Modernist styles, including Cubism, Orphism, and Futurism challenged the practices of traditional representational art. I will argue that modernist styles including Cubism, Orphism and Futurism did challenge the practices of traditional representational art. While some may argue that that the fact that modern styles were concerned with subject gives doubt to how challenging they really were to representational art I oppose this idea entirely. All art is representational in some way.
Rather than a dismissing the concept of representation in art the modernist styles challenged the validity of the external representation, which had previously en the foundation of art, by focusing on conceptual representation. Traditional representational art is based on the representation of an image as it is, at a fixed point in time, from a singular viewpoint. This type of art aimed to be entirely familiar to the viewer; the subjects involved easily recognizable and derived from sources of reality.
Mel Gooding, in his book Abstract Art defines representational art as ‘any mode of representation in painting and sculpture that offers the eye the illusion of a perceived reality. ‘ I would expand on this definition to include art that aims to render n image realistically from a fixed viewpoint at a specific point in time. Based on these definitions, it is evident that Cubism, Orphism and Futurism rejected traditional concepts and conventions as these could not portray the conceptual representation modern art was concerned with.
It is evident in the works produced by the artists associated with these movements that they made a conscious decision to expand what was acceptable in art by challenging the artistic techniques and practices of representational art that had been adhered to for hundreds of years. The introduction of new media, new concepts of space and form and new techniques tit light and color were all innovative and effective ways to display experiences of the world in ways that weren’t bound by traditional artistic conventions.
These new conventions were only able to develop because modernist artists ‘consciously sought radically new ways to represent their experience of the world. ‘ Modern art at this time was all about stimulating the experience of a subject by portraying its essence through new artistic conventions. In this way these modern works challenged the more objective representational art by uncovering new concepts of reality that did not involve the burden of realism. The artist Delaney explained this as ‘historically there was a change of understanding, hence of techniques, of modes of seeing. In some ways these artists were set free from the burden of realism by the invention of the camera, which could render an image perfectly. They were given the freedom to portray their understanding of an image, not how it is observed. New modernist styles marked a change in the definition of what reality expressed through art really was, moving away from the traditional illusionist’s visual mimicry to a more conceptual and internal representation. This idea was first formally established by Maurice Urinal an art critic and close friend of many of the artists involved in these modern movements.
He stated that “if art is a meaner of augmenting knowledge, its function will only be served by painting forms as they are conceived in the mind. ” I will argue that this conceptual form of art is more intellectually stimulating due to its complexity than the blatancy of figurative art. This is a sentiment that abstract artists wished to express and the reason they challenged the traditions of art at all. I will set out in my argument how the innovative use of artistic conventions by modernist artists proves that the practices of traditional representational art were rejected.
It was only through this purposeful rejection of traditional representational art to a truer, more conceptual representation that the innovative concepts associated with these modernist styles were able to develop and this marks the development of modern art into abstraction. Space and form All three styles, Cubism, Orphism and Futurism show a pictorial space and form which would be unrecognizable to traditional representational art.. Although theses three modern styles varied, the works involved all occupied a new and more complex pace.
Mel Gooding explains this as a trend in modern art away from the representation of recognizable objects in pictorial space and towards presentation of a painting or sculpture as a real object in real space. ‘ Up until this time the pictorial space created in the art work aimed to create the illusion of a real pictorial space for the spectator. The technique of one point perspective which was very much adhered to during the renaissance created a space in the picture which vanished into a single point in order to replicate the three dimensionality of our vision.
This coupled with the use of shading and toning to accentuate the weight of form worked to create the illusion of looking into a realistic space. The use of formal conventions such as perspective and tone are illusionist’s and therefore they were abandoned by these modern artists who were inspired to achieve a more conceptual representation of space and form. For example, Baroque said of Cubism What most attracted me and what was the governing principle of Cubism, was the materialistic of this new space which I sensed. The art movement of Cubism was in fact sparked by the idea f exploring a new anti naturalistic space which can be seen to be developed and refined throughout the phases of cubism. The driving force behind the experimentations with form that developed cubism was the rejection of the deceptive singular viewpoint perspective which governed the illusionist of representational art. Initially the search for a new, more truthful pictorial space was found in the introduction of time, the fourth dimension, into space.
