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The impressionist style of painting is characterized chiefly by concentration on the general impression produced by a scene or object and the use of unmixed primary colors and small strokes to simulate actual reflected light.

Impressionism, French Impressionnisme, a major movement, first in painting and later in music, that developed chiefly in France during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Impressionist painting comprises the work produced between about 1867 and 1886 by a group of artists who shared a set of related approaches and techniques. The most conspicuous characteristic of Impressionism was an attempt to accurately and objectively record visual reality in terms of transient effects of light and colour. The principal Impressionist painters were Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin, and Frédéric Bazille, who worked together, influenced each other, and exhibited together independently. Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne also painted in an Impressionist style for a time in the early 1870s. The established painter Édouard Manet, whose work in the 1860s greatly influenced Monet and others of the group, himself adopted the Impressionist approach about 1873.



Tout l'impressionnisme est né de la contemplation et de l'imitation des impressions claires du Japon.

-- Ed. et J. de Goncourt, Journal, 19 avr. 1884.

En réalité l'Impressionnisme est multiple: le terme si critiqué est surtout mauvais parce qu'on l'emploie tantôt dans un sens large, tantôt dans un sens étroit. Il y a l'impressionnisme de Manet qui peint clair. Il y a celui de Manet encore et de Degas qui spécule sur l'emploi d'une nouvelle perspective. Il y a celui de Pissarro et de Renoir qui se fondent sur le plein air et l'emploi des tons purs. Il y a enfin celui de Monet* qui unit une conception lyrique de la vision avec une analyse quasi scientifique des sensations colorées et qui substitue au dessin classique la notation des ombres et des reflets. Toutes ces tendances ont un caractère commun: elles se fondent sur une tentative pour substituer aux conventions de l'école l'analyse des données pures des sens. Et c'est par là qu'elles méritent finalement toutes, en commun, le nom d'Impressionnisme.
-- P. Francastel, Nouveau dessin, nouvelle peinture, III.



MONET: Museo de Bellas Artes (Bs As)




The word "impressionniste'' was printed for the first time in the Charivari on the 25 April 1874 by Louis Leroy, after Claude Monet's landscape entitled Impressions: soleil levant [Impressions]. This word was used to call Exposition des Impressionnistes an exhibit hold in the salons of the photographer Nadar and organized by the "Société anonyme des peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs'' ["Anonymous society of painters, sculptors and engravers''], composed of Pissarro, Monet, Sisley, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Guillaumin and Berthe Morisot.


The Founders


The founders of this society were animated by the will to break with the official art. The official theory that the color should be dropped pure on the canvas instead of getting mixed on the palette will only be respected by a few of them and only for a couple of years. In fact, the Impressionism is a lot more a state of the mind than a technique; thus artists other than painters have also been qualified of impressionists. Many of these painters ignore the law of simultaneous contrast as established by Chevreul in 1823. The expressions "independants'' or "open air painters'' may be more appropriate than ``impressionists'' to qualify those artists continuing a tradition inherited from Eugène Delacroix, who thought that the drawing and colors were a whole, and English landscape painters, Constable, Bonington and especially William Turner, whose first law was the observation of nature, as for landscape painters working in Barbizon and in the Fontainebleau forest.

Eugène Boudin, Stanislas Lépine and the Dutch Jongkind were among the forerunners of the movement. In 1858, Eugène Boudin met in Honfleur Claude Monet, aged about 15 years. He brought him to the seashore, gave him colors and taught him how to observe the changing lights on the Seine estuary. In those years, Boudin is still the minor painter of the Pardon de Sainte-Anne-la-Palud, but is on the process of getting installed on the Normandy coast to paint the beaches of Trouville and Le Havre. On the Côte de Grâce, in the Saint-Siméon farm, he attracts many painters including Courbet, Bazille, Monet, Sisley. The last three will meet in Paris in the free Gleyre studio, and in 1863 they will discover a porcelain painter, Auguste Renoir.

At the same time, other artists wanted to bypass the limitations attached to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and were working quai des Orfèvres in the Swiss Academy; the eldest, from the Danish West Indies, was Camille Pissarro; the other two were Paul Cézanne and Armand Guillaumin.


