Toward the Modern Era: 1870 - 1914
Frederic Bartholdi, "Liberty Enlightening the World", Liberty Island, New York, New York 1876-1886
Chapter 18:
Toward the Modern Era: 1870-1914
The Growing Unrest
New Movements in the Visual Arts
Fauvism and Expressionism
New Styles in Music
Orchestral Music at the Turn of the Century
Impressionism in Music
The Search for a New Musical Language
New Subjects for Literature
Psychological Insights in the Novel
Responses to a Changing Society: The Role of Women
Outline Chapter 18
Timeline Chapter 18
Timeline Chapter 18: Toward the Modern Era: 1870 – 1914
Manet, Dèjeuner sur l'Herbe / Luncheon on the Grass
Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
Monet, Impression Sunrise
Renoir, Le Moulin de la Galette
Ibsen, A Doll's House
Rodin, The Kiss
Van Gogh , Starry Night
Cassatt, Mother and Child
Gauguin, Ia Orana Maria
Munch, The Scream
Freud, Interpretation of Dreams
Cèzanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire
First Fauve exhibition in Paris; Matisse, The Joy of
Picasso and Braque develop Cubism in Paris
The last years of the nineteenth century
The last years of the nineteenth century saw the threat of war gathering with
increasing speed over Europe. The gap between the prosperous and the poor,
the growth of the forces of big business, overcrowding and food shortages in
the cities all tended to create a climate of unease that the rivalries of the major
European powers exacerbated. Many emigrated to America in search of a new
start. For the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche only drastic remedies could
prevent the collapse of Western civilization.
Impressionist Painting
In each of the arts the years leading up to World War I were marked by
far-reaching changes. In the case of painting, the impressionist school
developed in Paris. Foreshadowed in the work of Šdouard Manet,
impressionist art represented a new way of looking at the world.
Painters like Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Berthe Morisot
reproduced what they saw rather than visually interpret their subjects.
The depiction of light and atmosphere became increasingly important.
The figure studies of Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt avoided the
careful poses of earlier times in favor of natural, intimate scenes.
Käthe Kollwitz
Käthe Kollwitz, artist
German, 1867 - 1945
Ende (End), sixth plate in the series
Ein Weberaufstand (Weavers' Revolt),
Etching, aquatint, and sandpaper
24.6 x 30.6 cm (image)
Käthe Kollwitz, artist
German, 1867 - 1945
Sturm (Storm), fifth plate
in the series
Ein Weberaufstand
(Revolt of the Weavers), 1897
etching and sandpaper
23.7 x 29.4 cm (image);
Manet, Edouard, Luncheon on the Grass
Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, ("Luncheon on the Grass"), 1863
Manet, Edouard, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
“A Bar at the Folies-Bergère”, 1863
Claude Monet,
Impression, Sunrise
Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise)
1873 (210 Kb); Oil on canvas, 48 x 63 cm (19 x 24 3/8"); Musee Marmottan, Paris
Claude Monet,
Meule, Effet de Neige,
le Matin (Morning Snow Effect)
Meule, Soleil Couchant
Meule, Degel, Soleil Couchant
Renoir, Pierre-Auguste
Gabrielle with a Rose
Seated Bather
c. 1883-1884 (140 Kb);
Oil on canvas
Dance at Bougival
Degas, Edgar
Woman combing her hair
Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando
Cassatt, Mary
At the Theater
Little Girl in a Blue Armchair
Rodin, Auguste
The Burghers of Calais
1884-86 (30 Kb); Bronze
The Kiss
1886 (100 Kb); Bronze
Seurat, Georges:
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
Seurat, Georges
1884-86; "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte";
Oil on canvas, 81 x 120 in
Seurat, Georges:
The Circus
The Circus
1891; Oil on canvas, 73 x 59 1/8 in
The Postimpressionists
The various schools that developed out of impressionism are
collectively known as postimpressionist although they have little in
common with one another. Among the leading artists were
Paul Gauguin, with his love of exotic subjects, and Vincent van Gogh,
whose deeply moving images have made him perhaps the best known
of all nineteenth-century painters. In historical terms, the most
important figure was probably Paul CÈzanne: his works are the first
since the dawn of the Renaissance to eliminate perspective and
impose order on nature rather than try to reproduce it.
