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"Spiritualizing the Material" and "Dematerializing the World" in Modernist and Avant-Garde Practice

On the Wider Import of a Distinction Debora Silverman Develops in Van Gogh and Gaugin

Jerrold Seigel

This essay seeks to extend Debora Silverman's distinction between van Gogh's project of "spiritualizing the material" and Gauguin's related but opposed one of "dematerializing the world" to a wider range of modernist and avant-garde projects. It employs this distinction in connection with Astradur Eysteinsson's analysis of the problems of using such terms as modernism, the avant-garde, and postmodernism in relation to realism and the various revolts against it that have taken place since the age of romanticism. Eysteins-son's general approach is followed, but also in part questioned and given a different direction through discussions of Duchamp, the surrealists, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud.

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Matisse at Vence

An Epilogue to Van Gogh and Gauguin: the Search for Sacred Art

Kenneth E. Silver

Silverman's intent is to emphasize the "critical role of religion in the development of modernism." As an addendum to that pursuit, it should be pointed out that, well into the twentieth century, religion remained crucial to artistic innovation and development (and still is). We now recognize how important apocalyptic imagery was to Wasily Kandinsky's abstraction. In the wake of the Second World War, and French occupation by the Germans, religion made a powerful reappearance in the art of the avant-garde. Henri Matisse's Chapel of the Rosary at Vence is one of the great works of this period; it is worth briefly examining the ways in which Matisse understood the intersection between modern art and his reengagement with Catholicism.

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Iterative Modernism

The Design Mode of Interwar Engineering in Belgium

Greet De Block and Bruno De Meulder

This article traces the implicit spatial project of Belgian engineers during the interwar period. By analyzing infrastructure planning and its inscribed spatial ideas as well as examining the hybrid modernity advocated by engineers and politicians, this article contributes to both urban and transport history.

Unlike colleagues in countries such as Germany, Italy and the United States, Belgian engineers were not convinced that highways offered a salutary new order to a nation traumatized by the First World War. On the contrary, the Ponts et Chaussées asserted that this new limited access road would tear apart the densely populated areas and the diverse regional identities in Belgium. In their opinion, only an integration of existing and new infrastructure could harmonize the historically fragmented and urbanized territory. Tirelessly, engineers produced infrastructure plans, strategically interweaving different transport systems, which had to result in an overall transformation of the territory to facilitate modern production and export logics.

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“Plunging the Soul into Contemplation”

On MoMA's Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes

Nicole C. Rudolph

This article reviews the New York Museum of Modern Art's recent Le Corbusier retrospective and its accompanying catalogue. The author critically evaluates the curators' reassessment of Le Corbusier's legacy via the lens of landscape. A key insight gleaned from the show pertains to technologies of mobility: inspired by the views from the automobile, the steamer, and the airplane, Le Corbusier deployed modern materials and techniques of mass construction in order to maximize an inhabitant's contemplation of the natural world. What we learn from Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes, the author argues, is that the architect valorized and designed to prioritize “3 Cs”: circulation, composition, and contemplation. The notion of contemplation may be more useful to understanding Le Corbusier's architecture than the concept of landscape.

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Margaret Cohen

At the beginning of the twentieth century, due to the spread of helmet diving beyond engineering communities, people started to attend to the remarkable qualities of underwater optics, differing radically from seeing through air. With the revelation of this unfamiliar planetary environment to a broader public, creators across the arts took inspiration from underwater optics to structure fantasy spaces of dream, hallucination, and marvel. To show the properties of underwater optics inspiring these fantasy spaces, this article analyzes undersea paintings by Walter “Zarh” Pritchard, reputedly the first artist to have painted en pleine mer. It then turns to aquatically-inspired works of surrealism, the movement offering the most famous appropriation of underwater optics for the arts, focusing notably on André Breton's L'Amour fou and Jean Vigo's L'Atalante.

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Melissa Feinberg

Maria Bucur, Gendering Modernism: A Historical Reappraisal of the Canon , London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017, xi +149 pp., $24.95 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-350-0265-4. Maria Bucur, The Century of Women: How Women Have Transformed the World

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Paul Betts

Eric Michaud, Un Art de L’Éternité: L’image et le temps du national-socialisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1996).

Omer Bartov, Murder in Our Midst: The Holocaust, Industrial Killing and Representation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Michael Wildt, Vom kleinen Wohlstand: Eine Konsumgeschichte der fünfziger Jahre (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1996).

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The Ill-Equipped Modernist

Historicizing Édouard Dujardin’s Les Lauriers Sont Coupés

Kelly J. Maynard

in its own right, analyzing its interiority as an innovative product of overlapping aesthetic milieus symptomatic of the French fin de siècle, including symbolism, Wagnerism, modernism, and subjectivism. 2 In this article, I explore Les Lauriers

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Sacred Unions

Religion and Reconciliation in French Society, 1919-1945

Jessica Wardhaugh

Stephen Schloesser, Jazz Age Catholicism: Mystic Modernism in Postwar Paris, 1919-1933 (Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 2005).

Geoffrey Adams, Political Ecumenism: Catholics, Jews, and Protestants in de Gaulle’s Free France, 1940-1944 (Montreal and Kingston, London, Ithaca: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006).

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Return to the Organic

Onions, Artichokes and 'The Debate' on the Nation and Modernity

Laurence Piper

Nationalism and Modernism, by Anthony D. Smith. London & New York: Routledge, 1998. ISBN: 0415063418.

Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction, by Umut Özkrimili. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000. ISBN: 0333777123.

Understanding Nationalism, edited by Montserrat Guibernau and John Hutchinson. Cambridge: Polity. ISBN: 0745624022.