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The Age of Avant-Gardes

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Table of Contents

Paul Czanne and Post- Impressionism.................................................... 4


Henri Matisse and Fauvism ..................................................................... 6
Umberto Boccioni and Futurism ............................................................ 10
Pablo Picasso and Cubism ..................................................................... 14
Gustav Klimt and Art Nouveau .............................................................. 18
Wassily Kandinsky and Abstract ............................................................ 22
Marcel Duchamp and Dadaism ............................................................. 26
My own examples of Dada and Abstract Art ........................................ 31
Bibliography ......................................................................................... 32

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Paul Czanne and Post

learning new styles and eventually seeking


for innovation and adaptation. Profound

Impressionism

economic, social and political problems


a

were taking place in Europe at that time, so

movement that took place in France

the peoples cultural view was about to

between

extending

experience fundamental changes. Figuring

Impressionism. This movements main

among the artists that engaged Post-

character was the representation of open

Impressionism was Paul Czanne (1839-

areas, also called en plain air paintings,

1906), a French painter, who was very

mostly the artists depicted landscapes, still

traditional and

lives and portraits. It could be compared to

innovations to art, probably because he

the Realism art movement, due to its

died in the beginning of the 20th century,

accurate approach to the subject matter,

when

from colors to proportions, everything was

starting to gain space around the world. He

commonly

mainly painted still life and fruits, but also

Post-Impressionism

1880

and

painted,

1920,

without

was

breaking

traditional rules. Although it appeared to


be a simple style, it was the introduction to
the avant-garde movements that took
place in the first half of the 20th century.
Many post-impressionist artists ended up

new

did

artistic

not

bring

movements

great

were

produced some landscapes and portraits.


As a representation of Czannes
still life, The Blue Vase shows the artists
self improvement as a painter. This
composition is about a vase filled with
colorful flowers and placed on a table,

Title: The Blue Vase


Year: 1883-1887
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Paul Czanne
Size: 61 x 50 cm
Location: Muse
dOrsay, Paris

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next to three oranges and some other

traces. Czanne builds a very harmonious

objects. The line that catches ones eye is

piece, with correct proportions and placing

the flower in the bouquet, because its red

the subject matter in the middle of the

tone makes great contrast against the

canvas, he brings balance to the image.

predominant green. When it comes to

Surely the viewer can perceive depth in

shape the elements are not very geometric

this piece, because the artist creates

and its edges are defined with very thin

different hues by mixing colors, rather than

brushstrokes, which gives them a delicate

depicting the shade using black.

finishing. In terms of movement, one can


have the sense of motion by observing the
curvy branches that come out of the vase,
forming green waves against the wall in the
background. Due to the use of light blue
and green tones and also to the soft
contrast between colors, the viewer
perceives a serene and peaceful mood. In
this context, the artist shows great ability
combining colors; he applies mostly cool
patterns, but also warm ones, and makes a
balance between them with light white

Approaching a different subject


matter, The Bather is a piece that
departs a bit form Czannes style. In this
composition, he depicts a half naked man
walking with his bathing suit, probably
heading to a swimming pool or the sea.
The figure is completely absorbed in
thoughts, distractedly looking down; he
seems to be unaware of what is happening
around him, so it provides the viewer with
a sense of preoccupation and a tense
mood.

Since

the

man

is

heading

Title: The Bather


Year: 1885-1887
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Paul Czanne
Size: 127 x 96.8 cm
Location: The
Museum of Modern
Art, New York
Lillie P. Bliss
Collection

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somewhere, his left leg is stepping

from there and spread to the borders of

forward,

the image.

which

brings

the

idea

of

movement to the painting. When it comes


to color, Czanne has used delicate tones
of blue, probably with the purpose to
depict water and drive the viewer into the
thought that he is about to go swimming.
The shapes of this piece are clearly defined
by a thick dark outline, which emphasizes
the linear and geometric forms of the
mans body. One can notice that this
painting contains a lot of balance, because
the artist does not dare to combine
contrary colors, switching over tones
smoothly,

also

the

proportions

are

accurate and the subject matter is placed


in the center of the canvas. Certainly there
is a 3D length in this image, because the
stairs in the background have a deep form,
narrowing a bit as ones eye moves inside
the painting. The mans face is the line
where the viewer focuses at first, because
all the mood of this piece appears to start

One of Czannes most famous


paintings is The Card Players, depicting
the painters pursuit of perfectionism and
harmony,

this

compositions

subject

matter is a scene of two man sit on a small


table, facing each other and playing cards,
probably in a bar. The artist focused a lot
on capturing the right mood for this piece,
while the man in the right side is more
tense, holding his arms closer to his body,
the other one is at easy, smoking and ready
to play. When it comes to movement,
apparently there is a person walking
behind the counter and the two men may
move slightly to replace their cards. The
artist applies very warm and somewhat
obscure colors in this piece, obviously to
better depict the environment of a bar that
is usually dark. In this context, Czanne
creates

different

kinds

of

texture,

Title: The Card


Players
Year: 1890-1892
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Paul Czanne
Size: 47.5 x 57 cm
Location: Muse
dOrsay, Paris

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separating the wooden objects from the

Matisse and the Fauves

fabrics, so that the wood is rougher while


the tissue of the mens coats is soft. With
accurate proportions and great color

Considered the leader of the

combination, the artist has given balance

Fauvist movement, the French painter,

to the image, so that the viewers eye stays

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) made great

comfortable staring at it. When it comes to

contributions to the art of the 20th century,

shape, the way the mens bodies are

bringing vivid colors to the art board, he

poisoned in the image is very angular as

introduced a new artistic style to the

well as the other elements of the piece,

world, the Fauvism.

