From 1945 onwards the art scene shifted from Europe to America, as a result of the damage done during World War II, and the emigration of artists,some of whom took the Bauhaas school to Chicago.  They produced a new universal style, with great variety, of which the characteristics were hard to define, or label into schools or styles.  Artists evolved, with facets of art going in and out of style quickly.

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Transverse Line – Kandinsky

In New York, the art scene was trendy and nouveau riche – it was the thing to suggest that art was ‘new, radical and exciting’, or that it was ‘passe’.  Socially there was a constant changing of lifestyle due to returned soldiers – home loans, mortgages, college studies all being the influential thing to be or do.  There was very good and very bad art at the time, with many fashions – e.g. Op Art, Pop Art, Hard Edge Abstraction, Post-Painterly Abstraction, Hyperrealism, and Conceptual Art.  Cultural traditions and fine art coming to New York evolved into a plastic culture – Neo-Dada and Pop Art were inevitable artistic expression with a specific relationship to life.

Abstract Expressionism: was a direct descendant of all abstraction from Van Gogh, and including Surrealism (non-figurative), Dada, theories on Automatism and Chance developments – the development of creative intuition.  The centre of the Art World was wrenched away from Paris to New York, mainly because of money – art SOLD in America.  Suburbs were spreading creating a relationship between the suburbs and the city – people went to galleries to buy paintings to go in their new houses.  there were good jobs and good money.

It was art like Abstract Expressionism that was trendy, new and saleable, and therefore sought after.  The affluence of the New York society ensured it was important, with the economic boom seeing artists as viable investments.  Also sophisticates were looking for something exciting.  It was a time of pure materialism – with the development of the art manager.

Image result for pollock artistThe Key – Pollock

Abstract Expressionism can be broken into two avenues:
1. Action Painting – was usually non-representational, though not always.
2. Colourfield – was almost always non-representational.


It was the first American art movement to dominate the world – energetic explosions on the canvas, with no recognisable subject except in De Kooning figures.  It was the action of the painting that was important, not the finished work.  The act of painting rather than the finished work, which the artist considered as dead, completed.  It developed from the improvisational drawings of Dada, with its automation and ambiguous space.  It incorporated Expressionism, Figurative and Non-Figurative Abstraction – influenced by the ideas of Kandinsky, Klee, and Miro.

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Drip Painting – Pollock

Jackson Pollock:  created the idea of the overall composition in which he never intended to have a central focal image.  The creation of art was to extend beyond the canvas, and to create unity between the artist and his communication.  he lost himself in his art – he lived in it.  His thick application had a textural interest.  he moved around on the canvas which covered the floor, flicking paint, pouring paint, sitting amongst it, walking across it.  When he considered it finished he cut it up, stretched it onto frames and sold it.  He was influenced by Picassos, Surrealists, as well as a Mexican Realist, Orozco.

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Excavation – De Kooning

Willem De Kooning:   was a house painter and carpenter, who transferred draftsman lines into a painterly gesture.  He recorded the idea of creation and changes of mind by tracing the inspiration as it came.  He drew with his paint brush, with the mind changes visible.  He was influenced by Ongre (a Realist), Picasso, and Miro.  He preferred the female figure to painting still lifes, and always  tried to keep in touch with his image.  Despite this, he’s considered an action painter because of the recording of the changes of mind.  His works were characterised by bold brushwork and spontaneity.


They are sometimes called Abstract Imagists, as they focus on a single image, which could be line of colour that they blow up to produce fields of colour.  These are devised to fill the field of the viewer’s vision.  They produced a broad overall design or simple colour on very large canvases.

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PH-21 – Still

Clyfford Still:  was an art history teacher, who believed that artists should realise their own vision.  He gave a sense of rough energy, almost volcanic, with strong visual impact in thick pigment.  The contours appear eaten away creating a sense of power.  He developed from Surrealism to Colourfield, but was always an independent.

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Colourfield Paintings – Rothko

Mark Rothko:  favoured a simple expression of a complex thought.  He simplified back to geometric areas of colour, particularly rectangles, often with them bleeding into each other.  It was a logical progressions from Mondrian.  He attempted with scale and use of colour to overcome and involve the spectator, so they would lose themselves in the work.  He played on the psychological effect of colour on the viewer.

NB: If you choose to quote from this blog please cite its URL in your Bibliography.

