder influenced by Constructivist/Surrealist theory & Miro. Smith influenced by Picasso/Gonzalez. Picasso influenced Vladimir Tatlin. Photography continued to influence artists eg Giacomo Balla & Marcel Duchamp. Cartier-Bresson influenced by Surrealists, Symbolists, Freud & Marx. Gropius influenced by Lloyd Wright, Viennese Sezession group, Werkstatte, William Morris, English arts/crafts movement, Expressionism, De Stijl, Lissitzky & left-wing politics. Bauhaus influential teaching institution. Established architects Auguste Perret & Edwin Lutyens influenced by reductionist trends of Mondrian/Bauhaus

Critics, thinkers and historians

Lenin writes from his Swiss exile, 1917. Poet Tristan Tzara (1886-1963) lead Zurich Dada movement. Critic Clement Greenbergdebacle of age of experiment’ p803, questioned logical sequence of styles, early falloff of Cubist generation but constancy of Matisse (‘greatest master of 20thc’, p803) & late impressionists such as Bonnard in his 1948 article. Poet/artist/film-maker/playwright Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) promoted post-war call to order.Poet Andre Breton (1896-1966) wrote first (mostly literary) Surrealist Manifesto, Paris, 1924 (& book What is Surrealism, 1934). Surrealists issued a 1925 Declaration headed by Communist poet Louis Aragon (1897-1982), ‘we are determined to make a revolution’ p809. Dali detailed his creative Paranoiac-critical method in book La Femme Visible, 1930. Simone de Beauvoir, author of The Second Sex. Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925.German writer Walter Benjamin praised Heartfield 1938, p817. He ‘applied a critically analytical intelligence to photography’ p815, A Small History of Photography 1931. Poet Lincoln Kirstein wrote about photography in 1938



Again found the reading wasn’t really chronological, several aspects going on concurrently so to fit the notes into the reading template I had to chop and change and rearrange. I suppose this was good because it highlighted that it was all going on simultaneously but it made the note taking less smooth than previous chapters. Its still in longish format that will have to be chopped down even futher to get to the page limit of the assignment but I needed at least this much to remember/understand the sailent points. I think students probably worry more about the word limit than really understanding what they’ve read!

Really enjoyed finding the pictures online to illustrate my notes. I think it would be me to do that for the older Assignment notes too. I’m a visual memory person, all the text floats in one eye and out the other but the images stick. Also found this interesting post on how Constantin Brancusi went to court to prove his Bird in space was art so he didnt have to pay taxes on it when it was designated a kitchen utensil!



Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Essential Reading WHA: Art from 1900-1919

Political, economic or social factors

Queen Victoria died 1901. Start of 20thC saw revolt against all forms of naturalism, pre-war era most daring. New methods and ideas in painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, music, philosophy & science. French colonial scandal in 1904 of black people ‘hunts’/murders brought Africa into focus & public outrage. German architects ideas of creative autonomy led to forms of anarchy, their ‘alliance with leftist political utopianism with artistic avant-garde most pronounced’  p778. Futurist ideas spread throughout Europe & US (better known than Cubism), not solely concerned with the arts. Marinetti wanted to obliterate culture of the past  & replace with need society based on new dynamic sensations/speed/noise/mechanical energy of the modern city. Movement cut short by WW1 with death of Boccioni & architect Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916) before futurist utopian designs built. It’s links with Fascism mean revival failed after the war Intellectual nature & ‘sense of social destiny’ of Abstract art linked with contemporary politics & social theory P793 Russian Revolution. World War I 1914-1918.

Changes to status or training of artists

Paris still artistic capital for Avant-garde Western art. Exhibitions here, and from 1910 in pre-war Czarist Russia, raised individuals & movement profiles. Chief patrons of Matisse/Picasso 1910+ were wealthy Moscow merchants whose collections were open to public meaning Russian artists aware of latest European trends. US architect Wright achieved international fame (but little influence) by 1910 publication of his work in Berlin.

