Hello, I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell and today's lesson is about the 20th century and Modernism. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.
Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms and describe the events taking place in society during this time that influenced Modernism.
Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Modernism, a 20th century art movement that parts from past artistic traditions and does not adhere to any one style. Avant-garde, a French military term meaning "advance guard," in the arts it is a term that describes artists whose work is characterized as being revolutionary, experimental, or innovative. Bourgeoisie, a term used to describe a condition of materialism or a status of the middle working class. Utopia, an idealized state of perfection.
And the big idea for today is that Modernism was influenced by major developments in communication, transportation, advances in science, and war. And the art that we're looking at today dates from between 1905 and 1908, a short period of time. We'll be traveling to Nice, France, where Henri Matisse died in 1954, and Paris, France, near which Wassily Kandinsky died in 1944.
So this idea of modern art, or Modernism, really took off in the first half of the 20th century. It's during this time that we see tremendous growth in the formal innovations of modern art. Taking it to an entirely new level from what we saw at the beginning of modern art during the 19th century. Now it's this variety of formal innovation that makes Modernism unique from other major artistic periods like the Renaissance.
There is a central unifying theme, which is that Modernist art was moving away from past traditions. But the manner in which artists chose to depart was varied. There wasn't one particular style that defined Modernism, or that defines Modernism. Rather, it's composed of many movements. Movements that are related in some ways, but distinct styles with specific characteristics.
The early 20th century saw some of the most significant changes to human existence. And these occurred within a very short period of time. And these societal changes had a major effect on Modernism. Consider developments in communication, like radio, television, and cinema, advancements in transportation, and advances in the sciences, like physics and molecular biology.
So take the artist Pablo Picasso, for example. He was born in 1881 and died in 1973. So he would have seen humanity move from the horse and buggy to the automobile. He would have read about Einstein's new theory of relativity, seen the rise of Communism, witnessed the first airplanes and the first jets. He would've seen early computers, and he would've seen man landing on the move. Now he never saw the growth of disco as a music genre, but may have heard some of the first songs in the early '70s, which likely killed him.
Now war was quite influential on the art of this time. There was almost palpability to the anxiety of people before the first great world war, or World War I. Change was coming. They could feel it, particularly in Russia, which saw the October Revolution remove hundreds of years of tsarist rule, replacing it with a socialist government. Constructivist art, for example, was a movement that emerged along with this idea of a social utopia, and attempted to contribute, and even create this utopia for the good of society. And we'll look at Constructivism in a different lesson.
But other artists turn inward. Expressionism was a movement that explored the influence and depiction of human emotion, or tried to show that depiction of human emotion. Wassily Kandinsky, for example, one of my favorite artists, took the ideas of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, which were the ideas related to color theory, and applied them to his paintings to either portray, or try to evoke, an emotional experience. His work gradually transformed from Expressionism, like you see here, to outright Abstract Expressionism as his career progressed. He was always trying to capture and depict this intangible quality.
There is this other pervasive idea that emerged with artists being ahead of their time and ahead of society, especially the bourgeoisie. Now artists weren't just reflecting the society they lived in, they we're defining it. And these innovations in art and culture were deemed avant-garde, which is a military term which means "advanced guard." Basically it refers to being on the cutting edge of something.
Henri Matisse and his artwork were considered avant-garde in how they ushered in a new type of art form that emphasized color and exaggerated forms in order to garner a reaction from the viewer, a movement in art called Expressionism. And artists like Henri Matisse really served as a bridge between the past, or the 19th century, and the future, with the 20th century.
So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the events taking place in society during this time that influenced Modernism?
Once again, the big idea for today is that Modernism was influenced by major developments in communication, transportation, advances in science, and war.
That's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.