Dictionary of Art and Artists



 

 


History of

Architecture and Sculpture

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

CONTENTS:

 
 

PART ONE
THE ANCIENT WORLD
PREHISTORIC ART
EGYPTIAN ART

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN ART
AEGEAN ART
GREEK ART
ETRUSCAN ART
ROMAN ART
EARLY CHRISTIAN AND BYZANTINE ART

PART TWO
THE MIDDLE AGES
EARLY MEDIEVAL ART
ROMANESQUE ART
GOTHIC ART

PART THREE
THE RENAISSANCE THROUGH THE ROCOCO
LATE GOTHIC
THE EARLY RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
MANNERISM AND OTHER TRENDS
THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NORTH
THE BAROQUE IN ITALY AND SPAIN
THE BAROQUE IN FLANDERS AND HOLLAND
THE BAROQUE
THE ROCOCO

PART FOUR
THE MODERN WORLD
NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM, AND ART NOUVEAU

PART FIVE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY
TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE


INDEX
FIGURES
 

 
 

 
 

CHAPTER ONE
 

TWENTIETH-CENTURY

 

PAINTING BEFORE WORLD WAR I
PAINTING BETWEEN THE WARS
PAINTING SINCE WORLD WAR II

PHOTOGRAPHY
 
 

PAINTING

 

 

PAINTING BETWEEN THE WARS



The Founders

As we examine painting between the wars, we shall find anything but an orderly progression. World War I had totally disrupted the further evolution of modernism, and its end unleashed an unprecedented outpouring of art after a four-year creative lull. The responses were correspondingly diverse. Because they were already fully formed artists, the founders of modern painting—Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Kirchner, and Kandinsky—followed very different paths from those of younger ones who had not yet emerged into maturity by 1914. They broke the "rules" they had established earlier, responding only to the dictates of their sovereign imaginations; hence, their evolution transcends ready categorization. Rather than a simple linear development, we must therefore think in terms of multiple layers of varying depth that bear a shifting relation to each other.



Pablo Picasso.

We begin with Picasso, whose genius towers over the period. As a Spanish national living in Paris he was not involved in the conflict, unlike many French and German artists who served in the military and even sacrificed their lives. This was a time of quiet experimentation that laid the foundation for Picasso's art over the next several decades. The results did not become fully apparent, however, until the early 1920s, following a period of intensive cultivation. Three Musicians (fig. 1062) shows the fruit of that labor. It utilizes the "cut-paper style" of Synthetic Cubism so consistently that we cannot tell from the reproduction whether it is painted or pasted.

By now, Picasso was internationally famous. Cubism had spread throughout the Western world. It influenced not only other painters, but sculptors and even architects. Yet Picasso was already striking out in a new direction. Soon after the invention of Synthetic Cubism, he had begun to do drawings in a realistic manner reminiscent of Ingres, and by
1920 he was working simultaneously in two quite separate styles: the Synthetic Cubism of the Three Musicians, and a Neoclassical style of strongly modeled, heavy-bodied figures such as his Mother and Child (fig. 1063). To many of his admirers, this seemed a kind of betrayal, but in retrospect the reason for Picasso's double-track performance is clear: chafing under the limitations of Synthetic Cubism, he needed to resume contact with the classical tradition, the "art of the museums." The figures in Mother and Child have a mock-monumental quality that suggests colossal statues rather than flesh-and-blood human beings, yet the theme is treated with surprising tenderness. The forms, however, are carefully dovetailed within the frame, not unlike the way the Three Musicians is put together.

A few years later the two tracks of Picasso's style began to converge into an extraordinary synthesis that was to become the basis of his art. The Three Dancers of 1925 (fig. 1064) shows how he accomplished this seemingly impossible feat. Structurally, the picture is pure Synthetic Cubism. It even includes painted imitations of specific materials, such as patterned wallpaper and samples of various fabrics cut out with pinking shears. The figures, a wildly fantastic version of a classical scheme (compare the dancers in Matisse's The Joy of Life, fig. 1036), are an even more violent assault on convention than the figures in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Human anatomy is here simply the raw material for Picasso's incredible inventiveness. Limbs, breasts, and faces are handled with the same sovereign freedom as the fragments of external reality in Braque's Le Counter (fig. 1051). Their original identity no longer matters. Breasts may turn into eyes, profiles merge with frontal views, shadows become substance, and vice versa, in an endless flow of metamorphoses. They are "visual puns," offering wholly unexpected possibilities of expressionhumorous, grotesque, macabre, even tragic.


