Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blog Five: Modern Art

Blog Five

Modern Art

CCM: Macleod’s article intends to be an introduction to visual arts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He notes that “painting became the leading art form” in Modernism and that painting influenced writing: “Modernist writers often patterned their literary experiments on parallels drawn from the visual arts.” (194) (Initially, I didn’t really understand what he meant by this.) As a result, he asserts that at least a basic knowledge of visual arts is required to really get an understanding of Modernism. I really appreciated that he had some actual pictures, since this week is about art. Like several of the readings, he indicates the importance of Cezanne: “The tradition of abstract art begins most importantly with the post-Impressionist Cezanne.” (195) He moved away from the importance of color and light and toward geometry and geometrical figures. Macleod then moves on to Cubism, which he indicates was invented by Picasso and Braque. (197) He also calls Cubism “the most influential art movement of this century.” (198) It developed in three stages: early (?), Analytical and Synthetic. (198-200) I thought the most important sentence in this section, at least in terms of literature, was “The cubist techniques of fragmentation, multiple perspectives, and juxtaposition are part of the standard modernist repertoire, from Eliot’s The Waste Land to Steven’s “The Man With the Blue Guitar.”” (202) This explained the earlier claim that art influenced literature. Macleod also asserted that Paris was the most important location for art (not a particular surprise) and indicated that the beginning of the movement in England was the 1910 London exhibition, a good segue to the BGR readings! J

BGR: This was the first time I can recall hearing anything about Desmond McCarthy, but I just loved his writing style. His selection is the preface to the oft mentioned 1910 Post-Impressionist Exhibition, which he apparently got from Fry’s notes. What really came out of this piece to me was the idea of history. It seemed similar in some ways to “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” He discusses how the new school is reacting against Impressionism. Both groups are interested in light and color, but the new school is changing the forms. (98) Like many of the other readings, McCarthy connects Cezanne and geometric shapes. (100) The Clive Bell reading also has some really nice passages, just in terms of reading them and thinking about the words. “Roses and works of art are beautiful in themselves.” (102) I like this comparison. This essay too has similarities to “Tradition:” “The stuff of art is always the same, and always it must be converted into form before it can become art: it is in their choice of converting-machines that the ages differ conspicuously.” (105) Like many of the other readings, the Fry reading emphasized the importance of color and light in Impressionism. One element of his essay that I found interesting is that he chose, for his “typical representative of the French genius,” Degas. (263) I guess this surprised me because there are so many more well-known French Impressionists. He seems to find most interesting about Degas that he “never allows himself to adopt a formula of any kind.” (265) He found the best medium for Degas to be pastels. (267) In the second Fry reading, he seems to be defending some of his earlier writings, stating that he has tried to be as objective as possible but basically that everyone can view things a different way based on their own sensibilities.

Goldman: Goldman also emphasizes the importance of the 1910 exhibition. I liked her explanation of how Post-Impressionists differed from the Impressionists. They preferred oppositions of color/planes of color, rather than concentrating mostly on the importance of light and color as major elements. (125) Her main argument, however, seems to be about Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and their viewpoints on art as opposed to those Roger Fry and Clive Bell. It seemed to me that the main conflict between the two groups was about color and its importance as an artistic element. Is color part of the form? How important is color? I thought the basic difference as indicated by this article was that color was more crucial for Virginia and Vanessa: “For [Vanessa] Bell, colour is in fact form, and therefore, presumably structural.” (135) Virginia goes in the Vanessa category: “Woolf, I suggest, is keeping with the English Post-Impressionists under Sickert’s influence, records social change in terms of new colours.” (142) Clive and Roger, on the other hand, “…shifted the emphasis…away from colour towards more significant form…” (137)

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