such as the tablecloth and the counter. The

engaged this movement, were called les

painter has managed to create three

fauves by the critics, which means wild

dimensional forms in this image, through

beasts, because of the use of bright,

his perfect representation of the fabric

unrealistic colors in the paintings. These

folds, and through the way he finds light.

changes

in

artistic

The artists who

expression

also

Although Czanne had a style that

represented a change in the societys

leaned towards the classical arts, he was

frame of mind, because Europe was in

one of the last painters of the 20th century

crises, its situation was uncertain, due to

that

massive

the world wars and could no longer

production, being extremely honest with

consider itself the center of the world.

whatever subject matter he decided to

People were aiming for freedom of

paint.

for

expression, innovation and wanted to

perfectionism and also he was starting to

break the rules, the 1920s and 1930s were

bring more emotion to the canvas. I chose

a period of great creative ferment as well

Paul Czanne because he is a very

as profound anxiety, both for individuals

knowledgeable painter, who dominated

and entire societies. In this context,

colors and brushstrokes and was able to

Matisse brought some originality to the

create perfect shapes without the use of

artistic

very bald patterns. The post-impressionist

traditional by some critics, his contribution

artists were just one step behind the

to Modern Art cannot be denied, from

beginning of a cultural revolution that

combining opposite colors, to disobeying

would break every old concept, opening

the notion of depth and reality, his

the doors for considerable changes in the

audacity opened the door to new styles.

valued

This

technique

artist

was

over

seeking

field,

although

considered

humanities vision of the world.


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One of Matisses famous paintings

the piano, as well as the amount of details

that can be found in the Metropolitan

in this specific area. This art work doesnt

Museum of Art, in New York, is called The

contain

Piano Lesson. The composition is based

characters are motionless inside a room,

on Matisses son, Pierre, having a piano

also the shapes are really geometric, giving

lesson at his house, theres a faceless

a bit of a Cubist character to it, especially

woman with a severe look in the right

when it comes to the human form,

corner of the painting, representing the

however, some of the details in the bottom

piano teacher, theres also a big window in

part of the window and in the piano are

the left side and grass can be seen through

more round. The artist totally denies the

it, just in front of it theres a sculpture,

sense of depth in this piece, there is no 3D

probably made by Matisse, and, of course,

length and, except for the boys fa ce and

the boy sit in front of the piano, caring a

the left corner of the table, there is no

serious frame. In terms of line, the first

shading to emphasize the form. When it

thin g that catches ones attention is the

comes to balance, the elements are not

image of the boys face, he gives the

very well distributed on the painting while

impression to be looking straight at the

there is a lot going on in the right side of it,

viewers eyes, also the attention is driven

there is also a big empty space on the

to this direction due to the reddish tone of

middle left side. The dominant color in this

movement,

because

both

piece is grey, covering most of its


background, which brings a grave
mood to the environment, on the

Title: The Piano Lesson


Year: 1916
Material: oil on canvas
Artist: Henri Matisse
Size: 245 X 212 cm
Location: Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New
York

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other hand there are vivid colors on the

the bodies reddish skin tone is totally

table

window,

unrealistic and makes great contrast

representing that the boy could and also

against the greenish of the ground and

wishes he was having fun and maybe

turquoise of the sky. Since this image was

playing outside in the green grass.

part of a previous painting made by the

and

outside

the

Sergei Shchukin was a collector and


admirer of Matisses work, in 1909, he
asked the artist to make a painting for his
mansion in Moscow, therefore this artists
most famous work came to life: The
Dance. This composition contains five
nude

characters

dancing

together,

smoothly, enjoying life and freedom in


their own way, they seem to be floating on
the canvas. The shape of the bodies in this
piece is wavy and round, as well as the

same artist, called The Joy of Life, it


translates a happy and playful mood,
providing the viewer with a feeling of
freedom and lightness. The forms, as
mentioned before, appear to be floating on
the canvas, meaning that this piece is not 3
dimensional and has no depth. On the
other hand, in the aspect of value, one can
see a little shading in the bodies shapes
and details, which emphasizes their round
forms.

grass, which adds rhythm and movement

After changing this paintings name

to it, creating the idea of the dancers

and color tones for at least three times,

moving in a circle. When it comes to

Matisse defined it as Harmony in Red, a

balance, the painting contains very similar

piece that had previously been exposed in

elements, they are equal in color and size,


and are also well distributed on the art
board. As usual, the artist has combined

Title: The Dance

bald, simple and opposite colors together,

Year: 1909-10
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Henri
Matisse
Size: 260 X 389
cm
Location:
Hermitage,

St.

Petersburg

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the 1908 Salon dAutomne, by then, it was

such as the fruits, others are more

entitled Blue Harmony. This composition

geometric, such as the human form and

is very crowded, due to the number of

the chairs. Given the fact that the shapes

elements and details on the canvas, there

and colors dont combine, being a mix of

is a big dining table in the center, filled

opposites, it is hard to find balance in this

with fruits, decorative trays and bottles, in

piece. Because the main subject matter is

the left corner there is also a window, with

the dining table, this painting is almost a

the view to the backyard, or garden of the

still life, the human form can almost be

house, in the right side of it, a woman,

considered

an

object,

probably the maid, places the food on the

significant

as

the

table. When it comes to line, the first thing

Everything appears to be motionless,

one looks at, when staring at this piece, is

lacking movement. Surely, the dominant

the open window, because it is the place

reddish tone and bright color combinations

where the colors really differentiate from

gives vivacity and a joyful mood to this art

the rest of the painting. Although the title

work. The texture is mostly soft in this

of

word

piece, although there can be observed

harmony, it is disturbing to look at it, the

some grooves in the tablecloths and

colors are too vivid, totally opposite and

wallpapers pattern as well as in the

the red background tires ones eyes. The

vegetation outside the room.

this

painting

contains

the

elements are widely distributed on the


canvas, but they are extremely different in

for

other

being

as

elements.

