Surrealism Art

Mention Salvador Dali and you will be transported to the world of Surrealism, a world which almost seems to mirror our universe but with parallel and different laws. From surprise to shock, to comparisons that a layman (even one with an overactive imagination) would never think off, Surrealism was not just an art form but a cultural movement that affected every thought and practice in the world, from the political thinking of people, to the way they expressed themselves in movies, poetry, literature, and of course, artwork. Understanding what this movement is can be difficult, especially without understanding what brought about the movement, what its main characteristics were, and who its proponents were.

The Magical World of Surrealist Paintings

Towards the end of the First World War, many artists who had moved to different parts of the world from Paris became proponents of the Dadaism movement which held the belief that the war was a result of excessive rationalization, and an increase in bourgeois living. The way in which Dadaists protested the war was with anti-art movements, different performances, art works, and literary works. History tells us that the first seeds of thought regarding the Surrealist movement were conceptualized from the remnants of the Dadaism movement. The person who can be called the founder of the Surrealism movement was Andre Breton who regarded the movement a form of revolution. The definition as given by him says that it is a “pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.”

Extremely influenced by Freudian theories, Surrealism is in a manner the expression of imagination as seen in one’s dreams. The entire gamut of Freud’s theories that dealt with free association, analysis of dreams, and of the unconscious, were extremely important to the artists who were a part of this movement. Most artists of the movement laid their claim on eccentricity without an acceptance of being mad. As can be figured out from what Salvador Dali very famously said, “There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.”

Another important characteristic of the movement was the juxtaposition of elements that were rarely ever actually featured together. The aim behind combining two disparate elements was to create something that shocked and startled. Most artists of the movement aimed at breaking the shackles that bound people to conventional, rational behavior, and customs and traditions.

One of the most famous painters on a Surrealist canvas was very obviously Salvador Dali, who helped popularizing this art movement. A lot has been said and written about the relation between the art movement and Dali and the effect that the artist had on the way people perceived this artistic movement. If you study the art form in detail, you will see that there is a lot of technique involved, as well as focus on content. But despite this, there was an attempt to appreciate what an untrained artist would see as art. This stemmed from the belief that free from rules, a mind tends to be more imaginative in the ideas it generates.

Most artists who painted in the Surrealist form, used free association and one of two methods of expression; Absolute Surrealism and Veristic Surrealism. While the former believed in the expression of ideas of the subconscious, the latter focused on creating a connection between the abstract and the real. Salvador Dali worked in the Veristic school, often juxtaposing images from the real world with imaginary situations. It is believed that movements of the art world like Abstract Expressionism and Magic Realism were born from this movement. Lowbrow art is also a throwback from this art movement.

It is difficult to understand this movement completely without maybe taking a lesson. Paintings like Elle Loge La Folie, Indefinite Divisibility, or Woman with Her Throat Cut, are works that just give you an insight into the shock and awe that Surrealism art inspires.
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The Concept of Minimalist Art

The earlier artists that were regarded as minimalist stood against anyone who tried to brand them as self-expressionists. Indeed, minimalistic art had much contrast to Expressionism. The art revolved around mostly simple geometric figures – uniform and symmetric, often cubic, stripped from their complex surroundings and thrown onto the canvas, using unmixed paint right from the tube.

Minimalism – The Masters of Less

Black Square
One of the earliest art that came to be defined as ‘minimal’ came from Kazimir Malevich, known as the Black Square. The painting describes just that – a black square on a white canvas. Originally derived as a concept in Russian Suprematism, the oil on canvas, as described by Kazimir, depicts the purity of an emotion. The black square represents the feeling, while the white background is the void that lies beyond this feeling, waiting for the feeling to end, to take hold of you once it does.