Development of materials and processes

Pablo Picasso – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
Paris, June-July 1907, Oil on canvas, 243.9 x 233.7 cm, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, © 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Radical innovations underpin all further developments to date, eg Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon ,1907, nearly flat painting of a complex of invented forms, p771. Revolutionary break with Western illusionistic art.  He abandoned traditional single viewpoint & proportions & reordered human form into geometrical lozenges/triangles. New intellectual treatment of space/form/unexpressed emotions/states of mind. Rejected coherences of representational art.

Wassily Kandinsky – Composition VII, 1913, Oil on canvas, 200.0 × 300.0 cm, Moscow, Russia. The State Tretyakov Gallery

Also, Kandinsky created some of 1st completely abstract/non-objective works (simultaneously with others elsewhere in Europe). Landmark painting ‘Composition VII’ 1913. His earlier Improvisations had spiritual relationship with primitive art and artists. Plastics developed, 1909. Expressionists exploited woodblock/lino-cut to create graphic art with brutal powerful effect of distilling introspective emotions . P777. Matisse’s spontaneity misleading, colour & shape laboured over to the ‘right’ balance. Painting from subconscious, reactions to own reactions. In architecture, Poelzig’s Expressionist Grosse Schauspielhaus (1918/9) in Berlin was an innovation in theatre design, high stalactite covered ceiling with central circular stage. Picasso invented the collage (paste-up) by incorporating commercial print of chair pattern into 1912 still life. Went beyond play with natural & artistic reality by adding real items so they could be understood in either/both senses. Further refined by Braque , limiting the pasted elements to paper, Papiers colles, flat surfaces, eliminating illusionistic space. ‘we tried to get rid of trompe l’oeil to find a trompe l’esprit‘, Picasso, p787. Items pasted on meaningless, artist making meaning & beauty from nothing. Also, 1912,Picasso creates radical sculptural revolution by using all sorts of materials (wood, tin, card, paper, string etc) & assembling much like a collage. Liberating western sculpture from traditional material /techniques /subjects. Given new intellectual dimension although most sculptors stuck with traditional eg Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). Futurist Boccioni’s Technical Manifesto of futurist sculpture,1912, anticipates/parallels Picasso’s sculptural breakthrough. Using all sorts of materials ‘absolute & complete abolition of the finite line & closed-form sculpture’,p791

Styles and movements

Opposing tendencies, Subjectivism of Symbolists & objectivism/transcendent ‘otherness’ of Cezanne further explored bringing an end to artistic traditions from 14th C. First completely abstract work, 1912. Apparent dilemma between ‘cult of pure form & cult of inner truth’  p768. Period characterised by urge to break down convention & search for new ways of looking.

Impressionism culmination with Monet’s last series, Nympheas eg Water Lilies, 1907. His aim to present impressions of nature resulted in almost abstract view of his pool with its light, atmosphere and colour.

New way of seeing

Self-taught Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), naive artist, genius recognised by Picasso,  technical & conceptual naivety,innocent eye of a savage’ p769 enormous canvases of imagined, mysterious & menacing exotic jungle landscapes.

Henri Matisse, Bonheur de Vivre (Joy of Life), 1905-06, oil on canvas, 176.5 x 240.7 cm (The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia)

 Les Fauves (Wild Beasts) group lead by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) held 1st ‘event’ in 20thC art 1905 in Salon d’Automne. Exhibition of ‘strident colours, rough handling & distorted anti-naturalistic drawing’ p774 Affinity with naive art. Others included Andre Derain (1880-1954) & Maurice Vlaminck (1876-1958). ‘deliberate disharmonies’ of flat arbitrary clashing colours express artists personal emotional reaction to subject. Colour freed from descriptive representation. Devoid of social comment. Matisse’s The joy of life, 1906, key. P775. His Harmony in Red, 1908 sums up Fauve style, light a function of flat colour, no perspective/modelling/space. Childlike simple pictorial means. Georges Rouault (1871-1958) broke with the group early, became ‘finest religious painter of 20thC’ p776. More of an expressionist painter of spiritual anguish.