In interview given to BBC UK,

shape, while some are round and wavy,


Title: Harmony in
Red
Year: 1908
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Henri Matisse
Size: 180 x 220 cm
Location:
Hermitage,

St.

Petersburg

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Franoise

Gilot,

visual

artist

and

bestselling author that had the privilege to


meet Matisse said that he had the

Futurism and Boccioni

audacity of simplicity. Towards the end of


his life, Matisses paintings got simpler, and
at this moment, he was able to capture
only what was essential for him, that is the

Futurism was an artistic and social

feelings and the way they shaped and

movement that took place between 1909

colored the human form, a landscape or an

and 1916, primary in Italy, having after its

object. As he said, what he created after

concepts spread to other countries. The

his illness constituted his real self. Also,

main characteristics of this movement

what may have been fundamental for him

were the depiction of speed, urban life and

to assume his own style is the fact that the

technology, because the world lived a

publics approach to different kinds of art

moment of industrial expansion and

was much less aggressive than in the

scientific discoveries. Various manifestos,

beginning of his career. The Dance, from

conferences,

my point o view, is the painting that best

concerning Futurism took place over that

translates Matisses art, because it contains

time, with the purpose of defining weather

both elements that renders Matisses work

the Futurist concepts could be applied in

so unique, the composition is simple in

other fields of knowledge, such as visual

terms of elements and details, but it is still

arts, music and theater. In this context, one

extremely audacious, due to the way he

of the most famous painters of the period

combines the colors and disobeys the

was Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), an

sense of depth, escaping from reality and

Italian artist, who was also a sculptor and

diving purely into the emotion of the

created remarkable pieces. Generally, the

moment.

images that he presented in his paintings

events

and

debates

and sculptures were very dynamic, colorful,


and distorted, because of the artists
contact with Picasso and the Cubist style.
Some futurist pieces, such as Dynamism of
an Automobile (by Luigi Russolo) were
almost abstract, due to the use of
unrealistic colors and way the images were
deconstructed, yet this style tented to be
more homogeneous than Cubism.
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Title: Simultaneous
Visions
Year: 1911
Material: oil on canvas
Artist: Umberto
Boccioni
Size: 70 x 75 cm
Location: Von der
Heydt Museum,
Wuppertal

very harmonious, due to the


In Simultaneous Visions, Boccioni

fact that the artist uses some

represents two faces observing situations

forms in the bottom right of the canvas

from different points of view; here his idea

that apparently depict nature, which

was to show that, as time goes by, our

makes an ambiguous contrast with the

perceptions change. This composition is

dynamism of the city, furthermore the

about urban life, the image shows tall

figures in the center are totally out of

buildings and plenty of people walking on

proportion. The color schemes chosen

the streets, there can be seen some

used by Boccioni are pretty similar, yet

chariots as well, but what crowds the

they are not opaque, predominating

center of the canvas are the unrealistically

orange, green and blue tones. Speaking

big faces. Also the forms are very two

about mood, one can perceive the

dimensional, however one can perceive a

agitation and energy that comes from the

bit of depth in this piece, because the

city, as well as a feeling of impotence in

street narrows and the buildings get

face of time that never stops moving and

smaller

the

technology that develops fast. Similarly to

background. Every element in this painting

Cubism, the shapes in this piece are very

seems to be in a process of transformation,

geometric,

as if the picture was capturing different

towards the depiction of feminine round

moments in time, also, the people are

forms. Given the fact that the artist has

walking somewhere which provides the

included a distinct element in the right side

viewer with the idea of movement. When

of the canvas, this place is surely the line

it comes to balance, this painting is not

that captures the viewers eye, yet this

and

more

distant

The Age of Avant-Gardes

in

translating

the

resignation

Page 11

element seems to be out of place and does

raised, translating confidence. Boccioni is

not combine with the overall theme of the

very clear about the subject matter here,

piece.

by placing the horse rider in the center of


Representing Boccionis love for

horses as well as agility and power,


Elasticity is a painting that perfectly
translates the aspects of Futurism, because
of its masculine and speed character. This
composition is about a horse rider who
passes through a city, he is located in the
center of the canvas and the town with its
industries and metallic structures can be
seen on the top of the picture. The way in
which this image is depicted clearly shows
the horses movement, because its body is
deconstructed and the artist has smudged
the figure a little bit, making it blurry as if a
photograph had been taken while in
motion. In terms of mood, this is a piece
that communicates a lot of energy and
strength, the horses head is proudly

the canvas and adding small elements in


the background he creates a good balance.
The color schemes in this piece are quite
complex, yet the artist manages to
combine them perfectly, using cool colors
to depict the city, and mostly warm ones in
the image of the horse, he makes a great
and non aggressive transition among them.
Also, the animals muscles are easily
perceived, due to the way the artist
created light, emphasizing the curves of it,
breaking the image down, so one can have
a sense of texture when looking at it. Still
in this context, the line that captures ones
eye is the horses legs and their motion,
because

of

the

yellowish

and

bald

background that makes contrast with the


read paws. Following the Futurist aspects,

Title: Elasticity
Year: 1912
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Umberto
Boccioni
Size: 100 x 100 cm
Location: Civico
Museo dArte
Contemporanea,
Collection Ricardo
Jucker, Milan

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the shapes of the elements are sharp and

protecting her kids; consequently the

geometric, but do not have perfectly

hands are the line that catches ones eye.

defined edges.