Le "Salon des Refusés''


These people were highly impressed by the works of Edouard Manet, and became outraged when they learned that he was refused for the 1863 Salon. The indignation was so high among the artistic population that Napoleon III allowed the opening of a ``Salon des Refusés'', where Manet, Pissarro, Jongkind, Cals, Chintreuil, Fantin-Latour, etc. showed their works. Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe provoked a great enthusiasm among the young painters, who saw represented in Manet's painting many of their concerns. They started meeting around him in the café Guerbois, 9, avenue de Clichy, and thus creating l'école des Batignolles.


The 1866 Salon accepted the works of some of them: Degas, Bazille, Berthe Morisot, Sisley; Monet exposed the portrait of Camille, Pissarro, les Bords de la Marne en hiver; Manet, Cézanne, Renoir were refused, and Emile Zola wrote in l'Evenement a diatribe which made him the official upholder of those newcomers bearing an more revolutionary attitude in the conception than in the still traditional painting. The main distinction lies in the attraction for color and the liking of light; but Berthe Morisot remained faithful to Manet's teaching; Degas was mixed between his admiration of Ingres and the Italian Renaissance painters; Cézanne attempted to "faire du Poussin sur nature''; Claude Monet himself, in la Terrasse au Havre and les Femmes au jardin (1866, Louvre, salles du Jeu de Paume), is far from announcing his future audacity.


The 1870 war


The 1870 war split those beginners. Frédéric Bazille was killed in Beaune-la-Rolande; Renoir was mobilized; Degas volunteered; Cézanne retired in Provence; Pissarro, Monet and Sisley moved to London, where they met Paul Durand-Ruel. This stay in London is a major step in the evolution of Impressionism, both because these young artists met there their first merchant, and because they discovered Turner's paintings, whose light analysis will mark them.

Back in Paris, most of these painters went to work in Argenteuil (Monet, Renoir), Chatou (Renoir), Marly (Sisley), or on the banks of the river Oise (Pissarro, Guillaumin, Cézanne). Edouard Manet painted the Seine with Claude Monet and, under his influence, adopted the open air work.


The opinion of the public


Durand-Ruel was unable to sell the works of the future impressionists and had to cease buying in 1873; thus, next year, they decided to expose in Nadar's (15 April-15 May 1874), where they displayed the works that the Salon had refused. They invited with no success Manet, but Lépine, Boudin, Bracquemond the engraver, Astruc the sculptor, and the painters Cals, de Nittis, Henri Rouart, etc. joined them. Many artists became then conscious of the public and critics incomprehension, but the solidarity didn't last long. Cézanne didn't participate in the group second exhibit, galerie Durand-Ruel, rue Le Peletier, in 1876, which hold 24 Degas and works from Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and Frédéric Bazille. They met some upholders, such as Duranty, Armand Silvestre, Philippe Burty, Emile Blémond, Georges Rivière, soon with Théodore Duret. The disappearance of Cézanne, Renoir, Sisley, Berthe Morisot in the 1879 exhibit proved that the group was splitting apart. Renoir preferred to send to the official Salon Mme Charpentier et ses enfants and the Portrait of Jeanne Samary; yet only few people admired his artworks and of those of his friends, and the artists' life was uneasy, if not miserable. Degas tried, with Pissarro, to maintain the unity of the group, but his attempt failed since Monet, Sisley and Renoir were missing for the fifth exhibit, opened in April 1880; however, artworks from Gauguin appeared there for the first time. In 1881, the some of the Impressionists went back to Nadar's: Pissarro, Degas, Guillaumin, Berthe Morisot. The ``seventh exhibition of independant artists'' was the become the "Salon des indépendants'' two years later.

Only Monet and Sisley went always deeper into the analysis of light changings and their effects on appearances. Degas, Renoir and Cézanne headed towards opposite directions, whereas Pissarro was interested by the researches of Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac. If, at this stage, Impressionists were becoming appreciated, their situation was still harsh; the Salon was still refusing their paintings, and in 1894, 25 out of 65 artworks donated by Caillebotte to the Luxembourg museum were rejected.