1062. Pablo Picasso. Three Musicians. Summer 1921
1063. Pablo Picasso. Mother and Child. 1921-22
1064.
Pablo Picasso. Three Dancers. 1925

Three Dancers marks a transition to Picasso's experiment with Surrealism. Because he did not practice automatism, he never developed into a true adherent of the movement. Nevertheless, the impact of his fellow Spaniard Joan Miro can be seen in the biomorphism of his mural Guernica (fig. 1065). Picasso did not show any interest in politics during World War I or the 1920s, but the Spanish Civil War stirred him to ardent partisanship with the Loyalists. The mural, executed in 1937 for the Pavilion of the Spanish Republic at the Paris International Exposition, has truly monumental grandeur. It was inspired by the terror-bombing of Guernica, the ancient capital of the Basques in northern Spain. The painting does not represent the event itself. Rather, it evokes the agony of total war with a series of powerful images.

The destruction of Guernica was the first demonstration of the technique of saturation bombing that was later employed on a huge scale during the course of World War II. The mural was thus a prophetic vision of doomthe doom that threatens us even more in this nuclear age. The symbolism of the scene resists precise interpretation, despite its several traditional elements: the mother and her dead child are the descendants of the Pieta (see fig. 497), the woman with the lamp recalls the Statue of Liberty (see fig. 923), and the dead fighter's hand, still clutching a broken sword, is a familiar emblem of heroic resistance. We also sense the contrast between the menacing, human-headed bull, surely intended to represent the forces of darkness, and the dying horse.

These figures owe their terrifying eloquence to what they are, not to what they mean. The anatomical dislocations, fragmentations, and metamorphoses, which in the Three Dancers seemed willful and fantastic, now express a stark reality, the reality of unbearable pain. The ultimate test of the validity of collage construction (here shown in superimposed flat "cutouts" restricted to black, white, and gray) is that it could serve as the vehicle of such overpowering emotions.
 


1065. Pablo Picasso. Guernica. 1937

 

Henri Matisse.

From 1911 on Matisse was influenced increasingly by Cubism, but after the war he, like Picasso, returned to the classical tradition. The lessons he absorbed from Cubism nevertheless had far-reaching consequences for his style. We see this in Decorative Figure Against an Ornamental background (fig. 1066), which has a new luxuriance. At the same time, there is an underlying discipline resulting from his study of Cubism. The carpet provides a firm geometric structure for organizing the composition, so that everything has its place, although the system itself is entirely intuitive. Only in this way could Matisse control all the elements of his elaborate picture. It is among the finest in a long series of odalisques that Matisse painted during the 1920s and 1930s. In them the artist emerges as the titular heir of the French tradition, which he had absorbed through his teacher Moreau. The visual splendor would be worthy of Delacroix himself. Yet in the calm pose and strong contours of the figure, Matisse reveals himself to be a classicist at heart, more akin to Ingres than the Romantics (compare figs. 885 and 889). The picture has overtones of Degas (see fig. 955), who had been trained by a disciple of Ingres and thus formed an important link in the chain of tradition. It breathes the classical serenity of Seated Woman by Matisse's friend Maillol (see fig. 1009), who early in his career had likewise been inspired by Gauguin. Nevertheless, Matisse's is a distinctly modern classicism.


1066. Henri Matisse.
Decorative Figure Against
an Ornamental Background.

1927





Ernst Kirchner.

Kirchner, too, was affected by Cubism after 1911, when he joined the other members of Die Brucke in Berlin. Four years later he was drafted into World War I, which ruined his physical and mental health. Released from the army after six months to recuperate from tuberculosis, he moved to Switzerland, where he turned increasingly to landscapes, as did many other German Expressionists following the war. Winter Landscape in Moonlight (fig. 1067), painted in the Swiss Alps, resounds with a sense of peace and wonderment before nature. The painting rivals the ecstatic rhythms of the young Kandinsky (compare fig. 1045), whose work Kirchner came to know while participating in the exhibitions of Der Blaue Reiter following the dissolution of Die Brucke.


1067. Ernst Kirchner.
Winter Landscape in Moonlight.

1919

 



Wasily Kandinsky

Kandinsky himself spent the war years in Russia, where he participated enthusiastically in the Revolution and played an important role in shaping artistic policy. When his pedagogical reforms met with growing hostility, he returned to Germany in 1921 and soon accepted an invitation from Walter Gropius to teach at the Bauhaus. Although he had begun to experiment with a more geometric style in Russia under the influence of Constructivism and other related avant-garde movements, some of which shared his mystical tendencies, his output was surprisingly-small, and it was only after he assumed his position at Weimar that he adopted geometric abstraction once and for all. The lessons and exercises he developed for his students no doubt helped to crystallize his theories of form and structure. These he set out systematically in Point and Line to Plane, published in 1926, which elaborates concepts that were only nascent in his earlier book Concerning the Spiritual in Art. His development was perhaps reinforced by the presence at the Bauhaus after 1923 of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who came from a Constructivist background, although his approach was otherwise the opposite of Kandinsky's. Looking at a typical example of his work from this time (fig. 1068), we seem to have entered a different world from that of his earlier work (fig. 1045). Only when we analyze the painting do we realize that it embodies the same titanic clash of forces. The artist has clarified the shapes and lines of force that had been buried in a sea of swirling forms. Yet the attitude is still the same, and he admitted that he remained a Romantic to the end.


