Art of the 20th Century

A Revolution in the Arts


Art Styles in 20th century Art Map


Art & Politics



Socialist Realism

National Socialist Art

Artists Groups - 1932
Socialist Realism
- 1932

Gaceta del arte
- 1932

Hlebine school.Croatian group of painters-1932
Krsto Hegedusic
Franjo Mraz
Mirko Virius
Dragan Gazi
Ivan Vecenaj
Mijo Kovacic

Artists Groups - 1932-1938
Group f.64
American group of photographers-1932
Mobile.The term-1932
Artists International Association. English group-1933
MARS Group.Organization of British architects-1933
Krakow group. Polish group of avant-garde artists-1933
Gruppe 33.Swiss group of artists-1933
Unit One. English group of architects, painters and sculptors-1933
Forces Nouvelles. French group-1935
American Abstract Artists.Group of painters and sculptors-1936
American Artists' Congress. Organization founded in 1936
Allianz. Group of Swiss artists-1937
Euston Road School
.Name given by Clive Bell in 1938
Corrente. Italian journal-1938


Soon after the end of World War I, a new and hitherto unknown

quantity became part of the political equation: the ordinary people. Those

in power, especially dictators, used art as propaganda to influence the

masses, and even independent artists often chose to direct their

work and its message at the general public.


During the interwar years, the state gradually took control of art in many European countries. This was not only the case in nations with totalitarian regimes, for even some democratic governments assumed a "protective" and watchful attitude towards the artist. This led to a blandness of style and a revival of themes and styles that were widely accepted and easily understood. Where work had to have an official seal of approval, artists tended to look towards Classicism or 19th-century Realism for suitable exemplars.


The Art of Political Propaganda

It is not surprising that the totalitarian regimes of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, despite their conflicting ideologies, should have favoured the same conventionality in art. Above all else, they shared the aim that a particular political message should be successfully conveyed to as wide an audience as possible. It was a prerequisite that this message should be both accessible and persuasive. Inevitably, art became banal, a rhetorical exercise in glorifying the political system. At the 1937 International Exhibition of Art and Technology in Paris, the monumental Nazi and Soviet pavilions vied spectacularly with each other. Their towers reached heights of 57 metres (187 feet) and 33 metres (108 feet) respectively, the former surmounted by the classically inspired Nazi bronze eagle and the latter by Vera Mukhina's imposing steel statue of two figures, Industrial Worker and Collective Farm Girl. The German pavilion housed a selection of "pure Aryan art", while the Russians concentrated on examples of "Socialist Realism". These exhibits shared a disquieting affinity, identified and examined by Andre Breton and Diego Rivera in their 1938 manifesto "Towards an Independent Revolutionary Art."

Recalling in style the 1920s plaster and terracotta busts of revolutionary heroes. Mukhina's pair of rigid figures - heroic workers complete with hammer and sickle - represent the most durable example of Soviet propaganda imagery. The aim was to create "art that was revolutionary in form and socialist in content", using the formal, conservative idiom of 19th-century Russian academicism to depict the USSR's progressive new society and its foundations in the solidarity of the workers. Hence the recurrent themes - rural life depicted as a rustic idyll, manual labour as unquestionably fulfilling, and the glorification of the Red Army - were depicted in the paintings of such artists as Alexander Michailovich Gerasimov (Lenin on the Podium, 1929: Celebration at the Collective Farm. 19.37; Portrait of Stalin, 1935); M.B. Grekov (Takanka, 1925); and Alexander Alexandrovich Dejneka (Defence of Petrograd, 1928). All were exponents of the "Socialist Realism" style, which was given official state recognition in 1932 in a Moscow exhibition celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Russian Revolution (previously, the label "Heroic Realism" had frequently been used). While Socialist Realism was being promoted in the USSR, ousting abstraction and sweeping away the vestiges of Constructivism (despite the latter's contribution to revolutionary ideology), in Germany cultural repression was growing increasingly tyrannical. The Bauhaus was shut down in April 1933, not long after Hitler came to power, and museum curators found guilty of having added Abstract and Expressionist works to their collections were dismissed from their posts. Such work was classified as "degenerate art" for its elitist and cosmopolitan nature.

