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Visual Art of the 20th Century

Edward Lucie-Smith 1902–1912


Visual Art of the 20th Century Edward Lucie-Smith

Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458

Copyright © 1996 Edward Lucie-Smith Prentice Hall Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the publishers. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DATA Lucie-Smith, Edward. Visual arts in the twentieth century / Edward Lucie-Smith. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0–8109–3924–7 (Abrams). —ISBN 0–13–494436–4 (Prentice Hall). 1. Art, Modern–20th century. I. Title N6490.1792 1997 709’.04—dc20 96–18460 CIP Designers: Andrew Schoolbred and Ian Hunt Picture researcher: Visual Arts Library Copy editor: Robert Stewart Project editor: Damian Thompson Additional research: Jack Collis-Harvey Printed and Bound in Singapore Cover design: Misha Anikst Frontispiece: Nicholas de Stael, Les Matigues, 1954. Oil on canvas Details: p.16: Gaugin, The Vision after the Sermon (see fig. 1.14). p.50: Rouesseau, The Snake Charmer (see fig 2.10). p.76: Malevich, Taking in the Rye (see fig. 3.21). p.110: Moholy-Nagy, Construction, Work 4 (see fig. 4.19). p.150: Mukhina, Worker and Collective Farm Woman (see fig. 5.25). p.182: Bacon, Three Studies … (see fig. 6.19). p.214: De Staël, Les Martigues (see fig. 7.35). p.250: Auerbach, Mornington Crescent, Winter (see fig. 8.28). p.296: Eggleston, Memphis (see fig. 9.40). p.332: Fischl, Squirt (see fig. 10.17). p.364: Ypuhan, Mao and Blonde Girl Analyzed (see fig. 11.7). Author’s acknowledgments: My thanks are due to Damian Thompson and Lee Ripley Greenfield of Calmann & King; to Suzie Green, Celestine Dars, and Didier Lenart of the Visual Arts Library (responsible for the picture research); to Robert Stewart, who patiently and tactfully edited my text; and to the ever-helpful staff of the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. This book would not have come into existence without their efforts and is dedicated to all of them.

Contents 11 17 17 17 17 18 18 19 20 20 20 22 22 23 24 25 25 26 26 26 26 28 31 33 34 37 37 37 40 40 42 42

Introduction Chapter One: Before 1900

The Social and Intellectual Background The Industrial Background The Romantic Movement Karl Marx and The Communist Manifesto Charles Baudelaire and the “The Painter of Modern Life” Friedrich Nietzche and Sigmund Freud The Symbolist Movement


Technical Innovation Responses to New Social Needs Louis Sullivan Art Nouveau and the Search for Aesthetic Unity Victor Horta and Antonio Gaudi Charles Rennie Mackintosh Edwin Lutyens


The New Exhibiting Societies The Great Forerunners Vincent van Gogh Paul Gaugin and the Cult of the Primitive Gaugin in the South Seas Paul Cézanne Edvard Munch The Nabis Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard


Auguste Rodin Medardo Rosso The Position of Women Artists

43 43 43 43 44 46 46

27 46 51 51 52 52 52 53 54 55 55 56 56 57 57 57 58 58 60 62 63 65


The Birth of the Snapshot Camera Photography as a Profession Documentory Photography Pictorialist Photography The Importance of the “Amateur” Photographer Subject-Matter and Pictorialist Photography


Georges Seurat: La Grande Jatter Auguste Rodin: The Gate of Hell

Chapter Two: 1900–1909 Technological Advances International Tensions


Architecture in the United States The Green Brothers and Bernard Maybeck The Early Work of Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture in Europe Otto Wagner Josef Hoffman Peter Beherns and AEG


Painting in Europe The Survival of Art Nouveau: Gustav Klimpt Picasso: The Blue Period Henri Rouesseau, called Le Douanier The Fauves Henri Matisse Cubism Paula Modersohn-Becker


1920--1929 World War II, though fully as destructive as its predecessor, had different psychological effects. It did not induce widespread cynicism, the brutally nihilistic sense of irony, which had often infected the arts after World War I. Nor was there the feeling, commonplace in the 1920s, that a whole elaborate civilization had crumbled into ruins, leaving a legacy of estrangement and alienation. There was, however, despair and horror. The full extent of the Holocaust became visible; it was no longer possible to deny the reality of the Nazi concentration camps, nor that of the whole mechanism of genocide which the Nazis had created. The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was publicly justified by the American authorities as the sole means available for bringing the war in the Pacific to a swift conclusion, but the unprecedented power of this new weapon, as well as its long-term effects on those victims who were not killed outright, produced a feeling of oppression which was later to be intensified by the nuclear arms race between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The Holocaust and the bomb became frequent subjects for art in the immediate post war epoch, though both artist and critic often declared that these subjects were too vast and too intractable for any artistic venture to encompass. Meanwhile, the effects of a massive emigration began to be felt. Many leading artists and architects left Europe for the safety of the United States. Their impact on American culture was profound. They were not, however, solely responsible for the American primacy in the visual arts which now unmistakably asserted itself.