1068. Wasily Kandinsky. Accented Corners. No. 247. 1923

 

 

Abstraction

Picasso's abandonment of strict Cubism signaled the broad retreat of abstraction after 1920 because the Utopian ideals associated with it had been largely dashed by "the war to end all wars." In retrospect, abstraction can be seen as a necessary phase through which modern painting had to pass, but it was not essential to modernism as such, even though it has been perhaps the dominant tendency of the twentieth century.



Fernand Leger.

The Futurist spirit nevertheless continued to find adherents on both sides of the Atlantic. Buoyant with optimism and pleasurable excitement, The City (fig.
1069) by the Frenchman Fernand Leger (1881-1955) conjures up a mechanized Utopia. This beautifully controlled industrial landscape is stable without being static, and reflects the clean geometric shapes of modem machinery. In this instance, the term abstraction applies more to the choice of design elements and their manner of combination than to the shapes themselves, since these are "prefabricated" entities, except for the two figures on the staircase.


1069. Fernand Leger. The City. 1919


 

Charles Demuth.

The modern movement in America proved shortlived. One of the few artists to continue working in this vein after World War I was Charles Demuth (1883-1935). A member of the Stieglitz group, he had been friendly with Duchamp and exiled Cubists in New York during World War I. A few years later, under the impact of Futurism, he developed a style known as Precisionism to depict urban and industrial architecture. We can detect influences from all of these movements in I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (fig. 1070). The title is taken from a poem by Demuth's friend William Carlos Williams, whose name also forms part of the design as "Bill," "Carlos," and "W. G. W." In the poem the figure 5 appears on a red fire truck, while in the painting it has become the dominant feature, thrice repeated to reinforce its echo in our memory as the fire truck rushes on through the night.


1070. Charles Demuth.
I Saw the Figure
5 in Gold.
1928





Joseph Stella.

Poetry was central as well to Brooklyn Bridge (fig. 1071) by the Italian-American Joseph Stella (1877-1946). To Stella, who emigrated to America as a young man. the bridge became a symbol of his adopted land, which provided his boldest theme. He wrote in his autobiography: "To realize this towering imperative vision in all its integral possibilities ... I appealed for help to the soaring verse of Walt Whitman and to the fiery Poe's plasticity. Upon the swarming darkness of the night, I rung all the bells of alarm with the blaze of electricity

scattered in lightnings down the oblique cables, the dynamic pillars of my composition, and to render more pungent the mystery of the metallic apparition, through the green and red glare of the signals I excavated here and there caves as subterranean passages to infernal recesses." His painting achieves what a contemporary critic perceptively called the apotheosis of the bridge, through a synthesis of Futurism, which he had been exposed to during a visit to Paris in 1912, and Precisionism, which he experimented with as early as 1917. With its maze of luminescent cables, vigorous diagonal thrusts, and crystalline cells of space, the painting is a striking visual counterpart to Hart Crane's famous hymn of 1930, "To Brooklyn Bridge":

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge.
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,
Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path
condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.


1071. Joseph Stella.
Brooklyn Bridge.
1917


 

Piet Mondrian.

The most radical abstractionist of our time was a Dutch painter nine years older than Picasso,
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). He arrived in Paris in 1912 as a mature Expressionist in the tradition of Van Gogh and the Fauves. Under the impact of Analytic Cubism, his work soon underwent a complete change, and within the next decade Mondrian developed an entirely non-representational style that he called Neo-Plasticism. The short-lived movement as a whole is also known as De Stijl, after the Dutch magazine advocating his ideas, which were formulated with Theo van Doesburg (1883— 1931) and Bart van der Leek (1876-1958). Mondrian became the center of the abstract movement in Paris, where he returned in 1919 and remained until the onset of World War II. Indeed, the School of Paris in the 1930s was made up largely of foreigners like himespecially the Abstraction-Creation group, which included artists of every persuasion. As a result, the differences between the various movements soon became blurred, although Mondrian himself consistently adhered to his principles.

Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow (fig. 1072) shows Mondrian s style at its most severe. He restricts his design to horizontals and verticals and his colors to the three primary hues, plus black and white. Every possibility of representation is thereby eliminated. Yet Mondrian sometimes gave to his works such titles as Trafalgar Square, or Broadway Boogie Woogie, that hint at some degree of relationship, however indirect, with observed reality. Like Kandinsky, Mondrian was affected by theosophy, albeit the distinctive Dutch branch founded by M. J. H. Schoenmaekers. Unlike Kandinsky, however, he did not strive tor pure, lyrical emotion. His goal, he asserted, was "pure reality," and he defined this as equilibrium "through the balance of unequal but equivalent oppositions." For all of their analytic calm, Mondrian's paintings are highly idealistic: "When we realize that equilibriated relationships in society signify what is just, then we shall realize that in art, likewise, the demands of life press forward when the spirit of the age is ready."