German Expressionism developed to convey oppressive mood of prewar apprehension. Charged with spiritual significance, nationalism & anti-French bias. Lead by Ernst Kirchner (1880-1938) who wrote Brucke Manifesto. Spontaneity & sincerity. Style pioneered by Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945) who remained independent of the group,considered herself a realist. Mystic evangelist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) painted his deeply religious feelings, ‘strength & inwardness’ p777. No general Expressionist architecture definition but roots in Gothic/Art Nouveau/anti-classical simplifying combination & expressive of function eg Erich Mendelsohn(1887-1953), Einstein‘s Observatory, 1919, & Hans Poelzig (1869-1936) (see above), AEG turbine factory, 1909,by Peter Behrens (1868-1940), & Max Berg (1870-1947), Centennial Hall at Wroclaw, 1911.

Der Blaue Reiter (the blue rider) group, Munich, 1911/16, abstract/non-objective works. Leading painter, Vassily Kandinsky (1886-1944), expressed through colour/form to strengthen emotional, spiritual & imaginative impact. Warm/spontaneous/organic. Revelation from seeing his upside down painting as ‘glowing with inner radiance’ p779. Franz Marc (1880-1916), killed in WW1, obsessed with animals. His most abstract, fighting forms, 1914, was left unfinished.

Franz Marc – fighting forms, 1914,

Georges Braque (1882-1963) & child prodigy Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) invented Cubism in close collaboration in 1908, tricky to define. Art simultaneously representational & anti-naturalistic. P783. The label of the Cubist movement was applied to a group of derivative artists in 1911, including Gleizes & Metzinger. Brought to US in 1913 exhibition. It raise Q of  ‘figuration as against abstraction as a conscious and serious issue’  p782 . Never intended to be non-representational, Picasso: ‘no such thing as abstract art. You must always start with something’. P782

Georges Braque, The Portuguese, 1911, oil on canvas, 116.8 x 81 cm (Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland)

Picasso ditched perspective /single viewpoint to combine several views in a single image. Surface of figures broken into facets lit from different arbitrary directions, space eliminated. Picture conceived as independent construction, picture-object/’tableau-objet’ p784. Layer more controlled, narrow range of close-value earthy colours. Less spatial, more volumetric & sculptural than Braque whose semi abstract natural forms of tilting overlapping planes in shallow space protrudes to the viewer. Their work 1910-12 known as Analytical Cubism less sculptural, ‘painterly dissolution of their 1908/9 manner’ p784. The term (by Juan Gris (1887-1927)) is a misnomer as there was no rational process of dissection. Forms more fragmented, they didn’t use observational references, leading towards intellectual abstraction just short of unrecognizability, near monochrome colours grey/green/ochres, dry matt surface. Unimportant ‘ostensible subjects hover like after-images behind geometrical structures‘. P785

Synthetic Cubism, mirror image of Analytical Cubism working back from abstraction to representation, developed alongside collage, object depicted with forms not derived from it, decorative and disunity. Eg Picasso’s harlequin, 1915. P788.

Pablo Picasso – Harlequin, Paris, late 1915, Oil on canvas ,183.5 x 105.1 cm, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest , © 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Orphic Cubism group: Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), Sonia Delaunay-Terk (1885-1979), Fernand Leger (1881-1955), Marcel Duchamp (1884-1968), & Francis Picabia (1879-1953), interested in prismatic colour (when Picasso/Braque not) with contrasts and Cubist planar structure. Inspired by light itself, the sun, the source of life. Vibrant, dynamic. Leger’s style slightly different, genuine alternative to cubism. Contrasts of both line and form, instead of light, his subject was dynamic, discordant, urban, modern life. He became the artist of the machine age after the war.