Cézanne, Paul
Maison et arbres
House and Trees
Bend in Road
Le Mont Sainte-Victoire
c. 1897-98
Vincent van Gogh
The vase
with 12 sunflowers
Wheat Field
Under Threatening Skies
1890 (260 Kb);
Oil on canvas,
50.5 x 100.5 cm
Expressionism and the Fauves
In the early years of the twentieth century two movements began to
emerge: fauvism and expressionism, the former in France and the latter
in Germany and Scandinavia. Both emphasized bright colors and
violent emotions, and the works of Edvard Munch and other
expressionists are generally tormented in spirit. Henri Matisse,
the leading fauve artist, however, produced works that are joyous
and optimistic; he was to become a major force in
twentieth-century painting.
Matisse, Henri
A Glimpse of
Notre Dame
in the Late
The Joy of Life
La Musique
Edvard Munch
The Dead Mother
The Scream (or The Cry)
Orchestral Music at the Turn of the Century
Composers of orchestral music in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries turned increasingly to the rich language of
post-Wagnerian harmony and instrumentation to express either
extramusical "programs" or to compose "autobiographical" works.
The leading figures of the period included Richard Strauss and
Gustav Mahler. Many of Strauss' operas have held the stage since
their first performances, while his tone poems use a vast orchestra
either to tell a story (as in Don Juan) or to describe his own life
(Domestic Symphony). Mahler's symphonies, neglected in the
composer's lifetime, have come to represent some
of the highest achievements of the symphonic tradition.
Openly autobiographical, they reflect at the same time the
universal human problems of loss and anxiety
In France the music of Claude Debussy, and to a lesser extent Maurice
Ravel, set out to achieve the musical equivalent of impressionism.
In works like La Mer Debussy used new harmonic combinations to
render the atmosphere of a seascape
New Approaches to Music: Schoenberg and Stravinsky
The experiments of composers like Mahler and Debussy at least
retained many of the traditional musical forms and modes of expression,
although they vastly extended them. In the early years of the twentieth
century Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky wrote works that
represented a significant break with the past. Schoenberg's atonal
and, later, serial music sought to replace the traditional harmonic
structure of Western musical style with a new freedom, albeit one
limited by the serial system. In The Rite of Spring and other works
Stravinsky revealed a new approach to rhythm. Both composers
profoundly influenced the development of twentieth-century music.
Literature and the Subconscious
Like the other arts, literature also underwent revolutionary change
in the last decades of the nineteenth century. In the hands of
Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Marcel Proust, the novel became a vehicle
to reveal the effects of the subconscious on human behavior. In
Dostoyevsky's books self-knowledge and psychological truth are
combined to explore the nature of human suffering. Proust's massive
exploration of the past not only seeks to uncover his own memories;
it deals with the very nature of time itself. Both writers, along with
many of their contemporaries, joined painters and musicians in
pushing their art to its limits in order to extend its range of expression.
Writers and the Changing Role of Women
A more traditional aim of literature was to effect social change. At a
time when society was becoming aware of the changing role of women
in the modern world, writers aimed to explore the implications for
marriage and the family of the gradual emancipation of women and the
increasing availability of divorce. The plays of Henrik Ibsen not only
described the issues of his day, including feminist ones, they were
also intended to open up discussion of topics-venereal disease,
incest-that his middle-class audience would have preferred to ignore.
The Impact of World War I
With the outbreak of war in 1914, the arts were wrenched from their
traditional lines of development to express the anxieties of the age.
Nothing-in art, culture, politics, or society-was ever to return to its
former state.