1072.
Piet Mondrian.
Composition with Red,
Blue, and Yellow.
1930
 

Perhaps we can best understand what he meant by equilibrium if we think of his work as "abstract collage" that uses black bands and colored rectangles instead of recognizable fragments of chair caning and newsprint. He was interested solely in relationships and wanted no distracting elements or fortuitous associations. By establishing the "right" relationship among his bands and rectangles, he transforms them as thoroughly as Braque transformed the snippets of pasted paper in Le Courrier (fig. 1051). How did he discover the "right" relationship? And how did he determine the shape and number for the bands and rectangles? In Braque's collage, the ingredients are to some extent "given" by chance, but apart from his self-imposed rules, Mondrian constantly faced the dilemma of unlimited possibilities. He could not change the relationship of the bands to the rectangles without changing the bands and rectangles themselves. When we consider his task, we begin to realize its infinite complexity.

Looking again at Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow, we find that when we measure the various units, only the proportions of the canvas itself are truly rational, an exact square. Mondrian has arrived at all the rest "by feel," and must have undergone agonies of trial and error. How often, we wonder, did he change the dimensions of the red rectangle to bring it and the other elements into self-contained equilibrium? Strange as it may seem, Mondrian's exquisite sense for non-symmetrical balance is so specific that critics well acquainted with his work have no difficulty in distinguishing fakes from genuine pictures. Designers who work with nonfigurative shapes, such as architects and typographers, are likely to be most sensitive to this quality, and Mondrian has had a greater influence on them than on artists.



Ben Nikholson.

Mondrian nevertheless did produce a number of followers among the painters. By far the most original was the English artist Ben Nikholson (1894-1982). A rigorous abstractionist, he bent Mondrian's rules without breaking them in his painted reliefs (fig. 1073). which also show the inspiration of his wife, the sculptor Barbara Hepworth. The overlapping shapes violate the integrity of the rectangle and overcome the tyranny of the grid maintained by Mondrian. The geometry is further enlivened by the introduction of the circle. Yet his work, too, relies on the delicate balance of elements. The effect is enhanced by the subdued palette and matte finish, which create harmonies of the utmost refinement. Indeed, compared to Nicholson's, Mondrian's primary colors seem astonishingly bright and exuberant.


1073. Ben Nikholson.
Painted Relief
. 1939


 

Fantasy
 

Dada.

Out of despair over the mechanized mass killing of World War I. a number of artists in New York and Zurich simultaneously launched in protest a movement called Dada (or Dadaism), which then spread to other cities in Germany and France. The term, which means hobbyhorse in French, was reportedly picked at random from a dictionary, although it had actually been used as the title of a Symbolist journal. As an infantile, all-purpose word, however, it perfectly fitted the spirit of the movement. Dada has often been called nihilistic, and its declared purpose was indeed to make clear to the public at large that all established values, moral or aesthetic, had been rendered meaningless by the catastrophe of the Great War. During its short life (c.
1915-22) Dada preached nonsense and antiart with a vengeance. As Han Arp wrote, "Dadaism carried assent and dissent ad absurdum. In order to achieve indifference, it was destructive." Marcel Duchamp once "improved" a reproduction of Leonardo's Mona Lisa with a moustache and the letters LHOOQ, which when pronounced in French, make an off-color pun. Not even modern art was safe from the Dadaists assaults: one of them exhibited a toy monkey inside a frame with the title "Portrait of Cezanne." Yet Dada was not a completely negative movement. In its calculated irrationality there was also liberation, a voyage into unknown provinces of the creative mind. The only law respected by the Dadaists was that of chance, and the only reality, that of their own imaginations.



Max Ernst.

Although their most characteristic art form was the ready-made
, the Dadaists adopted the collage technique of Synthetic Cubism for their purposes. Figure 1074 by the German Dadaist Max Ernst (1891-1976), an associate of Duchamp, is largely composed of snippets from illustrations of machinery. The caption pretends to enumerate these mechanical ingredients which include (or add up to) "1 Piping Man." Actually, there is also a "piping woman." These offspring of Duchamp's prewar Bride (see fig. 1060) stare at us blindly through their goggles.



Surrealism

In 1924, after Duchamp's retirement from Dada, a group led by the poet Andre Breton founded Dada's successor. Surrealism. They defined their aim as "pure psychic automatism . . . intended to express . . . the true process of thought. . . free from the exercise of reason and from any aesthetic or moral purpose." Surrealist theory was heavily larded with concepts borrowed from psychoanalysis, and its overwrought rhetoric cannot always be taken seriously. The notion that a dream can be transposed by "automatic handwriting" directly from the unconscious mind to the canvas, bypassing the conscious awareness of the artist, did not work in practice. Some degree of control was unavoidable. Nevertheless, Surrealism stimulated several novel techniques for soliciting and exploiting chance effects.