This was due to other factors as well. One was American economic supremacy, now visible for all to see. Another was the fact that the comparatively brief hiatus in cultural exchanges imposed by the war had enabled American artists to take stock of their own potential. Abstract Expressionism, the major new artistic style of the 1940s, was the result of increasing confidence in a peculiarly American attitude toward the relationship between human beings and society—it involved a subjective reinterpretation of a peculiarly American myth, that of the frontier, and of the way in which the individual was empowered to push that frontier forward according to the dictates of his own will.

Painting in Great Britain A Change of Climate A world at war was clearly not a good place for architects, and it is not surprising that many fewer important building were completed during the 1940s that the 1930—despite the worldwide economic slump. Nevertheless, the decade witnessed an important theoretical shift, a change in the balance of power away from those architects who clung to the idea of traditional forms towards those who regarded themselves as committed Modernists. There were several reasons for this shift. One was the departure from Europe of leading architects, among them most of the chief practitioners of the International Style. Walter Gropius, formerly head of the Bauhaus, lefts Germany in 1934, and in 1937

Choanalysts, that had interested themselves in visual representation made by the mentally ill, by untrained artists, and by children. Photographers linked to the Surrealists recorded the graffiti in which Paris abounded. Some of the Dubuffet’s most effective early works were portraits of his friends, intellectuals such as the Surrealist writer, Georges Limbour (FIG. 6.14), done in a style derived from wall graffiti. Dubuffet attempted to reproduce the texture of the wall itself, as well as the brutal concision of this type of drawing. The effectiveness of the portraits depended partly on the artist’s choice of a style so apparently at odds with the sophisticated personalities whom he portrayed. Dubuffet was also fascinated by material which seemed inappropriate to the uses he made of them­­–in the following decade he made collages of butterflies’ wings, and sculpture from lumps of coal, sponges, or crumpled silver paper. From these experiments he evolved an influential philosophy of art brut , or “art in the raw,” which was to take postwar figurative art in a new direction, one hostile to any idea of smoothness or fine finish of the sort that had been momentarily revived by Dalí. Wols

6.14 Wols, Untitled, 1946–7. Oil on Canvas, 317/8 x 255/8 in (81 x 65 cm). Private collection. There is a close resemblance between Wols’s work and the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock (which Wols did not know at the time). The brushwork is free, gestural, and unplanned.


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In the fateful year of 1945, Douin exhibited another artist who was to affect the post war development of European art, though to a much lesser extent than Dubuffet. This was Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, 1913–51), who had emigrated from Germany in 1933, both to escape that Nazi regime and to get away from a stifling bourgeois family background. In the 1930s he made a career as a photographer affiliated to the Surrealist; but he was interned on the outbreak of war. After his release, he lived from hand to mouth, mostly in the south of France, and began to make small paintings and drawings inspired by nature, but less and less specific in their imagery. Though more modest in

6.15 Jean Dubuffet, Limbour as a Crustacean, 1946. Oil and sand on canvas, 455/8 x 35 in (116 x 88.8 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C (Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn).

scale that the paintings being made by the emerging Abstract Expressionists in America (which he did not know) , Wols’s compositions of the mid-1940s (FIG. 6.15) look astonishingly like Pollock’s work of the same period or a little later. They prepared the way for the acceptance of Abstract Expressionism in Europe.

This portrait of the Surrealist writer, Georges Limbour, was inspired by urban graffiti, a spontaneous form of expression which, along with the scribblings of children and pychotics, Dubuffet listed as the sources of art brut.

Expressionism in Northern Europe The Cobra Group In the 1940s, the European artists who–apart from Wols–offered the closest parallel to what was taking place in New York were that who came together to form the short-lived Cobra Group, founded in 1948. The name was taken from the cities the members were came from–Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. Among the members were the Dane, Asger Jorn (1914–73), and the Dutchman, Karel Appel (1921– ). While the Cobra Manifesto published in the Dutch periodical, Reflex, in 1948 specifically rejected “Western Classical culture” and called for its replacement “by a system whose laws are based on the immediate demands of human vitality,”6 Cobra was visibly linked to the development of Modernism in the first decades of the century. The different between Cobra artists, like their American colleagues, believed in giving free rein to subconscious fantasy, their work remained more firmly in the old Expressionist tradition, which traced its line of descent directly to Edvard Munch. There was, in fact, to be a continuity in the development of figurative Expressionism in northern Europe which easily withstood the challenges to which Abstract Expressionism would eventually succumb. Appel’s early work also owes something to what Picasso and Miró had been doing in the 1930s, adding to these touches of childlike spontaneity (FIG. 1.16). Jorn, the first Danish artist to make a major impact on the international scene since the beginning of Modernism, is more mystical and more somber.

