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Unit 4 (2nd half): 1750 - 1980 CE

Later Europe and Americas

Images 126-127; 129-152

Main Ideas:

  • As Europe and the Americas underwent rapid societal changes (such as urbanization, commercialization, imperialism, political revolutions, and world wars), works of art generally either sought to support or oppose those developments to advocate for greater harmony



  • General Idea: During & After WW1, artists rejected realism and sought to use logic and rational reasoning to create artwork that promoted harmony and order
  • Cubism: Decomposes subjects into geometric shapes representing different perspectives, allowing people to more easily find meaning in the artwork

  • Fauvism: Color is not meant to describe a certain feeling but rather exists independent of any description so that we can interpret the meaning of the colors on our own
  • German Expressionism: Allowed people to find their own emotions and ideas in the artworks as inspiration to bring out change in society
  • Architectural Modernism: Promoted a rational simplistic approach to architectural design where the form of a structure is based on its function
  • De Stijl: Reduced art to its bare essential forms to advocate for more harmony and a reduction of society to its basic fundamentals after WW1

  • Suprematism & Constructivism: Combined many different symbolic images, shapes, and colors into one large artwork to convey a revivalist theme
  • Surrealism: Used different elements that tap into our subconscious mind when looking at the artwork
  • Dadaism: Rejected true logic and reason and sought to express themselves through nonsensical artworks
  • Modernism in the Americas: Reflected European modernism but was more about promoting harmony  between social classes & genders as Americans generally spoke out about those issues more than Europeans did

Image 126: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon



Les Demoiselles d'Avignon


Pablo Picasso


1907 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Because this painting references prostitution (which is inherently ugly & raw), Picasso uses abstraction as a new way to represent it rather than idealizing it falsely in a romantic way
    • The ladies of Avignon (the english translation): Avignon is a street in Paris known for prostitution, so this painting references sexuality

      • No men in the photo: The females gaze out at the viewer → Alludes to their sexuality

    • Face on the right (dark-skinned woman) alludes to French colonialism in Africa

    • The central figure is depicted multiple times from different angles → Picasso doesn’t idealize the central figure but shows multiple figures of it (in different angles) as a new way to show the true ugliness of prostitution

      • No realistic depictions (as he doesn’t want to idealize sexuality): Compressed space, no linear perspective, etc.

    • Doesn’t want to create a false romantic beauty of prostitution → He abstracts it instead

Image 129: The Kiss



The Kiss


Constantin Brancusi


Original: 1907 - 1908 CE



  • Showcases the wholeness and oneness of a kiss in its primitive form rather than idealizing or romanticizing it
    • The man and woman form a union together → Wholeness and purity of a kiss

      • Their bodies are like perfect rectangular prisms and fit together​

      • Their arms perfectly wrap around each other

      • Their eyes form one “whole” eye

    • Uses primitive imagery (stone) to not idealize or romanticize this kiss but rather allow anyone to relate to it

      • The sculpture is raw without any excessive decoration → Shows that any kiss can be wholesome and pure and doesn’t have to be idealized or romanticized

Image 130: The Portuguese

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The Portuguese


Georges Braque


1911 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Shows multiple perspectives of a person: Promotes the idea that we have to see someone through multiple perspectives to understand who they truly are
    • This shows a Portuguese man, but each “box” is a different perspective of him (front view, side view, etc.)

      • Some have chiaroscuro, some have absence of light → Emphasizes the different perspectives

      • Multiple light sources and multiple boxes → Emphasizes the 2-D nature of the paper

    • Shows the idea that we need to fully deconstruct a man into separate pieces then piece them all together to understand their true personality and true self

Image 131: Goldfish





Henri Matisse


1912 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Uses color contrasts and distortion (multiple perspectives) to symbolize the feeling of tranquility and meditation from the goldfish
    • Fauvism emphasized strong color contrasts

      • Sought to liberate the association of certain colors with objects to allow us to internally "feel" our own sensation of colors when looking at the goldfish → Gives a feeling of tranquility and reflection​

    • Drew influence from Impressionism & Post-Impressionism:

      • Light and reflection from Impressionism

      • Colors and distortion from post-Impressionism

    • Goldfish are seen from multiple perspectives → Shows distortion and flatness of canvas

      • Emphasizes the feeling of tranquility and meditation from the goldfish as we see them in different ways

Image 132: Improvisation 28 (second version)



Improvisation 28 (second version)


Vassily Kandinsky


1912 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Uses abstraction to promote the idea that there is inherently political dissidence and disaster and that we ourselves need to look for rhythm in the painting
    • Has some biblical references → Abstract references to disaster and political dissidence

      • City on hill in top right; Noah’s flood in bottom left

    • Inspired by Jungian philosophy: Without any representation or harmony, there is a feeling of unsettling → We need to look for harmony to feel more satisfied

