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Art History Course

AN ERA AND ITS ART: The Twentieth Century

The twentieth century begins with new inventions and discoveries that herald our modern era: Einstein's theory of relativity, Freud's psychoanalysis, X-rays, splitting of the atom, mass-produced cars, powered aircraft.

Self-conscious young artists announce new styles in strident manifestos: Fauvism, Cubism, Orphism, Rayonism, Purism, Expressionism, Vorticism, to name but a few!

The hopes of this new technological world were to be dashed on the battlefields of the Great War. Political chaos brought revolution in Russia and upheaval across Europe. Bitter disillusion shaped German Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), the nonsense of Dada, the dream world of Surrealism.

For Russian revolutionaries and the State Bauhaus School in Weimar abstract art and design held the key to forging a better future.

Whilst Europe floundered after the second World War, New York embraced a new wave of Modernism. Abstract Expressionism was born: bigger, bolder, and better funded than its European counterparts. But it too would be challenged as artists reacted to the impact of mass media imagery. Some retreated into austere Minimalism, others embraced Pop Art.

By the 1970s it seemed the Modernist experiment had fractured and waned, to be replaced with a focus on Identity Politics. In Post-Modernism the dominance of Painting and Sculpture give way to Performance, Film, Installation, Graffiti and Concept Art.

Power in the artworld shifts: to international curators, hedge fund managers and a certain advertising tycoon! The century ends with the demolition of old ideologies .... and with a distinct aroma of formaldehyde in the air.