The State of Art After World War I

Throughout history there have always been moments when the foundations and basis of common trends shatter and a shift in style occurs in the world of art. The reasons for such changes range from revolutionary new ways of introducing application of art to how the style is applied. During the settling period after World War I, the world of Art took a dramatic change in its style. It took a change in a whole new direction, taking itself through a few innovative movements. These movements varied from political stances to personal expression to a global shift in the popular style of art at the time. After World War I, there was a major shift in the system of Art around the world, and therein one will find the major art revolution that took place.

One of the most notable movements of the artistic revolution was the Dada movement. This movement was one that was started in one of the bigger epicenters of the art world, Germany. The most accepted story of the Dada movement was started in Hugo Ball’s “Cabaret Voltaire”, in Zurich. The young artists inside stabbed a knife into a dictionary and the word, “Dada” was what it came upon, and thus the Dada movement was started. The interesting part of Dada was that its aim was its avowed purpose was to, “kill art.” This art was very impressionistic and nihilistic. They pursued an attempt at abstract art and impressionism. The group of original Dada’s would gather together in the cafÃ?© and though on the outside, it seemed to be harmless on its outset, the outings soon degenerated into all-out systematic provocations against the bourgeoisie. The art was made simply to be highly avant-garde.

Their exhibitions were organized by regrouping the paintings of the Dadaists (Otto Van Rees, Viking Eggeling, Augusto Giacometti, Walter Helbig, Oscar LÃ?¼thy, Max Oppenheimer, Otto Morach, Arthur Segal…) intermingled with the works of contemporary painters who they had held as their influences for their art. One artist of particular interest is Marcel Duchamp. Though he never really aligned himself with a single form of either Dadaism or Surrealism, his art was still correlated with them. His art was humorous and was made from several types of media. His most famous piece, the Bicycle Wheel, was made because he “âÂ?¦had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn.” – Duchamp, Apropos of Readymades, 1951. Though the piece would be lost to history, being his first “Readymade”, and never really considered to be a piece of actual art, but rather an experimental piece for his own purpose. However, just because the initial thought behind the object wasn’t actually art-oriented, it doesn’t mean that Duchamp did not wholeheartedly accept the superb criticism and contradictions it would later acquire when becoming designated as art.

Another transformation of the art world during this time of history was the movement of Surrealism. Andre Breto began this movement back in the early 1920’s. This movement grew directly out of Dadaism. Like Dadaism, surrealism held highly the role of the unconscious in creative activity, however this style of art employed the psychic unconscious in a more systematic and more solemn manner. Surrealism not only motivated art, it also did quite a bit on the forefront of literature. As far as painting and sculptures are concerned, surrealism is still one of the leading influences of the 20th century. Surrealism claims influence in the arts by such painters as the Italian Paolo Uccello, the British poet and Artist William Blake, and the Frenchman Odilon Redon. During this Century, Surrealists also admired and included in their exhibitions, works by the Italian Girogio De Chirico, Marc Chagall, Swiss artist Paul Klee, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia and Spaniard artist Pablo Picasso. None of these artists however, were ever a part of the surrealist group.

Surrealism, like Dadaism, was a nihilistic protest of all characteristics that were remotely related to the Western Culture. Surrealism painting exhibits a great variety of content and technique. Salvador Dali for example, consisted more so of a type of direct and photographic transcription of dreams, deriving the inspiration of such art from the previously painted dreamlike arts of de Chirico. Also, Joan Miro, spent a whole month, working every day for a still-life painting of an Apple that was set up in his Paris dealer’s, Pierre Loeb, gallery. The painting was finished on May 29th, 1937. The painting was finished in his studio, consists of an apple, into which a six-tined fork has been stuck; a gin bottle surrounded by a torn newspaper, secured with a thong; a heel of bread; and a left shoe, with its lace untied. The apple is brown, perhaps even rotten; the bread is dried; the shoe, we learn from the title Still Life with Old Shoe, is worn. Artistry such as this was off-the-wall and not what most had anticipated of those days.

