Early Pioneers

In The Development of Abstract Art



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The Painters.

The Abstract Pioneer Wassily Kandinsky a Russian painter, printmaker and art theorist, one of the most famous 20th-century artists is generally considered the first important painter of modern art. As an early modernist, in search of new modes of visual expression, and spiritual expression, he theorized as did contemporary occultists and theosophists, that pure visual abstraction had corollary vibrations with sound and music. They posited that pure A'ion could express pure spirituality. His earliest Pioneering A'ions were generally titled as the example in the (above gallery) Composition VII, making connection to the work of the composers of music. Kandinsky included many of his theories about A' art in his book, Concerning The Spiritual In Art.

Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian's art was also related to his spiritual and philosophical studies. In 1908 he became interested in the theosophical movement launched by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in the late 19th century. Blavatsky believed that it was possible to attain a knowledge of nature more profound than that provided by empirical means, and much of Mondrian's work for the rest of his life was inspired by his search for that spiritual knowledge. Other major pioneers of early A'ion include Russian painter Kasimir Malevich, and Swiss painter Paul Klee. Robert Delaunay was a French artist who is associated with Orphism, (reminiscent of a link between pure abstraction and cubism). His later works were more abstract, and Pioneering reminiscent of Paul Klee. His key contributions to abstract painting refer to his bold use of color, and a clear love of experimentation of both depth and tone. At the invitation of Wassily Kandinsky , Delaunay and his wife the artist Sonia Delaunay, joined The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter), a Munich-based group of abstract artists, in 1911, and his art took a turn to the abstract. Still other important pioneers of abstract painting include Czech painter, František Kupka and Synchromism, an art movement founded in 1912 by American artists Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell that closely resembles Orphism.


Les Fauves

Les Fauves (French for The Wild Beasts) were early 20th century painters, experimenting with freedom of expression through color. The name was given, humourously and not as a compliment, to the group by art critic Louis Vauxcelles. Fauvism was a short-lived and loose grouping of early 20th century artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities, and the imaginative use of deep color over the representational values. Fauvists made the subject of the painting easy to read, exaggerated perspectives and an interesting prescient prediction of the Fauves was expressed in 1888 by Paul Gauguin to Paul Sérusier,

"How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermilion."

The leaders of the movement were Henri Matisse and André Derain — friendly rivals of a sort, each with his own followers. Ultimately Matisse became the yang to Picasso's Picasso's yin in the 20th century. Fauvist painters included Albert Marquet, Charles Camoin, Maurice de Vlaminck, Raoul Dufy, Othon Friesz, the Dutch painter Kees van Dongen, and Picasso's partner in Cubism, Georges Braque amongst others. Fauvism, as a movement, had no concrete theories, and was short lived, beginning in 1905 and ending in 1907, they only had three exhibitions. Matisse was seen as the leader of the movement, due to his seniority in age and prior self-establishment in the academic art world. He said he wanted to create art to delight; art as a decoration was his purpose and it can be said that his use of bright colors tries to maintain serenity of composition.


Painting By Jean Arp. Der Blaue Reiter was a German movement lasting from 1911 to 1914, fundamental to Expressionism , along with Die Brücke which was founded the previous decade in 1905. Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, August Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, Lyonel Feininger and others founded the group in response to the rejection of Kandinsky's painting Last Judgement from an exhibition. Der Blaue Reiter lacked a central artistic manifesto, but was centered around Kandinsky and Marc. Artists Gabriele Münter and Paul Klee were also involved.

The name of the movement comes from a painting by Kandinsky created in 1903 (see illustration). It is also claimed that the name could have derived from Marc's enthusiasm for horses and Kandinsky's love of the colour blue. For Kandinsky, blue is the colour of spirituality: the darker the blue, the more it awakens human desire for the eternal.