In the context of mood, she has an

Escaping a bit from the Futurist


subject matter Materia is the depiction
of a feminine figure, yet, Boccioni managed
to apply many of the movements aspect to
this piece. The artist made a composition
of his mother resting her hands on a
balcony, where in the background there
can be seen some houses, and just at the
womans right side there is a floating little
horse, again showing the artists passion
for this animal. The woman in this figure
has big hands, which could represent her
manual work as a mother who uses them
for cooking and also for holding and

apathetic
preoccupied

and

at
look,

the
of

same

time

somebody

experienced, who has undergone many


things in life and does not get thrilled in
face of simple events. When it comes to
color, the artist has used very dark
patterns, especially in the center of the
canvas, where there is a big black spot,
while on the top of it there are bald colors,
such as yellow and red to represent the
houses. All the elements of this piece seem
to be forming a circle around the mother,
as if they were part of her memories
floating in the canvas, so for being twisted,
the forms do not build a 3D length in the
image. Furthermore, the houses shape is
very geometric and sharp, but it is
somewhat curvy when it comes to the
human form. Similarly, the movement of

Title: Materia
Year: 1912-13
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Umberto
Boccioni
Size: 226 x 150 cm
Location: Gianni
Mattioli Collection
(on hold with the
Peggy Guggenheim
Collection, Venice)

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Page 13

the elements in the bottom of the canvas


seems to be heading away from the
woman, while the houses on top are very

Pablo Picasso and Cubism

close and form an arch around the


mothers head, which could mean that the
only material thing left is her home and the

Distorted, geometric forms and

place where she came from, the rest is just

opaque

memories. Also, the figures that compose

characteristics of Cubism, an art movement

this art work are a bit out of proportion

that took place between 1907 and 1914.

and very broken down which makes it hard

This style was based on breaking down

to find balance in the image.

images and creating asymmetric patterns.

The futurist artists tried to create a


movement

based

on

the

current

developments, and indeed they were able


to come up with something original. On the
other hand, people were changing their
minds with respect to many things and
Futurism was already happening, so the
artists will to impose this movements
rules was not the best approach to it, since
the developments aimed by them would
became true anyways. In my opinion,
Boccioni

was

brilliant

artist,

the

deconstruction of form was a very complex


technique and it was hard to master, for
this reason he is worthy of admiration. The
Futurist conservative view in terms of
subject matter, limited a bit the creative
production, which could explain the fact
that this movement was more popular in
Italy and Russia, but did not arouse a lot of

colors

were

some

of

the

In some pieces, such as The Portuguese,


1911, from Georges Braque, it was very
difficult to recognize the subject matter,
which is why this art movement is believed
to have influenced Abstract painting. The
society by that time, was aiming for
liberation of thought and expression, also,
technology was evolving fast and there
were new scientific theories coming up.
This period, prior to World War I was tense
and anxious; some artists faced difficulties,
such as illnesses and ended up dying at a
very young age. Yet, Cubism survived until
approximately 1936, when the revolution
of thought provided valuable subject for
art. In this context, the most recognized
artist of the time was Pablo Picasso, born
in Spain in 1881; he painted Les
Demoiselles

dAvignon,

which

is

considered the first Cubist work.

interest in other countries.

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Page 14

Title: Les
Demoiselles
dAvignon
Year: 1907
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Pablo Picasso
Size: 244 x 233 cm
Location:
Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New
York
As

mentioned

above,

Les

Demoiselles dAvignon was Picassos first


Cubist painting, his previous idea was
painting a scene in a brothel, where there
would be two man and five women,
however, he changed his mind and ended
up changing it. So this composition is
about five nude feminine figures, probably
in a brothel, the two in the center are very
similar and are positioned as if they were
laying on a bed, being partly covered by
the bed sheets, whereas the one in the
extreme left is standing as well as the one
on the top right, and the fifth figure is
sitting with her back turned to the viewer.
Their shapes vary, while the women in the
center are presented in a more ordinary
and clear way, although very triangular, the
two figures in the right side are more
fragmented and they seem to be wearing
African masks. There is no depth in this
painting, apparently, the forms are all

The Age of Avant-Gardes

positioned in the same line, so there is no


3D length in this piece. At the same time
the artist has built value through the way
created shade, emphasizing the geometric
and sharp shapes, especially of the fabric.
This piece is very light, being the
predominant color patterns white and
tones of beige, which brings out the human
figures. In terms of mood, this painting
shows a very relaxed scene, the women
stand comfortably in their positions, as if
they were taking some rest, or sharing a
moment together. In this context there
seems to be little movement in this piece,
except for the two women in the right, one
appears to be opening a curtain, and the
other is turning her head backwards, to the
direction of the viewer. The elements of
this composition are similar in shape, size
and color, they occupy the whole space of
the canvas, yet, they are not crowding it,
which is why this piece contains balance.
Page 15

Woman with a Fan was also one

canvas and the use of similar pastel tons. In

of Picassos first cubist paintings, depicting

this context, there can be observed that

one of his experimentations in this new art

the color patterns are mostly brown and

style. The composition is a portrait of

orange, being darker in the background

Fernande Olivier, one of the artists lover,

and turning lighter as the eye moves to the

she is sit on a chair, looking down, part of

front of the piece. Related to that, the line

her body is uncovered and she holds a fan

that captures ones eye at first is the fan,

with her left hand. There is a lot of shade in

because its grayish color makes great

this piece, which creates a bit o depth but

contrast against the womans white dress.

does not gives a three dimensional look to

Characteristically, the elements of this

the forms. It is hard to find movement in

piece have an extremely geometric shape,

this piece, because the figure seems to be

but the human figure is not too distorted,

resting her hands on her lap in a very

while the chair has more of a Cubist style,

motionless position; yet, she could be

for being broken down.

lowering her head slowly. In the category


of mood, it can be said that it is a very
serene image, where she appears to be at
easy, spending a casual moment. The unity
is certainly harmonious, due to the
centralization of the main figure in the

Guernica is one of Picassos most


famous painting, it dates of 1937, but it is
still

considered

Cubist.