The Movement
In the words of one of the greatest in the Minimalist Movement, Frank Stella’s, “What you see is what you see” quote can be considered as the way to look at minimalist artworks. Of course, what you deduce from what you see is the result of opinions. His work, “The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II”(1959) hinted at his commercial influence. Ad Reinhardt explains the Minimalism as, “The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more. The eye is a menace to clear sight. The laying bare of oneself is obscene. Art begins with the getting rid of nature”. David Burliuk, a Russian Avant-Garde artist, wrote: ‘Minimalism derives its name from the minimum of operating means. Minimalist painting is purely realistic – the subject being the painting itself.’

A View of the Minimalist Movement, 1960

The real Minimalist Art Movement can be believed to have originated around the late 60’s in New York City. This can also be considered around the same time as the beginning of Literary Minimalism. The art depicted an extreme form of simplicity, often coming with a bare-all-without-baring-much attitude, giving minimalist artworks the hard-edge look that defines them. The main characteristics of minimalist art are what separate them from expressionist art – no form of cultural gestures, no representation of any strong public opinion, and absolutely no point of self-explanation of the artist through the painting or the sculpture.

The Names
Through time, the art came to be known as “ABC art”, “literalism” and “Reductive art”, with “Minimalistic” as the most prominent. The word was, however, rejected by most artists in the Movement. One of these was Donald Judd, the man famous for his ‘box art’ structures and installations. One of the people on the forefront of the Minimalist Movement of the 1960s, his work featured at “Primary Structures”, a historic group exhibit held at the Jewish Museum in New York, 1966. Alongside him were Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and Sol Lewitt, other important names of the Movement.

Other Art Forms
Although minimalism can be related to other art forms like Pop art or Land art (it may be debated on which is a derivative of which), minimalism holds its own style of headstrong artwork that is simple to see, yet provides a view into the human minds as heavy as (maybe even heavier than) the others. It still adheres to the concept of beauty being in the eyes of the beholder, but it does so in such a simple manner that we can discuss the effect of the work for hours.

The Passing of a Movement
It was at the end of the 1960s that the Minimalist Movement came to a slow and steady pace, if not been disbanded altogether. Artists moved on, critics fangs bared, attacked all minimalism, calling it frugal, confused and sometimes, ‘minimal’ in the derogatory sense. The most noteworthy critical remarks about the Minimalistic Movement can be found in an essay written by Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood” (1967).

Towards the end of the 60’s, minimalist artists ended up redefining the concept of minimalism, using sculptures and Land art to almost eliminate the difference between object and the art of that object. This includes the “Light and Space” movement influenced by John McLaughlin. The works often included installations with materials like glass and resin. All works that pertained to the idea of minimalism, created after the Movement came to be known as “Post-Minimalism”.

To a minimalistic artist, less will always be more. They would refrain from an object having to share space, along with the viewers interest, with another object in the same canvas. They believe this to be a cause for unwanted confusion. It was, is, and hopefully will still continue to be, the belief that changed Modern Art.

Realism and Realistic Art

Artists have always drawn inspiration from Nature, human experiences, mysticism and a variety of other facets of life. As times change, art also evolves. Different styles and schools of art have emerged with the changing times. The development of Realism and Realistic art during the eighteenth century will always be looked upon as an important phase in the history of art. Realism in art is basically an art movement which is known for its departure from the traditional styles of Neoclassicism and Romanticism. Wondering what is Realistic art and how is it different from the other schools of art? Scroll down to find out more about this art movement along with the artists associated with it.

Realism in Art

Realism in the artistic world basically symbolizes the depiction of objects as they exist. This school of art emerged in response to Neoclassicism and Romanticism in art. Romanticism was an intellectual artistic movement that influenced many artists during the seventeenth and the eighteenth century. It placed a great deal of importance to emotions, creativity and the imagination of the artist. The art was much more than the reflection of the Nature. Those who followed Romantic art tradition, used their imagination freely in the works of art. Appreciation of Nature’s beauty and mysticism were increasingly used as themes. On the other hand, famous artists who painted as per the Neoclassical art are known to have used classical styles for expressing their ideas about bravery, sacrifice and the love of country.