Yet, when Camille Pissarro, the Impressionist patriarch, died in 1903, everybody agreed that this movement was the main XIXth century artistic revolution, and that all its members were among the finest painters. The influence of the Impressionists was great out of France, especially in Germany, with Liebermann, Corinth, and in Belgium.




Las inmortales bailarinas de Degas en tres dimensiones,  por ÁNGELES GARCÍA  (Ver Plástica y arquitectura)

90 obras del artista francés inauguran un nuevo centro cultural en Madrid

Un Degas poco o nada visto. Lejos de las bailarinas, de las mujeres que se asean, de los caballos y del resto de las pinturas que hicieron de él un grande del impresionismo. Con la exposición de 90 obras de Degas (París 1834-1917) echa a andar el nuevo espacio de la Fundación Mapfre en Madrid -mil metros cuadrados en pleno centro-, que enriquecen la ya preciosa milla del arte de la ciudad.


"El impresionismo ha perdido hierro"

Antonio López y Fernando Trueba charlan sobre quienes cambiaron el rumbo de la Historia del Arte, PEIO H. RIAÑO MADRID 05/12/2010 09:00

   Entramos en el estudio de Antonio López para hablar sobre impresionismo con Fernando Trueba. Por la conversación pasan desde el escultor Mallol, protagonista de la próxima película del director de Belle Époque, hasta Vermeer, Hopper, Hockney y, claro, Velázquez.

Público: ¿Qué lograron los impresionistas?

Antonio López. Pusieron fin a los sueños, quisieron contar la verdad. Eso es lo que interesaba, vamos a dejarnos de sueños porque la vida está ahí y tiene muchísimo valor, vamos a ver cómo la atrapamos. Ahí empieza toda la modernidad.


3.    El desembarco de los impresionistas en Madrid

El Museo dOrsay, institución de referencia en impresionismo, presta las 90 obras que componen la muestra y pone su fondo a disposición por un módico precio que los organizadores (MAPFRE) prefieren no revelar ante el cierre de sus salas por reformas. El título elegido aclara la perspectiva con la que se presenta la mirada diferente a uno de los movimientos contemporáneos más conocidos: Impresionismo. Un nuevo Renacimiento. Es decir: la exposición recorre la historia del impresionismo como un movimiento "que exige volver a inventarse la pintura porque la tradición ya no sirve", dice Jiménez.


4.    Impresionistas en el Prado

Una muestra verdaderamente espectacular de obras enviadas por el Orsay





France, 1880's to 1900

Post-Impressionism is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of artists who were influenced by
Impressionism but took their art in other directions.

There is no single well-defined style of Post-Impressionism, but in general it is less idyllic and more emotionally charged than Impressionist work.

The classic Post-Impressionists are
Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Rousseau and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Pointillists and Les Nabis are also generally included among the Post-Impressionists.




  Picasso and Cubism



YouTube - Pablo Picasso biography




Cubism was a new way of representing reality in art invented by Picasso and Braque from1907¿8. A third core Cubist was Juan Gris. The generally agreed beginning of Cubism was Picasso's celebrated Demoiselles D'Avignon of 1907. The name seems to have derived from the comment of the critic Louis Vauxcelles that some of Braque's paintings exhibited in Paris in 1908 showed everything reduced to 'geometric outlines, to cubes'. Cubism was partly influenced by the late work of Cézanne in which he can be seen to be painting things from slightly different points of view. Picasso was also influenced by African tribal masks which are highly stylised, or non-naturalistic, but nevertheless present a vivid human image. In their Cubist paintings Braque and Picasso began to bring different views of the object together on the picture surface. 'A head', said Picasso, 'is a matter of eyes, nose, mouth, which can be distributed in any way you like. The head remains a head.' In practice however, the object became increasingly fragmented and the paintings became increasingly abstract. They countered this by incorporating words, and then real elements, such as newspapers, to represent themselves. This was Cubist collage, soon extended into three dimensions in Cubist constructions. This was the start of one of the most important ideas in modern art, that you can use real things directly in art. Cubism was the starting point for much abstract art including Constructivism and Neo-Plasticism. It also however, opened up almost infinite new possibilities for the treatment of reality in art. Picasso Picasso&page=2&cr=10




Towards Abstraction




Timeline: Fauvism

C'est Donatello dans la cage aux fauves!