Only paintings reflecting Germanic tradition were deemed acceptable, as well as some examples of the Classical and Romantic revival - the only artistic genres considered by the authorities to be suitable for the promotion of nationalistic ideological integration. Although by no means as liberal as the democratic countries that allowed artists such as Ben Shahn free expression during this era, Italy was nonetheless free of the extreme sectarianism that characterized the cultural agenda of its fascist ally Germany. This was despite Mussolini's vow as early as 1926 "to create a new art, an art of our times, a Fascist art", for his vision was promoted with none of the extremism, violence, or repression displayed in Germany. In fact, throughout the 1930s, Italian art remained fairly eclectic and the Futurists' experimental successors, the young abstract artists associated with the Milione gallery in Milan, and the Corrente Expressionist painters were by and large tolerated. In terms of propaganda and political pressure, the regime chose to use more subtle propaganda to achieve its desired consensus, enlisting the support of artists by organizing a succession of exhibitions, competitions, prizes, and public commissions. Proof of a climate in which two very different politico-artistic trends co-existed is provided by the contemporaneous introduction of two competitions on the eve of World War II. The first, the Cremona Prize, was launched by the Fascist extremist Roberto Farinacci to encourage heroic, celebratory painting. Energetic in style, the entries were unashamedly nationalist. The second was the Bergamo Prize, introduced in 1939 and inspired by a more subtle and intelligent approach. Although this, too, sought to check poetic and formal freedom of expression to a certain extent, it also invited cultivated, individualistic entries in order to show- that Italian art had not been left behind by international artistic trends. Whereas the Cremona Prize stipulated the subject (e.g. "Listening to Mussolini's Speech on the Radio"), which could be expressed only in a rhetorical style with trite and populist realism, the Bergamo Prize allowed its competitors relative freedom of subject. This enabled them to experiment not only with technique, colour, and interpretation, but also to make a sociological or existential comment on the difficulties of life.


Vera Mukhina
Industrial Worker and Collective Farm Girl

Vera Mukhina
Industrial Worker and Collective Farm Girl


Alexander Gerasimov 
Lenin on the tribune

Alexander Gerasimov 
Stalin on the tribune


M.B. Grekov



Alexander Alexandrovich Dejneka
Defence of Petrograd



see collection:
Socialist Realism



Socialist Realism
[Rus. Sotsialisticheskiy Realizm].


Term used to describe the idealization of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the arts, apparently first used in the Soviet journal Literaturnaya Gazeta on 25 May 1932. After the cultural pluralism of the 1920s in the Soviet Union, and in line with the objectives of the Five-year plans, art was subordinated to the needs and dictates of the Communist Party. In 1932, following four years of ideological struggle and polemic among different artistic groups, the Central Committee of the party disbanded all existing artistic organizations and set up in their place party-led unions for individual art forms. In the summer of 1934, at the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers, Socialist Realism was proclaimed the approved method for Soviet artists in all media. Andrey Zhdanov, who gave the keynote address at the Congress, was Stalin’s mouthpiece on cultural policy until his death in 1948. In the words of his leader, the artist was to be ‘an engineer of the human soul’. The aim of the new creative method was ‘to depict reality in its revolutionary development’; no further guidelines concerning style or subject-matter were laid down. Accordingly, the idea of what constituted Socialist Realism evolved negatively out of a series of cultural purges orchestrated by Zhdanov in the pages of Pravda, the party newspaper, and enforced at local level by the union branches. Such words as ‘formalism’ and ‘intuitivism’ were used as terms of abuse in the search for cultural enemies.



Socialist Realism

(Enciclopaedia Britannica)

Officially sanctioned theory and method of literary composition prevalent in the Soviet Union from 1932 to the mid-1980s. For that period of history Socialist Realism was the sole criterion for measuring literary works. Defined and reinterpreted over years of polemics, it remains a vague term.

Socialist Realism follows the great tradition of 19th-century Russian realism in that it purports to be a faithful and objective mirror of life. It differs from earlier realism, however, in several important respects. The realism of Leo Tolstoy andAnton Chekhov inevitably conveyed a critical picture of the society it portrayed (hence the term critical realism). The primary theme of Socialist Realism is the building of socialism and a classless society. In portraying this struggle, the writer could admit imperfections but was expected to take a positive and optimistic view of socialist society and to keep in mind its larger historical relevance.