Jud House   11/10/2016

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Family Group 1949 – Moore

Sculpture is a 3D object in space – the amount of space it displaces is its volume, the sense of solidity or bulk is its mass.  It should invite tactile examination, inspection, interaction.  The material chosen accordingly for its texture or feel – it is as important as its size, colour, imagery.  Its size gives it strong impact, due to its 3D nature.  Sculpture relates to life, more so than painting.  It is often made life-size, and occupies the 3rd Dimension as we do.  It can only relate to sculpture or art not to reality – not to what it represents, its structure (the muscle and flesh of the person or animal).

In the 20th Century  the sculptural elements were revolutionised – artists looked at materials, methods, and imagery, then changed them.  Mass and texture were changed by the modern materials now available – glass, plastic, perspex, sheet metal.  Even soft sculptures were created using padded or stuffed pantihose/tights turned into grandmas and grandpas sitting in rocking chairs.

Volume was changed by the use of the void, which allowed space to be sculpted, space defined by the solid contours of mass.  There was the development of the sculpting of the void, and the fact that the space created by the void altered the weight of the sculpture.

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The Family of Man – Hepworth

The space occupied by a piece of sculpture, whether static, mechanized, motorized, affects the space it displaces – allowing the sculpture to interact with the air around it.  In modern sculpture the whole concept of energy, time, movement, and space becomes a part of the work as does it imagery, material, structure and method.

In the Middle Ages, sculptures were human, animal or organic imagery.  In the 20th Century, sculptures were just abstract shapes, with no narrative, no definition, no moral tale, no symbolism, no representational imagery.  They were just pleasing organic, geometric, or linear shapes.  Traditional materials in sculpture were clay (modelled), wood (carved), metal (cast), and stone (carved).  The modern sculptures used these, plus plastic, perspex, sheet metal, aluminium, nylon threads – materials that were soft or supple or both.  They mixed the media, which was a combination of the above.

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Vertebrae – Moore

They extended collage into assemblage in Cubism.  In the 20th Century they assembled by welding, gluing, nailing, screwing.  The greatest invention was the void – it gave a whole new element, which was used aesthetically rather than functionally – it defined work in new idiom.

Electrification was a new element or dimension – to make sounds, music, songs; they could move, whizz, buzz, pop – they could interact with their space, and constantly change their visual aspect, therefore stimulating the viewer to be active.  Concepts and theories of beauty changed – replaced by the 20th Century artists to reflect the quantum leaps by man in society during the turn of the century.

The Greeks and Romans saw beauty as apart from life, while the 20th Century artists saw beauty as involved with life.  Some of their works were figurative, some cast in bronze, some carved from stone.  But now artists had the choice to create the way they wished.  There were Formal investigations done in 20th Century Sculpture.

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Mademoiselle Pogany – Brancusi

Constantine Brancusi: was a Romanian, with a unique understanding of materials.  He simplified his subjects by abstracting to the limits in order to give the essence of the subject by eliminating all distracting details.  He practised ‘truth to material’, as did Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth – that is, what might look bad in wood, might look great in bronze.  Brancusi considered the oval as a natural form, and explored the use of the ovoid shape in his art, working through in series, often on one theme through different degrees of abstraction to the simple oval.  He progressed from Romantic naturalism to Abstraction, to elemental shapes.

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Pelagos 1946  – Hepworth – Wave 1943-44

Barbara Hepworth:  was a British carver, who with her complex ideas created a sculptural vocabulary.  She created works from the changing axis, swellings and varied sections of tree trunks to produce abstract forms of masses and planes – pure abstraction dictated by the essence of the material.  In PELAGOS (1946) she stretched musical instrument strings across a void to create tension within the work.  She was sensitive to the material’s qualities and allowed it to dictate the creation of the sculpture rather than force it to conform to a preconceived idea.  She investigated ‘absence’ in sculptures as much as ‘presence’, and believed that sculptures were of the landscape and needed to be outdoors in the landscape, the air, the clouds, to be seen at their best – not shut away in Museums.

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Nuclear Energy;  Large Torso;  Large Standing Figure – Moore

Henry Moore: was a carver, with most of his works carved.  He also worked in ‘truth to material’ mode, and emerged as a major sculptor.  He evolved through Surrealism and Constructivism to create a highly personal style that blends power and humanism.  He used power and vitality – not just reproducing the image but showing the power and vitality of life.  He preferred the female figure as reclining nudes, and mother and child motifs, for fertility, using solid masses with voids to accentuate the volume and reveal its thickness and mass.  The voids let the viewer see through the sculpture, and view the landscape behind as part of the work.  This allowed the sculpture to interact with its surroundings.  When he worked in wood he made his shapes very biomorphic, following the grain and growth of the wood.  When he worked in stone he created more static works, while his works in metal and bronze he retained a sense of fluidity of the molten metal.