Characteristics of Realistic Art

Realism in visual arts is basically about moving over the interpretation, personal bias, subjectivity or emotionalism and depicting the painting theme in an empirical sense. Realists rejected the characteristics of Romantic art as they believed in portraying objects with a sense of objective reality. Thus, the artists didn’t use techniques to change the appearance of the object. For instance, an artist who follows the Realistic art tradition would never attempt to conceal any flaws in the object or scene he/she is painting. The Realism art movement can also be associated with the age of positivism. Positivism is all about gaining knowledge using scientific methods of observation and objective evaluation. In art, this translates to depiction of objects as they are. One must not allow subjectivity and imagination to affect the depiction of the objects. Realism in art is all about rejecting idealization. Those who follow the realistic tradition in art believe in an accurate portrayal of ordinary people and events. The artist’s muse shouldn’t be someone who is larger-than-life or glorious always. This explains why artists who follow this tradition didn’t believe in painting the Gods, Goddesses or heroes. Their aim was to depict the daily life with as much accuracy as possible.

Realists basically draw inspiration from contemporary life. The subject matter of their paintings generally includes daily scenes and ordinary people.They depict contemporary life in a realistic and accurate manner. For instance, after industrial revolution, many of the famous paintings from Realistic school of art depicted workers performing their tasks in factories. They tried to depict the workers as they looked. However ugly or unaesthetic the surroundings looked, the painter painted them with honesty, just as they existed. No changes were made to make them look aesthetically pleasing. If you go through the famous painters list, you will come across names such as Gustave Courbet, Honore Daumier, Jean-Francois Millet, John Singer Sargent, James McNeil Whistler, Jan Van Eyck and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. These were some of the famous painters who followed this art tradition. Movements such as the Ashcan School, the Contemporary Realist, and the American Scene Painters are also based on this art tradition. These painters believe in the painting what they see. The logic given by these artists is that the abstract objects, or the objects that are intangible or non-existent, don’t belong to the realm of painting.

The rejection of the Romantic art tradition is an important aspect of Realistic art. Painting ordinary people and daily scenes in a realistic manner is the objective of this form of art.

Pop Culture Artifacts

“Popular art is normally decried as vulgar by the cultivated people of its time; then it loses favor with its original audience as a new generation grows up; then it begins to merge into the softer lighting of “quaint”, and cultivated people become interested in it, and finally it begins to take on the archaic dignity of the primitive.”

As Northrop Frye puts the thought forward with much clarity, no one who has studied popular culture can deny it. For some reason popular culture or pop culture is never appreciated by the “intellectual” and “culturally enlightened” of that period. At the contemporary height of its popularity it is often dismissed as for the moment and a temporary fascination. Fast forward a few years and the same artifacts dismissed a few years ago come back and become popular as collector’s edition items. The term popular culture when coined in the 19th century was used to refer to the cultural traditions of the lower classes who did not have the education of the upper classes. The current association of the term can be credited to usage of the term in the United States. It is difficult to define the phenomenon because of the number of definitions floating around. According to one widely-accepted definition of pop culture, it is defined as those cultural artifacts from popular cultures that is left over after a decision has been made about what is high culture. Of course there are artifacts that also bridge this gap. Another definition of what makes up the bulk of these artifacts suggest that they are cultural objects produced for consumption by the masses.

Pop Culture and Artifacts

When you think about objects that define pop culture, what are the things that you first think of? Well, chances are that more often than not all those images are pop culture items (including Kermit the frog, Archie Bunker’s chair, and even Hannah Montana ). The effect of the phenomenon is such that it permeates and captures the imagination of the masses. While not many of us may be familiar with the works of Caravaggio or the theories of Nietzsche, most of us would have devoured Archie comics and read every Dan Brown book. That is the power of pop culture. These cannot be restricted to literal objects, as ideas, images, attitudes, people, phenomena, are all a part and parcel of world and American popular culture.

