Art Modernism Essay. A Structured Essay On How Modernist Painters Looked At The World In A New Way.

4802 words - 19 pages

A working definition of Modernism was the rejection of Victorian ways. Victorian culture emphasized nationalism and cultural absolutism. Victorians placed humans over and outside of nature. They believed in a single way of looking at the world, and in absolute and clear-cut dichotomies between right and wrong, good and bad, and hero and villain. Further, they saw the world as being governed by God's will, and that each person and thing in this world had a specific use. Finally, they saw the world as neatly divided between civilized and savage peoples. According to Victorians, the civilized were those from industrialized nations, cash-based economies, Protestant Christian traditions, and patriarchal societies; the savage were those from agrarian or hunter-gatherer tribes, barter-based economies, pagan or totemistic traditions, and matriarchal (or at least unmanly societies).Modernists rebelled against Victorian ideals. Blaming Victorianism for such evils as slavery, racism, and imperialism--and later for World War I--Modernists emphasized humanism over nationalism, and argued for cultural relativism. Modernists emphasized the ways in which humans were part of and responsible to nature. They argued for multiple ways of looking at the world, and blurred the Victorian dichotomies by presenting antiheroes, uncategorisable persons, and anti-art movements like Dada. Further, they challenged the idea that God played an active role in the world, which led them to challenge the Victorian assumption that there was meaning and purpose behind world events. Instead, Modernists argued that no thing or person was born for a specific use; instead, they found or made their own meaning in the world. Challenging the Victorian dichotomy between "civilized" and "savage," Modernists reversed the values associated with each kind of culture. Modernists presented the Victorian "civilized" as greedy and warmongering (instead of being industrialized nations and cash-based economies), as hypocrites (rather than Christians), and as enemies of freedom and self-realization (instead of good patriarchs). Those that the Victorians had dismissed (and subjugated) as "savages" the Modernists saw as being the truly civilized--responsible users of their environments, unselfish and family-oriented, generous, creative, mystical and full of wonder, and egalitarian. These "savages," post-WWI Modernists pointed out, did not kill millions with mustard gas, machine-guns, barbed wire, and genocidal starvationDuring the period of the early 1900's, from 1900-1930 an immense change in the way people looked at the world at the turn of the century led to a change in the way artists represented the world. The figurative tradition, in which artists based art on the human figure and daily routines, was taken to another level by two major artists, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. A second style of art also immerged during this time period, in which artists completely rejected the visual world and...

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