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Monday, May 2, 2011

The New Century

During the first ten years of the twentieth century, Paris was the one and only place to be if an artist wanted to be on the cutting edge of what was happening in "The Arts". Picasso arrived in Paris in 1900. Henri Matisse and Fauvism were raising all kinds of hell in conservative academic circles. In 1903, those denied entry into the Salon simply organized their own show called the Salon d'Automne and for the first time this show garnered more attention, (both positive and negative) than did the Salon. It became a yearly affair with works by Matisse, Braque, Rouault, Cezanne, Redon, as well as Americans such as Max Weber, Patrick Bruce and John Marin. The same year another rebellious group presented the first retrospective of work by Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Cezanne called the Salon des Independants.

Les Demoiselles D'Avignon,
Pablo Picasso
After 1906, the Paris apartment of Gertrude and Leo Stein became a sort of Avant-garde incubator for artists such as Matisse, Picasso, and Braque.  In 1907 Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon glorifying African art and paving the way for his own exploration of Cubism. In 1908 a group of young Americans organized an American art colony in Paris called the New Society at the studio of Edward Steichen, who was both a painter and photographer. Their purpose was to organize shows of Avant-Garde work, exporting them to America where Alfred Stieglitz waited to show them in his budding 251 Gallery in New York. During this decade, Fauvism gave way to Cubism and from there came Dada after the First World War, followed by Surrealism and Italian Futurism.

But it was the first ten years that were the most explosive. They constituted the academicians worst nightmare. These staid gentlemen saw what had been laughed at in the old Salon de Refuse become venerated, and gradually to be regarded as itself old-fashioned while right before their horrified eyes art seemed to be rapidly sliding into a chaos of ugly, degenerative forms. This denouement (unfolding) was a calamity their fathers and forefathers had warned would happen if radical painting styles such as Impressionism were allowed to go unchecked.

The art scene was viewed by academic stalwarts as something akin to socialism, communism, or even anarchy. Sometimes it was a little of all three. Worse, the new order represented by the young Turks, often felt that it had to wreck every traditional element of the old guard in order to see their art survive and grow. They were out not just to change art, but to change the world. The revolution was an unstoppable international force.

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