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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.
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
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
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
, 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
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
In 1924 André Breton published the Surrealist Manifesto.
The Surrealist movement in painting became synonymous
and which featured artists whose
works varied from the abstract to the super-realist.
René Magritte and
are particularly known
for their realistic depictions of dream imagery and
fantastic manifestations of the imagination. The more
, 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
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.
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
. 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
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.