Umberto Boccioni
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
1913 (cast 1931), Bronze, 111.2 x 88.5 x 40 cm, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest

Futurism, short lived, high impact movement. Ideas by Marinetti & artist Boccioni (see thinkers below), aim to represent ‘psychical & total experience’ p790. Cubist broken forms, emphasising intuition/action & ‘simultaneity’ rejecting static compositions, pictures small sections of continuous wholes P790. Subjects moving through, or gone. Some abstract eg Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) created some of earliest non-objective paintings with his Iridescent Interpretations series 1912. Boccioni’s work more naturalistic eg. The city rises, 1910. The aims of the movement fully realised in his sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913. The construction of the action of the body ‘pure plastic rhythm’. P791. Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918), The Horse 1914 bronze cast of a mechanized/abstract but recognisable form.

Abstract/non-objective art implicated by Cubism (resisted by Picasso/Braque). ‘absolutely self-sufficient entity of value entirely in and for itself’ p793 Ideologically different from Kandinsky. Incorporated maths & ideal harmony between humans/environment.

Russian abstract movement lead by Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964) & Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) in 1912/13 called Rayonism by Larionov because their works resembled rays of lights p794

Constructivist movement formed by Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) during/after Revolution.  Notable painter Liubov Serbeevna Popova (1889-1924). Although deeply Christian, Malevich interested as Kandinsky in theosophical speculation. His style ‘Cubo-Futuristic’ developed into totally abstract ‘Suprematism’, elemental visual forms, which convey the supremacy of idea over matter, over the chaos of nature’ p794 which ended in 1922. Progression of mathematical shapes & simple colours.

The 1917 Dutch De Stijl (the style) abstract group, led by painters Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931) & architect Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud (1890-1963) wanted to develop ‘abstraction towards its ultimate goal’ p795. Used Cubist ochre/grey colours but more spiritual form of art with close textured, dynamic compositions, high minded ideals of absolute purity, harmony & sobriety. Impossible to detect subject but based on nature.

American architecture grew in prominence with Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959). Extended Sullivans ‘form follows function’, applied to affinities of man & nature with ‘organic architecture’ suggestive of Cubism. Buildings in harmony with their environment eg ground-hugging prairie houses with free forms interiors & bespoke furnishings, ‘Robie House, Chicago, 1907-9’ p796.

In Germany, Adolf Meyer (1881-1929) and Walter Gropius (1883-1969) pre-empted the post-war International Style of architecture with their Fagus Shoe Factory, 1911-1914, ‘glass curtain-walling, flat roof without cornice, an unrelieved cubic block’ p797.

Inside and outside influences

Freud’s theories had a profound effect on artists & intellectual thought. Transformed attitudes & values. Engendered Primitivism, ‘myth of the primitive ‘ (ref Gauguin, section 4), influence of primitive arts of naive, folk art & children, especially African & Oceanic area art (seen in anthropological & ethnographical museums & fetishes in junk shops) on many Fauve/Expressionists/Cubists. Picasso found African art a creative revelation & liberating energy p771 He was influenced by Matisse & Iberian sculpture, el greco, symbolism & rejection of refinement (of his contemporary Monet). Said ‘around 1906 Cezanne’s influence flooded everything ‘ p771 (with his large figure compositions, a final attempt at classical tradition).

Art Nouveau & classical pastoral tradition influenced Matisse’s The joy of life & early Kandinsky/Gabriele Munter (1877-1962).

Rouault inspired by religion & van Gogh.

German Expressionists influenced by Nietzsche & Munch.

Abstract art originates in theories of Romantics, music & colour. Anti-materialist Kandinsky influenced by occult & theosophical ‘thought forms’ & Steiner lectures. Franz Marc inspired by Futurist & Orphic art.

Cubism influenced abstract movements such as Orphism, De Stijl, Constructivism etc.

Futurism influenced by fast paced modern life/technology, Cubists, Expressionists & multiple exposure photographic studies of movement.

