This week, we looked at several examples of early modernist art such as Cubism, Fauvism, futurism, and expressionism. Let's discuss the relationships between these aesthetic categories and the sociopolitical climate of the period.

How did the sociopolitical climate of the time period, including the two world wars, influence artists?Ferris Bueller said, "A person should not believe in an "ism", he should believe in himself." Well, artists of the first half of the 20th Century would have disagreed.

This week we are taking a look at some of the --Isms that shaped the art world during the teens, 20s, and 30s. When discussing a particular --ism, it's okay to use source material, but I'd like to read your interpretation as well. These movements definitely reflect the vast socio-political changes occurring during this volatile time period. Let's bring history into the conversation.

Please provide links or images when referencing an artistic work AND comment on the painter's life and times. Historical criticism is important; we can find meaning in studying the era in which the art was produced. It also helps to read the lecture before posting. 

Hi Geraldine Cadet, 

    • You are right. The artist expressed their thoughts in different ways and also to experiment new techniques in their painting. 

      Thank you.

       In addition to your point on futurism, it was originated in Italy in the early 20th century focusing on the fascination of advanced technology and modern urbanization. It began at the brink of World War 1.  They were fascinated with the new advancements in technology. The style of futurism emphasized speed and movement of machines and technology and tried to convey the sensation of noise, heat, and the feeling of the metropolis. This was a time when technology was beginning to make a big impact of people’s lives. People were striving to build bigger and faster machines.

       Gang Zhang

       This was a wonderful post. I liked reading your post since you had well articulated points. The manner in which you have explicated the different modernist art has not only made the post scholalry but also it was very informative. I completely agree with your claims about the different categories of cubism that are analytical and synthetic. Art has developed over time and has evolved from the use of pencils, paints , colours and curent there are very effective drawing technologies. Thank you
      The idea of modernism art is about letting go of the style of the past and creating new art styles that reflect new modern designs. With this approach came the forms of Cubism, Fauvism, Futurism, and expressionism. These types are different unique and complement the tempo of that time. The first is Cubism which is an art style developed from the joint effort of George Braque and Pablo Picasso.

      The work of art appears to have a flat look and a cube-like shape. It features geometric angles, lines and shapes and a neutral color palette. As the movement progressed so has the scheme of this art style where the artist added cues so the viewer would be able to identify the object. The best example of cubism is Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles. The painting featured five female prostitutes from a brothel. Three of the females had traditional faces were typically constructed, but the other two were said to be an Africa mask. Many scholars believed that “Les Demoiselles, then, was an act of liberation, an exorcism of traditions, perhaps even of painting itself. It would allow Picasso to move forward into a kind of painting that was new” (Sayre, 2013, p.447). “Picasso scholar Patricia Leighten has argued convincingly that the African masks in Les Demoiselles are designed not only to challenge and mock Western artistic traditions but also to evoke and critique the deplorable exploitation by Europeans of black Africans, particularly in the Congo” (Sayre, 2013, p.447).

      The next one is Fauvism which is a 20th-century style of painting that was developed by a group of artist known as the Fauvre where their leader is Henri Matisse. The technique is known for the utilization of bold color to incite a reaction from its audience. There is also Futurism which calls for the development of new ideas of art and the repudiation of the traditional and political forms of art that reflects a modern urban life (Sayre, 2013). The last one is Expressionism this type of art idea is the first world war, and its quest is to elicit an emotional response that it is trying to extract from viewers. Most artists found it difficult to understand the conflict and looked for a way to express those feelings. Their focus was to end it. As mentioned by Sayre 2013 “Some writers and artists—Picasso, for instance—simply waited out the war. Many others openly opposed it and vigorously protested the social order that had brought about what seemed to them nothing short of mass genocide, and some of these soon formed the movement that named itself Dada” (p.454). As stated by Sayre (2013) “Dada was an international signifier of negation. It did not mean anything, just as, in the face of war, life itself had come to seem meaningless” (p.454).


      Sayre, H. M. (2013). Discovering the Humanities (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

        I wanted to add to your discussion about Dada. The Romanian poet Tristan Tzarar claimed Dada was his invention. The movement called Dada protested social order and seemed to promote anti-war interventions. Tzara summed up the meaning of Dada. He stated “DADA DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING…We read in the papers that the Negroes of the Kroo race all the tail of a sacred cow:dada. A cube, and a mother, in certain regions of Italy, are called: dada. The word for hobbyhorse, a children’s nurse, a double affirmative in Russian and Romanian, is also: DADA” (Sayre, 2015. P. 454). I thought that the naming aspect of Dada was interesting. 