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Sculpture and Walking – Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti:  was a modeller, using elongated figures, and was concerned with movement and space.  He was a Surrealist sculptor and referred to the human anatomy and compact mass, but they had a transparent quality due to their elongation.  He used the human body as a symbol for inner emptiness of life, of mankind.  He used the inspiration of the deep level of the subconscious – reality beyond what we see, but within.  His works appear like ‘Icons in a mirage.’

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Musical Instruments – Lipchitz – Cubism Figure

Jacques Lipchitz:  exploited the surface quality of bronze – he cast his works, and was a Cubist sculptor.  His works were aligned to 2D Cubist space and planes, but were in 3D, with no single point of view, but with Cubist multiple planes.  3D works of art are the sum of all their sides.  They have no specific point of view – no front or back.

If you choose to quote from this please cite its URL in your Bibliography.

Jud House    10/10/2016

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The Futurists were all concerned with movement in art – real or implied. The 20th Century was seen as highly mobile, socially, on every level – activity, noise, vibrations in life.  Manifestos were written 1909 and 1912 for Futurism, which closed in about 1920.  Futurism is strongly related to Cubism and Divisionalism, and to the use of the camera.

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Blue Dancer – Severini – 1912

It started in Italy in the cities of Milan and Turin, which were highly individualised in the turn of the century.  There was an artistic revolt against the static nature of  art – hung on a wall, stood on a pedestal.  They wanted to replace that immobility with a reference to the movement and mechanism of their industrial cities.

They were very expressive, with an effort to be modern.  They wished to show the beauty of movement, of speed, the excitement in crowds, trains rolling and puffing steam, generating vibrations of movement and excitement.  They wished to show the beauty of  the labour of men, plus the pleasure of the sense of rebellion, and the joy about the various revolutions going on in Art.

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The Cyclist – Natalia Goncharova – 1913

Futurism was an attempt to bring art to the machine age, trying to express artistically man’s movement through time and space, and the mechanics of the age.  They were influenced by Seurat and Divisionalism.  They saw the inter-relation and inter-reaction of planes of volume, of light and colour, of different view-points (the influence of Cubism), plus were influenced by the camera, the cinema, movies made by quickly flickering still photos.  They superimposed shapes one over the other – Duchamp’s NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE (movement through time and space).

Gino Severini was strongly influenced by Cubist theories.  He created movement with the colour.  The Futurists emphasised lines of force to create a sense of after-image.  Giacomo Balla depicted speed itself – he was interested in the movement of the dog, rather than the image of the dog. Umberto Boccioni talked about modernism, but his works were based on traditional means.

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Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash – Balla

They called themselves Futurists because they wanted to create art for the future – man’s transience in nature, importance of machinery in man’s life – to become more animated, more automotive.  Some of their subjects were: cars, trains, busy streets, bicycles, automobiles, a cascade of people.  Their titles usually included words like: speed, force, dynamism – to express the idea of movement itself.  Futurists influenced others in their era, with an ideal to represent movement in art.

OPTICAL ART – KINETIC ART – was that which really produced movement in art, particularly in sculpture (Calder’s mobiles).  It was art in motion, created with very modern materials: plastics, strobe-lights, machinery (whizz, pop, bang), and used sound and music.  Their purpose was to produce an unlimited variation of pattern, and to produce an active response from the spectator.  They definitely brought movement into art.  (Brancusi’s FISH was a motorised sculpture on a pedestal).

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The White Face – Calder – painted sheet metal, rod, wire.

Alexander Calder: an American, put his emphasis on mass, on movement in space, and airy light shapes. He created space, time and movement with his mobiles – Duchamp gave them the name, mobiles, Calder had called them Space-cages.  He was an engineer and a blacksmith, and introduced sculpture that actually moved, via air currents, hand-cranking, or electrification.  He was aware of welding techniques.

His shapes were often abstract, geometric, influenced by Miro, Arp, and Mondrian.  From Mondrian he got the primary colours, from Arp the use of organic shapes, and from Miro the use of the surreal and whimsical.  He used modern materials such as sheet metal, wire, and created special realms of fantasy and play, which we unique to humans.  His work was considered Kinetic – it really  moves (actual movement).