There are many experts who have spent a lot of their time studying one or the other artifact in popular culture. Most people while analyzing these artifacts use two forms of analysis – an interpretive textual analysis and content analysis. The former helps in examining the literal and social meanings of the object at hand and how they are linked to larger subjects prevalent in society. The latter studies it in quantitative terms. Studies help determine the mood of the country as a whole and reflect their mindset and options. An object is defined as a pop culture artifact when you observe widespread popularity of the object and different mediums including references to the artifact. They are sourcing pop culture in an Internet culture to create new idols. From kitschy items of the ’60s and the ’70s to the quirkiness of music and television today, the very definition is evolving on a daily basis.

So what are the different American artifacts that has captured the imagination of different generations? From the popularity of the icon that is Mickey Mouse and the logo that has a direct association to the Jonas Brothers today, pop culture icons and artifacts are many. Some notable icons of pop culture are The Beatles, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Madonna. Andy Warhol’s painting of Marilyn Monroe cemented her position as one of the everlasting icons of popular culture. Icons may not be necessarily human; superheroes like Batman, Superman, X-men, and movie franchises like the Star Wars have created their own little kingdoms in the pop culture space. These artifacts include any piece of clothing or object associated with these icons.

Most of these artifacts have an association with celebrities or cultural icons. In some cases it is with a television show or a movie franchise. While pop culture may often be faced with the accusation of being trivial and responsible for the intellectual degradation of the audience, the acceptance that pop culture finds remains unmatched. This can be observed in the anime boom in America with manga and anime both becoming huge in the country. Pop culture artifacts with their enduring popularity will remain embedded in the psyche of the people forever. While other high culture artifacts may stand the acid test of time, their popularity will never be as all-encompassing or widespread.

Historical Periods in Literature

Accurately listing the chronology of literature is a highly academic task, but it is possible to simplify the process. Literature has been around for centuries, and there have been millions of writers that have come and gone. It is easy to see that the prevalent culture and condition of society also affects the work of prominent authors of each time, and it is also apparent that there was a common theme between various works of similar periods.

Over the years, American literature has progressed by leaps and bounds, and every year there are new ideas and even new words created by contemporary authors. There are many historians and academicians who have dedicated their entire lives to studying the progression of literature and American history over time.

Before the Twentieth Century

No one knows the exact answer to when and where literature was born. But, it is possible to pinpoint the changes in themes and writing moods over the years.

Puritanism: 1620-1730 A.D.
This was a highly religious time. The main focus of literature here was theism and the proclamation of faith and belief in God. Everyone lived pious lives at this time, and believed in the power of the Gospel; this showed in the manner of writing as well. A majority of literary works were concerned with love and brotherly affection, and some also dealt with witchcraft and other ‘Anti-God’ rituals. Some famous authors of this time were Jonathan Edwards, William Bradford, Anne Dutton, and Samuel Rutherford.

Colonialism and Enlightenment: 1740-1820 A.D.
In this era, traditional thoughts were discarded and scientific and empirical proof was demanded for various happenings. The increase in scientific knowledge of the time played a huge role in this development, and natural laws of the world were viewed under a new light. Rather than focusing on an individual’s religious thoughts, society started concerning itself with democracy and other forms of social development instead. Notable authors were Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Phillis Wheatley, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine.

Romantic: 1820-1860 A.D.
Romanticism here does not refer to the mushy perspective that we possess today; it talks about the focus on individualism and the liberation of the soul instead. At this time, God was viewed as an entity fused with nature, and this changed people’s points of view drastically. Rather than focusing on the outside world, the focus here shifted to one’s inner self, and the process of self actualization began. Philosophy and transcendentalism also saw a massive upsurge in this time. Notable authors of this time were Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allan Poe.

This period further saw the transformation of literature into various critiques of slavery, a lot of regionalism, south-western humor, realism, and naturalism.

Modernism: Since the 20th century
Industrialism and other factors led to a rapid rise in the intellect and awareness of people, and hundreds of new genres started appearing in literature. Existentialism and scientific thought also started taking precedence, and this showed in the works of notable authors of the time―Charles Darwin, Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Fitzgerald, and Karl Marx. As society grew, more and more people started feeling alienated and aloof, leading to a loss of faith in God and other religious works.