A requisite of Socialist Realism is the positive hero who perseveres against all odds or handicaps. Socialist Realism thus looks back to Romanticism in that it encourages a certain heightening and idealizing of heroes and events to mold the consciousness of the masses. Hundreds of positive heroes—usually engineers, inventors, or scientists—created to this specification were strikingly alike in their lack of lifelike credibility. Rarely, when the writer's deeply felt experiences coincided with the official doctrine, the works were successful, as with the Soviet classic Kak zakalyalas stal (1932–34; How the Steel Was Tempered), written by Nikolay Ostrovsky, an invalid who died at 32. His hero, Pavel Korchagin, wounded in the October Revolution, overcomes his health handicap to become a writer who inspires the workers of the Reconstruction. The young novelist's passionate sincerity and autobiographical involvement lends a poignant conviction to Pavel Korchagin that is lacking in most heroes of Socialist Realism.

Socialist Realism was also the officially sponsored Marxist aesthetic in the visual arts, which fulfilled the same propagandistic and ideological functions as did literature. Socialist Realist paintings and sculptures used naturalistic idealization to portray workers and farmers as dauntless, purposeful, well-muscled, and youthful. Socialist Realism remained the official aesthetic of the Soviet Union (and of itseastern European satellites) until the late 20th century, at which time the changes in Soviet society initiated by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev led to abandonment of the aesthetic.




see collection:
National Socialist Art

Arno Breker



The Art of Political Engagement

The 1937 Paris exhibition, with its displays of Nazi and Soviet artistic propaganda, also provided a showcase for a work by Pablo Picasso , who had been invited to exhibit mural paintings with allegorical themes. The heavy bombing by the Nazis of the Basque town of Guernica in April of that year had inspired Picasso to produce an ideological painting expressing solidarity with the Spanish Republicans. Guernica became emblematic of progressive, socio-politically inspired art - direct and vivid in language, avant-garde in spirit, and the antithesis of the prevailing conservative styles of political art. The previous year, when an exhibition entitled Le realisme et lapeinture ("Realism and Painting") was held in Paris, an intellectual debate developed about the events unfolding in Spain and the role of modern art. The question was whether a type of art that dealt exclusively with humans, their relationships and problems, and which expressed these themes in terms divorced from both academicism and experimentalism should be freely available to all. Mural paintings were a particularly suitable medium for this socio-political art. Instantly accessible and produced on a large scale, the works were often inspired by familiar stories. They proved popular in Italy, where many were commissioned for the inauguration of the Fifth Triennale at the Palace of Art in Milan in 1933. Their popularity spread to the US. where artists deprived of work through the Depression were employed to decorate airports, schools, and stations with scenes of everyday life. Many contained a strong undercurrent of social protest and were executed with the same stark realism as their European counterparts. Another popular and effective vehicle for political propaganda was cinema, the new art form that required substantial financial backing. The regimes of Soviet Russia, Germany, and Italy all called on talented film-makers to put forward their message. The Triumph of Will (1936), by Leni Riefenstahl, was just one notable example.


Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl
(1902 – 2003) was a German film director, dancer and actress widely noted for her aesthetics and innovations as a filmmaker. Her most famous film was Triumph des Willens, a propaganda film made at the 1934 Nuremberg congress of the Nazi Party. Riefenstahl's prominence in the Third Reich along with her personal friendships with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels thwarted her film career following Germany's defeat in World War II, after which she was arrested but never convicted of war crimes.


Leni Riefenstahl made films
for Hitler, but claimed not
to have been a Nazi

Triumph of the Will scene shows
huge banners designed by Albert Speer

Dutch poster protesting 1936 Olympics

Leni Riefenstahl



One of the most celebrated examples of an artist's direct concern with contemporary events was Picasso 's Guernica. which came to be considered not so much a record of a historic event but a historic event in itself. It was painted to express the artist's overwhelming emotional reaction to the destruction of the town of Guernica by the first use of indiscriminate aerial bombardment by the Nazis. When the huge canvas went on show in Paris in 1937 it met with an extremely strong response, partly because it recorded such a recent event and partly because of its style. Picasso had expressed his reaction in a language that bridged Cubism and Surrealism, fragmenting and displacing form without making it unintelligible. He had adopted an emblematic iconography: the bull, the horse, the bird, the lamp, and the broken sword all endowed the heroic theme of the story with a universal dimension, symbolizing the horrors of war. This example of Picasso's conviction that painters were entrusted with a historic mission to help mould a democratic civil conscience was emulated by other artists. One such artist was Renato Guttuso, who entered his Crucifixion in the 1942 Bergamo exhibition as a "symbol of all those who suffer outrage, prison, and torture for their ideas."