This

piece

represents a conflict of the Spanish Civil


war, where more than 1500 people were
killed and the town was totally destroyed.

Title: Woman with a


Fan
Year: 1907-1908
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Pablo Picasso
Size: 152 x 101 cm
Location:
Hermitage,

Saint

Petersburg

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Page 16

The composition is a catastrophic scenario,

of the lamp is sharp and shows everything

there are people, wreckage and animals,

that is taking place on the moment, and

while some are hurt, others are apparently

the animals face caries a strong and fearful

asking for help, theres a woman in the left

expression. The shapes are not clearly

side of the painting who carries the dead

defined, being more sharp and square in

body of her son. Their faces strongly

the background, while the other figures

express a sad mood, arousing feelings such

have triangular and round features. Given

as fear and confusion, because it is the

the fact that the artist uses many dark

image of a disaster, which translates

patterns, there can be observed some 3D

desperation towards the reality of death

in the forms, some of them, such as the

and loss. When it comes to movement, the

bull, seem to be coming out of the canvas,

way the figures are inclined or putting their

whereas others, as the horses body,

arms up and stretching their necks, gives

appear to be overlapped and broken.

the impression that there is an urge to go


somewhere, to understand what has
happened and to look at what has been
lost. In terms of color, the painter has used
very simple patterns, such as white to
expose what can be identified when the
lights are turned on, and also tones of grey
in the background to create contrast,
which represents the wreckage and other
elements that have been carbonized,

From the three paintings analyzed


above, there can be observed a great
evolution in Picassos work, through the
years he had refined his work, especially in
the way that he deconstructed the human
form. In Woman with a Fan, Picasso first
painted the true portrait of his lover and
then made changes to his work, until he
got to the final totally geometric version.

probably because there had been fire.


Approaching line, the first thing that
catches ones eye is the lamp and the
horse, on the top of the painting, the light

Title: Guernica
Year: 1937
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Pablo Picasso
Size: 349 x 776 cm
Location:

Museo

Reina Sofia, Madrid

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 17

Picasso surely mastered this genre of art

attributing more importance to innovation

and, from my point of view, he dared to try

and dema nded improvements. Yet, the

something totally unexpected and above

subject matter of Art Nouveau contradicts

standard, and not only was it innovative it

the industrial mentality, being more

also

of

focused on depicting feminine forms and

comprehension about proportions and

the nature, as well as making allusion to

forms. Unlike Matisse and the Fauves, who

antique figures from Greek culture. One

translated emotions through color, Picasso

artist that stands out in this movement is

and the Cubists communicated emotions

the Austrian Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), due

turning images into puzzles and believed

to its audacious and controversial style.

that opaque color schemes would help the

Generally, he depicted feminine figures,

viewer to keep focus on the subject

often adding an erotic touch to them, but

matter.

also he painted landscapes and created

required

higher

level

lithographs. What catch ones attention in


his work are the strong expressions carried

Gustav Klimt and Art Nouveau

by the figures in the paintings, especially


the women, so the viewer can read their
personalities as if they were characters

At the end of the 19th century,

from a story.

specifically 1890, a new style emerged,

One of Klimts most remarkable

being popular mainly in Europe, Art

and award winning piece is The Three

Nouveau can be referred to as a style,

Ages of Woman, this painting aroused

instead of only an art movement, because

polemic

of its influence in other areas, such as

symbolic meaning about the passage of

architecture. Artists who engaged this

time. The artist depicted three nude figures

movement were active in many disciplines,

in this composition: an old lady, a young

from painting to the decorative arts to

woman and a baby girl, all of them are

literature, they believed in Art Nouveau as

located in the middle of the canvas, as if

an attitude and a state of mind. Their

they were floating in an imaginary space.

purpose was breaking the old concept of

Observing the characters expression, one

the classical art, giving more value to the

can easily notice that the woman with the

creative ability, rather than the capacity to

child in her arms is very happy and her

recreate and imitate pieces. Due to the

baby has a very serene look, meaning that

industrial

she feels totally safe in her moms arms, on

revolution,

The Age of Avant-Gardes

people

started

discussions,

because

of

its

Page 18

the other hand, the old lady has an

of its smooth texture, especially in the skin

extremely sad mood, in face of her

of the figures, while the young woman and

proximity to death and the fact that what

t he baby have a very soft and pale skin,

has passed never comes back. In terms of

the old lady has wrinkles and a yellowish

shape, every element has roundish and

color. In terms of balance, this painting is

delicate edges, which provides the viewer

quite extravagant and full of details which

with a more realistic sense when it comes

could cause a lack of harmony. In this

to the human form. The artist uses very

context it also lacks movement, due to the

different color patterns placing black in

fact that the figures are placed in an

part of the background, orange (in the

abstract space, representing their state of

womans hair) and applying golden yellow

mind, where they are motionless. The line

in the details, yet he combines warm colors

that catches the viewers eye, at first, is the

and makes a non aggressive transition

young womans face, because it is really

among them. This piece surely enables the

pale and expresses strong emotions.

viewer to have a sense of touch, because

Title: The Three Ages of


Woman
Year: 1905
Material: oil on canvas
Artist: Gustav Klimt
Size: 180 x 180 cm
Location:
Nazionalle

Galleria
dArte

Moderna, Rome

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 19

Inspired by a biblical character and

responsible for John Baptists death.

