Art movements 1911-1921

Expressionism (1906-1919)

was an European art movement, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century, that stresses the expression of emotion and the inner vision of the artist rather than the exact representation of nature. The term was invented by Czech art historian Antonín Matějček in 1910 as the opposite of impressionism: “An Expressionist wishes, above all, to express himself. Distorted lines and shapes and exaggerated colors are used for emotional impact. Vincent Van Gogh is regarded as the precursor of this movement. The Expressionists were divided into two groups: Die Brücke andDer Blaue Reiter. Die Brücke (The Bridge) was an artistic community of young artists in Dresden who aimed to overthrow the conservative traditions of German art. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff were two of its founding members. Der Blaue Reiter (the Blue Rider) was a group of artists whose publications and exhibitions sought to find a common creative ground between the various Expressionist art forms.KandinskyMarc and Macke were among its founding members. The ideas of German expressionism influenced also the work of American artists.




In the early 20th century, this avant-gard French art movement, revolutionized European paintings and sculptures. Pablo Picasso and Georges Bracque penetrated the surface of objects, stressing basic abstract geometric forms that presented the object from many angles simultaneously. In cubist artworks objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted forms. There are two distinct phases of the Cubist style: AnalyticalCubism (pre 1912) and Synthetic Cubism (post 1912).

Analytic Cubism was developed only by Picasso and Braque during the winter of 1909-10. It lasted until the middle of 1912, when collage introduced simplified versions of the “analytic” forms. The artists invented specific shapes and characteristic details that would represent the whole object or person. In Braque’s Violin and Palette (1909-10), we see specific parts of a violin that are meant to represent the whole instrument seen from various points of view:  a pentagon represents the bridge, S curves represent the “f” holes, short lines represent strings, and the typical spiral knot with pegs represent the violin’s neck. These “signs” developed from the artists’ analyses of objects in space. The most complex period of “Analytic Cubism” has been called “Hermetic Cubism,” because it is almost impossible to figure out the images.

A new phase in the development of the style, called Synthetic Cubism, began around 1912.  It marked a major change in the artistic point of view of the movement. Synthetic Cubists wanted to improve reality with the creation of new tasteful objects. In the center of the painters attention was now the construction, not the analytical process and deconstruction of Analytical Cubism. It’s characterized by the introduction of different textures, surfaces, collage elements, papier collé and a large variety of merged subject matter. Cubism influenced many other style of modern art including Expressionism and Futurism.



 Futurism came into being with the appearance of a manifesto published by the poet Filippo Marinetti on the front page of the February 20, 1909, issue of Le Figaro. It was the very first manifesto of this kind. Futurism was a revolutionary Italian movement, founded in 1909 by the poet Filippo Marinetti, that celebrated modernity. The Futurist vision was outlined in a series of manifestos that attacked the long tradition of Italian art in favour of a new avant-garde. Drawing upon elements of Divisionism and Cubism, the Futurists created a new style that broke with old traditions and expressed the dynamism, energy and movement of their modern life. They glorified industrialisation, technology, and transport along with the speed, noise and energy of urban life. The main artists associated with the movement were Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà and the architect Antonio Sant’Elia. Futurism was inspired by the development of Cubism and went beyond its techniques. The Futurist painters made the rhythm of their repetitions of lines. Inspired by some photographic experiments, they were breaking motion into small sequences, and using the wide range of angles within a given time-frame all aimed to incorporate the dimension of time within the picture. Brilliant colors and flowing brush strokes also additionally were creating the illusion of movement. Futurism influenced many other 20th century art movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism and Surrealism.
Futurists mixed activism and artistic research. They organized events that caused scandal. Everything was there to help them to glorify Italy and lead their country into the age of modernity. Certain Futurists vehemently promoted themselves to try to join forces with the Fascists, who were coming to power at the time. But Mussolini showed a preference for the Novecento Italiano, movement of artists who identified with the classical order and Italian heritage.
Futurism was a largely Italian movement, although it also had adherents in other countries, France and most notably Russia. Close to Futurism with its inspirations and motivations was Precisionism, an important development of American Modernism.