del arte

An international monthly cultural review that was published in Tenerife, Canary Islands, from February 1932 to June 1936. Its editor-in-chief was Eduardo Westerdahl (1902–80), and its editors included the writer Domingo Pérez Mink. The proclamation of the Second Republic in Spain in 1931 created an atmosphere of liberalization, and national and international avant-garde periodicals of the previous decade such as Esprit, Cahiers d’art, Die Brücke and Revista de Occidente reappeared. The very character of the islands and the emphasis on international tourism favoured the Gaceta del arte’s publication. Its viewpoint was dependent on Westerdahl’s European travels, which put him in contact with such contemporary avant-garde movements as Functionalism, Rationalism, Surrealism and many others. His programme was to disseminate the most progressive styles and ideas emerging in Europe, from aesthetics and ethics to fashion. From the outset, Gaceta del arte maintained connections with the Rationalist movement in architecture. Its contacts with Surrealism emerged later through Oscar Domínguez. The Gaceta del arte always maintained its independence, however, although there was a Surrealist faction among the magazine’s editors, represented chiefly by Domingo López-Torres and Pedro Garcia Cabrera. Domínguez exhibited in Tenerife in 1933 and the review devoted a special issue to Surrealism. The Exposición internacional del Surrealismo was held in Tenerife in 1935 and included works by De Chirico, Duchamp, Dalí, Max Ernst, Domínguez and Giacometti among others; André Breton visited the island for the occasion. The Gaceta continued as a platform for the discussion of new ideas from Europe and from Spain. Its contributors included some of the most important artists of the day, such as Miró, Kandinsky and Angel Ferrant. It was always well received, particularly in liberal circles in Madrid and Barcelona. When the Spanish Civil War loomed in 1936, the review took a position against the war and against Fascism, but events caused its disappearance in June 1936.




(Hlebinska slikarska skola; Hlebine Primitives).


Croatian group of painters who worked in Hlebine and the neighbouring village of Podravina, near Zagreb, from c. 1932. Its principal members included Krsto Hegedusic, Ivan Generalic, Franjo Mraz (1910–1981) and Mirko Virius (1889–1943). The first mention of the group was in 1932, when Hegedusic began to encourage peasants from the area to paint. The Croatian authorities at that time favoured an art programme based on a folk style and aimed at an authentic national artistic expression, and Hegedusic’s idea corresponded with prevailing populist support for ruralism and its manifestation in various artistic media. An art independent of western European ideas was also preferred. Hegedusic exerted a strong influence on his collaborators (among the first of whom were Generalic and Mraz) through his use of rural motifs and his technique of painting on glass. He also organized several exhibitions in which the work of the Hlebine school was shown with that of the LAND GROUP (Zemlja). After World War II Generalic was the most important artist of the group to work in the region. The painters Franjo Filipovic (b 1930), Dragan Gazi (1930–83), Mijo Kovacic (b 1935), Ivan Vecenaj (b 1920), Martin Mehkek (b 1936), Ivan Lackovic-Croata (b 1932) and Josip Generalic (b 1936) gathered round him and formed the ‘second Hlebine school’. Unlike the first generation, who had been preoccupied with themes of social criticism, the second generation nostalgically evoked idyllic peasant life and labour and celebrated their beauty. The Hlebine Primitives became well known internationally, exhibiting at the Biennale in Sao Paulo in 1955 and at the Exposition Universelle et Internationale in Brussels in 1958. This frequent international exposure created the impression that their primitivist work was representative of modern Yugoslav art. Their most important works are in the Gallery of Primitive Art in Zagreb.


see also:
Naive art


Krsto Hegedusic
(1901 - 1975)