Painting in Great Britain Great Britain was never invaded, as most of the rest of Europe was (Switzerland, Sweden, and the Iberian peninsula were the other exceptions), nor did it become subject to an enemy power. On the other hand, its geographical closeness to the European continent meant that for most of the war years it was a country under siege. Before the war, the British school, under the tutelage of critics such as Roger Fry (1886–1934) had consistently looked across the Channel for inspiration. Now communication with Paris was cut off, and the British remained unaware of the revolution which was taking place in America. For the first time for many years, British art was thrown back entirely on it own resources.

6.16 Karel Appel, Children with Questions II, 1947. Wooden reliefs nailed to wooden board, painted in oil, 33 5/8 x 22 1/8 in (85 x 56 cm). Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris. Appel’s early paintings show the impact made on him by the work of Picasso and Miró, but are still basically Expressionist in style.

Stanley Spencer There were a few British painters of the senior generation whom this suited very



Georgia O’Keeffe: The Shelton with Sunspots

4.28 Georgia O’Keeffe, The Shelton with Sunspots, 1926. Oil on canvas, 481/2 x 301/4in (123.2 x 76.8 cm). Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (Gift of Leigh B. Block). 4.29 (right) Stuart Davis, Odol, 1924. Oil on cardboard, 243/8 x 175/8 in (62 x 44.7 cm). Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio. In this Cubist-influenced work Davis anticipates Pop art preoccupations


Chapter Four

The Shelton with Sunspots (fig. 4.28) belongs to a small series of painting celebrating the city of New York painted by Georgia O’Keefe in the mid-1920s. It depicts the new residential hotel near Grand Central Station where she and her husband, Alfred Stieglits, occupied a suit on the thirtieth floor. Thanks to Stieglitz’s efforts on her behalf, O’Keeffe had already become famous for her paintings of flowers and other natural objects, and some of her admirers were shocked when she turned to urban themes. O’Keeffe would have none of this. “You have to live in today,” she said briskly. “Today the city is something bigger, more complex than ever before in history.”* Her city painting celebrate urban life in a very different way from those produced some ten and more years earlier by members of the Ashcan School. Theirs are full of the bustle of the streets; hers are cool

Stuart Davis and American Cubism Some American artists of the period, chief among them Stuart Davis (1892–1964), wanted to find ways of combining what was specifically American with what they had learned from European Modernism—in Davis’s case, specifically from Cubism. He wrote in a notebook entry for 20 November, 1920: “I too feel the thing Whitman felt and I too will express it in pictures—America—the wonderful place we live in.”2 A number of his paintings feature commercial packaging in a way that foreshadows the Pop Art of the 1960s. An example is Odol (FIG. 4.29), which celebrates the distinctive bottle and logo of a popular brand of mouthwash.

KEYWORK and detached. What is peculiarly modern about her work is the impact made on it by the camera—perhaps not surprisingly in view of the fact that she was married to the most celebrated of all American photographers, who had already taken skyscrapers, who had already taken skyscrapers such as New York’s Flatiron Building as part of his subject matter. In The Shelton with Sunspots, the lighting effects are typical of the way in which the camera records an image when photographer is looking directly toward the source of light. Like her Precisionist contemporary, Charles Sheeler, O’Keeffe owes comparatively little to European Modernism (she never set foot in Europe until she was sixty-five, and then refused to meet Picasso on the grounds that she spoke no French and he no English), but much to the new photographic way of seeing pioneered by Stieglitz and by slightly younger photographers such as Paul Strand.