Also Futurism as a literary movement made its official debut with F.T. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism (1909), as it delineated the various ideals Futurist poetry should strive for. Poetry, the predominate medium of Futurist literature, can be characterized by its unexpected combinations of images and hyper-conciseness (not to be confused with the actual length of the poem). The Futurists called their style of poetry parole in libertà (word autonomy) in which all ideas of meter were rejected and the word became the main unit of concern. In this way, the Futurists managed to create a new language free of syntax punctuation, and metrics that allowed for free expression.Theater also has an important place within the Futurist universe. Works in this genre have scenes that are few sentences long, have an emphasis on nonsensical humor, and attempt to discredit the deep rooted traditions via parody and other devaluation techniques. Although Futurism itself is now regarded as extinct, having died out during the 1920s, powerful echoes of Marinetti’s thought, still remain in modern, popular culture and art. Futurism influenced many other 20th century art movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism and Surrealism.


Dadaism (1916-23)

“Dada is a state of mind… Dada is artistic free thinking… Dada gives itself to nothing… .” André Breton.


Dadaism or Dada is a post-World War I cultural movement in visual art as well as literature (mainly poetry), theatre and graphic design, that began in Zurich. The origins of the Dada movement can be traced to the opening of the Cabaret Voltaire by Hugo Ball in Zurich in 1916. Ball openend the cabaret and in a matter of days, he had assembled the core of the Dadaist movement. The movement was among other things, a protest against the barbarism of the War and what Dadaists believed was an oppressive intellectual rigidity in both art and everyday society; its works were characterized by a deliberate irrationality and the rejection of the prevailing standards of art.Dada probably began in the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in 1916 (by some accounts on October 6), and there were active dadaists in New York such as Marcel Duchamp and the Liberian art student, Beatrice Wood, who had left France at the onset of World War I. At around the same time there had been a dadaist movement in Berlin. Slightly later there were also dadaist un-communities in Hanover (Kurt Schwitters), Cologne, and Paris. In 1920, Max Ernst, Hans Arp and social activist Alfred Grunwald set up the Cologne Dada group.
The movement primarily involved visual arts, literaturepoetry, art manifestoes, art theorytheatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-artcultural works. Its purpose was to ridicule what its participants considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world. In addition to being anti-war, dada was also anti-bourgeois and anarchist in nature.Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals; passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture were topics often discussed in a variety of media. The movement influenced later styles like the avant-garde and downtown music movements, and groups including surrealism, Nouveau réalisme, pop art, Fluxus and punk rock.

Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude to postmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of antiart to be later embraced for anarcho-political uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism.

De Stijl

The De Stijl, literally translated as “the style” was an art movement founded by architect by architect and painter Theo van Deosburg in 1917 in Leiden. Other founders of the group included the sculptor Vantongerloo, architect JJP Oud, designer Rietveld, and the painter Mondrian. The group was intent on finding a new aesthetic of art and principles. The movement spread through town planning, fine arts, applied arts and philosophy. The De Stijl movement also published a magazine between 1917 and 1932 and provided and overview of the movement’s works and theories. In the magazine Mondrian comments that the “pure plastic vision should build a new society, in the same way that in art it has built a new plasticism”. Artists of the De Stijl movement saw art as a collective approach, and as a language that went beyond culture, geography and politics. The artwork created by the De Stijl movement artists gave off a depersonalized, anonymous feel. It was felt that the artist’s personality should take a back seat in the artwork. The key to creating art within the movement’s views was to follow the theory of scaling down formal components of art – using only primary colors and straight lines. A painting was created from the features on the surface and many De Stijl paintings convey elements of nature – expressed abstractly. Mondrian followed the principles of new-plasticism whereas Van Doesburg attempted to broaden the movement’s research projects in architechture – he wanted to recreate the entire living space within a home. De Stijl paintings usually represented parts of larger spaces like interiors spaces within houses. De Stijl forms were often geometric, and made up of primary colors. The main views of the De Stijl movement greatly influenced the Bauhaus movement in Germany in the 1920’s.


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