-- Louis Vauxcelles, Salon d'Automne, 1905.

C'est donc sous la conduite de Matisse, et aussi sous l'influence de Van Gogh que les futurs fauves, Vlaminck, Friesz, Derain, Manguin, expriment dans leurs envois au Salon d'Automne un farouche et virulent enthousiasme pour les joies dynamiques des tons les plus crus.

-- M. Raynal, Peinture moderne.

Le fauvisme pour Matisse, c'est l'accentuation décisive d'un type de rapport à la couleur qu'il s'emploiera à cultiver : le nerf du système.

-- Marcelin PLEYNET, Système de la peinture.


Fauvism, French Fauvisme, style of painting that flourished in France from 1898 to 1908; it used pure, brilliant colour, applied straight from the paint tubes in an aggressive, direct manner to create a sense of an explosion on the canvas. The Fauves painted directly from nature as the Impressionists had before them, but their works were invested with a strong expressive reaction to the subjects they painted. First formally exhibited in Paris in 1905, Fauvist paintings shocked visitors to the annual Salon d'Automne; one of these visitors was the critic Louis Vauxcelles, who, because of the violence of their works, dubbed the painters "Les Fauves" (Wild Beasts).

The leader of the group was Henri Matisse, who had arrived at the Fauve style after careful, critical study of the masters of Postimpressionism Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat. Matisse's methodical studies led him to reject traditional renderings of three-dimensional space and to seek instead a new picture space defined by movement of colour. Matisse exhibited his famous "Woman with the Hat" (Walter A. Haas Collection, San Francisco) at the 1905 exhibition; brisk strokes of colour--blues, greens, and reds--form an energetic, expressive view of the woman. As always in Matisse's Fauve style, his painting is ruled by his intuitive sense of formal order.

Other members of the group included two painters from Chatou, Fr., André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, who, together with Matisse, formed the nucleus of the Fauves. Derain's Fauve paintings translate every tone of a landscape into pure colour, applied with short, forceful brushstrokes. The agitated swirls of intense colour in Vlaminck's works are indebted to the expressive power of van Gogh. Three young painters from Le Havre were also attracted to Fauvism by the strong personality of Matisse. Othon Friesz found the emotional connotations of the bright Fauve colours a relief from the mediocre Impressionism he practiced; his companion Raoul Dufy developed a rather carefree ornamental version of the bold style that suited his own personal aesthetic nature; and Georges Braque created a definite sense of rhythm and structure out of small spots of colour, foreshadowing his development of Cubism. Albert Marquet, Matisse's fellow student at the École des Beaux-Arts in the 1890s, also participated in Fauvism, as did the Dutchman Kees van Dongen, who applied the style to depictions of the fashionable society of Paris. Other painters associated with the Fauves were Georges Rouault, Henri Manguin, Charles Camoin, and Jean Puy.

Fauvism was for most of these artists a transitional, learning stage. By 1908 a revived interest in Paul Cézanne's vision of the order and structure of nature had led them to reject the turbulent emotionalism of Fauvism in favour of the logic of Cubism. Matisse alone pursued the course he had pioneered, achieving a sophisticated balance between his own emotions and the world he painted.



In the north of Europe, the Fauves' celebration of color was pushed to new emotional and psychological depths. Expressionism, as it was generally known, developed almost simultaneously in different countries from about 1905. Characterized by heightened, symbolic colors and exaggerated imagery, it was German Expressionism in particular that tended to dwell on the darker, sinister aspects of the human psyche.

The term ``Expressionism'' can be used to describe various art forms but, in its broadest sense, it is used to describe any art that raises subjective feelings above objective observations. The paintings aim to reflect the artists's state of mind rather than the reality of the external world. The German Expressionist movement began in 1905 with artists such as Kirchner and Nolde, who favored the Fauvist style of bright colors but also added stronger linear effects and harsher outlines.

Although Expressionism developed a distinctly German character, the Frenchman, Georges Rouault (1871-1958), links the decorative effects of Fauvism in France with the symbolic color of German Expressionism. Rouault trained with Matisse at Moreau's academy and exhibited with the Fauves, but his palette of colors and profound subject matter place him as an early, if isolated Expressionist. His work has been described as ``Fauvism with dark glasses''.