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Eagle (Seattle) – Calder

Optical Art appears to move – is implied or simulated movement, based on the perception of the viewer.  It gives the illusion of movement while the painting is actually static.  Op Art continued the research of the Impressionists into light and colour.  It leaves the world of nature to go into non-representational imagery.  It is based on the unique manipulation of perspective and colour relationships.  They wanted to explore the possibility of human perception, of looking at the psychological response to colour (Seurat and Kandinsky), and reactions to linear configurations (Seurat and Mondrian).  They wanted to extend the visual sensations of sight and how we see things move.  Op Art is Formal rather than expressive.

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Painting – Calder – Screenprint

Victor Vasarely:  was Hungarian, who activates the paintingg surface by meticulous manipulation of colour and shape in a Formal and technically expert way.  He used geometric shapes, tonal balance, contrastinb colours, creating ambiguous directions in his work.  He was considered the originator of OP ART.  He created the illusions of tensions – animated stillness.

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OP ART – Vasarely – Sign sculpture (Hungary)

Jacob (Yaakov) Agam:   developed art which the spectator had to move around, to shift their viewpoints, to create a continual change (virtual movement by viewer).

Bridget Riley:  was British and the sensation of the 60’s.  She analysed Pointillism, bent-line perspective, positive force, violent turbulence, and the illusions created by these.  She worked out the designs on small pieces of paper, then when it worked she transferred the design onto the large canvas, and her assistants painted it with her carefully mixed colours.

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Dizengoff Square Fountain – Agam;  Bridget Riley in front of her work 1968

NB: If you choose to quote from this blog please cite its URL in your Bibliography.

Jud House   6/10/2016

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SURREALISM – 1924 ->

This is still practiced today by contemporary artists by replicating real nature to get unrealistic impact.  They aimed to allow the imagination to come forward through work.  It causes the viewer to be active, by sending them in different directions in the same work.


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The Sun Sets Sail – Rob Gonsalves

Artistically, Surrealism is pure psychic automatism through which the real function of thought is expressed.  It is a level of reality which isn’t tangible, but is still real.  Dreams, imaginings, thought processes are real though you can’t touch them.

It promotes the idea of chance painting, automatic drawing, expressing the real function of thought – completely uncontrolled expression of thought, independent of moral or aesthetic limitations.  There are no longer worries about rules, or whether it’s artistic – it is a whole new level of reality, a new plane of artistic existence for the artists – unencumbered by reason.  Cubist, Impressionist, Fauvist and even Neo-Plasticist artists were all heading in this direction – freedom from rules.

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1949(?) – Memory of a Journey – Magritte – 1955

Surrealism is a direct descendant from Dada – grew out of Dada.  They attempted to establish a new approach to art and life – chances didn’t have to be ignored, psychic coincidences, mental states, and dreams were all part of life.  They used the incorrect logic of the mad-man.  Childhood realities were investigated, as were dreams – they also experimented with these things – the unreal sense of the dream landscape.

The Surrealists recognised that  subconscious thought patterns were very real.  Metaphysical levels were investigated – Gods, etc were on different planes – there was a reality beyond the five senses – and different dimensions.  They were aware of SciFi beliefs and metaphysics – the scientific side of SciFi.  There was also Freud’s psychoanalysis of people’s psyche.  (Body language nowadays).  It opened up new realms, new interpretations of new realities, of the inner world and our inner selves.

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House Angel (Triumph of Surrealism) – Max Ernst

Surrealism appears to be the artistic visual interpretation of subconscious – we look at the artist’s imagination, emotions, thought patterns – automatic drawing.  Surrealism could be drug or alcohol induced, but not necessarily.  The Surrealists wanted to shock and broaden the public’s mind.  Fantasy is make believe – Surrealism is very believable, touching on realities.

Influenced by Kandinsky’s loss of image, development of abstraction freed the artist from needing image as Cubism freed them from a 3D image, Dada from specific standards, and Futurists from the sense of immobility.  The artists had all the traditional academic rules broken, and were completely free to work on their art in whatever style they chose, and to use artistic elements in their own way.  The artist dictated the rules.

Surrealism took two avenues – highly Abstract, and Figurative with startling clarity.

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The Disquieting Muse – De Chirico – Geometric comp. with factory landscape

Giorgio De Chirico:  was the founder of Surrealism, was a strong inspiration to Tanguy and Magritte, and produced both Figurative and Abstract Surrealistic works.  He used strong perspective, chiaroscuro modelled gently with values, rigid architecture, unexpected objects clashing to create troubled atmosphere.  Everything within his works was ever so slightly off, with metaphysical interiors symbolising the inner labyrinth of man.  He usually had trains somewhere in his paintings.  After the 1930’s he reverted to academic paintings.

