Category Archives: Into the twentieth century


Wassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866, his parents were upper-class and well educated. His mother was from Moscow, his father came from near the border with Mongolia and his grandmother came from the German speaking Baltic region. He spent most of his childhood in the cosmopolitan city of Odessa and he artistic talent was encouraged by his father, although he didn’t pursue painting until he was 30 instead studying law, ethnography, and economics.

Kandinsky’s interest in colour symbolism and its effect on the human psyche grew throughout his time in Moscow and after a trip to northwest Russia he became interested in folk art which stayed with him through the rest of his life

Kandinsky was one of the pioneers of abstract modern art. He believed that when an artist copied from nature it interfered with the transcendental expression offered by total abstraction.

His art and ideas inspired many artists, including his students at the Bauhaus and the Abstract Expressionists after WWII.

He wanted to convey a spirituality through a visual language that was universal using colour and form that would transcend cultural and physical boundaries.



One of the pieces I have used in the Exercise Finding Affinities is this Wall Hanging by Anni Albers (Annelise Fleischmann) an artist that I had to research for my last textiles module Exploring Ideas.  She was a student at the Bauhaus in Germany from 1922 were she met her husband Josef Albers.

The Bauhaus was founded by Walter Gropius originally in Weimar from 1919 to 1925, moving to Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and finally to Berlin from 1932 to 1933 when it was forced to close by the Nazi regime who considered it promoted ‘degenerate art’.  Many of the teachers including Anni Albers, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee fled Germany and took the Bauhaus ethos to their new homes, were it had a major impact on art and architecture.

Bauhaus combined crafts and the fine arts with the idea of creating a “total” work of art in which all arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together.

This page on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website gives an overview of the philosophy behind the Bauhaus.

Eileen Gray

Art Deco

For the Exercise on Finding Affinities I have drawn a floor plan of an Art Deco house of the early 1930’s to fill with art works but I thought that I would do a little research on Art Deco to start with.

I’ve learnt that the term ‘Art Deco’ wasn’t used at the time but was first used in the 1960’s by the British art critic and historian, Bevis Hillier when interest in the ‘L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ of 1925 was revived.

Art Deco originated in Europe, in particular, Paris in the early years of the 20th century but mostly spanned the inter war years of the roaring 1920’s and the depression of the 1930’s, the style became popular with all classes of people. Art Deco was modern and all forms of design was affected by it from fine art to fashion, film, photography and transport.

It quickly spread around the world and covered handcrafted exclusive products although machine production in new materials made it affordable for everyone.

The Victoria and Albert website has some interesting information here.


Exercise: Exploring Modern Art Part 2

I don’t understand a lot of Modern Art and some of it just leaves me cold like Surrealism so I’ve surprised myself that for some reason I quite like Cubism Perhaps as I do more research I will find out why I am drawn to this art movement and not to other Modern Art movements.

Cubism began in 1908, developed between Pablo Picasso and Georges Bracques and although it was a short lived art movement lasting until 1912 it was the start of a creative explosion that was too have a lasting effect throughout 20th century art.

Western society was witnessing more change in the early 20th century than had taken place in the previous 400 years and Cubism was the first abstract style of art in response to these changes.

A cubist painting shows multiple views of a subject instead of the traditional perspective that had been in place since the Renaissance.

Picasso is supposed to have said ‘There is no such thing as abstract art’ – ‘You must always start with something’

Picasso and Braque worked so closely together that in 1911 their works couldn’t be distinguished apart and they admitted themselves that they weren’t sure who had painted which.

There were two phases of Cubism

  • Analytical – were the artist analyzed his subject from various viewpoints and reconstructed it in geometric form which overall effect evoked a sense of the subject.
  • Synthetic – by 1912 Picasso and Bracques work was becoming so predictable that their work from this period is hard to tell apart.  Picasso began to glue images on top of his paintings thereby introducing ‘collage’ into painting.

I had a go at a few cubist style drawings when I did Drawing 1 with OCA back in 2005.  I’m not sure that this can be classed as cubist in the real sense of the meaning of cubism so I’ll do some drawings in my sketchbook.  I also put this in my logbook at the time but I’ve converted it to a PDF to put here Cubism

Cubist-Study(c) Susan Devonport



Exercise: Exploring Modern Art Part 1

There was an explosion of art movements in the early years of the 20th century so my first task is to choose one of them and do more research.

First though I am looking at some of the most obvious modern art movements and do some research before choosing just one to look at in depth.


Les Fauves (french for the wild beasts) was the first avant-garde movement to emerge in the early 1900’s, they exhibited at the Salon d’Autumn in 1905 and its’ central figures where Henri Matisse and Andre Derain.  As a movement it only lasted a short time and had three exhibitions.

Exponents of Fauvism used wild brush work and bright colours.


Originated in Germany and artists wanted to express meaning or emotional feelings in their artworks not physical reality.


Cubism began between 1907-1911 and pioneered by Pablo Picasso and George Braque. It is considered to be the most influential art movement of the 20th century.  Instead of painting an object from one viewpoint the artist analyzes, breaks it up and reassembles it in an abstract form and from many viewpoints.



Futurism started in Italy but was not only practiced in painting but also sculpture, ceramics, textiles and architecture.  An Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti founded the movement in his Futurist Manifesto on 5th February 1905.  He hated anything old, especially political and artistic tradition.


Dadism   (French for Hobby Horse) began in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916 before spreading to Berlin and was a protest against nationalist and colonialist interests which they believed was the root cause of World War I.


Was an artistic and literary movement launched in 1924 and developed out of DADA or DADAISM.  Founded by Andre Breton the french writer, poet and critic who was one of the leaders of the Dada art movement.  Surrealism was inspired by the thoughts and visions of the subconscious mind.  Surrealists explored a variety of styles and techniques but there was no specifically Surrealist style in painting.  It became the dominant force in Western art between the 1st and 2nd World wars.

(I wrote this for Drawing 1 back in 2005 but I didn’t put it in for assessement so have included it here) Was an artistic and literary movement launched in 1924 that developed out of DADA (French for Hobby Horse) or DADAISM (the artistic and literary movement founded in 1915 in a spirit of rebellion and disillusionment during the 1st World War which had a short life until about 1922).

Founded by Andrè Breton (1896-1966) the French writer, poet and critic, who was one of the leaders of the Dada art movement. Surrealism was inspired by the thoughts and visions of the subconscious mind.  Surrealists explored a variety of styles and techniques but there was no specifically Surrealist style in painting.  It became the dominant force in Western art between the 1st and 2nd World wars.


An artist most famously connected with Surrealism was Spaniard Salvador Dali, who at the International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936 gave a lecture wearing a diving suit, accompanied by two wolfhounds. No one could hear what he said, and he nearly suffocated.

In the early 1920’s in some of Pablo Picasso’s post-Cubist work a strong Surrealist element is found.

Surrealism did not survive the 2nd  World War in any meaningful form, but it did have a liberating effect on a number of artists of the present time, among them Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore.