Modern Art History

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The 19th and 20th centuries marked the beginning and end of Modernism. Modern art replaced traditional art as individuality replaced academic art and what emerged were four major art movements: Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. From each movement came great artists, who defined each ism in their own style. Impressionism started in 1870 and included artists like Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, and Cassatt. Impressionists tried to capture the mood in a glimpse concentrating on the immediate visual impressions. They played with the effects of sunlight and shadow and of direct and reflected light that they observed. To reproduce immediate visual impressions as seen by the naked eye, they abandoned the use of grays and blacks in shadows and used complementary colors instead. A fine example of an impressionist painting found in Art Through The Ages is Le Moulin de la Galette by Auguste; it's a scene "dappled by sunlight and shade" taking place on a Sunday afternoon in Paris with people crowded all about in the frame work (993, 26-69). Impressionists' paints stemmed from the principles of freedom of technique, a personal approach to subject matter, and a truthful depiction of nature. In 1880 began Post-Impressionism, which contained three generations. Post-impressionism itself was a more personal and spiritual expression. Some of the great artist included Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Seurat. Vincent van Gogh the famous Dutch painter distorted forms and used vibrant colors to express his emotions. His lines and brush strokes exaggerated beyond impressionism to simply convey his exhilaration for nature and life. One example of van Gogh's work is The Starry Night a "whirling and exploding" depiction of the night sky as he saw it (1000, 26-76). It was his personal intertwined view of the earth, the sky, and the stars. The second generation of Post-impressionism, started in 1890's, which had much to do with symbolism. It was the goal of the artist to not imitate nature but rather create a free interpretation of it. This led to the rejection of reality and an acceptance toward the dream world where images were used as symbols of personal emotions in response to the world. Odilon Redon's The Cyclops, is a fine example of a fantastic dream world configured from his imagination, showing a cyclops with an adoring eye for a woman who lies asleep among the brush strokes of vast colors (1006, 26-82). The third generations of Post-impressionism, beginning in the 1900's were expressionists, who concentrated on emphasizing the artist's inner experience. An example of Andre Derain's London Bridge, best shows how distorted perspective along with non-naturalistic colors expresses the emotion of the artists (1034, 27-13). There is a sense of warmth as you get further away from the city as colors get brighter with more reds and oranges, again the colors are used symbolically to expressive the artist's mood. Cubism started in 1910 with great artists like Picasso and Braque. Cubism parted from traditional anatomical correct human form, and derived a form, which combined elements seen from many different angles. Creating shapes and images that were geometrical. Picasso was famous for his viewpoint of objects to different positions and at the same time dividing it into many fragments seen from various angles. An example of Pablo Picasso's work is Les Demoiselles d'Avignon a painting with several sides, planes, angles and geometrical shapes all seen simultaneously (1046, 27-29). Cubists were not held back by texture or color or even space; instead they represented a new reality, a reality from their own perspective. Surrealism began in the 1920's with an emphasis on unrealistic, dreamlike images. Surrealism expressed the subconscious characterized by fantastic imagery and subject matter. Salvadore Dali's The Persistence of Memory shows a place where time is at a end and things don't seem to begin or really end, things more or less seem to linger, in this haunting image (1076, 27-64). It truly gives the onlooker a sense of a dreamland. Surrealists tried to reunite the conscious and unconscious so as to join fantasy with the world of dream in a surrealistic reality. The fourth movement was abstract expressionism, which began in the 1940's. This movement celebrated intuition and self-exploration. Paintings were free spirited forms of expression and at times loosely structured. Jackson Pollock's Lucifer, is a great example of the phrase loosely structured (1098, 28-4). Pollock's method of dripping paint onto the canvas was an innovation to the act of art making. His painting has no visible or identifiable shapes. The colors encompass back and forth and into each other. Abstract expressionists tended to focus on psychological subjects, so as to avoid any clear representation of reality. Abstract expressionism led to something as simple as a blank canvas where the onlooker was forced to interpret it. Art's form of expression was indeed abstract. These four great movements differed in their own respect and yet at the same time were pulled from each other. The artists of these movements are still greatly admired to this day. Their works of arts are treasured and studied. They are marked as the great Artists of the Modern Era.

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