Modern World, Modern Styles

A look at art during the 1900s


In the early 1900s, two fellow artists, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, created a revolutionary style of new art called cubism. This involves breaking 3D objects into fragments and rearranging them into complex patterns of angles and planes. Cubists offered a new look of reality by creating separate shapes from everyday objects.
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(above) Picasso's "The Three Musicians", one of his more famous cubist works.

As you can see, Picasso rearranges 3D elements the musicians' bodies, instruments, and music to create a intricate patterns that jumble the three men into one. This could symbolize how, in an ideal musical group, the members are on the same level and function more as a collective than as individuals. The cubist style lends itself perfectly to exhibit themes of unity and cooperation, as seen in "The Three Musicians".


Abstract Art

As the 1900s progressed, artists such as Vasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee moved even further away from illustrating reality. Their artwork is described as abstract, consisting of lines, colors, and shapes which made the subject matter essentially unrecognizable. This ambiguous style of artwork was inspired by psychologist Sigmund Freud's studies on the subconscious mind.
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(above) Paul Klee's "Ad Parnassum"

In this work, Klee combines black lines, a load of intertwining colors, and simple shapes to create a house with what might be a rising sun in the background. While the viewer can determine that what's shown is a house, it's difficult to identify this picture's subject matter. This work could represent a whole bunch of things, such as the hope associated with morning, the simple beauty one can see in a building, or how a house can be multiplex based on those who live in it. Klee leaves the interpretation up to the audience, further embodying the style of abstract art.



This art movement burst onto the Paris art scene during and after the First World War. Dada was a rebellion against civilization, intending to shock and disturb middle-class viewers and provoke an appreciation for savagery and anarchy. Famous dadaists include Hans Arp and Max Ernst.
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(above) Max Ernst's appropriately-titled "Dadaville"

With the dark colors and eerie image in this work, it's clear how pieces such as this shocked the middle class. The idea here is that all of civilization and humanity is gone, being replaced by anarchy and barbarity. The dark colors represent this savagery, while the city shape shows the last remnants of civilization. The fact that there aren't any people depicted may mean that the transfer from a civilized town to this "Dadaville" has caused the demise of all those living in the area; with this in mind, this painting might have an under-the-surface message about anarchy's deceitful appeal.



Cubism, abstract art, and dada all inspired surrealism, a movement that aimed to depict the mechanics of the subconscious mind. The Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali used wild images, such as melting clocks and burning giraffes, to indicate the choatic dream state described by Freud.
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(above) Salvador Dali's surreal "The Elephants"

With surrealism, one question for artists was "How wild can you get?" Certainly, Dali did not disappoint with this work, distorting the title elephants so much that they are unrecognizable at first glance. Nonetheless, one can't deny that the fantastic scene depicted has captured the workings of the subconscious mind. It may be based on reality, but by putting a surreal spin on this picture, Dali creates something that wouldn't be extraordinary in the id.



At the turn of the century, architects rebelled against classical traditions as well, inventing new styles to fit the industrial, urbanized world. The Bauhaus school in Germany blended science and technology with design, influencing architects around the world. One such architect was American Frank Lloyd Wright, who used materials and forms that would fit the building's environment.
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(above) a photograph of Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water"

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most acclaimed American architects, and this is probably his most famous work--and one that effectively shows the new styles of architecture invented in the early 1900s. Lloyd Wright uses materials to fit the environment: for example, the house has a stone and metallic foundation with slabs of mineral to create levels. Notice also how the building doesn't have many decorations. The Bauhaus style of architect didn't really call for ornamentation, and the beauty of a building came from its scientific, clean-cut design.



The emergence of the radio in modern society help spread new styles of music, especially jazz. African-American musicians combined western harmonies with African rhythms to create original, popular jazz pieces. American pop culture was embraced by Europe as well, and the 1920s were an age for jazz and nightclubs.

Louis Armstrong

Little Girl Blue (Mono Version) by Louis Armstrong
Finish off this brochure with the sweet music of Satchmo. Listen to the subtle changes he makes to rhythm, creating both an anticipated and laid-back feel. After listening to something as good as this, you'll understand why this kind of music was loved by both Americans and Europeans during the 1920s.