Around this time in history the concept that space and time where interlinked was suggested by Einstein theory of relativity which destroyed the concept that the dimensions of an object were absolute, by demonstrating that they depended on the relative position of the viewer. This abstract concept was portrayed in Cubism through the use of synthesized impressions of an image or space. As you view an image or object, your impression is not static but a moving collection of impressions over time. The use of multiple viewpoints aimed to compress a multiplicity of information gathered from various experiences of an object into one image.
This innovation off truer space is most evidently portrayed by the analytic phase of Cubism. Through the incorporation of the new artistic conventions the fragmentation of form was developed. The intention was to encompass the entire visual experience of an object into one image and through this idea an effective technique of breaking up form into planes and facets which each expressed a sample of visual information. The Cubist works now possessed a shallow pictorial space due to the abandonment of perspective on which these fragmented facets could be hung.
This concept worked not to bring the viewer into an illusionist’s space like traditional representational works, but to accentuate the flatness of the picture plane in order to bring the space forward to the viewer for hem to experience its analysis of the image and to stimulate those sensations provided by the experience of the objects. In Futurism the concept of time in an image was portrayed by movement. This inclusion of time as a meaner of transforming the static imagery once associated with art into a capturing of movement created a new optical and temporal space.
Futurists were also interested in the use of fragmentation of form to challenge the idea of a fixed viewpoint that was used in representational art. However, they developed this idea further and produced works which captured the idea of movement in a way that was not possible wrought traditional conventions. They achieved this through the use of rhythmic repetitions of space and form which is effective in evolving a static image into one which is in constant motion. Evidence of all of these ideas can be seen in artworks associated with all three of these modernist art styles.
One of my favorite examples is Marcel Duchess’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2. This work portrays the mechanical movement of a nude figure as it moves down a staircase. The form is made up of the synthesis of various static positions of the nude as it is in motion and Leary expresses the idea of form changing over time. The form consists of layers of superimposed facets and angular planes which is evidence of cubist ideals of space and form. At the same time the still phases of the form placed in succession create the effect of a fluid movement, this is an illustration of the futurist need to recreate the visual experience of motion.
These ideas coupled with the mechanized and almost robotic form of the image alludes to the Futurists focus on industrialization of the world. The painting was initially rejected by the hanging committee of the Salon des Independents exhibition in Paris. Their reasoning for this was ‘a nude never descends a staircase a nude always reclines. ‘ The fact that Decamp was not adhering to traditional conventions was not accepted at this time. Many found the painting unintelligible because they did not recognize the figure at face value.
But this was Duchess’s intention to redefine representation in art. Today the art work is treasured as a symbol of the innovative practices associated with these modern styles. Light and color Traditionally light and color were artistic conventions used to create those optical delusions necessary to form a ‘realistic’ image. The light source in a representational work would be realistic and consistently come from one light source. Color was used only as a tool for portraying the effects of light on form through shade and tone.
This toning gave form the weight and the illusion of three dimensions. However, in modern art the illusion of the description of form and the natural effect of light on an image was no longer a concern. Orphism changed how color was viewed as a tool for portrayal. This was a movement that found significance in the symphony of sensations that colors are able to stimulate when crafted together. Because modernist artists no longer wanted to be confined to naturalism they were free to experiment with the effect of the relationships of color.
This involved the color theory of contrasting and complementary colors and the optimum placement of these colors together to enhance hues. Delaney, a key Orphism artist was able to develop these color techniques from his studies of a chemist, Michael-Eugene Chevron’s treatise, On the Law of the Simultaneous Contrast of Colors. This treatise dealt with the concept that a color is observed differently according to its surrounding colors. An example of a modern work based upon the use of the application of color techniques is Homage to Bibelot by Robert Delaney.
This work contains various circular forms all made up of highly organized bright block colors. The colors of these circular forms, which are mostly primary, are surrounded by a background of opposing colors such as a yellow, green and red image surrounded by blue, red and green respectively. It is this complete contrast which illuminates the effect of the colors to a point where they are so much more successful in their specific function when Juxtaposed in this purposeful way. It is not only this illumination that the use of these color techniques create but a pictorial space.
A depth is created by the advancing and receding of colors according to their characteristics. These techniques had not been used in traditional representational art and are another example of how these abstract artists redefined accepted artist conventions. Media The use of different media is also an example of the development of new practices in the art world which stemmed from the rejection of traditional practices. During the Cubist movement the introduction of new media was achieved through collage, eliding the purposeful rejection of the observed for the conceptual.