Franjo Mraz


At the Well


Mirko Virius

Red Bull


Fair in Koprivnica

Return in the Rain, 1939

Wine-yard, 1938

The Beggar, 1938

Podravina, 1939



Dragan Gazi
(1930 - 1983)

Building a House

The Black Horse

Umbrella Maker

Portret Mate Bujine

Harvest in the Forest


Ivan Vecenaj
(b 1920)

Jesus in Padrovina

Kapa so kupili kravu

The Boy


Mijo Kovacic
(b 1935)

Winter Landscape

Pred oluju

Na sajam

Povratak s polja



Zivot zvun vremena

Lovcev san

Singeing a Pig

Winterlandscape with Woman





Group f.64

American group of photographers, active 1932–5. It was a loose association of San Francisco Bay Area photographers who articulated and promoted a modern movement in photographic aesthetics. The group was formed in August 1932 by photographers who shared an interest in pure and unmanipulated photography as a means of creative expression. It derived its name from the smallest possible aperture setting on a camera, the use of which resulted in the greatest and sharpest depth of field, producing an image with foreground and background clearly focused. The original membership consisted of Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards (1883–1958), Sonya Noskowiak (1900–75), Henry Swift (1891–1960), Willard Van Dyke (1906–86) and Edward Weston. The emphasis on clarity was partly a reaction against the lingering Pictorialism in West Coast photography, exemplified by the work of William Mortensen (1897–1965) and Anne Brigman (1869–1950), who achieved painterly effects through manipulation of the negative and print.


Sonya Noskowiak
Storage Tanks, 1935

William Mortensen
Torso, 1930




Form of kinetic sculpture, incorporating an element or elements set in motion by natural external forces. The term, which is also sometimes used more loosely to describe sculptural works with the capacity for motorized or hand-driven mechanical movement, was first used by Marcel Duchamp in 1932 to describe works by Alexander Calder. The notable feature of Calder’s sculptures, which were suspended by threads, was that their movement was caused solely by atmospheric forces, such as wind and warm air currents. Movement was not, therefore, merely suggested by the treatment, as in traditional sculpture, but took place directly and unpredictably in the object. Because the kinetic sequences of the mobile could not be fixed or programmed, predictability and repeatability were eliminated.




Artists International Association

English group founded in London in 1933 as the Artists International to promote united action among artists and designers on social and political issues, and active from 1953 to 1971. In its original formulation it pursued an identifiably Marxist programme, with its members producing satirical illustrations for Left Review and propaganda material for various left-wing organizations. Reconstituted as the AIA in 1935, it avoided identification with any particular style, attracting broad support from artists working in both a traditional and modernist vein in a series of large group exhibitions on political and social themes, beginning with 1935 Exhibition (Artists Against Fascism & War) in 1935 (London, 28 Soho Square). Support was given to the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War (1936–9) and to the Artists’ Refugee Committee through exhibitions and other fund-raising activities, and efforts were made to increase popular access to art through travelling exhibitions, public murals and a series of mass-produced offset lithographs entitled Everyman Prints, published by the AIA in 1940.




MARS Group
[Modern Architectural Research Group].

Organization of British architects, designers, engineers and journalists that was started in 1933 and dissolved in 1957. The MARS Group formed the British section of the CIAM and was established by Wells Coates with the architects E. Maxwell Fry and David Pleydell-Bouverie and the critics Philip Morton Shand, Hubert de Cronin Hastings and John Gloag. Its initial membership, mostly young architects with little experience of building, included the partners of Connell Ward and Lucas, and Tecton; the writers John Betjeman and James Richards; and Ove Arup. With c. 24 members by 1934, it grew to a peak of 120 by 1938, but the group was most significant in policy-making within the CIAM during the 1950s.




Krakow group
[Pol. Grupa Krakowska].