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This is not a pipe – Magritte – The Philosopher’s Lamp

Rene Magritte:  painted Figuratively with conscious procedure, rather than by chance, with juxtaposition of everyday objects – subjects that stir uneasy feelings.  His titles reinforce his message.  He explored words as visual stimuli for paintings, he used words as symbols – “This is not a pipe”.  He used them arbitrarily.

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Indefined Divisibility – Tanguy – Melt

Yves Tanguy:  saw the realities of the intuitive world, Abstract Surrealism. He used traditional means to express feelings of anxiety and unease (traced back to Munch) – Surrealism personified.  It unnerved and attracted the viewer.  he used spectral forms occupying real space – spacial recession with unreal occupants.

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Carnival of Harlequin – Miro – Woman with Birds

Joan Miro:  used a mixture of Abstract, Dada and Surrealism.  He often worked in collage, he simplified shapes to mere curvilinear suggestions – organic and geometric shapes, using bright primary colours and black.  He created spontaneous works with the brush leading the hand instead of the other way around.  He appreciated the philosophy of the Surrealists, while creating works that were very simple, naive, and sincere.

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Melting Watch – Dali

Salvador Dali:  was an ideal Surrealist – his whole lifestyle was Surreal.  He produced sets for theatres, movies, a 3D Art Room, paintings – he took Surrealism into everything, and was interested in Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysics.  His early works were traditional and skillful, realistic techniques, replicating nature – works relating to the natural world.  He began working with elements of form to create works that were startling. He was influenced by Leonardo, producing works from clouds, etc.  He produced a visual association between unrelated objects.  He was considered a Figurative Surrealist.  Some of his shapes transmute from the real to the unreal, he creates frenzied patterns or minute correct detail, with an ideal sense of space.  he was an excellent draftsman, and showmanship was part of his art.

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Galatea of the spheres – Dali – 1952

NB:  If you choose to quote from this blog please cite its URL in your Bibliography.

Jud House  5/10/2016

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DADA 1915 – 1922

Dada artworks invite misunderstanding, and evoke questions from the viewer.

An anti-art, anti-everything movement, was founded in Switzerland by a group of French and German artists who wanted to divorce themselves from the artistic era they were in.  They had a sense of humour, and looked for the ridiculous in works.  It had links with Cubism and Expressionism, with Surrealism and Abstraction (re Jackson Pollock).  It appeared simultaneously in Europe (Spain and Germany) and New York as a protest movement against World War I, and against the accepted cultural traditions, morals, and values that would permit a war.  They were artistically protesting against ideas of beauty and formality, and against galleries and art critics dictating what was acceptable in art, and against art which appeared to be turning its back on reality.

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Assemblage – Schwitters – 1920

The world was crazy and mad in 1915 – 16.  Current standards had to be returned.  The rational world had to be shown rationally.  The Cubists and Impressionists did it pictorially; Dada did it mentally – they gave a marvellous freedom, showed that you can have fun with art, that it can be silly.  Dada had a purpose, a goal to rethink the role of art and artists in society – to invite misunderstanding, to evoke questions from the viewer.  Dadaists tried to review standards held by non-artists, and to tear down the 19th century ideals of art, and replace them  with 20th Century ideals.  They also wanted to re-admit emotions and expression into art, to permit creative intuition to take precedence over formal theories, allowing the artist to express himself unencumbered by rules – to be highly expressive.

The artistic selection was up to the artist – he could paint what he wanted and how he wanted, with arbitrary colours, distortions, etc.  The Dadaists took it a bit too far.  Duchamp said “I am an artist.  I choose it. Therefore it is art.”  Dada is a joke, but allows for the artist to select for himself.  Dada also allows for subconscious directions, for chance shapes to create the line – for subconscious development of chance shapes (by dropping a piece of string and noting the shape it makes when it lands) – perception development.

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LHOOQ – Duchamp

Dada was famous for its jests (jokes) – like Mona Lisa with a beard and moustache titled LHOOQ.  Also Readymades – something exists and using it as a sculpture (bicycle wheel on a stool) makes it art.  Corrected Readymades – created chance compositions from shapes in a cloud.  They created manifestos.  The Dadaists were outrageous and bizarre, responding to any cultural medium.  The art of no taste, the art of the con.