its powerful personality Klimt created

According to the Bible, she asked King

Judith II, depicting the image of Salome,

Herod to decapitate the prophet and put

the woman who is believed to be

his head on a tray. In the composition,


which is part of Klimts golden age pieces,
there is a woman partly involved by the
fabric of her dress, and also, the head of
John Baptist can be seen in the bottom
right of the piece, her presence crowds the
canvas. Surely there can be perceived
movement in this art work due to the fact
that the woman is twitching her fingers
and, at the same time, she holds the fabric
and leans her body forward tensely. One of
this artists peculiar characters, was the
eroticism that he translated in his pieces,
and

certainly

in

this

painting

he

represented through the womans face a


very feminine and sensual mood. Although,
as mentioned before, this piece belongs to

Title: Judith II
Year: 1909
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Gustav Klimt
Size: 178 x 46 cm
Location:

Galleria

Internazionalle
dArte Moderna di
Ca Pesaro, Venice

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 20

Klimts golden age collection, he explored

face is the line that comes out first, due to

bald colors, mostly used by the Fauves,

its sensual and mean aura.

eliminating the gold, so that he was able to


bring more emotion to the canvas. The
energy transmitted through this image is a
bit bizarre, in one side there is Salome
immersed on her own feelings and
selfishness, while just next to her feet one
can see the lifeless head of the prophet,
which is why, it is also hard to find unity in
this piece. In terms of form, this painting
does not have depth and, as usual, Klimt
placed the figures in a parallel universe,
building an unreal and flat background.
Again, the shapes are not geometrical,
having really soft edges and wavy outlines,
as the viewer can observe in the yellow
spirals in the left side of the canvas. When
one looks at this art piece, the womans

Landscapes were not the most


current subject matter of Klimts work,
however he ventured in this area, and his
results were, in certain way, similar to Van
Goghs dense vision about nature. One
composition that exemplifies this artists
experience depicting landscapes is Water
Castle, where one can see a big building
with a tall roof, surrounded by vegetation
across a lake that reflects what is in its
shore. Usually, and it is the case of this
piece, the images created by Klimt are
static, so there cannot be perceived any
movement, as if the nature was frozen.
Also, when it comes to form, this landscape
is a bit flat, especially after the vegetation,
where every element seems to

Title: Water Castle


Year: 1910
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Gustav Klimt
Size: 110 x 110 cm
Location:

Narodni

Gallery,

Prague,

Czech Republic

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 21

be placed in the same line; on the other

style stands out for exploring themes such

hand, the lake has depth, probably due to

as sensuality that is not necessarily

its reflexes. In this context, the textures of

attached to romance. Most of his paintings

this piece vary, because the surface of the

were extremely detailed and these single

water is very laid and smooth, while the

elements, rather than simply fancy, helped

vegetation is rougher, due to the use of

to build the mood of the image. By creating

either thin brushstrokes that create fine

unreal environments Klimt was able to

traces, or different colors applied with a

open the characters mind to the eyes of

sponge one over the other. As the castle is

the viewer.

seen across the lake, it provides the viewer


with the impression that that place is
unreachable, maybe limited to a specific
public, which gives a mysterious mood to
the piece. The color schemes of this

Wassily

Kandinsky

and

Abstract Art

painting are earthy and natural, so the


dominant one is green, followed by brown
and beige. Due to the fact that the subject
matter is quite simple and the artist is
honest in terms of color, shapes and
proportions, one can notice that this work
has balance. Speaking about shape, the
building has very well defined and sharp
edges, whereas the vegetation has totally
undefined

edges,

similar

to

an

impressionist landscape.

Differing

from

other

art

movements, Abstract has survived over


100 years, being more popular in todays
world, than it was before. However, the
birth of this art style did not happen in one
specific year; instead it was a slow
evolution

of

thought.

Contemporary

abstract art can be classified in three


different styles: hard edge, action painting
and color field, the two first require acrylic

Art Nouveau was one of the first

paint and the third watercolor paint,

Avant-garde movements, so it still carried

generally the last two are made without

some classical aspects as the preference

touching the canvas with any brushstrokes.

for depicting feminine figures and the

One of the earliest and most famous

enclosure to reality. Gustav Klimt was the

painters who engaged this movement was

artist chosen by myself, because I was

the Russian Wassily Kandinsky (1866-

fascinated by his capacity to perfectly build

1944), for him painting must abandon the

his characters facial expressions, making a

function of imitating reality to become an

psychological analysis of them. Also, Klimt

instrument with which the artist gives

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 22

voice to his soul and inner being. He was a

canvas represents where the music is being

great connoisseur of music, which can be

played, and the black form in the middle

observed in his art work that was partly

could be depicting a piano. Apparently,

inspired by this theme. Previous art

Kandinsky was very impressed with the

movements,

have

music played in this concert, which could

significantly influenced the way art was

justify the color schemes that he has used,

seen in the beginning of the 20th century,

being yellow the color that prevails in

by that time, it was believed, that art could

contrast with the big black spot in the

survive only through innovation. In this

center of the painting. In fact, this strange

context, it should follow the intellectual

combination could also translate the

and technological improvements of that

artists feelings related to the concert; the

period. As these concepts evolved, artists

theater and its public appears to be full of

managed to create compositions based on

an

pure feelings, poetry or music, which

comparison the stage, and the music that is

represented a new challenge to the viewer.

being played has a contradictory mood

such

as

Fauvism

Kandinsky came up with a painting


three days after having attended a concert
in Munich, in which compositions by
Arnold Shoenberg were performed, after
he gave the piece the following title:
Impression III (Concert). An audience can
be identified at the bottom left side of the

enthusiasm

and

excitement,

in

that could be joyful or grave. Due to the


great use of black color, one can easily
define a line, since the black spot is the
first thing that captures the viewers eye.
Thereby, there is much more happening in
the left side of the canvas, than in the
right, except for the representation of the

composition, while the left top of the


Title: Impression
III (Concert)
Year: 1911
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Wassily
Kandinsky
Size: 77.5 x 100
cm
Location:
Stdtishe Galerie
im
The Age of Avant-Gardes