Polish group of avant-garde artists, initially active in 1933–9 and later revived. Based in Kraków, the group included young painters and sculptors, students and graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts, Kraków: Sasza Blonder, B. Grunberg, Maria Jarema, L. Lewicki, S. Osostowicz, S. Piasecki, B. Stawinski, J. Stern, Henryk Wicinski, and A. Winnicki, as well as more loosely affiliated members: F. Jazwiecki and Adam Marczynski. The group arose from a larger students’ group, Zywi, with 30 members, founded in the academy in early 1932, which developed in reaction to the conservative teaching methods, as well as in response to the political atmosphere of the 1930s and its effect after the collapse of various Constructivist groupings. The Kraków group, whose membership was affiliated to the Academic Left and the already-banned Polish Communist Party, defined its activities as revolutionary, pro-proletarian and anti-nationalist. The young artists were related by a free, liberal artistic programme, and their activities came into conflict with the authorities of the academy, who had recourse to expulsions and permitted police interventions and arrests at academy exhibitions. The artists associated with the working-class movement and the trade union movement employed the slogan ‘proletarian arts’ but, unlike the Constructivist group, forbore to define their programme. Their main aim was the defence of their threatened freedoms, and thus, for example, they responded to the call directed to all artists on 1 May 1934 to form ‘a common front in opposition to the Fascisization of life in Poland, and to threats against independent creativity’.




33 [Kunstlervereinigung Gruppe 1933].

Swiss group of artists. It was founded in Basle in 1933 by the painters Otto Abt (1903–82), Walter Bodmer, Paul Camenisch (1893–1970), Theo Eble (1899–1974), Max Haufler, Charles Hindenlang (1894–1960), Carlo König (1900–70), Rudolf Maeglin (1892–1971), Ernst Max Musfeld (1900–64), Otto Staiger (1894–1967), Max Sulzbachner (b 1904) and Walter Kurt Wiemken (1907–40), the sculptors Daniel Hummel and Louis Weber (b 1891) and the architect Paul Artaria. Camenisch was effectively leader of the group, which arose in opposition to the conservatism of the Gesellschaft Schweizerischer Maler, Bildhauer und Architekten (GSMBA) and also to the rising tide of hostility to modern art engendered by the Nazis in neighbouring Germany. Soon after its foundation a programme propagated by the members claimed their aim to be ‘the active participation in the development of the plastic arts without ignoring the phenomena and expression of our time’. Left-wing and anti-fascist politically, the members of the group worked within various modern currents such as Surrealism, Constructivism and abstract art. With the expansion of its membership, however, it soon attracted artists from less modern tendencies as well as photographers, film makers, graphic designers and stage designers. There also arose a significant grouping of socially engaged architects.


Otto Abt

Portrait de femme

Paul Camenisch


Bildnis Max Haufler in Breggia



Unit One

English group of architects, painters and sculptors. The group was formed in London in 1933 after discussions between Paul Nash, Wells Coates, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson. In 1932 Nash had described the need for a ‘sympathetic alliance between architect, painter, sculptor and decorator’ (The Listener, 16 March 1932), which would further the modernization of British artistic culture according to the precedents of the European Modern Movement. The other members were John Armstrong (1893–1973), John Bigge (1892–1973), Edward Burra, Barbara Hepworth, Colin Lucas (1906–84) and Edward Wadsworth. Frances Hodgkins was a member for only a very short time and was later replaced by Tristram Hillier (1905–83). The name of the group was chosen by Nash to express both unity (Unit) and individuality (One).


John Armstrong

Dreaming Head

Psyche on the Styx





Post-surrealism is a movement that arose in Southern California in 1934 when Helen Lundeberg and Lorser Feitelson wrote a manifesto explaining their desire to use art to convey the relationship between the perceptual and the conceptual.

Sometimes this term is used to refer to art movement related to or influenced by surrealism, which occurred after a so-called period of "historical surrealism". Some have claimed that the term is unnecessary, because surrealism continues to the present day.

Modern-day surrealist activity is sometimes called "post surrealism" by advocates of the idea that surrealism is "dead".

Both Lundeberg and Feitelman participated in a showing of art for the Los Angeles Art Association on Wilshire Boulevard in 1954. Along with Stephen Longstreet and Elise Cavanna, the artists whose paintings were presented were know collectively as Functionists West. Feitelson and Cavanna showed only non-objective works. Both artists employed flat-colored and near geometrical shapes.