Dada was a forerunner of Surrealism and Op Art, and the happenings in the 1960s.  It was in painting, sculpture, theatre, music, and literature.  It did not reflect good taste, rather a total lack of taste.  It was an artistic tantrum, but it had positive effects.  It re-established spontaneity and intuition; it re-affirmed expression and imagination together; it drew attention to the silliness of the times, and to the morbidity.  It helped to artistically redefine standards in art, and allowed the artists to dictate their own standards.  it was artistic freedom to the maximum.

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Fountain – R Mutt – 1917

Kurt Schwitters: created collages from trash found in gutters – used artistic selection creating an awareness of shapes, textural interest and design sense in his works.  He was never anti-art, always appreciated visual image, and returned to geometric abstraction in his later works.

Marcel Duchamp:  was the leader of the movement, and raised provocative questions in art.  He was French, and originally a Futurist, who worked tongue-in-cheek to shake up the elitists in the art world.  he influenced the Surrealists, who tried to create works of art from the artists’ internal ideas.  He gave artistic freedom to the limits, and crossed boundaries of traditions, saying they didn’t exist.

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Abstract Composition – Arp

Hans Arp:  did works of collage, relief works, and sculpture.  He experiments with the laws of chance – he wished to produce visual images over which he had no control.  He made use of random composition, including the rejection and selection of its happy accidents.  Sculptures evolved from within themselves, as form evolved from form, with the final sculpture from a part of the first.

Max Ernst:  was influenced by medieval artists, Bosch and Grunwald, and by his contemporaries, Picasso, Klee and Dali.  His works were seen as a bridge between Dada and Surrealism.  He was interested in chance – frottage, rubbings, gottage; decalcomania – the point between two surfaces then finding an image in the result.  Also he was interested in fantasy.

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Cormorants – Ernst – 1920

If you choose to quote from this blog please cite the URL in your Bibliography.

Jud House  27/09/2016

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Post World War I:

Neo-Plasticism:  De Stijl (The Style) –  Mondrian
Suprematism:  Russian – Malevich
Constructivism:  Maun Gabo, Antoine Pevsner

Formal Art is the production of art in technique and skill rather than as an expressive message, with interest in the formal rather than the personal, religious, or symbolic context.  Formal Art was seen in ancient times, through Greek, Roman, Medieval times using symbols (halo, blue robe, etc) to make it understood by the illiterate viewers.  In Oriental works, art was used for ideology (third eye, many arms, blue face, etc), which created symbolic laws of art.  Formal Art manifests itself as theoretical, tending to be well pre-planned, and well thought out. It’s very objective in its approach to subject matter – it’s more between the artist and his thoughts than to do with the actual subject.  In Visual Art, Classic means classical Greek – well thought out, very proper and correct.  20th Century classic art emboied perfection of aesthetic – that is producing Image as an ideal.

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Evening; Red Tree – Mondrian

FORMAL ABSTRACTION may appear very precise, impersonal, hard edged, non-figurative, often geometric, but mostly devoid of other aesthetics. The artist abbreviates the content, and depends on the control of the elements of form.  The art should be viewed for colour, line, and shape in relationship with the world.  The artists were concerned with actual structure, more than with impact.  This can be traced back to Cezanne, and to Analytical and Synthetic Cubism.

Neo-Plasticism 1912 – De Stijl (The Style)

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Gray Tree – Mondrian – 1911

Piet Mondrian: wanted to produce a new type of beauty.  War was reflected in most art of that time.  He wanted to produce a beauty independent of emotion, that was universal, with no subject matter.  Beauty of the intellect with no individuality.  He was influenced by things beyond the art world.  He came from a Calvanist tradition of simplicity and austerity.  He used economy of line, geometry of laying out towns, dykes, and roads. Very puritanical, austere, and strict, Calvanism shows in the art of the Protestant revolution in their revolt against the opulence of the Catholic church.

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The Apple Tree – Mondrian

So Calvanism had an affect on Mondrian’s art – other influences being a philosophy called Theosophy which dealt with metaphysics and mysticism, and into the nature of God.  The artistic influences were Cubism and the Divisionalism of Seurat, with their new theories of colour, line, ambiguous space, and no subject matter – their independence of art and its elements.  Mondrian used art to communicate with God.