 

ERNST'S DECALCOMANIA.

Max Ernst, the most inventive member of the group, often combined collage with "frottage" (rubbings from pieces of wood, pressed flowers, and other relief surfacesthe process we all know from the children's pastime of rubbing with a pencil on a piece of paper covering, say, a coin). In La Toilette de la Mariee (fig. 1075), he has obtained fascinating shapes and textures by another technique: "decalcomania" (the transfer, by pressure, of oil paint to the canvas from some other surface). This procedure is in essence another variant of that recommended by Alexander Cozens (see fig. 864) and Leonardo da Vinci. Ernst certainly found, and elaborated upon, an extraordinary wealth of images among his stains. The end result has some of the qualities of a dream, but it is a dream born of a strikingly Romantic imagination.
 


1074. Max Ernst. 1 Copper Plate 1 Zinc Plate
1
Rubber Cloth 2 Calipers I Drainpipe Telescope
1 Piping Man.
1920
10
75. Max Ernst. La Toilette de la Mane'e
(Attirement of the Bride).
1940




Salvador Dali

The same can be said of The Persistence of Memory (fig. 1076) by Salvador Dali (1904-1989). The most notorious of the Surrealists because of his self-promotion, Dali used a meticulous verism to render a "paranoid " dream in which time, forms, and space have been distorted in a frighteningly real way.
 


1076. Salvador Dali. The Persistence of Memory.
1931

 


Rene Magritte

The Belgian artist Rene Magritte (1898-1967) also employed detailed realism, but for completely different ends. Although he found his early inspiration in the work of De Chirico, his naturalism stems from the tradition of Magic Realism that flourished in Belgium in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Magritte's goal was "poetic painting": illusionistic pictures that transform objects into images having completely different meaning through astonishing transformations, changes in scale, juxtapositions, and the like. Les Promenades d'Euclid (fig. 1077) shows one of his favorites devices, the picture within a picture. The title, added after the fact through free association, only compounds the mystery of the painting by failing to explain it. This divorce of word and image prevents us from finding any literal (or literary) meaning. The painting's charm lies not simply in this visual and verbal puzzle but in the presentation itself: the beautifully simple, abstract design, and the artist's way of subtly heightening reality while ultimately denying its plausibility.


1077. Rene Magritte. Les Promenades d'Euclid. 1955




Frida Kahlo.

A number of women, including Meret Oppenheim, were associated with the Surrealist movement. Today the best known is Frida Kahlo (1910-1954), who was first discovered by the poet Andre Breton during a visit to Mexico in 1938 and then rediscovered in recent years by feminist art historians. She owes her reputation as much to her troubled life as to her work, for they are inseparable. Her paintings are frankly autobiographical, yet so laden with personal meaning and couched in such enigmatic terms that the exact circumstances must be known in order to decipher their content. Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace (fig. 1078) is similar in style to traditional Mexican devotional images. It was painted in 1940, when her tempestuous marriage to the painter Diego Rivera (1886— 1957)
was interrupted for a year by divorce. The necklace, an allusion to the crown of thorns worn by Christ during the Passion, is a symbol of her humiliation by her husband. From it hangs a dead hummingbird, a traditional amulet worn in Mexico by people seeking love. On her shoulders are two demons in the guise of the artist's pets: death, who appears as a black cat, and the devil, seen as a monkey. In context, it is clear that Kahlo must have been contemplating suicide: she has been a martyr to love while hoping for a resurrection like the Lord's, as signified by the butterflies overhead.


1078. Frida Kahlo.
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace.

1940



 

Joan Miro.

Surrealism also has a boldly imaginative branch. Some works by Picasso, such as Three Dancers (fig.
1064), have affinities with it, and its greatest exponent was also Spanish: Joan Miro (1893-1983), who painted the striking Painting (fig. 1079). His style has been labeled "biomorphic abstraction," since his designs are fluid and curvilinear, like organic forms, rather than geometric. Actually, "biomorphic concretion" might be a more suitable name, for the shapes in Miro's pictures have their own vigorous life. They seem to change before our eyes, expanding and contracting like amoebas until they approach human individuality closely enough to please the artist. Their spontaneous "becoming" is the very opposite of abstraction as we defined it above, though Miro's formal discipline is no less rigorous than that of Cubism. (He began as a Cubist.)


1079. Joan Miro. Painting. 1933



KLEE.