French group organized by the painter and critic Henri Héraut (b 1894), whose first exhibition, in April 1935 at the Galerie Billiet-Vorms in Paris, consisted of paintings by Héraut, Robert Humblot (1907–62), Henri Jannot (b 1909), Jean Lasne (1911–46), Alfred Pellan, Georges Rohner (1913-2000) and Pierre Tal-Coat. Héraut, the eldest of the painters, hoped to establish a new aesthetic through the group and stated in his preface to the catalogue that since all modern movements, starting with Impressionism and Expressionism, had endangered art there was a need to return to drawing, tradition and nature. The group’s concentration on nature was often manifested in their preference for still-lifes, such as Lasne’s Still-life (1939; Paris, Pompidou). Sensitive to the political situation in Europe, they rejected light-hearted subject-matter, often dwelling on disaster, as in Humblot’s Dead Child (1936; priv. col.), and relied on a restricted dark palette, as in Héraut’s Othello (1935; Rennes, Mus. B.-A. & Archéol.).

Robert Humblot

La danseuse

Georges Rohner


La moisson




Term derived from the Classical concept of forms created by the power of natural life, applied to the use of organic shapes in 20th-century art, particularly within SURREALISM. It was first used in this sense by Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Biomorphist art focuses on the power of natural life and uses organic shapes, with shapeless and vaguely spherical hints of the forms of biology. The tendency to favour ambiguous and organic shapes in apparent movement, with hints of the shapeless and vaguely spherical forms of germs, amoebas and embryos, can be traced to the plant morphology of Art Nouveau at the end of the 19th century; the works of Henri Van de Velde, Victor Horta, Marc Newson and Hector Guimard are particularly important in this respect.




Abstract Artists [A.A.A.].
American group of painters and sculptors formed in 1936 in New York. Their aim was to promote American abstract art. Similar to the Abstraction–Création group in Europe, this association introduced the public to American abstraction through annual exhibitions, publications and lectures. It also acted as a forum for abstract artists to share ideas. The group, whose first exhibition was held in April 1937 at the Squibb Galleries in New York, insisted that art should be divorced from political or social issues. Its aesthetics were usually identified with synthetic Cubism, and the majority of its members worked in a geometric Cubist-derived idiom of hard-edged forms, applying flat, strong colours. While the group officially rejected Expressionism and Surrealism, its members actually painted in a number of abstract styles. Almost half of the founding members had studied with Hans Hoffmann and infused their geometric styles with surreal, biomorphic forms, while others experimented with NEO-PLASTICISM.




Artists' Congress

Organization founded in 1936 in the USA in response to the call of the Popular Front and the American Communist Party for formations of literary and artistic groups against the spread of Fascism. In May 1935 a group of New York artists met to draw up the ‘Call for an American Artists’ Congress’; among the initiators were George Ault (1891–1948), Peter Blume, Stuart Davis, Adolph Denn, William Gropper (b 1897), Jerome Klein, Louis Lozowick (1892–1973), Moses Soyer, Niles Spencer and Harry Sternberg. Davis became one of the most vociferous promoters of the Congress and was not only the national executive secretary but also the editor of the organization’s magazine, Art Front, until 1939.


George Ault


View from Brooklyn





Allianz was a group of Swiss artists which formed in 1937.
The Allianz group advocated the concrete art theories of Max Bill with more emphasis on color than there Constructivist counterparts.
Their first group exhibition, Neue Kunst in der Schweiz was held in Basle, Ksthalle in 1938, and was followed by a second at the Kunsthaus in Zurich in 1942. Further shows were held at the Galerie des Eaux Vives in Zürich, starting with two in 1944.
The Almanach Neuer Kunst in der Schweiz, published by the group in 1940, showed reproductions of their works with those of artists such as Paul Klee, Le Corbusier and Kurt Seligmann. The publication included texts by Bill, Leuppi, Le Corbusier, Seligmann, Sigfried Giedion and others.
Allianz exhibitions continued into the 1950s.




