An Examination of Modernism with Reference to Several Works of Art

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The terms 'modern', 'modernity' and 'modernism' are commonly used to specify a break in history, marking a definition between the present and the past, between the fashionable and the out of date, and carry as part of their meaning an almost criticism of tradition. By calling himself a 'modernist', the artist is instantly free to work on a clean plate, without the limitations of tradition with its set of rules or its fixed criteria. It is commonly thought that the Modernist movement was only properly established during the late nineteenth Century, being triggered by ground breaking developments in the areas of science, technology and the economic market. Art was suddenly discovered to be an increasingly useful tool in science, whilst technology was developing new means of reproducing graphic images that widened and spread the use and influence of art. At the same time, the growth in market and social consumption was turning art into a product to be sold, rather than commissioned. These three factors created a need for a new form of art, which like capitalism was in a constant state of change. Other factors that triggered the development of modernism include a ?major cultural shift from a time-honored aesthetics of permanence, based on a belief in an unchanging and transcendental ideal of beauty, to an aesthetics of transitoriness and immanence, whose central values are change and novelty?[1]. Since Roman times and even during the last half of the seventeenth Century, beauty was still looked upon as a transcendental, fixed model of an ideal. Artists might have considered themselves above their masters, but only in conjunction to the belief that they had a better grasp and wider knowledge in conveying this model. It was only during the late eighteenth Century and early nineteenth Century that a new ?aesthetic modernity? arose, under the title ?romanticism?, bringing with it the first signs of a reaction against the laws of classism. Romanticism scrapped the idea of a timeless ideal beauty, replacing it by a ?sense of presentness and immediacy?[2]. Time, under a capitalist civilization, was looked upon as a relatively precious commodity, measured socially, and with the ability to be sold or purchased in the market. This Change of culture also brought about a different idea of self, which in relation to time, referred ... ... middle of paper ... ...t because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.?[3] I think I am justified to say that the Modernists no longer wanted to be the ?Dwarves on the shoulders of giants?. Quite the opposite. These were a new breed, anxious to stand on their own two feet, not afraid to start from naught, in order to concentrate on the now and create pure and unrestricted Modern art. Bibliography - "Modernism", by Charles Harrison, Tate Gallery, Millbank London, 1997 - "Theories of Modern Art", by Herschel B. Chipp, California, 1968 - "Five Faces of Modernity", by Matei Calinescu, Durham1987 - "The Story of Art", Professor H. W. Janson, New York University, 1950 - "Modernism's History", by Bernard Smith, New Haven and London, 1998 - "The Originality of the Avant-Garde and other Modernist Myths", by Rosalind E. Krauss, London, 1985 --------------------------------------------------------------------- [1] "Five Faces of Modernity", by Matei Calinescu, Durham, 1987 [2] "Histoire de la Peinture en Italie", Stendhal, 1817 [3] "The Metalogicon", trans. By John of Salisbury, Gloucester, 1971

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