Early Modern Visual Art


Inside joke by your instructor 🙂

The Numerous Styles

“Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2” 1912, Paris
Marcel Duchamp

Watch the above required video until marker 4:12

The above video is required.


Styles that emerged before WW1

Before WW1

The Avant Garde

Avant Garde Transcript (PDF)

  • Literally translated it means the advance guard.
  • Born out of Impressionism and Post Impressionism
  • Artists seeking unique and innovative expression
  • Shocking and startling


Abstraction Transcript (PDF)

  • A distortion of form and color
  • Abstraction in 3 different modalities



  • A new approach to structure and orderLarge Nude – George Braque – 1908


  • The world of imagination and dreamI and the Village – Marc Chagall – 1911

The Four Avant-garde Styles

Fauvism – Required

Fauvism Transcript (PDF)

Optional video slide show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgPMZ8r98Mg Henri Matisse — the leading “Fauve’ (video has musical accompaniment with no words spoken)

Cubism – Required

Cubism Transcript (PDF)

Optional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRTsMJNcHFw

  • Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque
    • Both artists arrived at the style independently
  • Patterned after Cezanne
  • Objects are reduced to a geometric form or a collection of forms
  • Formalist
  • Important work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907   Required

Futurism – Required

Futurism Transcript (PDF)

  • Based in Italy
  • Further exploration of cubism — for more dynamism
  • Published a manifesto — an 11 point pledge – optional link
  • The Artists to know: Umberto Boccioni 1882 — 1916 Italian – optional link
  • Gino Severini — 1883-1966 – optional link


Expressionists Transcript (PDF)

  • Several subdivisions of Expressionism
  • Originated in Germany
  • Inspired by the Fauves
    • 2 divisions
      • Die Brucke – The Bridge
      • Der Blaue Reiter — The Blue Rider
  • Liberation of color and a celebration of sexuality
  • Vassily Kandinsky 1866-1944 Russian, International career— leader of the Der Blaue Reiter

Styles that emerged after WW1, before WW2

After WW1, before WW2

After WW1 Transcript (PDF)

After the Avant-garde radically changed the art world with its radical abstraction, WW1 drove the notion of art to even greater experimentation and rejection of traditional styles of art. Depicting reality was no longer an issue to the pioneers of the post WW1 era. Dada  –  Required

Dada Transcript (PDF)

View Dada works  – optional

“Repelled by the slaughter-house of the world war, we turned to art. We searched for an elementary art that would, we thought, save mankind from the furious madness of these times.’ If tradition was responsible for the war, then tradition should not be respected. The art was irreverent and at times governed by chance — anti-art The Dada sculpture that turned the art world on it’s head – REQUIRED

Fountain Transcript (PDF)

1917 Marcel Duchamp  (optional) submitted a “sculpture to an exhibition in New York. It was a porcelain urinal signed “R. Mutt’ and dated 1917 The point was is that something ordinary in its own context, could reveal its aesthetic qualities when its meaning was reframed as art. Wow!

Surrealism – REQUIRED

Surrealists Transcript (PDF)

1924 poet Andre Breton  (optional link) took the word “sur-realisme’ to name his own art movement.

  • Born from Dada
  • Delved into the world of dreams, connecting with the work of Sigmund Freud.
  • Irrational, unconcerned with moral concerns
  • Frequently features strange juxtapositions of subject matter

Important Surrealists: Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, plus sculptor Meret   Oppenheim and photographer Man Ray    (Optional links)

De Stijl

Destijl Transcript (PDF)

  • De Stijl (The Style) was founded in Holland and is sometimes called Neo-Plasticism.
  • It strove to create “pure abstraction’
  • The first De Stijl manifesto proclaimed “The war is destroying the old world with its contents…The new art has brought forward with the new consciousness of the time contains: Balance between the universal and the individual.’