      Hello Professor and Class,

                Until the first decade of the 20th century, art, whether drawing, painting, or sculpture, was always essentially pictorial, and was based on themes and compositions representing real-world ideas. With the emergence of a new ‘Modernist’ thinking and with an ever-increasing use of machines in industry and daily life, artists sought new ways to interpret the dynamic changes taking place around them. Modernist art imagery first developed in Europe between 1905 and 1920 on several fronts under a number of names such as Fauvism, Cubism, German Expressionism, Constructivism, de Stijl, Dadaism, and Surrealism. American artists studied these new styles and ‘isms’ in Europe and brought them back to the United States. Simultaneously, European artists immigrated to the United States bringing Modernist concepts with them. As an art historical term, modern refers to a period dating from roughly the 1860s through the 1970s and is used to describe the style as well as the ideology of art produced during that era. Beginning in the 1860s, many artists cast aside the traditional limitations of art and began to depict contemporary life through experimental forms and new mediums. These new attitudes were reinforced by scientific discoveries of the time that seemed to question the solidity of the ‘real’ world and the reliability of perception. The term modernism is used to refer to the art of this ‘modern period’. More specifically, modernism can be thought of as referring to the ‘philosophy’ of ‘modern art’. After the war, people fell on hard times. The middle class was virtually gone. Technology had improved and new inventions were popping up. This time period allowed artists to express emotions. They were many emotions regarding the sociopolitical climate, anxiety, fear, rage and even ecstasy. Artists were able to use their creativity to visually show these emotions through their artwork. According to Sayre (2013), “News of the experimental fervor of Picasso and Braque spread quickly through avant-garde circles across Europe, and other artists sought to match their endeavors in independent but related ways”. Artists continued to get more creative while experimenting with new techniques creating fauvism, futurism, and expressionism. 

      Thank you



      Askart, Modernism(2018). Retrieved from http://www.askart.com/art/Styles/17/y/Modernism (Links to an external site.)

      Sayre, H. M. (2013). Discovering the humanities (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.


      Very interesting post! After reading your post I was unaware with the whole role technology had during this era. You mentioned how during this era many artists began to experiment more with their creations. I noticed while doing my discussion bright colors were very popular along with having the paintings resemble more events that were occurring during that era. It seems like even with present day fashion and art it all still comes from Europe. I find that to be very interesting and just curious if there is a reason for this. Great job!


        Hi Jayanthi,

      That was a great post. I would've never thought that technology played a role that far back. I believe that this era was the birth of expressive art that we all know today. Art is supposed to be a way that people express what they feel like such as anger, pain, pleasure ect...I think that era allowed artist to be expressive. 

       Hey Jayanthi,Democracy and capitalism were firmly anchored in western Europe and the United States in the early twentieth century. Colonialism led to competition among European countries and created instability in Europe and eventually leading to war.

      “Modernism in culture and art connotes a rejection of conventions and a commitment to radical innovation. Artists liked to engage in the process of experimentation and discovery, seeking to explore new possibilities of creativity and expression in a rapidly changing world in order to define art. Each modern “ism” had its own manifesto (unique philosophy)[1]”.

      Fauvism: is the first artistic style of the modern era. It is characterized by the illustration of explosive colors to make realistic interpretations. Fauvism was of short duration. The leading artist of Fauvism were Henri Matisse and Andre Derain.

      Cubism: is divided into two branches, analytical and synthetic. Analytical cubism uses geometric forms like cylinders, spheres, cones. Color is almost nonexistent except for shades of grey, blue and ocher. Synthetic cubism introduces collage to the art form. The leading cubists were Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. Below is Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon.

       Futurism: Rejects everything dull, old and feminine to promote exhilaration, masculinity, reckless speed.

      Impressionism: is an art form characterized by small, thin, yet visible brush strokes with emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, it includes of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

      Below is Claude Monet’s impression of the rising sun:


      1. http://academics.smcvt.edu/awerbel/Survey%20of%20Art%20History%20II/FauvistCubistFuturist.htm (Links to an external site.).
      2. Sayre, H. (2013) Discovering the Humanities 2nd Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson

        Sayre, H. M. (2013). Discovering the Humanities (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

         Hi Jean,

    Thanks for such an interesting post. Technology really does play an important role. In this era like you mentioned, artists explored with their creations as they tried to depict what was happening in their lives at the moment. This saw the use of bright colors in drawing everyday items. Creativity begun to shape the art industry

    Hello Professor and Class,

         When it comes to early modernist art, there were many influences within the sociopolitical climate and its impact on the outcome of an artist’s work. Each style of art during this time was different and unique and had its own way of speaking to the viewer. I know this type of art was not mentioned above, but I really did enjoy some of its pieces. The Post-Impressionists paintings were ones that I enjoyed because I could compare it to the Impressionists paintings and truly see the difference. When it came to Impressionists, I know it was more about the brushstrokes, use of light, and separation of color. To me, the Impressionist’s paintings were beautiful, but sometimes confusing as it looked like the colors and figures in the paintings ran together at times. I believe when it comes to the Post-Impressionists paintings, they obtained more structure and form. The color and use of light are still amazing just as with the Impressionists paintings, but they appear to be “better put together” in my opinion. In my mind, the Post-Impressionists paintings could a mixture of or lie in between the Impressionism and Realism category.

