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The Movements: Rococo Through Surrealism

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The Movements:
Rococo through Surrealism
Hum 100 Final

At the end of the Baroque period the neo-classical style Rococo emerge in France. It dealt with elaborate ornamentation. The essence of Romanticism is particularly difficult to describe because it heavily focuses on emotion so you have to see, or hear it to understand it. Art in the modern era from 1860-1914 consists of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and Expressionism. These movements are closely related to each other, instead of being a carful rendering like in Realism art was freer flowing and had looser lines. Between the world wars art took on new roles these movements were: Cubism, Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism. The old social stratification of classes was beginning to break down in Europe.

The Rococo movement started in France in the early 18th century and is marked by elaborate ornamentation. The Rococo musical style is often viewed as an extension of the Baroque movement, ands characterized by a high degree of ornamentation and lightness of expression. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born January 27th, 1756 in Salzburg began composing music at the age of five. In 1788 Mozart wrote his final three symphonies nos. 39, 40, and 41. He composed these symphonies for zero commission and at the time had no other source of income. Mozart composed these three pieces of work quite rapidly. Composing came easily to Mozart and he often said that he was a vessel and God poured the music into him from the heavens. Mozart was preparing to hold a series of concerts in the casino. Unfortunately he died December 5th, 1791 at the age of 35 before getting the chance to hear his last symphonies preformed.
As neo-classicism died out in the early 19th century Romanticism took over. Romanticism places emphasis on personal feelings and their expression. Music, art, and literature were all strongly driven by emotion rather than intellect. A perfect example of strong emotion is The Nightmare, by Henri Fuseli painted in 1781. On canvas the painting portrays a sleeping woman and her nightmare simultaneously. This painting can be seen as sexual in nature, in the manner in which she is strewn over the bed. The dramatic contrast between light and dark is indicative of Romantic style paintings. The woman in the painting is in a white gown and in the incubus that is perched on her chest and the horse peering from behind the heavily painted red velvet curtains is painted darker. Henri Fuseli painted three versions of The Nightmare due to its wide popularity and fame.

Impressionism began in Paris in the 19th century. The movements mane actually came from Claude Monet’s painting Impression Sunrise. Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include: small but visible paint strokes, emphasis on light, unusual visual angles and ordinary subject matter such has a boat in the water or a mother and her son walking on a hill. Monet’s, Woman with a Parasol, 1875 is actually a painting of Madame Monet and their son Jean. Light, color, and movement are the focus of this painting. She is standing on a hill with her son at her side, and the wind is gently blowing through her hair and whipping her voluminous skirt around her legs. Shades of violet and brown lurk in the shadows that the two figures cast in the lush green grass.

Post-Impressionist extended from Impressionism. Post-Impressionist painters continued to use vivid color, a thick application of paint, and real-life subject matter. Painters in this movement focused more on geometric forms and used unnatural color choices for things like skin and skies. Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night painted in 1889 is an accurate representation of geometric form and unnatural color. This painting is the night view from his sanatorium room, but was painted completely from memory during the day. Off to the right in the painting is the village Saint-Remy under a swirling sky which creates a sense of rushing speed. In real life unfortunately the sky does not look like that beautiful nor are the stars that large. His color choice for the moon and the stars give contrast and depth between the large cypress trees in the foreground and the small village. In a letter Van Gogh did admit that he was unhappy with the way the painting, saying that it did not speak to him.

Fauvism in French translates to “wild Beast.” Fauve painters broke violently with tradition in their use of color and form. Characteristics of Fauvism are the use of wild brush strokes, exaggerated colors, and their subjects are very simplistic. Henri Matisse is one of the most famous Fauvist artists. His pochoir Icarus, 1947 is of a bold and playful image of a man. It is one of twenty plates Matisse created to illustrate his book Jazz. The figure is presented in a simple almost “cut-out” like form against a blue night sky adorned with bright multi-pointed yellow start bursts’. What really sets this piece off is the little red circle like shape on the figures chest to represent his heart. It shows the true playfulness of the art.

Expressionism was happening in Germany at the same time that Fauvism was happening in France. While Fauve art was mostly cheery and uplifting expressionist art was gloomy, foreboding, and sometimes even chilling. An example of gloomy expressionism is clearly shown in Edvard Munch’s The Scream, 1893. The red sky and the personal separation from the figures in this painting are chilling. This painting is void of all happiness. Munch created several versions of The Scream in different mediums such as: Paint, Pastel, and Lithograph. The Scream original and its other versions have been the target of reoccurring art thefts. All the versions of this painting have been found and are on display in museums around the world.
Cubism was pioneered in the 20th century by Pablo Picasso and George Braque. In cubism art objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled on the canvas in any and all possible angles. For instance, Picasso’s Lady in a Blue Hat is painted from more than one point of view. He gives us a traditional head on view but also shows the viewer the woman’s profile at the same time. The colors are expressive and the space is fragmented. Picasso’s art makes the viewer look at the canvas and think about familiar things in new and different ways.
Great art always has a thrust towards the future. A small group of intellectuals in Italy looked to the future with hope and to the past with contempt. Futurist literature primary focus on seven aspects: Intuition, analogy, irony, abolition of syntax, metrical reform, onomatopoeia, and essential synthetic lyricism. In Marinetti’s 1909 Manifesto of Futurism, he calls for the reawakening of “divine-intuition.” Basically what is being said is you need to free your mind and think clearly without interference or the use of reason.
Dada is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland during World War I. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature-poetry, graphic design, and anti-art cultural works. Marcel Duchamp, one of the most represented Dada artist was well known for his lacerating spoofs of high culture such as L.H.O.O.Q. his famous defacement of the Mona Lisa. Duchamp used a pencil on a post card and gave the Mona Lisa a mustache and beard. He also applied the letters “L H O O Q” when pronounced in French its Ell a chaud au cul which in English translates to “she has a hot ass.” Duchamp however gives the loose translation of “there is a fire down below.”
Surrealism art features the element of surprise and plays heavily into the subconscious. Surrealism developed out of the Dada movement. Surrealism spread around the world affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music. One such surrealist painter Salvador Dali gave us The Persistence of Memory (melting clocks) 1931. Dali is trying to epitomize the theory of softness and hardness. It’s as if you are walking through a beautiful dream when you suddenly become aware of time, and in an effort to slow time you melt the clocks around you to gain more time. Salvador called this painting a hand-painted dream photograph. As the world grows so does Art, music and literature. It’s how we mark our lives. For those who can’t express themselves through personal relationships the arts is the perfect medium for them. They can tell a story with a paint brush, a poem, or a song. Their stories might be mathematical like in the Rococo or capture real raw emotion like that of the Romantic era. Some might be care free and paint what they see like the Impressionist, and at times the story of our lives may be a sad one and out art often takes on that emotion like Expressionist artist. No matter the story and the artistic medium people with always express themselves in this manner because there is always someone who wants to see it, read it, or hear it.

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