Lenbachhaus,

Munich

Page 23

audience, the painting is almost half

and colors to express emotions and vitality,

covered by monochromatic patterns (and

there are distinct elements in it and they

very opposite ones), which is why this

seem to be in rotation. There can be

piece

harmony.

detected a movement that starts in the

Furthermore, the shapes are not very well

right side of the canvas going up, then

defined, although there is an outline

dropping down, which forms an arch of

indicating human figures, the painting has

energy. The artist applies opposite colors

some loose strokes covering the canvas

(red and blue), but makes a great transition

randomly. The forms in this piece are

between them, through the use of white

postponing one another, so there is no 3D

he does not allow them to encounter a

length added to it, but since the audience

direct contrast. On the subject of mood,

is slightl inclined to the stage, it can be said

this piece has a bit of a grave character, as

that there is a little depth in the image.

if there was an explosion of turbulent

With regards to movement, the scene

feelings in the right side of the canvas, but

depicts a crowd that might be driven by

this event was restrained by the black arch,

the music and interacting, therefore one

which made them go back to a less

can notice a little turmoil going on.

enthusiastic condition. Concerning the

lacks

balance

and

The composition entitled Picture


with a Black Arch, also by Kandinsky, is a
pure abstract image, making use of forms

shapes of this painting, one can notice that


they are somehow geometric, since the
arch is triangular and it postpones a square
element, which is just next to a red circle in

Title: Picture with a


Black Arch
Year: 1912
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Wassily
Kandinsky
Size: 188 x 196 cm
Location:

Muse

National

dArt

Moderne,
George

Centre
Pompidou,

Paris
The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 24

the left. There can be identified some

looks at the canvas the feeling transferred

texture on the surface of the canvas, the

to the viewer is of a joyful and positive

black strokes create the effect of incisions

mood, due to the use of bald colors against

or scratches, as if they had been made with

the light yellow background. Still, the

a knife. Also, regarding value, the elements

contrasts are not very strong, because the

are not flat; they have interesting forms,

artist applies watercolors and very thin

due to the shading applied to thei r edges.

black traces. When it comes to line, the

Although the artist has combined very

first thing that catches the viewers eye is

different shapes and colors, one can

the miscellany of elements that vary in

observe balance in this piece, because the

shape and color, located in the middle right

elements are well distributed and the

side of the canvas, because it appears to be

changeover colors is not aggressive.

the place where the energy is being

In 1913 Kandinsky was heading to a


pure abstract style, trying not to refer to
any

object

or

recognizable

element,

however Light Picture (Heles Bild) is a


composition that still carries a landscape
aspect, if carefully observed, there can be
seen strokes representing nature. The thin

generated and spread elsewhere. Although


this composition is rich in elements and
colors, the unity is harmonious and does
not overwhelm the viewer. Given the fact
that Kandinsky has used watercolors, this
painting has a smooth texture, but at the
same time the dark traces create the

black lines that populate the canvas seem


to be electrical sparks or little thunders,
which give movement to it. When one

Title: Light
Picture (Helles
Bild)
Year: 1933
Material: oil on
canvas
Artist: Wassily
Kandinsky
Size: 145 x 180
cm
Location:
Gauggenheim
Museum,

New

York

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 25

impression that the canvas has been cut in

valued the process that the artist had been

these areas. In the aspect of shape, there

through producing the piece, rather than

can be observed loose wavy or straight

the technique applied.

lines, crossing the painting, as well as sharp


triangles in the middle of it.
There can be noticed that the artist

Dadaism and Duchamp

is been through a transition in his style,


Kandinsky did not start as an abstract
painter, but he reached the purpose of
pure abstraction at a certain point in his
career. I chose this painter because of his
capacity to transmit strong energy through
art; he dared to make experiments and to
mix bald colors and different textures,
achieving greatness at the end, which
proves his talent. From far, abstract was
the biggest innovation in the concept of
art, differently from Dadaism, which was
more of a political expression, abstract still
held the idea of beauty linked to art and

In a climate of violence and death,


caused by the political disorder in Europe
and World Wars taking place, in February
5, 1916, in Switzerland, Dada art started.
Groups of artists following this movement
were formed in other European countries,
and also in Asia and the United States. The
two main concepts of it were: first breaking
the concept that linked art to beauty, and
second, recognizing art not only as hand
work, but also as objects, or readymades
as so called by the artists of that period.
The word dada does not have a

Title: Chocolate Grinder


No. 2
Year: 1914
Material: oil, graphite
and thread on canvas
Artist: Marcel Duchamp
Size: 65 x 54 cm
Location: Philadelphia
Museum of Art,
Philadelphia

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 26

specific meaning; it was chosen by

of it in the magazine The Blind Man,

browsing in a dictionary, dada is babytalk

defending the symbolic value of his work.

that indicated a rocking horse. Some


groups of artist used this kind of art as an
irony against the traditional rules, so the
word dada also meant that their idea was
not to be taken seriously. Although this
style was very audacious and its concepts
spread rapidly, by the 1930s, most of the
artists ended up switching to Surrealism.
Marcel

Duchamp

considered the

(1887-1968)

was

leader of the Dada

movement, he was born in France and his


passions were painting, music and chess.
His most famous act was presenting a
ceramic urinal, under the title: Fountain,
to the jury of the Society of Independent
Artists in the USA, as they did not want to
expose his art work, he published a picture

