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Examine the Term "Modernism" with reference to two or three works of Art

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Anna Harmsen Corcuera Examine the Term "Modernism" with reference to two or three works of Art The terms "modern", "modernity" and "modernism" are commonly used to specify a break in history, marking a definition between the present and the past, between the fashionable and the out of date, and carry as part of their meaning an almost criticism of tradition. By calling himself a "modernist", the artist is instantly free to work on a clean plate, without the limitations of tradition with its set of rules or its fixed criteria. It is commonly thought that the Modernist movement was only properly established during the late nineteenth Century, being triggered by ground breaking developments in the areas of science, technology and the economic market. Art was suddenly discovered to be an increasingly useful tool in science, whilst technology was developing new means of reproducing graphic images that widened and spread the use and influence of art. At the same time, the growth in market and social consumption was turning art into a product to be sold, rather than commissioned. These three factors created a need for a new form of art, which like capitalism was in a constant state of change. Other factors that triggered the development of modernism include a "major cultural shift from a time-honored aesthetics of permanence, based on a belief in an unchanging and transcendental ideal of beauty, to an aesthetics of transitoriness and immanence, whose central values are change and novelty"1. ...read more.


Perhaps this is why the grid so appealed to the public. Firstly it appeared to forget all the sentimentality and wipe out any links with religion, tradition or culture, concentrating on the now, on mathematical calculations, that appeared not to waste our time, but reveal a sense of truth in it's scientific rigidity and numerical planning. The grid also sympathised with us in our complex technological surroundings, while at the same time pointing out our feeling of being trapped in the middle of a growing world, where the individual counts as nothing more than a number on the grid. Although the grid was a fantastic discovery and plays an important role in modernism, it left the artist little room for development or experimentation. While this lack of variety didn't worry the artist Mondrian, who dedicated most of his career to this type of art, other artists evolved further by creating a new style; Cubism. Though Cubism showed it's modernity through it's rejection of the natural world and its affinity for geometrical shapes, distorted colouring, and later on the use of collage, it still had some connection to the visual world and most works give the viewer a number of clues in order for them to work out what they are looking at. ...read more.


In a similar way to Picasso's 'Jou', artist's like Duchamp have taken a frivolous, sarcastic view on Modernism's society and beliefs. His 'Fountain' is definitely a joke played on the masses as spectators, which voices; "How can you take any of this seriously? To what extent can we fool you?" Other styles in art up to the end of the first half of the twentieth century include Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism, and Pop Art. It is impossible to go into each of these avenues in detail in this essay, so I shall finish with a passage written by the great intellectual, John of Salisbury; "We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the mental strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers. Bernard and Chartres used to compare us to dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than the predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature."3 I think I am justified to say that the Modernists no longer wanted to be the 'Dwarves on the shoulders of giants'. Quite the opposite. These were a new breed, anxious to stand on their own two feet, not afraid to start from naught, in order to concentrate on the now and create pure and unrestricted Modern art. ...read more.

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