Changes in Form: The Cubists

The Cubists were also intrigued by the work of Cezanne, but their interest was in form more than color. They were interested in the relativity of changing viewpoint, as affected by either change of position in space or time. The attempt was to show all points of view simultaneously. The broken, faceted surfaces were expressions of this relativity, as well as being an exploration of the underlying shape relationships, often reduced to their basic geometric components. The handling of form, particularly of human form, was also inspired by African sculpture. Major cubist artists included Picasso and Georges Braque.

Changes in Form and Color: De Stijl

Piet Mondrian was the major painter in the de Stijl movement, a specifically Dutch movement which would have great influence on subsequent Art and Design developments. This highly intellectual and even mystical style depended upon a very rigorous limitation of form to simple rectilinear divisions of space into variously sized color fields. The subject matter was color and proportion, presented so as to have its most pure impact upon the viewer's sensibilities.

This style would in turn influence such Bauhaus artists as Joseph Albers, Paul Klee, and through them, contribute to the Op Art and Minimalist styles of the 1960's and 70's.

If you would like to try a game in which you play with the color proportion ideas of Mondrian, try this site.

Changes in Form and Technique: DaDa and Surrealism

The shock and horror of World War I (1914-1918), which decimated Europe and killed the flower of an entire generation, resulted in immense disillusionment with traditional values and modes of discovering truth. DaDa developed during and shortly after the war in Zurich, Switzerland. It was anarchistic in intention, and essentially "anti-art." DaDa artists sought to create art which was essentially concept, with the form and materials being inconsequential. DaDa art was intended to be impermanent; the creation and idea of the artwork was its only purpose. The object was not to be venerated, but rather to be destroyed once the creation was completed. Frequently ordinary manufactured objects were assembled into DaDa art, and collaboration between artists, poets, and musicians were typical DaDa "events." Among the important contributors to DaDa were Jean Arp, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters.

Surrealism arose out of DaDa, but was more structured. The philosophy of Surrealism, formulated primarily by writer Andre Breton, promoted methods for eliciting images directly from the unconscious, unedited by rational planning or forethought. Surrealists distrusted reason, the traditional mode of learning and discovery, and sought new ways to interpret reality in an uncertain age. Freudian ideas, the imagery of children's drawings, and various "spontaneous" techniques were used to develop mysterious images which were left to the viewer for interpretation. Surrealists include Max Ernst, Dali, Magritte, and Miro.

Changes in Form and Color: The Expressionists

The emotional content of images can be powerfully affected by distortions of form and color. Late 19th century antecedents of the Expressionist movements can be seen in the work of Gauguin and Van Gogh. From the decade of World War I until the late 1930's German Expressionism offered a bitter but powerful commentary on Germany's social problems and corruption. These emotionally charged images rely on distortions of color and form to achieve their impact. Among the artists of this movement are Kirchner, Beckmann, and Grosz. The Norwegian Munch was also working in a related style before world war I, producing powerfully emotional images.

The exhibition of Art held in Munich in 1937 was mounted by the Nazis to mock the modern styles. By the end of the 1930's many of the great artists and intellectuals of Europe were moving to the United states to escape the rise of Nazism. Thus it came to be believed that Europe was under a shadow - that the intellectual center of the West was now shifting to New York.

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