Rouault was a deeply religious man and some consider him the greatest religious artist of the 20th century. He began his career apprenticed to a stained-glass worker, and his love of harsh, binding outlines containing a radiance of color gives poignancy to his paintings of whores and fools. He himself does not judge them, though the terrible compassion with which he shows his wretched figures makes a powerful impression: Prostitute at Her Mirror (1906; 70 x 60 cm (27 1/2 x 23 1/2 in)) is a savage indictment of human cruelty. She is a travesty of feminity, although poverty drives her still to prink miserably before her mirror in the hope of work. Yet the picture does not depress, but holds out hope of redemption. Strangely enough, this work is for Rouault-- if not exactly a religious picture-- at least a profoundly moral one. She is a sad female version of his tortured Christs, a figure mocked and scorned, held in disrepute.


The bridge to the future


Die Brücke (The Bridge) was the first of two Expressionist movements that emerged in Germany in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1905 a group of German Expressionist artists came together in Dresden and took that name chosen by Schmidt-Rottluff to indicate their faith in the art of the future, towards which their work would serve as a bridge. In practice they were not a cohesive group, and their art became an angst-ridden type of Expressionism. The achievement that had the most lasting value was their revival of graphic arts, in particular, the woodcut using bold and simplified forms.

The artists of Die Brücke drew inspiration from van Gogh, Gauguin and primitive art. Munch was also a strong influence, having exhibited his art in Berlin from 1892. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), the leading spirit of Die Brücke, wanted German art to be a bridge to the future. He insisted that the group, which included Erich Heckel (1883-1970) and Karl Schmidt-Rottluf (1884-1976), ``express inner convictions... with sincerity and spontaneity''.

Even at their wildest, the Fauves had retained a sense of harmony and design, but Die Brücke abandoned such restraint. They used images of the modern city to convey a hostile, alienating world, with distorted figures and colors. Kirchner does just this in Berlin Street Scene (1913; 121 x 95 cm (47 1/2 x 37 1/2 in)), where the shrill colors and jagged hysteria of his own vision flash forth uneasily. There is a powerful sense of violence, contained with difficulty, in much of their art. Emil Nolde (1867-1956), briefly associated with Die Brücke, was a more profound Expressionist who worked in isolation for much of his career. His interest in primitive art and sensual color led him to paint some remarkable pictures with dynamic energy, simple rhythms, and visual tension. He could even illuminate the marshes of his native Germany with dramatic clashes of stunning color. Yet Early Evening (1916; 74 x 101 cm (29 x 39 1/2 in)) is not mere drama: light glimmers over the distance with an exhilarating sense of space.

Die Brücke collapsed as the inner convictions of each artist began to differ, but arguably the greatest German artist of the time was Max Beckmann (1884-1950). Working independently, he constructed his own bridge, to link the objective truthfulness of great artists of the past with his own subjective emotions. Like some other Expressionists, he served in World War I and suffered unbearable depression and hallucinations as a result. His work reflects his stress through its sheer intensity: cruel, brutal images are held still by solid colors and flat, heavy shapes to give an almost timeless quality. Such an unshakeable certainty of vision meant that he was hated by the Nazis, and he ended his days in the United States, a lonely force for good. He is perhaps just discernible as a descendant of Dürer in his love of self-portraits and blend of the clumsy and suave with which he imagines himself: in Self-Portrait (1944; 95 x 60 cm (37 1/2 x 23 1/2 in)), he looks out, not at himself, but at us, with a prophetic urgency.

Austrian Expressionism: Egon Schiele


Austrian expressionist artist Egon Leo Adolf Schiele, b. June 12, 1890, d. Oct. 31, 1918, was at odds with art critics and society for most of his brief life. Even more than Gustav Klimt, Schiele made eroticism one of his major themes and was briefly imprisoned for obscenity in 1912. His treatment of the nude figure suggests a lonely, tormented spirit haunted rather than fulfilled by sexuality. At first strongly influenced by Klimt, whom he met in 1907, Schiele soon achieved an independent anticlassical style wherein his jagged lines arose more from psychological and spiritual feeling than from aesthetic considerations. He painted a number of outstanding portraits, such as that of his father-in-law, Johann Harms (1916; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City), and a series of unflinching and disquieting self-portraits. Late works such as The Family (1918; Oesterreichische Galerie, Vienna) reveal a newfound sense of security.

