Modernism Through the 1940's in Art

Topics: Impressionism, Modern art, History of painting Pages: 5 (1884 words) Published: May 2, 2013
Joey Steinbach
Contemporary Issues
Eric Ouren

1. Trace the development of Modernism from its early beginnings through its subsequent permutations and developments up to, roughly, the 1940’s In order to trace the development of modernism throughout history we must first define “modernism”. Modernism is the rejection of the ideology or realism and makes use of the works of the past, through the application of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody in new forms. Modernism also rejects the certainty of the Enlightenment as well as an all-powerful, compassionate creator. In lesser words, it rejects traditional conventions (such as realism and perspective). In this paper I intend to follow modernism through the 19th century and beyond, noting on such artists as Eduard Manet, Andy Warhol, Gustave Courbet, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock and the significant and lasting effects they had on modernism in art.

Since renaissance times, the Salon, the official art exhibition sponsored by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, was the hub and canon of popular, acceptable and academic art. Art had remained stagnant for years with no conceptual developments for centuries. A local Frenchman by the name of Gustave Courbet despised the Salon. He rejected the false rhetoric of such trivial art. Instead, he painted real, actual people in real, actual events, such as in his painting “The Funeral at Ornons” which depicts a funeral among peasant men and women. This was a radical idea for the time and he was seen as an anarchist because of it (along with his political ideals). It wasn’t as though he was in support of abstraction but rather just the understanding of the physical world. This groundbreaking idea set the artistic world ablaze. His non-idealized subject matter disgusted the Salon who refused to even show his works.

Eduard Manet was painting during this time as well, and his work even outlived Courbet’s. Manet approached his paintings with a realism similar to Courbet, but Manet added another piece to the modernism puzzle; style. As previously mentioned, painting was until now academic and technical skill trumped concept. Manet’s brushstrokes were at times thick and loose, loose to the point where academia deemed them sloppy and “hideous”. His submission of “Su Juener De’Herbe” was harshly criticized by art critics of the time. His submission of “Olympia”, a prostitute, was at bitter odds with academic painting. This woman was thought of as hideous and was poorly painted. In a true modernist fashion he denied the conventions of traditional beauty and sexuality, thrusting the art world forward. Another important factor that Manet contributed to modernism is the denial of traditional perspective. As seen in his work, “Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère”, there are items on the table that are completely missing in the reflection and the man talking to the young woman should be in our line of sight. This was startling to Salon members and they viewed it as pure oversight.

Shortly after, Pierre August Renoir forced his way into the art world not by radical subject matter, but through bold swatches of warm and cool colors. Aside from the tightness of brushstrokes, he denied the traditional academic feel of painting. His paintings were less stiff and more emotional than could be achieved by dry, painterly works. This new change in style would usher in a new artistic movement in modern art, but what would they call it?

A new gallery in France opened near the Salon that hosted the artists of this new movement. It included such artists Renoir, Pissarro (a fellow subscriber of this new movement known for his social commentary on industry and his revolutionary practice of stippling) and the founder of French impressionist painting and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air...
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