Painting in Latin America The 1920s were the years in which Modernism became something close to a worldwide phenomenon. Having made their impact in North America, Modernist ideas now started to make themselves felt elsewhere in the western hemisphere. In Latin America, where artists were ready for new ways of thinking the 1920s saw a series of significant artistic events. One was the “Semana de Arte Moderna” (“Week of the Modern Art”) held in São Paolo in 1922. The Semamn was a mixture of things: music, literature, and poetry, as well as art. An important part of it was the desire to assert a new cultural nationalism, since the event coincided with the centenary of Brazilian independence. One of the participating artists, Vicente do Rego Monteiro (1899–1967) signaled on of the direction the future was to take. His painting of the 1920s, for example, Deposition (FIG. 4.30), are a strange mixture of indigenous influences and sophisticated European Art Deco. Questioned about his artistic influences, Rego Monteiro, who had been trained in Paris, supplied a long list: “Futurism, Cubism, Japanese prints, black art, the Parisian School, Brazilian Baroque and above all the art of the American Indians on the island of Marajo.”

4.30 Vicente do Rego Monteiro, Deposition, 1924. Oil on canvas, 3 ft 67/8 in x 4 ft3/4 in (1.09 x 1.34 m). Museu de Arte Contemporanea da Universidade de São

Brazil: Tarsila do Amaral Rego Monteiro’s interest in Amerindian cultures links him to a more important artist, Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1973), “the Brazilian painter who best achieved aspirations for nationalistic expression in a modern style.” Tarsila, when it took place. She studied with the minor Cubists, André Lhote and Albert Gleizes, and also with Fernand Léger. On her return home in December, 1923, she began to explore the popular culture of Brazil and to paint in a style which mingled the influence of local naïve art with that of Léger. By 1928 she had entered her most creative period, that of the Anthropophagy or Cannibalism, so named from the manifesto, Antropófago, published by her husband, the poet and

4.31 Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporu, 1928. Oil on canvas, 331/2 x 283/4 in (85 x 73 cm). Private collection. This is the first painting of Tarsila’s Anthropophagist series.




GENERAL EVENTS • Foundation of the League of Nations • 19th Amendment gives American women the vote • C olette publishes Chérie • Gandhi launches civil disobedience campaign in India


ART • Death of Amedeo Modigliani • Dada exhibition at the Winter Brasserie, Cologne


• Soviet states unite to form USSR • Mussolini’s “March on Rome” leads to formation of Facist government, Italy • Irish Free State officially proclaimed • James Joyce publishes Ulysses • Louis Armstrong’s first recording

• German mark at 4 million to USSR • Hitler mounts coup d’etat in Munich, which fails • Greta Garbo’s film debut • John Maynard Keynes publishes A Tract on Monetary Reform

• Death of Lenin • First Winter Olympics, Chamonix, Switzerland • Georg Gershwin composes Rhapsody in Blue • E. M. Forester publishes A Passage to India • Hitler writes Mein Kampf while in prison

• First tuberculosis vaccine • Insulin discovered • A lbert Einstein wins the Nobel prize in physics

• Insulin first given to diabetics • Discovery of Vitamin E

• C ontinuous hot striprolling of steel invented • Diptheria vaccine discovered

• First use of insecticides • 25 million radios in use in United States

Van Alen, Chrysler Building: see pg. 120

Rivera, Creations p. 135

Le Corbusier • Diego Rivera returns to Mexico from the United States • C onstantin Brancusi, Bird in Space (1st version) • Fernad Léger, Three Women • Max Ernst, The Elephant of the Celebes

• “Semana de Arte Moderna” held in São Paolo, Brazil • Pablo Picasso, Women on the Beach • Marc Chagall and Vassily Kandinsky leave Russia for Germany

• “Grosser Berlin Kunstausstellung,” exhibition in Berlin • Max Beckmann, The Trapeze • Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors • T he American collector Albert C. Barnes buys 100 works from Chaim Soutine

• First Surrealist manifesto published, Paris • Stuart Davis, Odol • Fernand Léger directs Mechanical Ballet

• Erich Mendelsohn, Einstein Tower, Allenstein, Germany • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe develops a skyscraper project in glass, the birth of “curtain wall” construction

• Auguste Perret, Notre Dame church, Le Raincy, France • Rudolf Schindler, Lovell Beach House, Los Angeles (–1926)

• Auguste Perret, Notre Dame church, Le Raincy, France • Rudolf Schindler, Lovell Beach House, Los Angeles (–1926)

• Gerrit Rietveld, Schröder House, Utrecht, the Netherlands • J.J.P. Oud, Hook of Holland housing estate (–1927)

ARCHITECTURE • Edwin Lutyens, Finsbury Circus façade of Britannic (now Lutyens) House, London


• Beginning of hyperinflation in Germany • Beginning of US stockmarket boom • End of Mexican revolution • S acco-Vanzetti murder trial in the United States • Luigi Prandello stages Six Characters in Search of an Author

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY • Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorshach invents ink-blot test • T hompson submachine gun patented • Structure of the Milky Way demonstrated for the first time through the use of photography