(See Self Portrait with black Vase)
1911, oil on wood, Historiches Museum der Stadt, Wien/Vienna (100 Kb)

  Towards Abstraction

In 1911, a new group of German artists began exhibiting their work to the public. Der Blaue Reiter was to become the high point of German Expressionism, but it also opened the way towards abstraction with its stand for free experimentation and originality. It is Wassily Kandinsky, the most influential member of the group, who is most often credited with the distinction of painting the first “abstract'' picture, in 1910.

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) was formed in 1911 and succeeded the first Expressionist movement, Die Brücke, which dissolved in 1913. The group included Franz Marc (1880-1916), Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and August Macke (1887-1914), and celebrated the art of children and primitives, but had no precise artistic programme. The most active proponent of this essentially romantic and rather spiritual view of art was Franz Marc, a young artist who was killed in World War I. Marc saw animals as the betrayed but uncontaminated guardians of what was left of innocence and unspoilt nature.

Like August Macke, Marc chose to express these feelings with emphatic, symbolic colors. He painted animals with a profoundly moving love: a love for what they represented and could still experience, unlike humanity. Deer in the Forest II (1913-14, 110.5 x 100.5 cm (43 1/2 x 39 2/3 in)) is made up of a dense network of shapes and lines that border on the abstract. Together they create a forest of experience through which we can see, as if emerging from the undergrowth, the small forms of the deer. The animals are utterly at peace, at home in the forest of the world. It is a stylized and luminous vision of a species that can live without the angers of the ego.

August Macke, who was also to be killed in the coming war, was another artist with a gentle, poetic temperament. He took a simple delight in the joys common to us all, which makes his senseless destruction especially painful. Woman in a Green Jacket (1913, 44 x 43.5 cm (17 1/3 x 17 in)) floats onto the canvas, blissfully detached and pacific. Of the group, he was the most sensitive to form and color, and the hues in this picture irradiate gently within strong shapes to create sensuous areas of light.


Kandinsky and abstraction

Franz Marc


  Pure Abstraction

Shapes and colors have always had their own emotional force: the designs on ancient bowls, textiles, and furnishings are abstract, as are whole pages of medieval manuscripts. But never before in Western painting had this delight in shape as such, in color made independent of nature, been taken seriously as a fit subject for the painter. Abstraction became the perfect vehicle for artists to explore and unversalize ideas and sensations.

Several artists claimed to be the first to paint an abstract picture, rather as early photographers had wrangled over who had invented the camera. For abstract art, the distinction is most often given to Wassily Kandinsky, but certainly another Russian artist, Kasimir Malevich, was also among the first.

Malevich and Russian suprematism

Mondrian's abstract purity

Kandinsky's late style had a geometrical tendency and Suprematist abstraction revolved largely around the square, but the real artist of geometry was the Dutchman Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). He seems to be the absolute abstract artist, yet his early landscapes and still lifes were relatively realist.

The Grey Tree (1912; 79 x 108 cm (31 x 42 1/2 in)) adumbrates the abstractions that were a half-way house to his geometrical work, yet it also has a foothold in the real world of life and death. The Grey Tree is realist art on the point of taking off into abstraction: take away the title and we have an abstraction; add the title and we have a grey tree. He claimed to have painted these pictures from the need to make a living, yet they have a fragile delicacy that is precious and rare. Mondrian sought an art of the utmost probity: his greatest desire was to attain personal purity, to disregard all that pleases the narrow self and enter into divine simplicities. That may sound dull, but he composed with a lyrical sureness of balance that makes his art as pure and purifying as he hoped.

Mondrian imposed rigorous constraints on himself, using only primary colors, black and white, and straight-sided forms. His theories and his art are a triumphant vindication of austerity. Diamond Painting in Red, Yellow, and Blue (c. 1921-25; 143 x 142 cm (56 1/4 x 56 in)) appears to be devoid of three-dimensional space, but it is in fact an immensely dynamic picture. The great shapes are dense with their chromatic tension. The varying thicknesses of the black borders contain them in perfect balance. They integrate themselves continually as we watch, keeping us constantly interested. We sense that this is a vision of the way things are intended to be, but never are.