One of the more different styles would be the De Stijil movement. The movement encompassed a new count in modern art – architecture. The movement used their artistic talent by designing houses, buildings, and, of all things, furniture. Unlike architects during this time, the De Stijil movement started a new trend its name translating to literally, “The Style”. The De Stijil movement was originally founded in 1917 by a hopeful and optimistic group of young Dutch architects. One of the more standout names of the time being, Piet Mondrian. Mondrian in 1914 was forced to stay in Holland due to changes in the war. While staying in Holland, Mondrian met Bart Van Der Leck and Theo Van Doesburg. While there the three would eventually be the founders of the movement. The movement went through three periods, which define it as a whole. The three stages went as follows: the immature period that lasted between 1916 to 1921, the mature period from 1921 to 1925, and the period of deterioration from 1925 to 1931. During the first stage, the artists focused mainly to display painting and sculptures, doing so with drawings and sketching of city streets. Also during this phase, the artists worked closely with one another on the De Stijil magazine, a self-promoting magazine founded in 1917. During the second phase, the mature period would be the era in which critics would display their most lasting works. The deterioration period would be a time in which the three would break apart and the De Stijil movement would “end”.

However, this would be the time in which the artists would have their most successful moments. One of his more memorable works, The Red Tree, reflect not simply a tree seen now, but the way it has evolved, has lived, has been formed, is still in formation, will wither and die. But then you have works such as,The Blue Tree, in which the tree is showing itself to be in need of growth, the two are twisted images of torment and despair.

In America, there was also a movement going through. The American Modernism movement was a faction that occurred in America during the late 1920’s. This movement was not so much a movement as it was marking a spot in artistic history in which America made a large step in the markings of history. The biggest names worth mentioning are Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keefe. Both were married and had a special ability to capture beautiful pictures from his camera. He formed a group called, Photo-secession, which was a group of very talented photographers that held its own in exhibitions and published its work in a quarterly named, Camera Work. Georgia O’Keefe painted oil paintings, charcoal, water paintings and other similar styled art. Both Stieglitz and O’Keefe captured very provocative and outstanding still art. O’Keefe’s most famous pieces are of her flowers and lily’s. The pieces fetch as much as US$25,000. Though both mediums were different, they both had the same amount of impact in art history.

Another American movement, Regionalism depicted several forms of life in America. This was a movement for the American Scene Paintings that depict panoramic aspects of typical American life and landscaped painted in a naturalistic and descriptive way during the Great Depression in America. Regionalism is an umbrella term for the rural American Regionalism and the urban and politically charged Social Realism, but the exact limits remain rather ambiguous. It is an antimodernist style that was a reaction against the modern European style. The scene painting was seen as an attempt to defined a uniquely American style of art. This term however does not signify an organized movement, but rather a broad term for American artists to move away from abstraction and the avant-garde in the period between the two world wars. Major players of this era were Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton and Jacob Lawrence.

Hopper being very influenced by Rembrandt, specifically The Night Watch. Hopper was a traveler and after having journeyed through Europe, he felt America to be too bland, but his art was still beautiful. It wasn’t until later when his art would be finally sold and his first mature picture, The house by the Railroad, would become famous. His art was modern in its bleakness and simplicity; they were also incredibly full of nostalgia for puritan moralities of the American past. Thomas Hart Benton on the other hand, took a part of American livelihood in his art. He painted murals depicting everyday scenes of Midwestern life.

Jacob Lawrence’s art depicted times of African-Americans during arbitrary periods throughout history. All three posing a great stride in American art history.

The period of art after World War I is probably one of the most influential for today’s styles of art. Taking into account all of the modernistic, anti-western culture, and abstract scenes it is very apparent how influential this period in history is for art. Looking back at these styles of art that were crafted, one can see the various bursts of creativity and how the amazing pieces of art have come out of these shifts in history.

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