Sunday, July 15, 2012

Abstract Art

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František Kupka (1871-1957) Disks of Newton. 1919


Abstract artists include Whistler, Monet, Cézanne, Matisse, Munch, Gauguin, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Derain, Denis, Marc, Duchamp, Braque, Bonnard & Mondrian among others.

Leo Gestel (1881-1941) Groot Bloemenstuk

In the first decades of the 20th century, a radical new approach to art emerged almost simultaneously across Europe & North America dubbed abstraction. Yet abstraction was never a movement originating in one place or was it practiced by one cohesive group of artists.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Yellow Curtain. 1914-15.


Beginning in 1867, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) began renaming his paintings, giving them abstract titles. From that point on, Whistler’s titles served to draw attention to the formal arrangement, the color harmony, the tonality & mood of his pictures. He emphasised their abstract qualities.

Alexander Konstantinovich Bogomazov (1880-1930) 1914-1915.

Whistler wrote, "Art should be independent of all clap-trap – should stand alone and appeal to the artistic sense of the eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it – devotion, pity, love, patriotism and the like. All these have no concern with it and that is why I insist on calling my works arrangements and harmonies."


August Macke (1887-1914) Farbige Formen III


In 1912, non-representational paintings were shown in a large exhibition in Paris. A senior member of the staid municipal council wrote an open letter to the Ministry of the Arts protesting at the housing of such horrors in a national monument."


Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) Sun Disks 1912. Museum of Modern Art. NYC

In response to all of the negative hubbub, in February 1912, the poet & art critic Guillaume Apollinaire 1880-1918 - pseudonym of Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky) wrote, If the aim of art remains what it has always been – to serve the pleasure of the eyes – then, from now on, art lovers shall be expected to find a different pleasure in art from the pleasure they procure from the spectacle of natural things. We are heading towards an entirely new art. It will be related to painting (painting as it has been conceived until now) as music is related to literature. It will be pure painting, just as music is pure literature."


Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) White Stroke

By 1917, the First World War was drawing to an end. The Russian Revolution was beginning. The jazz age was in full swing. Abstract art was 5 years old, & many of its masterpieces already existed. The expanded parameters of modern art have been staked out. Abstraction was now firmly esbablished as a feature of contemporary cultural life.

Franz Marc (1880-1916) Fighting Forms

Although many of the earlier artists never produced entirely abstract paintings, their work demonstrated an unprecedented degree of abstraction, & was an inspiration to the 1st generation of abstract artists including Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich, Robert & Sonia Delaunay, Kupka, Larionov, Klee, Arp, & Picabia, whose work are included.
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