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Pier and Ocean – Mondrian – Composition 1916

He was free as an artist to search for purity in art, regularity of nature in art (e.g. seasons), and for the essence of the relationships of elements (e.g. the meeting of horizontal and vertical lines, and of simple primary colours.)  He created harmony, intensity, and precision by total equilibrium – he wanted to restore balance to a suffering world.  He wanted to create a universal art form to exist for and by itself – to transcend all social, political, and religious boundaries.  The German Expressionists and Cubists were working at this time, and Mondrian felt that they led art astray, and he wanted to bring it back to purity, to a universal aesthetic.  He wrote a magazine on De Stijl, and his designs were used in the Baahaus, and in clothing, architecture and flooring.

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Line over Form – Modrian

Suprematism 1915 – Russia

A couple of years prior to the Russian Revolution chaos ruled the country, with the rural sector sending food to the black market, and with an incompetent government.  Russian art was affected by this turmoil.

Kasimir Malevich was an active revolutionary, whose art was a derivation of Gris’ Cubism.  He concentrated on geometric shapes – triangles, circles, and rectangles.  He was aware of Kandinsky’s work, the German Expressionists and the Parisian art of the time.  Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin sought supreme priority of form – a visual mantra, for visual meditation.  They used a theoretical and technical approach to make it formal going back to basics, removing all superfluous elements, eliminating, and abbreviating.  The result was dynamic art that suggested space and movement, with spacial references created by scale and position, and the movement by diagonal lines.  It was non-figurative abstraction about movement.  Reality in art was the sensational affect of colour – cool white on warm white as a pure abstraction.  Art aiming at non-objectivity by eliminating emotions.

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 Suprematist Composition  1916 – Malevich – White on White  1918

Constructivism – from Suprematism

Vladimir Tatlin didn’t like the idea of producing art outside of life.  He wanted a more functional purpose for art, rather than mere aesthetics.  he wanted to produced useful constructions that had a purpose.  Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner disagreed with the ideals of Suprematism having individual value – art should be for the government and society.  they wrote a manifesto – and their art grew out of Cubist collages, into the assemblage of 3D works, which added to the ideas of interest in space, the concept of time and maths analysis.

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Counter Relief 1914-15 – Tatlin – Monument to the Third International 1919-20

They wanted art to reflect time and space, which they considered essential factors of life.  So they applied industrial engineering and maths concepts to create non-figurative art works from modern materials – nylons, plastics; works with voids giving interior volume of space, which in sculpture was part of the form.  They drew on man-made machines rather than nature as their source, turning to Science rather than intuition.  They had non-emotional concepts as their base – emotions only resulted in wars.  They wanted to reflect the character of industrial society – Socialist Art, for the people.

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Linear Construction in Space No. 3 with Red – Gabo;
Projection in Space – Pevsner

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(C) Jud House  22/09/2016

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Cubist art approached visual reality from a revolutionary track, defying the accepted norms of society of how works should be presented.  There were five revolutionary ways in which Cubism was presented.

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Mediterranean Landscape – Picasso;     Musical Instruments – Braque

  1.  It sought a new pictorial experience – not repeating constant flux of artistic tradition but relying on personal reconstructions of what the artist thought was real – not based on tradition, but on insights and instincts.
  2. It dissected the volume of its subjects – its volumetric form.
  3. It simplified pictorial space – with no perspective or space – no illusion to spacial depth, with the flatness of the picture plane.
  4. It approached, examined and experimented with construction of 3D images on 2D picture planes.
  5. It discovered the essence of reality of volume in space and represented it without distortion – Simultaneity.

The Cubists tried to rewrite the rule, in particular the old problem of a 3D image on a 2D picture plane.  The Egyptians had solved the problem of depicting the whole of the subject by showing the eyes front on in a profile. They maintained the flatness of the picture plane surface while implying volume within the subject matter.

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Portait de Femme – Braque;     Picasso – Woman Blue Hat

Pablo Picasso and George Braque based their works on Cezanne’s ideas, deciding to convert the cubic volume into planes to create a whole new pictorial reality.  Cubism rejected the emotional way of representation – they wanted to reconstruct as a formal style of art, which could be expressive as well.  they worked side by side pushing the ideas along – analysing the picture plane and turning the volume into planes.  Picasso and Braque were the co-originators of Cubism, although there were no theories or manifestos written about it until this was done late by critics.

There were other developments during the developement of Cubism – Xrays, microscopes, aircrafts, Freud, etc.  These changes were reflected in art.  There were no specific rules, but many styles of Cubism – Formal, Expressive, Interpretive.  Cubism liberated the artists completely, from medium, form, content, and subject, e.g. sculpture of BULL’S HEAD.

