Olympia. Edouard Manet. 1863. Oil on canvas. H. 130; W. 190 cm. Paris, Musée d'Orsay
Self Portrait. Rembrandt. 1660. Oil on canvas. 31.61 x 26.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Self Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gaugin. Vincent van Gogh. 1888. Oil on canvas. 60.5 x 49.4 cm. Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Pieta. Anabale Carricci. 1600. Oil on canvas. 149 x 156 cm. Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.
Woman with Dead Child. Kathe Kollowitz. 1903. Etching. 39 x 48 cm.
To the casual viewer, Modern art is often shocking, amusing, indecipherable and unnerving because art has always been understood in terms of traditional representation. However at the turn of the nineteenth century, European artists began to rebel against the institution of classical art. To gain success as an artist in Europe up until this time, acceptance by the Royal Academies of Art was essential (Rosenfeld 2000). The approved style was that of classical antiquity depicting idealised historical, mythological and religious scenes and because the Academies controlled official patronage for artists, they set the rules for standards of “beauty” in art (Rosenfeld 2000). However with the rise of modernity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, art theory evolved. Modernity in this period was characterised by rapid growth of industry and technology in the city, which meant substantial social and economic innovation across Europe. Feelings of anxiety and instability accompanied this rapid transformation (Sturken and Cartwright 2009, 449) and lead to a self-conscious awareness within artists and consumers alike. So strongly were the changes felt that artists began reinterpreting traditional subject matter to reflect this new modern age. Ultimately, Modern artists sought truth over beauty, a concept which encompassed both the physicality of painting as a medium as well as the artist’s sense of self in an endeavour to create “pure” art (Greenberg). Academic art strove to overcome the limitations of painting as a medium; surface flatness, canvas structure and properties of paint pigment (Kleiner 2009, 822), to create illusions of space and aesthetics. Modern artists reacted by emphasising the same properties to communicate original insights and observations. However, the popular notion that Modernism was a...
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Figure 2. Olympia. Edouard Manet. 1863. Oil on canvas. H. 130; W. 190 cm. Paris, Musée d'Orsay offered to the French State by public subscription initiated by Claude Monet, 1890© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski. Reproduced from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/visualarts/olympia_a.html (accessed Feb 4, 2015).
Figure 3. Self Portrait. Rembrandt. 1660. Oil on canvas. 31.61 x 26.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. http://totallyhistory.com/self-portrait-altman/ (accessed Feb 4, 2015)
Figure 4. Self Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gaugin. Vincent van Gogh. 1888. Oil on canvas. 60.5 x 49.4 cm. Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/gogh/self/gogh.self-gauguin.jpg (accessed Feb 4, 2015)
Figure 5. Pieta. Anabale Carricci. 1600. Oil on canvas. 149 x 156 cm. Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy. http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/annibale-carracci/pieta-1600 (accessed Feb 4, 2015)
Figure 6. Woman with Dead Child. Kathe Kollowitz. 1903. Etching. 39 x 48 cm. oj0 http://hammer.ucla.edu/programs/detail/program_id/204 (accessed Feb 4, 2015)
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