The German-Swiss painter Paul Klee (1879-1940) was decisively influenced early in his career by Der Blaue Reiter, and shared many of the same ideas as his friends Kandinsky and Marc. He was, for example, fascinated with music and was himself a talented violinist. His theories of art also have much in common with those of Kandinsky- (They were colleagues at the Bauhaus.) He nevertheless went in the opposite direction. Instead of a higher reality, he wanted to illuminate a deeper one from within the imagination which parallels nature but is independent of it. Thus natural forms are essential to his work, but as pictorial metaphors filled with hidden meaning rather than as representations of nature. He was affected, too, by Cubism and Orphism. but ethnographic art and the drawings of small children held an equally vital interest for him.

During World War I, he molded these disparate elements into a pictorial language of his own, marvelously economical and precise. Twittering Machine (fig. 1080), a delicate pen-and-ink drawing tinted with watercolor, demonstrates the unique flavor of Klee's art. With a few simple lines, he has created a ghostly mechanism that imitates the sound of birds, simultaneously mocking our faith in the miracles of the machine age and our sentimental appreciation of bird song. The little contraption is not without its sinister aspect: the heads of the four sham birds look like fishermen's lures, as if they might entrap real birds. It thus condenses into one striking invention a complex of ideas about present-day civilization.

The title has an indispensable role. It is characteristic of the way Klee worked that the picture itself, however visually appealing, does not reveal its full evocative quality unless the artist tells us what it means. The title, in turn, needs the picture: the witty concept of a twittering machine does not kindle our imagination until we are shown such a thing. This interdependence is familiar to us from cartoons, but Klee lifts it to the level of high art without relinquishing the playful character of these verbal-visual puns. To him art was a "language of signs," of shapes that are images of ideas as the shape of a letter is the image of a specific sound, or an arrow the image of the command, "This way only." He also realized that in any conventional system the sign is no more than a "trigger." The instant we perceive it, we automatically invest it with meaning, without stopping to ponder its shape. Klee wanted his signs to impinge upon our awareness as visual facts, yet also to share the quality of "triggers."

Toward the end of his life, he immersed himself in the study of ideographs of all kinds, such as hieroglyphics, hex signs, and the mysterious markings in prehistoric caves"boiled-down" representational images that appealed to him because they had the twin quality he strove for in his own graphic language. This "ideographic style" is clearly articulated in figure 1081, Park near Lu(ceme). As a lyric poet may use the plainest words, these deceptively simple shapes sum up a wealth of experience and sensation: the innocent gaiety of spring, the clipped orderliness peculiar to captive plant life in a park. Has it not also a relationship, in spirit if not in fact, with the Romanesque Summer Landscape in the manuscript of Carmine Burana (fig. 442)? Klee's attitude soon changed. Shortly before his death, the artist's horror at World War II led him to abandon this lighthearted vein in favor of a bleakly pessimistic manner that drew close to Miro's darkest fantasies of the same time.
 


1080. Paul Klee. Twittering Machine. 1922
1081. Paul Klee. Park near Lu(cerue). 1938

 

 


Expressionism



Kathe Kollwitz.

The experience of World War I filled German artists with a deep anguish at the state of modern civilization, which found its principal outlet in Expressionism. The work of Kathe Kollwitz
(1876-1945) consists almost exclusively of prints and drawings that parallel those of Kokoschka, whose work she admired. Her graphics had their sources in the nineteenth century. Munch, Klimt, and the German artist Max Klinger (1857-1920) were early inspirations, as was her friend Ernst Barlach. Yet Kollwitz pursued a resolutely independent course, devoting her art to themes of inhumanity and injustice. To articulate her social and ethical concerns, she adopted an intensely expressive, naturalistic style that is as unrelenting in its bleakness as her choice of subjects. Gaunt mothers and exploited workers provided much of Kollwitz's thematic focus, but her most eloquent statements were reserved tor war. World War I, which cost her oldest son his life, made her an ardent pacifist. Her lithograph Never Again War! (fig. 1082) is an unforgettable image of protest.


1082. Kathe Kollwitz.
Never Again War!

19
24




George Grosz.

George Grosz
(1893-1959), a painter and graphic artist who had studied in Paris in 1913, joined the Dadaist movement in Berlin after the end of the war. Inspired by the Futurists, he used a dynamized form of Cubism to develop a bitter, savagely satiric style that expressed the disillusionment of his generation. In Germany, a Winter's Tale (fig. 1083), the city of Berlin forms the kaleidoscopic and chaotic background for several large figures, which are superimposed on it as in a collage. They include the marionettelike "good citizen" at his table, and the sinister forces that molded him: a hypocritical clergyman, a general, and a schoolmaster.


1083. George Grosz.
Germany, a Winter's Tale.

1918




Max Beckmann.