Cubist artists began to incorporate new materials into their works such as strips of newspaper or wallpaper. This innovation was a monumental step away from traditional art. Picasso ‘Still Life with Chair Caning consists of sections of a kitchen scene, a knife, a lemon a glass. Within the painting Picasso has also incorporated a section of chair caning patterned oil cloth. Instead of portraying the image of a chair Picasso chose to use something that would stimulate the viewer’s experience of the object.
The cloth as significance in the work because the viewer can relate it to the image of a chair without the image of a chair being displayed. Picasso is no longer concerned about displaying any illusionist’s craftsmanship; he found a material; that would evoke the image he wished to portray and chose to incorporate it into the work. As a result, the whole purpose of art was challenged; it was no longer to replicate an external observation ‘realistically but to portray the essence of an image through pictorial clues.
The images in a work may have meaning but when a foreign material is introduced it has the ability to change those meanings. For example a glass cut from newspaper confusingly evokes two images in the mind. Picasso explains this example “If a newspaper can become a bottle, that gives us something to think about in connection with both newspapers and bottles, too. This displaced object has entered a universe for which it was not made and where it retains, in a measure, its strangeness.
And this strangeness was what we wanted to make people think about because we were quite aware that our world was becoming very strange and not exactly reassuring. “This peculiarity activates the mind on a higher level. The evolution of art to involve new media is a natural progression by an art movement which aims to confront the conventions of representational art and to create works which stimulate a higher level of perception than ever before. Picasso also says in the same statement about the introduction of new media “We didn’t any longer want to fool the eye; we wanted to fool the mind. This idea pretty much sums up the whole purpose of these modern works. Subject Even the subject matter itself in these forms of art worked to separate itself from traditional subjects. Many works incorporated images that would activate memories f the more mundane, relatable experiences of life. It is evident that the artists involved in these styles were challenging the idea that art had to be a glorification of something, such as the biblical frescoes often associated with traditional art or a work that aimed to be ‘pretty.
This introduction of everyday life into art effectively broadened the accessibility of art to everyday people. It was no longer a craft only obtainable by those with the ability to render the illusion of realism perfectly, it was open to anyone who wished to capture the conceptual essence of a subject through art. It is this idea which democratic art making. For cubists, subject was a platform onto which experiments with space and form could be conducted. This isn’t to say that subject wasn’t still taken into consideration.
The easily relatable subject matter in these works was a purposeful decision in order to make the portrayal of the desired experiences easier. This was initially a playful experiment by the artists who developed these abstract artistic conventions due to the fact that they ‘enjoyed exploring the tension between apparent abstraction and suggested representation. ‘ Their new conceptual ideals had lead to the distortion and abstraction of the subject matter but they incorporated artistic clues to evoke the image of the object..
By viewing modern works associated with these styles and considering what they seek to express, it is apparent that unlike representational art which relies on observation, the subject is not fixed but is instead based on individual and unique encounters. The work Just has to present itself and the spectator becomes the decider of the meanings of the subject. In this sense the fact that a subject of a modern work could e open to interpretation and is not obvious, modernist art styles transcended the level of intellectuality that figurative art could produce.
Modern works were free to move away for the burden of only being able to portray observable images. In terms of Orphism and Futurism these movements aspired to move away from the external manifestations of human life. ‘ While Futurism chose to focus on the force of a dynamic subject, Orphism broke subject down into the lyricism of color. These modern artists felt that they were able to employ the dynamic forces of life such as speed and movement as the subject of a work. The inspiration for this sort of subject matter was inspired by the new technology fuelled age which was more exciting and dynamic than ever before.
Because of this changing world the artists were living in they felt the need to express their excitement about life through art. This meaner that the fixed images of settings, people or landscapes associated with representational art was abandoned. Many futurist works portrayed mechanized and robotic figures or symbols of industrialization and technology immersed in some sort of movement. In conclusion, modernist styles including Cubism, Orphism and Futurism challenged he practices of traditional representational art by creating art which was more conceptual and internally driven.
This focus on conceptual representation of a subject lead to the development of new ideas about space, form, color, light, and media and how these conventions come together to portray a subject. This redefinition of representation is evident in the works produced by these modernist artists. In the search for the ability to portray more truthfully modern artists created an art form which was more intellectually intriguing than art the world had seen before By Yachtsmen And