Issue 41

March 2012

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History of Art – Art of the 20th Century

At the beginning of the 20th century the avant-garde of the Edwardian period moved on from  Victorian ideals of art.  They asked:  What is painting about?  Does it have to be a mirror of reality?  Is there more to an object than it’s physical appearance?

The first movement Brian covered is Fauvism, who departed from photographic reality, to where colour became more important, and details less so.  They used broad brush strokes of pure raw colour in their landscapes.

By 1907 Fauvism was giving way to Cubism, one of the most influential and revolutionary movements in art. Then the bright colours faded – giving way to  darker tones, and structure/pattern in the composition.  They refuted time honoured theories of art as an imitation of nature, no longer using one point perspective, rejecting classic techniques like making distant objects smaller, shading, foreshortening.  Their objects looked flat, two dimensional, forms were split up into planes, facet like shapes.  (A bit like the pixels in digital television!)   In 1911 they were adding texture, wood grain, and montage.

Expressionism is the most difficult to define of the ‘isms’.  Nature was exaggerated and distorted to express man’s terrible passions.  It was popular in Germany and northern Europe  between approx 1910 – 1924.  Abstract Expressionism, in which there is no obvious subject, developed from this

In the 1920’s and 30’s Dada and Surrealism evolved, and then post W W  II, a time most of us can recall, came Pop Art and Op Art.

Brian also covered art in war in the 20c, and the sculpture of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

We still have more topics this term, but Brian has explained to us that when appreciating this type of art, we should not apply the same criteria we would normally use, but to look for shapes, texture, pattern and colour in the compositions.  Our group continues to have good attendance and rapt attention at all of Brian’s lectures.

Judy Muscarella

History of Art — A Plea

Having retired from teaching in 2004 I was disappointed that my offers to various Adult Education providers to run a series of History of Art lectures were falling on stony ground.

A chance conversation with Peter Kearney at a fundraising event alerted me to the existence of U3A and so in 2006 I started the History of Art group.

Since then I have given some seventy talks covering The Renaissance, British Art, The Baroque and Rococo, Impressionism and presently on the Art of the twentieth century. We regularly have some eighty members enrolled and usually have to close the list. We meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month from September through to Easter.

It would be good if there were other U3A members who would be prepared to give talks (lasting about an hour maximum) on Art Historical subjects, not only to give me a rest but to give those who sign up a rest from me! If you fancy giving us a talk please contact me  .

Brian Souter