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), a robust descendant of Vie Brticke artists, did not become an Expressionist until after he had lived through World War I, which filled him with such despair at the state of modern civilization that he took up painting to "reproach God for his errors." The Dream (fig. 1084) is a mocking nightmare, a tilted, zigzag world as disquieting as those in Bosch's Hell (see fig. 553). It is crammed

with maimed, puppetlike figures that reflect his experience in the army medical corps: the handless swimmer, carrying a fish, who climbs a ladder that leads only to another ladder on the ceiling; the crippled clown whose open hat protects his eyes but not his head from the nonexistent sun; the woman singing ecstatically to herself as she plays a stringless cello; and the beggar frantically cranking his hurdy-gurdy and blaring his trumpet to this unreceptive audience. AH are blind except the blond girl in the center. (Note the mirror that reflects nothing and the lantern that illuminates nothing.) Evidently a recent arrival, to judge from her trunk, she observes everything with detachment and gestures as if to say, "Behold this Ship of Fools," while the puppet she holds mockingly applauds the absurd performance. Her innocence is underscored by the plant, which rudely pushes aside her dress as she tries to stop its advance with one foot. The forms show the inspiration of early German prints, which Beckmann shared with the members oiDie Brticke (compare figs. 562-565).

The claustrophobic space, which comes from the same source, is essential to the image, which radiates an oppressive aura. It was, he said, "how I defend myself against the infinity of space . . . the great spatial void and uncertainty that I call God." Beckmann has created a powerful image, but his evocative symbolism is nevertheless difficult to interpret, since it is necessarily subjective. How indeed could Beckmann have expressed the chaos in Germany after that war with the worn-out language of traditional symbols? "These are the creatures that haunt my imagination," he seems to say. "They show the true nature of the modern conditionhow weak we are, how helpless against ourselves in this proud era of so-called progress."

Some elements from this grotesque and sinister sideshow recur in altered guise more than a decade later in the wings of Beckmann's triptych Departure (fig. 1085), a painting that reflects Beckmann's admiration for Grunewald. The right panel incorporates a blind man holding the fish, a lantern, and a mad musician. The left pane shows a scene of almost unimaginable torture. What are we to make of these brutal images? We know from letters written by the artist and a close friend that they represent life itself as endless misery filled with all manner of physical and spiritual pain. The woman trying to make her way in the dark with the aid of the lamp is carrying the corpse of her memories, evil deeds, and failures, from which no one can ever be free so long as life beats its drum. The center panel signifies the departure from life's illusions to the reality behind appearances. The crowned figure seen from behind perhaps represents the legendary Fisher King from the legend of the Holy Grail, whose health and that of his land is restored by Parsifal.

In the hindsight of today, Departure acquired the force of prophecy. It was completed when, under Nazi pressure, the artist was on the verge of leaving his homeland. The topsyturvy quality of the two wing scenes, full of mutilations and meaningless rituals, well captures the flavor of Hitler's Germany. The stable design of the center panel, in contrast, with its expanse of blue sea and its sunlit brightness, conveys the hopeful spirit of an embarkation for distant shores. After living through World War II in occupied Holland under the most trying conditions, Beckmann spent the final three years of his life in America.
 


1084. Max Beckmann. The Dream. 1921
1085. Max Beckmann. Departure. 1932-33. Triptych.

 

Arthur G. Dove.

After 1920 in the United States, most of the original members of the Stieglitz group concentrated on landscapes, which they treated in representational styles derived from Expressionism. Alone among them, Arthur G. Dove (1880— 1946) consistently maintained a form of abstraction, one based loosely on Kandinsky's style. The difference between the two artists is that Dove sought to reveal the inner life of nature, whereas Kandinsky tried to rid his images of readily recognizable subject matter. Dove's paintings possess a monumental spirit that belies their typically modest size. Foghorns (fig. 1086)
epitomizes the intelligence and economy of his mature landscapes. To evoke the diffusion of sound, Dove utilized the simple but ingenious device of irregular concentric circles of color that grow paler as they radiate outward.


1086. Arthur G. Dove. Foghorns. 1929




Jose Orozco.

During the
1930s, the center of Expressionism in the New World was Mexico. The Mexican Revolution began in 1911 with the fall of the dictator Porfirio Diaz and continued for more than two decades. It inspired a group of young painters to search for a national style incorporating the great native heritage of Pre-Columbian art. They also felt that their art must be "of the people," expressing the spirit of the Revolution in large mural cycles in public buildings. Although each developed his own distinctive style, they shared a common point of departure: the Symbolist art of Gauguin, which had shown how non-Western forms could be integrated with the Western tradition. The flat, decorative quality of this art was particularly suited to murals. However, the involvement of these artists in the political turmoil of the day often led them to overburden their works with ideological significance. The artist least subject to this imbalance of form and subject matter was Jose Orozco (1883-1949), a passionately independent artist who refused to get embroiled in factional politics. The detail from the mural cycle at the University of Guadalajara (fig. 1087) illustrates his most powerful trait: a deep humanitarian sympathy with the silent, suffering masses.


1087. Jose Orozco.
Victims.
1936

 

 

Realism


Otto Dix.

