Chapter Twenty-One Between the World Wars

Chapter Twenty-One
Between the World Wars
The Arts of Modernism
The Modernist Credo:
Make it New
-Ezra Pound
Literary Modernism
T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
The Waste Land (1922)
Fragmentation of line and image
Abandonment of traditional forms
Sense of alienation
Intense desire to find some anchor
in a past that feels lost
Straining and pushing of language
to provide new meanings for an
exhausted world
Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937); a representation of the German bombing of
a small Spanish town during the Spanish Civil War, during which the
Germans sided with the Spanish fascists.
A copy of this mural hangs in the United Nations in New York City as a reminder
of the horrors of modern war.
The First World War (1914-1918)
and Its Significance
 Drastic loss of life (ten million deaths)
 Sociopolitical consequences
 Communism: October Revolution, rise of
Soviet State
 Fascism: Hitler’s National Socialist
movement, fascist takeovers of Spain,
Germany, Italy
 Capitalism: Great Depression, American
Stock Market Crash of 1929
 Cultural consequences
 Revolution in transportation and
communication links previously isolated
peoples of the world (mass produced cars,
 Entertainment (film, radio shows, movies
as mass entertainment)
The Harlem Renaissance
 The Great Migration
 Reaction against blackface and minstrel
 African American writers, artists,
intellectuals, musicians create artworks
that represent African-American selfidentity
 Themes of African American experience
Roots, culture, religion, racism, protest
 W.E.B. Dubois; Zora Neale Hurston;
Langston Hughes
African American self-identity, cultural
identity, racial identity
Objects viewed as problems to be
solved according to the artist’s
vision and through his analysis
Solution to problem of how to
represent three-dimensional
objects in two-dimensional
Break object into different planes
and present as if viewed from all
sides at once—hence the reference
to the three-dimensions of the
Cezanne’s geometric paintings of landscapes is one of the
inspirations for a new style of modern painting called cubism.
Picasso’s “Reservoir”
Note the similarity to
Cezanne’s geometric
technique, especially
in the planar
composition of the
Picasso’s “The Guitar
Cubist artists were affected
by the new technologies of
film and the concept of a
moving image constructed
out of frames.
Cubist painters, led by
Picasso and Braque,
fragmented their images into
two-dimensional, intersecting
geometrical forms. They
presented a vision of the
subject that showed multiple
aspects at the same time. The
movement was highly
revolutionary and influential.
Just as Cezanne’s
geometric paintings are
an inspiration for the
cubists, so too are
exhibitions of African
art in Paris.
Cubism becomes the
art of the “jazz age”
Pablo Picasso
Chicago Civic Center
Sculpture (1966)
Welded steel
How does this figure
compare to African
Picasso’s “Les
The evolution of
Western human
figuration is
represnted in this
painting, from
koure (left), to
classical (center)
to geometrical
(right). Note the
influence of
African masks.
How has
over time?
In the early 20th century physicists completely
change how we understand our physical world: it is
neither solid, nor constant, nor entirely knowable.
In a new scientific era of relativity and
uncertainty, what are artists to do?
 1905. Einstein publishes his simple, elegant Special Theory of Relativity, making mincemeat
of his competition by relying on only two ideas: 1. The laws of physics are the same in all inertial
frames, and 2. The speed of light is the same for all inertial observers.
 1915. Einstein, with Hilbert in stiff competition, publishes his stunning General Theory of
Relativity, and is lucky enough to be able to find observational support for his theory right
away, in the perihelial advance of Mercury, and the deflection of starlight by the Sun.
 1924. Louis duc de Broglie proposes the particle-wave duality of the electron in his doctoral
thesis at the Sorbonne. He gets the Nobel Prize in 1929.
 1927. Heisenberg discovers the Uncertainty Principle that bears his name.
 1929. Edwin Hubble, with the help of his mule driver Humason, observes the redshift of distant
galaxies and concludes that the Universe is expanding. The Big Bang is formulated.
 1935. Young physicist Subramahnyan Chandrasekhar is attacked by famous astronomer Arthur
Eddington for his report that there is a stellar mass limit beyond which collapse to what we now
call a black hole is inevitable. Chandrasekhar wins the Nobel Prize in 1983 for his work on
stellar evolution.
 From “A Timeline of Mathematical and Theoretical Physics,”
Abstract Art
Art of the pure idea
Sense that physical
sciences are
undermining our
confidence in the
solidity of the world
Kandinsky’s “Composition 8.” What idea is here? Nothing less
than the infinity and formlessness of the universe!
What idea is Mondrian trying to communicate with his
geometrical, primary-color paintings?
Paintings like this
were intended to be
used as models for
They are thus not
“art” in the
conventional sense.
Mondrian’s pattern
here is supposed to
be mass produced
on a piece of cloth,
sold, and used to
make clothes,
drapes, etc.
Guess what the
object of this
painting is.
And then know what
the subject is.
Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp, “LHOOQ”
Note the beard and
FYI: LHOOQ is shorthand for
the French phrase, “she has
a hot ass.”
Duchamp has changed the
meaning of art, but to what?
Art of speed, technology, and
Balla’s “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash” (1912)
Umberto Boccioni’s “Unique
Forms in the Continuity of
Space” (1913)
In 1912, Boccioni had attacked the
domination of sculpture by "the blind
and foolish imitation of formulas
inherited from the past," and
particularly by "the burdensome
weight of Greece." Yet Unique Forms
of Continuity in Space bears an
underlying resemblance to a classical
work over 2,000 years old, the Nike
of Samothrace. There, however,
speed is encoded in the flowing stone
draperies that wash around, and in the
wake of, the figure. Here the body
itself is reshaped, as if the new
conditions of modernity were
producing a new man.
Severini’s “Armored
Train in Action” (1915)
Painted during World
War I
1900: Sigmund Freud discovers the
Unconscious and proposes the
interpretation of dreams
Freud, the Unconscious, and Surrealism
Interpretation of Dreams (1900)
Id, ego, superego
Dreams and the unconscious mind
Psychoanalysis as philosophy
Undermines certainty of the subject
Human and cultural behaviors
art of the relative and the unconscious
René Magritte
“Madonna and child”
Dali visited the
Vatican to have his
new interpretation of
this Christian theme
“The Persistence of Memory”