1920--1929 1929

• Stalin ousts Trotsky from power • Christiania, the Norwegian capital, renamed Oslo • Sergei Eisenstein directs The Battleship Potemkin • F. Scott Fitzgerald writes The Great Gatsby

• “Hitlerjugend” (Hitler Youth) founded, Germany • General Strike in Britain • Fritz Lang directs Metropolis • T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) publishes The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

• Germany economy collapses • Trotskyk expelled from the Soviet Communist party • Charles Lindbergh flies solo non-stop from New York to Paris • Civil war breaks out in China

• Chiang Kai-shek elected president of China • A melia Earhart becomes first woman to fly the Atlantic • D. H. Lawrence publishes Lady Chatterley’s Lover • First performance of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, with music by Kurt Weill

• Stock Market crash in New York on 2 October precipitates world economic crisis • Trotsky expelled from the USSR • “Talkies” replace silent films in popularity • Death of Sergei Diaghilev

• John Logie Baird transmits recognizable human features by television • First Leica camera • First solar eclipse in New York for 300 years

• First liquid-fuel rocket • Kodak produces first 16 mm photographic film

• Russian scientist I.V. Pavlov publishes Conditioned Reflexes • 15 million Model T Fords produced by this date

• A lexander Flemin discovers penicillin • George Eastman exhibits first color motion pictures • T he Geiger counter is invented

• Quartz-crystal clocks introduced

Schindler, Beach House: see p. 120

André Breton

Sironi, Solitude: see p. 119

see pg. 124

• Bauhaus accused of Bolshevism and degeneracy—forced to leace Weimar for Dessau Germany • Mario Sironi, Solitude

• First Novencento group exhibition, Rome • Paul Klee, Neighborhood of the Italian Villas • Georges Grosz, Pillars of Society • O tto Dix, Sylvia von Harden • First exhibition of Max Ernst’s frottages in Paris

• René Magritte, The Murdere Threatened • Ernst Barlach, Güstrow Angel • Death of Juan Gris

• Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporu • A ndré Breton publishes Surrealism and Painting

• Piet Mondrian, Foxtrot B • Charles Scheeler, Upper Deck • Inauguration of MOMA, New York • S alvador Dalí and Louis Bunuel direct the surrealist film fantasy Un chien andalou

• E xposition des Arts Décoratifs, Paris • Walter Gropius, Dessau Bauhaus (–1926)

• Death of Antonia Gaudí

• Inauguration of the Bauhaus building in Dessau

• Johannes Brinkman and L.C. van der Vlugt, Van Nelle Tobbaco Factory, Rotterdam, the Netherlands • W illiam van Alen, Chrysler Building, New York

• Gerrit Rietveld, Schröder House, Utrecht, the Netherlands • J.J.P. Oud, Hook of Holland housing estate (–1927)

Visual Arts in the Twentieth Century

offers an exciting new account of the century of art so affected by Modernism. A uniquely structured view of the period and the inclusion of often-overlooked material come together to create a survey that is thorough, insightful, and fresh. Painting, sculpture, photography, the graphic arts, and architecture are treated in decade-bydecade chapters, allowing for an inclusive vier of coexisting innovations and trends Information on historical, social, and intellectual movements and events is incorporated within the text, giving insight into the cultural environment that stimulated, surrounded, and supported individual acts of creativity The work of artists from historically under-represented regions of the world is also included, providing new insight into the global world of art Edward Lucie-Smith has also given us the first book of its kind that emphasizes photography—an art form both accessible and cutting-edge. In addition, the author re-evaluates Modernism by examining the diverse and important roles women have played in this still influential movement. Finally, more than twenty “Key Work” analyses appear throughout the book. Critical and interpretive, these consise examinations concentrate on individual works of art and provide models by which other works may be approached and evaluated—a valuable touchstone for those who want to enjoy and understand modern art on their own. is simply the most comprehensive overview of the art and culture of the very dynamic period. As a reliable reference tool and knowledgeable companion, it is an essential

Visual Arts in the Twentieth Century


Chapter Six

guide through the exuberant thicket of art that has flourished over the past hundred years. 500 illustration, including 150 in full color, 11 illustrated time-lines, bibliography, index

About Edward Lucie-Smith

Well known as an art historian, curator, lecturer, and critic, Oxford University-trained scholar Edward Lucie-Smith is also a poet, biographer, and broadcaster. His knowledge of twentieth-century art and culture is vastly wide ranging. Among his previous books for Abrams are Art and Civilization (1993), Race, Sex, and Gender in Contemporary Art (1994), The Art of Albert Paley (1996).

Visual Art of the Twentieth Century  

Text book re-design