Joseph Stella, American, born Italy, 1877–1946
Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras
1913–14, Oil on canvas
195.6 x 215.3 cm,
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme, Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Futurism influenced all subsequent contemporary artistic movements (including synthetic Cubism & Duchamp brothers). It’s exuberant optimism inspired Battle of Lights, Coney Island, 1913 by Joseph Stella example in US. P791. Also, Romanian sculptor Constantin Bruncusi (1876-1957) who’s main influences of native folk art/‘primitive’ African art were completely at odds eg The prodigal son, 1915 (hand-made/organic quality hated by Futurists) & Bird in Space, 1928 (eloquently embodies futurism).

Rayonists inspired Constructivists.

De Stijl influenced by Calvinist background.

Malevich’s lofty ideas influenced Vladimir Tain, El Lissitzky & Alexander Rodchenko in post-Russia Revolutionary period.

Critics, thinkers and historians

Philosopher Henry Bergson (1859-1941), Creative Evolution, 1907, also, Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) parallels between artistic innovations & philosophy.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) ‘interpretation of dreams ‘, 1900, involved theories of the subconscious, including sexual urge & understanding instinctual side of human nature with emphasis on emotion and sensations being more important than rational thought.

Writer Andre Gidethe time for gentleness and dilettantism is past.  What are needed now are barbarians’ p769.

Poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) wrote about Rousseau.

Art historian Elie Faure described Fauves as young ‘primitives’ in exhibition catalogue. p774

Matisse’s Notes of a Painter, 1908, widely read, immediately translated into Russian & German.

Polemical French Catholic writers, Leon Bloy, Charles Peguy & Jacques Maritain friends & admirers of Rouault

Influential Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) inspired generation of writers/artists with oppressive pre-war foreboding eg novelist Franz Kafka (1883-1945).

The term ‘Expressionist’ coined in 1911, with regard to Matisse & Van Gogh at 1st, by writer Wilhelm Worringer (1881-1965) who published ‘Form in Gothic’ & ‘Abstraction and Empathy’ (1908, abstract art & need to withdraw from material world).

Critic Roger Fry wrote about Kandinsky in 1913, ‘Pure visual music‘ p778. French philosopher Bergson, ‘importance of the intuitive in the apprehension of truth’ p779 . Pioneer Gestalt psychologists asserted that shape/size/colour /spatial orientation etc produce certain perception, meanings inherent in forms/colours despite context. Kandinsky’s book ‘concerning the spiritual in art’. Abstract art as ‘inner-necessity’ not meaningless decoration. Occult/ theosophical theorist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) taught that artistic experiences & art were best stimulants for understanding spiritual matters.

Artists Albert Gleizes (1881-1953) & Jean Metzinger (1883-1956) wrote book, Du Cubisme . Georges Braque, Aphorisms on art published 1917, emphasised the autonomy of cubism. Picasso’s only recorded discussion on Cubism 1923 with critic Marius de Zayas, he was sceptical of intellectualising it, should be judged on results not intentions.

Critic/poet/writer/close friend of Picasso, Apollinaire spoke of Orphic Cubism as ‘pure painting’ in 1912 p789.

Italian poet Emilio Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) launched Futurism ideology, Milan 1908, manifesto published Paris 1909. Taken up by Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), further manifestos, on painting, 1910, ‘universal dynamism must be rendered as dynamic sensations; movement & light destroy the substance of objects’ p769, and sculpture, 1912.

Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933), ‘Ornament and Crime’, 1908 gospel of modern movement in architecture.


The course notes bid us reflect upon the proliferation of -isms, and the usefulness or otherwise of categorising art history into a series of styles of movements. In this first of the three chapters there was not as many -isms as I was expecting. Yes I think these -isms are more than a useful shorthand to facilitate art historical discussion, for example, Cubism was seen at the time as a school, the artists involved were in a circle of likeminded artists pushing the boundaries of art. They exhibited in the Saloons together, they got criticised as a group. Many movements (not all) were like this, a ‘scene’ at the time, and of course also useful for us looking back.

The main thrust of this chapter is the radical changes in such a few short years. Newness across the spectrum of art, literature, music, philosophy & science. In art, each ism moved it that little bit closer to the complete break with traditions of Cubisms new pictoral language and revolution in sculpture of open form. And the post war optmism of Futurism.

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing