Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Modernism and Visual Art

Glen Macleod’s chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Modernism, helped me understand the difference between the movements In modern art that had before been all jumbled together for me. Though I knew that there were differences, I tended to, like most people unfamiliar with art of this period, lump them all together. I found this article particularly helpful in understanding the readings from Bloomsbury Group Reader. Macleod talks about Picasso and Cezanne and cubism. There were three different stages of cubism. Cubism started as presenting scenes in abstract ways through geometrical shapes. The second stage is analytical cubism which the artists rarely used color in order to draw the attention of the reader to the form. Synthetic cubism is the third stage, and it was the adding back in of things (such as words, found objects, and color). Macleod says, “the cubist techniques of fragmentation, multiple perspectives, and juxtaposition are part of the standard modernist repertoire, from Eliot’s The Waste Land to Steven’s “The Man with the Blue Guitar” (202).

In London the first major showing of Modernist art was held in London in 1910, and was called “Manet and the Post-Impressionists.” Roger Fry, who Macleod says has the greatest influence as an art critic, say in Retrospect that the Post-Impressionist name represents the “divorce from the parent stock” of Impressionist (Macleod 203; Fry 400). Fry’s critical work on art and artistic movements reached to literature in its influence on the ideas of New Criticism. In addition to Fry, Desond MacCarthy talks about the ideas of Post-Impressionism and like Fry, he defines the Post-impressionists against what the Impressionists embodied. He says, “The Post-Impressionists on the other hand were not concerned with recording impressions of colour or light. They were interested in the discoveries of the Impressionists only so far as these discoveries helped them to express emotions which the objects themselves evoked” (98). This seems to fit in line with the entire modernist movement in that is using tradition to move away from tradition and create something new. Also, it reminiscent of the ideas that we saw in Pound’s and Eliot’s ideas on writing. Eliot’s term of objective correlative is similar to art and the idea of using an object painted in a certain way to evoke an emotion. Instead of using images, colors in a new way, the poets of modernism are trying to use language in a new way. Clive Bell mentions this in his essay, “The Artistic Problem.” Bell says, “The artistic problem is the problem of making a match between an emotional experience and a form that has been conceived but not created” (104).He goes on to talk about how “realist” novels fail because they fail to capture the emotion. In this Bell is advocating for a different mode of expression.

Macleod also talks about the Dada movement, which he says, “seems to have completely passed over London” (209). He also calls it “a nose-thumbing challenge to all convention” (209). Surrealism is another art movement, but it started primarily as an literary movement. There were two camps of Surrealist painting, veristic which is illusionistic or dream-like, and absolute, which is more extreme. According to Macleod, by the 1930s, the art world in Paris was divided into the opposing groups of Surrealist and abstractionist.

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