One piece that perfectly illustrates


the purpose and signification of Dada art is
Chocolate Grinder, where many aspects
of Duchamps style can be found, such as
his passion for machines and their
functions. In this composition the artist
depicted a chocolate grinder with its three
cylinders and a pedestal with four bases,
the object is seen almost from above, but
its side is more visible. The colors used are
very dark, being the predominant ones
black and brown, which makes contrast
with the light beige ground. Since the artist
was honest with what he saw in terms of
shape and captured light perfectly, the
form has a great 3D length, and there can
be seen depth in the piece. In terms of line,
the first thing that catches ones eye is the

Title: L.H.O.O.Q.
Year: 1920
Material: pencil and
pen on an engraving
Artist: Marcel
Duchamp
Size: 23.8 x 17.8 cm
Location: Private
collection

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 27

circular form on the top of the canvas, due

mood. The color schemes are really simple,

to its light color and its function of holding

being a basic black and white image as well

the cylinders. Because Duchamp has used

as gray tones, so it is surely a good

graphite and oil to create this art work, and

combination. On the other hand, the artist

also he has depicted an object, which could

has matched a classical painting with

make it a still life, there cannot be

handwriting, as if he had written notes in

perceived any movement in this piece. One

an old magazine or newspaper, this strange

cannot either have a sense of touch,

arrangement interferes the viewers sense

because the painting is really laid, so the

of unity. At the same time the line that

viewer does not find texture in this

directs ones attention is the womans face,

composition.

the

due to the fact that her skin is very pale

combination of similar colors, as well as the

and she staring at the viewers eyes. Yet,

placement of the main element in the

when it comes to movement, one can

center of the canvas creates harmony and

notice that the woman is motionlessly

good balance. Although a chocolate

posing as if someone was taking a

grinder might not translate emotions to

photograph, thus the image as a whole

the viewer, one could interpret it as placid

seems to be frozen. In addition, the shapes

image, which does not cause in terms of

in the engraving depict the human form

mood, more than communicate piece.

and the landscape with roundish edges,

In

this

context,

In 1920, Duchamp came up with a


very audacious work, taking a reproduction
of Mona Lisa, a masterpiece from the
Renaissance; he added a mustache to the
womans face, entitling the final piece
L.H.O.O.Q..

This

composition,

as

mentioned before is about an engraving of


Mona Lisa that has informally been placed

whereas the writing is more geometric,


because it is made in capital letters and
with a pen. Speaking about texture, one
has to go back to the Mona Lisa alone, for
the reason that there are wrinkles in her
dress, as well as some vegetation that
enables a sense of touch for the viewer.
Representing

Duchamps

over a piece of paper and added the letters

appreciation for chess, as well as one of his

L.H.O.O.Q. at the bottom of the image.

readymades, he created Chessboard. In

Surely the viewer can find humor in this

this composition, the artist has presented

work, where there is an extremely ironic

a wooden chessboard, signing his name on

touch, also if read in French, the letters

the bottom of the object, just like in the

bellow the image sound funny and

case of the urinal he depicted something

somewhat vulgar, which creates a comic

for the viewer to look for its meaning.

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 28

Although

this

piece

is

apparently

this composition is very homogeneous, one

insignificant, if taken into consideration the

does not have a direct line to look at, yet in

fact that chess was more than a hobby for

the right side of the board, the squares are

the artist, to the point that he considered

slightly darker, which could drive the

giving up the artistic career to be a

viewers attention to this point. Probably,

professional chess player, one can infer

due to the constant use of the chessboard

that, in terms of mood, a chessboard

it

would carry ambiguous but

purposely added values to the squares and

pleasurable

emotions. When it comes to movement,


given that it is a flat wooden object with
geometric forms of the exact same shape
and color, there cannot be found any sign
of motion. Now, there can be perceived
some grooves on the wood, which provides
the viewer with a sense of touch and
texture. Certainly, this piece contain a
significant unity, because it is composed by
equal sized squares, and the color schemes
do not vary, going from dark brown to light
brown, and there can be found very thin
lines defining the edges of the elements. As

has

become

beat-up,

which

not

emphasized the shapes of them.


Except for its apparent informal
approach to art, Dada was an extremely
complex style, representing a big challenge
to the viewer. It was the deconstruction of
every old concept, which set the artists
free to explore new mediums and to let
their art be driven solely by emotions. Also
the use of vivid colors, just like in Analytical
Cubism, was not very explored, probably
because a bald color would arouse
emotions too fast, so when one looked at
an art piece that was more opaque, a more
careful analysis was required, deleting
the usual impulsiveness. I decided to

Title: Chessboard
Year: 1937
Material:
readymade, wood
Artist: Marcel
Duchamp
Size: 70 x 70 cm
Location: Private
collection

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 29

talk about Duchamp, because he was


surely ahead of his time, while other artists
would still have a tendency of falling into
the

canvases,

he

depicted

various

readymades and tried several different


materials, from drawing a simple chocolate
grinder, to applying oil on glass, this artist
reached a higher level of uniqueness.

***

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 30

Follows my own examples of Dada


and Abstract art:

Hard Edge Painting (acrylic on


canvas):

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 31

Bibliography:

Books:
Bernard, Edina, LArt Moderne,
Paris, 1999 Larousse-Bordas, P.
Ducand, Marie, Klimt, Paris, 2003,
ML ditions
Millet, Laurance, The Little Book of
Matisse, Paris, 2002, Flammarion
Schapiro, Meyer, Czanne, New
York, 2004, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Modern Art 1900-1945, The age of
Avant-Gardes, New York, 2007, Collins
Design

Documentary:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
=CIq-m_-clJw

The Age of Avant-Gardes

Page 32