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Monday, May 23, 2011

Modernism - 1


Liberty Leading the People - Eugene Delacroix


In order to better understand my writing I've been reading about modernism tonight.  It is a movement dated from the 1860's to the 1970's but some say that it has its roots in the Renaissance when humanists revived the idea that man and not God is the measure of all things.  In humanism we can see the trace of the modernist confidence in our potential to shape our own destinies. 

The 18th c. saw the rise of Enlightenment when the flame of reason was held aloft.  New found truths discovered by Kepler, Galileo and Newton during the scientifc revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries rocked the traditional viewpoints held by the church and society.  A Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns had broken out where the individual asked whether the moderns were artistically and morally superior to the writers and artists of ancient Greece and Rome.  This quarrel was satirised famoulsy by Jonathan Swift in The Battle of the Books.  (Now where have I heard this before???)

Now people felt rebellious as they had been subjugated in ignorance and superstition. Revolutions occurred in the United States and in France. Education was seen as a way forward to the creation of a better society.  Yet Modernists came to reject the seeming certainty of the Enlightenment just as they did the existence of a compassionate God.

At the beginning of the 20th c. the avant garde arose.  Impressionism  had been born and a painting had the power to cause great political unrest.  Surrealism came to be known as "the avant garde of modernism."  Yet what I found was really interesting was the shattering of old ideals with the devastation caused by Word War 1 to the human spirit.  The 1920's were defined by modernism.  Is modernism soulless and mechanistic?  A trait of modernism is self-consciousness.  Surrealism grew, writers such as Virginia Woolf of the Bloomsbury Group developed the stream of consciusness.  Society was fractured. 

One cannot say that modernism is either politically to the left or to the right.  Dali, Yeats, and Eliot were to the right while Brecht, Auden and Breton were to the left.  Picasso developed Cubism while Jackson Pollock went on to work in abstract expressionism.  What about Andy Warhol and Pop Art?

I want to read more about this movement and to learn how it is different to postmodernism.  What is postmodernism?

Printemps, Tamara De Lempicka

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