Art of the Fantastic

Between the two World Wars, painting lost some of the raw, modern energy it began the century with and became dominated by two rather philosophical movements, Dada and Surrealism, which arose partly as a reaction to the senseless atrocities of World War I. But artists were also becoming introspective, concerned with their own subconscious dreams: Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical theories were well known by this time, and painters explored their own irrationalities and fantasies in search of a new artistic freedom.


 Pre-War American Painting

There have always been interesting American artists, and at least two 19th-century painters, Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer, influenced the course of future art in the United States. During the 1920s and '30s, Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keeffe emerged as the inspirational new painters of distinctive American traditions. Hopper's work was strongly realist, his still, precise images of desolation and isolated individuals reflecting the social mood of the times. O'Keeffe's art was more abstract, often based on enlarged plants and flowers, and infused with a kind of Surrealism she referred to as "magical realism''. She may not have been a great painter, but her art was highly influential.

 Abstract Expressionism

However great a disaster World War II was, it did at least mean that artists such as Piet Mondrian and Max Ernst, in leaving Europe for the safety of the USA, greatly extended their artistic influence. It is impossible to estimate how much they affected American art, but the fact remains that in the 1940s and '50s, for the first time, American artists became internationally important with their new vision and new artistic vocabulary, known as Abstract Expressionism.

The first public exhibitions of work by the "New York School'' of artists-- who were to become known as Abstract Expressionists-- were held in the mid '40s. Like many other modern movements, Abstract Expressionism does not describe any one particular style, but rather a general attitude; not all the work was abstract, nor was it all expressive. What these artists did have in common were morally loaded themes, often heavyweight and tragic, on a grand scale. In contrast to the themes of social realism and regional life that characterized American art of previous decades, these artists valued, above all, individuality and spontaneous improvisation. They felt ill at ease with conventional subjects and styles, neither of which could adequately convey their new vision. In fact, style as such almost ceased to exist with the Abstract Expressionists, and they drew their inspiration from all directions.

The painters who came to be called "Abstract Expressionists'' shared a similarity of outlook rather than of style-- an outlook characterized by a spirit of revolt and a belief in freedom of expression. The main exponents of the genre were Pollock, de Kooning, and Rothko, but other artists included Guston, Kline, Newman and Still. The term Abstract Expressionism was first used by Robert Coates in the March issue of the New Yorker in 1936. The movement was hugely successful, partly due to the efforts of the critics Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg who also originated the terms Action Painting and American Style.



  Pop Art

It is a moot point as to whether the most extraordinary innovation of 20th-century art was Cubism or Pop Art. Both arose from a rebellion against an accepted style: the Cubists thought Post-Impressionist artists were too tame and limited, while Pop Artists thought the Abstract Expressionists pretentious and over-intense. Pop Art brought art back to the material realities of everyday life, to popular culture (hence "pop''), in which ordinary people derived most of their visual pleasure from television, magazines, or comics.

Pop Art emerged in the mid 1950s in England, but realized its fullest potential in New York in the '60s where it shared, with Minimalism, the attentions of the art world. In Pop Art, the epic was replaced with the everyday and the mass-produced awarded the same significance as the unique; the gulf between "high art'' and "low art'' was eroding away. The media and advertising were favorite subjects for Pop Art's often witty celebrations of consumer society. Perhaps the greatest Pop artist, whose innovations have affected so much subsequent art, was the American artist, Andy Warhol (1928-87).

The term "Pop Art'' was first used by the English critic Lawrence Alloway in a 1958 issue of Architectural Digest to describe those paintings that celebrate post-war consumerism, defy the psychology of Abstract Expressionism, and worship the god of materialism. The most famous of the Pop artists, the cult figure Andy Warhol, recreated quasi-photographic paintings of people or everyday objects.






E.L. Editorial LIBRORUM

Madrid-Buenos Aires


From "A short Visit to New York" launched on 2nd. May  2011 (Abridged)

Coordinated by Carlos A. Trevisi, Head of TREVISI FOUNDATION.