         When it comes to Cubism, it was a form of art created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque that was known for the, “geometry of its forms, its fragmentation of the object, and its increasing abstraction.” (Sayre 2013, p. 466). Picasso and Braque spent much time together creating paintings that were an inspiration to many. They really enjoyed using their imagination to create unique, abstract art to portray reality through their work. They liked to experiment with each piece, adding new things here and there by adding dimension, eventually words, and more quality to increase the value of their work. Georges Braque’s painting, Houses at l’Estaque, featured below is an example of Cubism. It is interesting in its own way as it has a lot of repetition of vertical lines that create “cubes” or houses that lack in-depth detail. The houses are not very detailed and do not have windows, doors, etc. The use of a little shading, such as that appearing to be trees in between the houses and shading around the houses themselves, does give it dimension. There is also no use of a horizon, which Sayre (2013) states, but it actually looks like the houses are tumbling forward at the viewer because of this reason. The style of Cubism became so popular, it gave life to what was called Futurism that was invented by Filippo Marinetti, Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrá, Luigi Russolo, and Gino Severini. Their goal was to create art of movement and change to develop characteristics of modern urban life, which they believed was speed. As stated in Sayre (2013) Boccioni once stated, “What we want to do, is show the living object in its dynamic growth” (p. 449).

         The work of art known as Fauvism was very unique, as it was known mostly for its random, whimsical use of bizarre colors that lacked rhyme or reason. The artwork shown for Cubism lacked bold colors and portrayed more “laid back” and “relaxed” tones such as light hues of gray, blue, brown, tan, pink, and white. As Futurism included more sculptures rather than paintings it seems, they too lacked color and were created of a bronze/gold. Unlike the work of Cubism and Futurism, Fauvism used dark, bold colors such as hues of greens, reds, and blues. Some artists of this time were considered Expressionists and included Henri Matisse, Franz Marc, and Wassily Kandinsky. Expressionism originated in Germany and was the movement of artwork where the artist/writer attempted to portray and express their emotions and feeling through their work. The artists of this time used the style of Fauvism to express themselves by the use bold and random colors. A painting by Kandinsky, Composition No. 7, is an example of Fauvism art and is featured below. Kandinsky was an artist that was obsessed with color and mainly enjoyed painting about the biblical Apocalypse. He once stated, “Red rings inwardly with a determined and powerful intensity,” while green “represents the social middle class, self-satisfied, immovable, narrow,” and blue is, “the typical heavenly color” (Sayre 2013, p. 450). This painting is abstract at its finest and really speaks more through the colors, rather than pictures as they are extremely hard to interpret. It uses colors such as dark greens, reds, oranges, and blues that really stand out to make a statement, which is stated above in the interpretation of colors by Kandinsky.

         The sociopolitical climate and two wars that took place during these times of art really had an impact on the work and the artists. For example, with any picture that portrays humans, it seems as if the people are sad, depressed, and emotionless. Many people seem to be staring off into the distance and have a very somber look with a flat affect. The times of war were very difficult on people and art work and painting is a way to express yourself freely, without judgement. Many paintings, other than those during the Fauvism phase, were very flat and subtle with lighter hues of colors that were very “soft spoken” to the viewer. During the Cubism phase, art was fairly plan with some dimension and little details such as Georges Braque’s Houses at l’Estaque. As times changed and when referring to Kandinsky’s painting of Composition No. 7, Sayre (2013) stated, “The title in fact refers to music—the biblical themes of war and resurrection, deluge and apocalypse, with each painting becoming more and more abstract” (p. 451). Looking at the painting below, it is very chaotic and unorganized, just like the wars would be. Some writers and artists, one of them including Picasso, waited patiently for the war to come to an end. “Others openly opposed it and vigorously protested the social order that had brought about what seemed to them nothing short of mass genocide, and some of these soon formed the movement that named itself Dada” (Sayre 2013, p. 454). Dada was the art movement during the 20th century that started during World War I in Switzerland, as a negative reaction to the horrors and devastations of this time. The intentions of this work were to shock the viewer or cause a commotion or outrage and make a bold statement. Sayre (2013) also stated, “It did not mean anything, just as, in the face of war, life itself had come to seem meaningless” (p. 454). Although to me, as the wars and turmoil continued, politics changed, and newer phases of art were created, the details and works of art changed as well. For example, more and more details were added, more color were incorporated into paintings, and paintings seemed to portray more emotions than they had before as the artists seemed to become more outspoken. A great representation of art that depicted the war was Picasso’s Guernica, pictured below. This is a black and white photo containing very somber, depressing colors, that is very abstract and chaotic. It was said, “The work portrays a scene of violence and helpless suffering,” (Sayre 2013, p. 467) and this is expressed perfectly in this painting. Sayre (2013) also concluded, “Guernica would become the international symbol of the horrors of war and the fight against totalitarianism” (p. 467). The people and their heads are leaning backwards, looking towards the sky and their mouths are open as if they are screaming loudly or as if they are in pain. The faces of the animals in this painting also appear worrisome and scared. This painting is a picture of true turmoil and is a great representation of times during the war. The wars and political stance during this time clearly affected many artists, as it was commonly demonstrated in their work.

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