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Head of a Woman (First Cubist Sculpture) – Picasso – Bull’s Head

The Cubists made constructive sculpture of odd materials.  Shapes also were no longer completely descriptive – not the underlying shapes – they could be avoided if the artist chose.  They didn’t have to use symbolic meanings.  The content was altered, with no need for  a message, e.g. happy or sad.  Also with the subject matter – there was no need to paint things as they were.  This released artists from the need to imitate nature, while their art still related to life and nature.

Cubism was one of the greatest revolutionary contributions in artistic space since the 15th Century.  The concept of looking into the canvas was changed to looking onto the canvas – it broke the ‘window of the world’ – giving no spacial depth while suggesting volume and depth in a different way.  They used the idea of ambiguous space by overlapping, with colours advancing and receding, and of an arbitrary nature.

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Man on a Balcony – Albert Gliezes 1912; Portrait of Picasso – Gris 1912

1.  Proto-Cubism – Cezanneism  1907 – 1910
2.  Analytical Cubism –  1910 – 1912
3.  Synthetic Cubism –  1912 – 1914

  1. Proto-Cubism:  Depth through slabs of colour, using planes – addressed volume as planes – each plane had a value – could create ambiguous spacial references – cool colour planes receded, warm colour planes advanced.  Each composition had various value planes.  It freed images from representational state – used transparent overlappings, threw away some of the planes, and emphasized patterns.
  2. Analytical Cubism:   was overlapping of transparent colours, removing colours, discarding concern for the subject matter – pattern-making with emphasis on ambiguous space.  Pictures became monochromatic to create whole new visual – they reshuffled the planes.
  3. Synthetic Cubism:  They recomposed planes of volume into whole new picture images.  They made collages, geometric shapes that became organic images.  They used mixed media which involved building depth up on the canvas, with the interest in its visual image rather than its subject matter.  It had no relationship to reality, but to ideas.

Pablo Picasso      Individual characteristics.
George Braque    Revolutionary characteristics.
Juan Gris             Pictorial analytical style.
Fernand Leger
(Robert Delauney)

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Guernica – Picasso

Pablo Picasso realised what Cezanne was doing, and understood the theories he wrote about, and followed them through in a revolutionary way.  He searched for different ways to arrange the elements of the subject on the picture plane.  He was faithful to what he was doing – was   a leader, an innovator.  He was more than a Cubist painter – he did lithographs, sculpture, drawings, constructions – moving from on to the other freely, intuitively, working on them simultaneously at times.

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The Musician’s Table – Braque 1913

George Braque worked in tandem with Picasso.  His work was Fauvish initially, he created subtle relationships in his paintings, colour to pattern to texture.  He worked in the synthetic stage, reconstructive work in a lyrical style.  He showed the ideology of respect for the surface of the painting, reflected good design sense, and a flattening of space.  He used simultaneity, harmonious colours, motif making.  He developed Cubism to a high degree. He also worked in stained glass, art designed jewellery, and lithographs.

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Clock and Bottle – Gris

Juan Gris was usually colourful, aimed to create objects not found in nature, composed with abstractions – started with colours suggesting the subject to him.  He worked with abstractions of colour and shapes – collages.  He advanced on to Synthetic Cubism (intuitive creativity) then on to Surrealism.

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Soldiers Playing Cards – Leger

Fernand Leger had machine precision evident in his work, and also factories.  He produced art that celebrated modern urban life, with which he showed dissatisfaction later, with his figures becoming robot-like, de-humanised.  He experimented with film, designed sets, did series paintings (builders, constructions, bicycle riders, machinery), mosaics, murals, stained glass, ceramic structures, and he extended 2D art into different media.  He created stability and movement together by interlocking planes of volume together.  He disassociated colours to shapes and outlines.  His works were puzzle-like – disassociating on element of art from another.

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Simultaneous Windows on the City 1912 – Delauney – Orphism

Robert Delauney was lyrical, vital, sensual with his use of colour, with an interest in the music/colour relationship like Kandinsky.  He eliminated the reference to subject, to volume, bringing in light and rhythm by use of colour.  Along with Kandinsky, he was a pioneer of Non-Figurative art. With his wife Sonia, he co-founded the ORPHISM art movement, with colour forces, and abstractions with rhythmic circles and discs, thus breaking the rigidity of Cubism.

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(C) Jud House  18/09/2016

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