In
1923 the director of the Mannheim museum organized an exhibition with the title Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity; sometimes also known as Magic Realism). This, he explained, was "a label for the new realism bearing a socialist flavor. Cynicism and resignation are the negative side of New Objectivity; the positive side expresses itself in the enthusiasm for immediate reality." Its principal representatives were George Grosz, who by this time had abandoned his slashing style tor a more realistic manner no less biting in its sarcasm, and Max Beckmann, whose naturalism was simply a vehicle for expressing his disillusionment. But it was the meticulous verism of Otto Dix (1891-1969), another Expressionist who had also been a member of Dada, that defined the essential characteristics of the New Objectivity. Its roots lay in German Renaissance art and the Romanticism of Runge, which Dix used to expose the ills of modern Germany with obsessive detail. Dix's best works are his portraits, such as that of Dr. Mayer-Hermann (fig. 1088). The image has a supernatural clarity that lends an almost nightmarish intensity to this seemingly straightforward image of the doctor seated impassively before his instruments, which echo his bulbous shape. In the process, they have acquired the alien character of the devices in Max Ernst's I Piping Man (fig. 1074), so that they become strangely menacing. For a comparably overwhelming portrayal, we must turn to Ingres' Louis Berlin (fig. 886). That Dix fares remarkably well in the comparison is testimony to his powers of characterization.


1088. Otto Dix.
Dr. Mayer-Hermann.

1926




Georgia O'Keeffe.

The New Objectivity soon succumbed to realism for its own sake tinged with Romantic nostalgia as part of a widespread conservative reaction on both sides of the Atlantic. The naturalism that characterized American art as a whole during the
1920s found its most important representative in
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). Throughout her long career, she covered a wide range of subjects and styles. Like Arthur Dove, she practiced a form of organic abstraction indebted to Expressionism, but she also adopted the Precisionism of Charles Demuth, so that she is sometimes considered an abstract artist. Her work often combined aspects of both approaches: as she assimilated a subject into her imagination, she would alter and simplify it to convey a personal meaning. Nonetheless, O'Keeffe remained a realist at heart. Black Iris III (fig. 1089) is the kind of painting for which she is best known. The image is marked by a strong sense of design uniquely her own. The flower, however, is deceptive in its decorative treatment. Observed close up and magnified to large scale, it is a thinly disguised symbol of female sexuality.


1089. Georgia O'Keeffe.
Black Iris III.
1926




AMERICAN SCENE PAINTING.

The dominance of realism during the 1930s signaled the retreat of progressive art everywhere in response to the economic depression and social turmoil that gripped both Europe and the United States. Often realism was linked to the reassertion of traditional values. Most American artists split into two camps, the Regionalists and the Social Realists. The Regionalists sought to revive idealism by updating the American myth, defined, however, largely in midwestern terms. The Social Realists, on the other hand, captured the dislocation and despair of the Depression era, and were often concerned with social reform, But both movements, although bitterly opposed, drew freely on the Ash Can School.


Edward Hopper.

The one artist who appealed to all factions alike, including that of the few remaining modernists, was a former pupil of Robert Henri, Edward Hopper (1882-1967). He focused on what has since become known as the "vernacular architecture" of American citiesstore fronts, movie houses, all-night dinerswhich no one else had thought worthy of an artist's attention. Early Sunday Morning (fig. 1090) distills a haunting sense of loneliness from the all-too-familiar elements of an ordinary street. Its quietness, we realize, is temporary; there is hidden life behind these facades. We almost expect to see one of the window shades raised as we look at them. Apart from its poetic appeal, the picture also shows an impressive formal discipline. We note the strategy in placing the fireplug and barber pole, the subtle variations in the treatment of the row of windows, the precisely calculated slant of sunlight, the delicate balance of verticals and horizontals. Obviously, Hopper was not unaware of Mondrian.


1090. Edward Hopper. Early Sunday Morning.
1930




Jacob Lawrence.

The 1920s brought about a cultural revival among African-Americans known as the Harlem Renaissance. Although its promise was dashed by the economic catastrophe of the Depression, this brief flowering did produce the first black artists to gain national recognition. By far the most famous remains Jacob Lawrence (born 1917), who rose to prominence around 1940. Motivated by rage at the injustices inflicted on African-Americans, Lawrence treated historical themes and the major social issues of the day. His series "From Every Southern Town ..." (see fig. 1091) focuses on the great exodus of blacks from the South. Despite its small size, our panel has an impressive monumentality, thanks to the simplified forms and flat color, which express his intent with admirable directness. So powerful was Lawrence's impact that his art continues to define the prototype of African-American painting for many people, although he retired in 1983.


1091. Jacob Lawrence.
The Migration of the Negro,
panel
3,
"From Every Southern Town Migrants Left
by the Hundreds to Travel North."
1940-41

 
 

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