Dada and Surrealism

Marcel Duchamp, came to international prominence in the wake of his notorious success at the New York City Armory Show in 1913, (soon after he denounced artmaking for chess). Duchamp became closely associated with the Dada movement that began in neutral Zürich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1920. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature (poetry, art manifestoes, art theory), theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti war politic through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Francis Picabia (see above), Man Ray, Kurt Schwitters, Tristan Tzara, Hans Richter, Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, along with Duchamp and many others are associated with the Dadaist movement. Duchamp and several Dadaists are also associated with Surrealism, the movement that dominated European painting in the 1920s and 1930s.



Surrealism

In 1924 André Breton published the Surrealist Manifesto. The Surrealist movement in painting became synonymous with the Avant- garde and which featured artists whose works varied from the abstract to the super-realist. René Magritte and Salvador Dali are particularly known for their realistic depictions of dream imagery and fantastic manifestations of the imagination. The more Abstract Joan Miro , Jean Arp, André Masson, and Max Ernst were very influential, especially in the United States during the 1940s.

Throughout the 1930s, Surrealism continued to become more visible to the public at large. A Surrealist group developed in Britain and, according to Breton, their 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition was a high water mark of the period and became the model for international exhibitions. Surrealist groups in Japan, and especially in Latin America, the Caribbean and in Mexico produced innovative and original works.


Magritte created some of the most widely recognized images of the movement. Dalí joined the group in 1929, and participated in the rapid establishment of the visual style between 1930 and 1935.

Surrealism as a visual movement had found a method: to expose psychological truth by stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance, in order to create a compelling image that was beyond ordinary formal organization, and perception, sometimes evoking empathy from the viewer, sometimes laughter and sometimes outrage and bewilderment.

Painting by Salvador Dali. 1931 marked a year when several Surrealist painters produced pioneering works which marked turning points in their stylistic evolution: in one example (see gallery above) liquid shapes become the trademark of Dalí, particularly in his The Persistence of Memory, which features the image of watches that sag as if they are melting. Evocations of time and its compelling mystery and absurdity.

The characteristics of this style - a combination of the depictive, the abstract, and the psychological - came to stand for the alienation which many people felt in the modernist period, combined with the sense of reaching more deeply into the psyche, to be "made whole with one's individuality".

Long after personal, political and professional tensions have fragmented the Surrealist group into thin air and ether, Magritte, Miro, Dalí and the other Surrealists continue to define a visual program in the arts.

Expressionism

Painting by Joan Miro. In the USA during the period between World War I and World War II Pioneering painters tended to go to Europe for recognition. Modernist artists like Marsden Hartley, Patrick Henry Bruce, Gerald Murphy and Stuart Davis, created reputations abroad. While Patrick Henry Bruce, created cubist related paintings in Europe, both Stuart Davis and Gerald Murphy made paintings that were early inspirations for American pop art and Marsden Hartley experimented with Expressionism . During the 1920s photographer Alfred Stieglitz exhibited Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Alfred Henry Maurer, Charles Demuth, John Marin and other artists including European Masters Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Henri Rousseau, Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso, at his New York City gallery the 291.

Expressionism and Symbolism are broad rubrics that describes several important and related movements in 20th century painting that dominated much of the avant-garde art being made in Western, Eastern and Northern Europe. Expressionism was painted largely between World War I and World War II, mostly in France, Germany, Norway, Russia, Belgium, and Austria. Expressionist artists are related to both Surrealism and Symbolism and are each uniquely and somewhat eccentrically personal. Fauvism, Die Brücke, and Der Blaue Reiter are three of the best known groups of Expressionist and Symbolist painters. Artists as interesting and diverse as Marc Chagall, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, Chaim Soutine, James Ensor, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann, Franz Marc, Käthe Schmidt Kollwitz, Georges Rouault, Amedeo Modigliani and some of the Americans abroad like Marsden Hartley, and Stuart Davis, were considered influential expressionist painters. Although Alberto Giacometti is primarily thought of as an intense Surrealist sculptor, he made intense expressionist paintings which also inluenced the creation of modern abstraction.


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