Piet Mondrian 1872-1944 Optional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fmiKOOvLUo (video has musical accompaniment with no words spoken)

Abstract Sculpture

Sculpture Transcript (PDF)

Constantine Brancusi 1876-1957 optional link

  • Romanian, career in Paris
  • His most famous works — Bird in Space depict the “essence of flight’
  • Intensely polished sculptures

Barbara Hepworth (British) 1903-75 (optional link)

Important work: Three Forms Optional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgOZhznXtYY

Henry Moore (British) 1898-1986 (optional link)

Reclining Figure 1939 Henry Moore – England

Optional video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hr09gZitg1s

American Art

American Modernism

Georgia O’Keefe    (American) 1887-1986 (optional link)

O’Keefe Transcript (PDF)

Optional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIub-M36jgs  ((video has musical accompaniment with no words spoken)

Charles Demuth (American) 1883-1935 (optional link)

Demuth Transcript (PDF)

Important work — Figure 5 in Gold

The Harlem Renaissance 1924-1931 REQUIRED LINK  

Harlem Transcript (PDF)

A virtual, explanatory exhibit : The Harlem Renaissance: A Culture Overview

The political changes after Civil War eventually lead to the creation of small, but significant population of middle class African Americans. As thousands of African Americans migrated north to find greater economic opportunity in the Northern cities, the district known as Harlem in New York City became a cultural hot spot which allowed Black culture to flourish. This movement fostered writers, artists and musicians.

  • Aaron Douglas
  • Lois Mailou Jones
  • William Johnson
  • Jacob Lawrence

Optional Video –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90PTxdsqfsA

American Regionalism – REQUIRED

Regionalism Transcript (PDF)

Many American painters rejected the abstraction of Europe and focused on more realistic depictions of everyday American life. This trend was particularly true in the Midwest.

Four Important American Regionalists Grant Wood (American) 1891-1942 (optional link)

Wood Transcript (PDF)

Important Work: American Gothic

Edward Hopper (American) 1882-1967 (optional link)

Hopper Transcript (PDF)

His paintings recorded cafes, stores, restaurants, barbershops, houses, places inhabited by the middle class. Important work: Nighthawks  REQUIRED

Optional video to watch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rluUMpndKbo

Thomas Hart Benton (American) 1889-1975

Benton Transcript (PDF)

Murals were part of the Works Progress Administration program. It brought art to the common man in a very public forum. Thomas Benton, extreme anti-European in style is best known for his Missouri Mural

Jacob Lawrence (American) 1917-2000 (optional Link)

Supported by the WPA and also linked to the Harlem Renaissance, Jacob Lawrence is best known for his series of tempera paintings Migration of the Negro 1939-1941

Creating a story-telling approach to painting by painting a series of pictures to tell a story that touches on social, political, historical and economic aspects of life.   (optional)

Optional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ym3MiWjfp4


Photography, Politics and Art

Photography Intro Transcript (PDF)

  • A journalistic medium
  • An artistic medium
  • A political medium

Native Americans The United States waged systematic war on Native Americans during the 1800s and even into the 1900’s During this time period the Native populations of the southern and plains states were decimated. There were Americans who recognized the greatness of these conquered peoples, and part of that recognition developed into a massive documentary undertaking. Edward Curtis (American) 1868 — 1952 REQUIRED

Edward Curtis Transcript (PDF)

  • 1896 took the first portrait of a Native American (Princess Angeline — aka Kickisomlo)
  • Began his association with George Bird Grinnell — Native American expert
  • 1906 — received a grant from J.P. Morgan to document Native Americans
  • Traveled extensively, including Alaska
  • Captured portraits of well known Native Americans
  • Documented daily life
  • Gallery of photos REQUIRED

Dorothea Lange (American) 1895-1965

FSA Photography Transcript (PDF)

  • Funded by the Farm Security Administration
  • Portray the plight of American farmers, sharecroppers and migrant workers devastated by the Depression
  • Her most famous photo — Migrant Mother, Nipomo California, 1936   REQUIRED LINK

Optional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RBewhoQu34

Walker Evans (American) 1903-1975 Another Farm Security Administration photographer  (optional link)

Known for his documentation of poverty and sharecroppers (optional link)

Margaret Bourke-White (American) 1904-1971

Margaret Transcript (PDF)

  • A photographer for Life magazine
  • She defined photo journalism as art with her photographs of industrial settings
  • Photographed the harsh conditions of the Depression
  • Claimed international fame
  • Worked worldwide and covered WW2; including concentration camps and the siege of Moscow, South Africa, as well as India and Ghandi
  • A Gallery of her works  – Required Browsing
  • An example of her depiction of social injustice — At the Time of the Louisville Flood, 1937  – optional