In 1937, Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister for the Nazi party, entrusted the task of organizing an exhibition in Munich to Adolf Ziegler - a second-rate artist specializing in paintings of Aryan nudes, much admired by Hitler. The exhibition was to concentrate on works from 1910 onwards that were condemned as "German art of the decadent period". This large official exhibition of "Degenerate Art" had been preceded in 1933 by several "exhibitions of shame" on themes such as "Cultural Bolshevism" in Mannheim. "Art as the Cause of Moral Decay" in Stuttgart, and "Reflections of Artistic Decadence" in Dresden. Exhibited on the orders of the Fuhrer, they symbolized each museum's "chamber of artistic horrors". Among the paintings labelled as "degenerate" were those by artists of the Die Brucke, Der Blaue Reiter, and Bauhaus groups, and those of Kokoschka (who proceeded to paint a self-portrait of "a degenerate artist"), Dix, Grosz, Beckmann, Barlach, and El Lissitzky. The exhibits were divided into categories, each containing examples of a variety of alleged perversions and physical and mental abnormalities, such as prostitution, insanity, impotence, Judaism. and cretinism.

In 1938, a decree was passed authorizing the seizure of  16,000 works by "degenerate" German artists and by Matisse, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Munch, and other great European painters. These paintings were then expropriated by Nazi leader Goering, sold to foreign museums and collections, or burnt as a warning to the people.



Degenerate Art

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

German Entartete Kunst, propagandistically designed Nazi exhibition of modern art held in Munich in 1937 and advertised as “culture documents of the decadent work of Bolsheviks and Jews.” The works on exhibit included only a small segment ofthe almost 20,000 works of modern art confiscated from German museums on the orders of Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda.
So-called degenerate works by Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emile Nolde, and other majorartists of the 20th century were juxtaposed with paintings by psychotic patients and were subjected to vicious ridicule by the press and the German people. This exhibit was designed tocontrast with a simultaneous exhibition of art approved by the leading Nazis, made up of works executed in an academic style and dealing with typical Nazi themes of heroism and duty.





Road School

Name given by Clive Bell in 1938 to a group of English painters associated with the School of Drawing and Painting established in October 1937 by William Coldstream, Claude Rogers (b 1907) and Victor Pasmore, in a review of the exhibition 15 Paintings of London (Oct-Nov 1938; London, Storran Gal.). The school was initially in Fitzroy Street, but it moved soon after to premises at 314/316 Euston Road. The term was quickly broadened to describe a movement encompassing as many as 30 other painters, many of them former students of the Slade School of Fine Art, including Rodrigo Moynihan, Lawrence Gowing (b 1918), William Townsend (1909–73), Graham Bell, Anthony Devas (1911–58) and Geoffrey Tibble (1909–52).


William Coldstream
Inez Spender



Anthony Devas

Artist and model

Reclining nude




Italian journal that gave its name to an artistic movement in Milan from 1938 to 1943. Corrente grew out of Vita giovanile, a Fascist youth journal founded in Milan in January 1938 that originally sought to combat the cultural chauvinism of official art. The fortnightly publication soon developed an anti-Fascist stance; in October 1938 it was retitled Corrente di vita giovanile and the Fascist party symbols were removed from its masthead. From February 1939 it was entitled simply Corrente.




Between January' 1938 and May 1940, despite suppression by Mussolini, the journal Corrente di Vita Giovanile ("Youthful Trends") was published in Milan. Founded by Ernesto Treccani (b. 1920), this literary, arts, and political periodical welcomed articles expressing advanced views from dissident intellectuals. An offshoot developed in the form of an association of painters and sculptors drawn together by their belief in the artist's right to freedom of choice, unfettered by political agendas.

They refused to take part in the adulation of the nationalist cause (which they identified with the Novecento's Classicism) while also rejecting abstract elitism. Committed instead to a critical approach to contemporary social reality, the Corrente group expressed their views with force and candour. Expressionist influence was discernible in their work, with its bold, almost crude qualities, distorted lines, tortured shapes, bright colours, and thickly applied impasto.
Corrente's first exhibition was held in Milan in March 1939. It included the work of many young artists, including Birolli, Cantatore, Tomea, Badodi, Cassinari, Megneco, Mucchi, and Cherchi, as well as Sassu,
Renato Guttuso, and Vedova — artists who were making a name for themselves in official circles. having participated (successfully in Guttuso's case) in the Bergamo competition. A second exhibition, was held in December of the same year. In 1943. the group produced the Manifesto del Pittori e Scultori ("Painters' and Sculptors' Manifesto"), the contents of which were :o have considerable influence in the early postwar years, leading to the creation of the Fronte Nuovo delle Arti ("New Arts Front").


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