    • It’s like he’s composing some music without representing anything concrete → Wants us to infer the rhythm

      • This reflects atonal music (that lacks melody & harmony) → Chaos in the painting

      • Metaphor for the idea that life inherently has political chaos and we need to look for order and leadership in our world

Image 133: Self-Portrait as a Soldier



Self-Portrait as a Soldier


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner


1915 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Contrasts his military self (left side) with his idealized nude self (right side) to emphasize the horrors of war and Kirchner's anxiety with the present-day WW1 situation
    • Founded the German Expressionist group Die Brücke (The Bridge): Believe in looking to the past (primitive objects) and the future to create new artworks that reflect the change in our world

    • Contrasts his primitive military uniform with his idealized nude self to criticize himself as an artist because he thinks he wasted his time in war and has no true identity

      • The right amputated hand (left side) represents an injury to his identity as an artist

      • Contrasts his military clothing with the idealized nude’s clothing to show the horrors of war

    • Has a distorted and brutalized face (military self) → Emphasizes his disgust with war

    • Shows how he’s disgusted with war and modern societal developments and wants to look to his primitive self (his nude) to prevent any anxiety in the future

Image 134: Memorial Sheet for Karl Liebknecht

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Memorial Sheet for Karl Liebknecht


Käthe Kollwitz


1919 - 1920 CE



  • Emphasizes the sadness and lamentation of Karl Liebknecht’s death
    • Liebknecht was German communist leader during WW1

      • After the war, the Communists fought the Socialists for control of the Weimar Republic (Germany) → Socialists captured Leibknecht and he died

      • Everyone mourned the death of Liebknecht

    • Woodcut is divided into thirds

      • Top row is a group of sad faces

      • Middle row is everyone lamenting and bowing forward to honor Liebknecht

        • Takes the form of the Biblical Lamentation

      • Bottom row is Leibknecht’s body

    • Woodcut allows for dark and ghost-like faces of people → Emphasizes the sad effect of the mourning

Image 135: Villa Savoye



Villa Savoye


Poissy-sur-Seine, France


Le Corbusier (Architect)


1929 CE


Steel and reinforced concrete

  • Represents the idea that form follows function (more simplicity), allowing for more abstraction/freedom and less restriction in the interior of the house
    • Free interior plan → People can distribute the interior plan (like the furniture and rooms, etc.) however they like

      • Planar window brings light to all rooms of the interior

    • Exterior is very planar and simple → Emphasizes fluidity and abstract/openness of interior

      • Bottom appears to be floating → Air flow in the bottom

Image 136: Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow



Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow


Piet Mondrian


1930 CE


Oil on Canvas

  • Uses primary colors and black/white (and no symmetry) to reduce art to its basic elements and advocate for harmony and order during the horrors of the Great War
    • De Stijl means “The Style”

      • Seeks to create pure and “real” abstraction by reducing art to its bare components with precise geometric forms and straight lines

      • Mondrian can convey the underlying structure of reality through these basic variations in colors

    • Wants to reduce society to its bare minimum elements after all the complexity of the Great War (WW1) → Advocates for a return to order, harmony, and the basic fundamental society

Image 137: Illustration from the Results of the First Five-Year Plan

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Illustration from the Results of the First Five-Year Plan


Varvara Stepanova


1932 CE



  • Uses Suprematist and Constructivist elements to represent the triumph of industrialism in Communist Russia
    • Suprematism: Uses simple geometric shapes and color palettes to allow the viewer to internally recognize the artistic meaning without concrete images

      • This has a Red, White, Tan, and Black color palette with Red, White, and Tan bands in background → These are the basic colors of communism

    • Constructivism: Doesn’t use ornate decorations but rather combines many different simple elements into a larger photo (photomontage)

      • Has a “5” to symbolize the 5-year plan

      • Has other industrial elements to symbolize industrial success

      • Has Lenin facing the people (and is much larger than the people) → Symbolize his power

      • Has many different simple elements (described above) all put together in a collage/photomontage to describe urban industrial life

Image 138: Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure)

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Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure)


Meret Oppenheim


1936 CE


Fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon

  • The fur gives our hands a sensation of energy that represents the warmth that our internal conscience experiences when drinking tea
    • Surrealists use physical elements to touch our subconscious feelings about the object

    • Here, our conscience feels a sensation of warmth and energy when drinking the tea

      • Thus, the teacup is lined with fur to physically give our hands that same warm and energetic/stimulating feeling

    • Also gives a clash of sensations because while the fur signifies our subconscious feeling of warmth, drinking from the cup feels uncomfortable, while drinking tea in general is supposed to be comfortable

Image 144: Fountain (second version)



Fountain (second version)


Marcel Duchamp


1950 CE (original in 1917 CE)


Readymade glazed sanitary china with black paint