Soon after this, post-modernism took over, and that is the period that we find ourselves in today. There are so many genres surrounding us today simply due to the universal nature of information. It would be impossible for the literature from any one particular region today to not be influenced by the writing of another region. The borders have now been eradicated, and this has led to a complete change in the literature we see today.

Please note that there are many smaller periods and many lesser known authors than the ones mentioned here. This article focuses on American literature, without taking into consideration literature from other parts of the world.

Characteristics of Cubism

Who can ever forget the valuable contribution by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso to the world of art. Picasso’s style still continues to inspire millions of artists around the world. Such famous artists developed an individualistic style that set trends. Picasso, along with Georges Braque developed a style known as cubism during the period 1909-1912. Braque had studied artist Cézanne’s style. His basic principles were to represent an object from different angles. Therefore, the roots of cubism are based in other forms of art.

The basics of cubism can be seen in another art movement known as pointillism and fauvism. Cubism is basically the art of creating abstract shapes of three dimensional objects on a two dimensional surface. An artist who wants to opt for cubism should be able to represent an object in multiple planes. Therefore, in simple terms, a cubist basically shows more than one layer/planes on a single piece of canvas. The overall look of a painting that is created in this style appears in the form of geometric shapes. And as it depicted in different layers, it gives an illusion of depth, giving the painting a 3-dimensional look – hence the name cubism. An artist uses the style of little cubes to depict an object or a person from different views.

Artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque popularized this style by painting forms in distorted versions. A look at their paintings reveal how these two geniuses cut up space in different planes to create a composition. Upon observation, the paintings of these artists show the use of geometric shapes and the use of edges. These paintings are not based on the basic theories of art that make the use of perspective with precise angles and shapes.

Cubism was further divided into two main branches – analytical cubism and synthetic cubism. Cubists who painted using the analytical style of cubism, basically analyzed and broke up natural forms into little cubes or other geometrical shapes. They used a monochromatic color scheme for these paintings. Picasso and Braque, both used the analytical style of painting. Apart from this style, they also developed synthetic cubism. This was based on the art of creating compositions that focused on objects together. Besides, artists also made use of the technique of mixed media. Mix media is the use of different mediums of paint used to create a composition on one surface. Synthetic cubism is about creating flatter compositions with minimum shading as compared to analytical cubism.

Cubism basically started on a simplistic version, which later reached an abstract stage. During the Renaissance period, artists depicted compositions on one plane. Cubism was considered to be a complete contrast in this regard. For example, a cubist artist may paint the face of a person wherein the eye may be shown looking towards the viewer, however, the nose may be painted facing the side.

Apart from artists such as Pablo Picasso and Braque, Fernand Leger, Francis Picabia and Roger de la Fresnaye also used the basics of cubism. Today, this style continues to inspire young talents to try something that is far apart from reality!

History of Impressionism

What is Impressionism? It was an art movement that came up in the 19th century in France. Critic Louis Leroy coined the term in a satiric review on Impression, the work of art by Claude Monet. Claude Monet was the founder of the French Impressionist Painting.

Impressionist art is a style of art characterized by unique visual angles, prominently evident brush strokes and an open composition. The art form emphasizes on the changing patterns of light to indicate the passage of time. It deals with capturing an object as if someone has caught just a glimpse of it. Hence, images have lesser details. But the paintings are often brightly colored and involve an element of movement.

Impressionists of the early period went beyond the traditional academic painting. Inspired by the artists like Eugene Delacroix, they based their paintings more on color strokes rather than line drawing. Previously, paintings were done indoors. French painters like Gustave Courbet, and Theodore Rousseau paved a path for Impressionism. Impressionists showed art, the outside world. They started painting realistic scenes with the use of broken strokes of pure colors.

Paintings by Dutch painters of the 17th century represented a vivid distinction between the subject and the background. Photography inspired the painters to capture moments in daily life. While photography could depict facts, paintings could portray an artist’s interpretation of facts. Impressionists were the first to bring in subjectivity to the paintings. Japanese art also contributed to the emergence of Impressionism.

In the middle of the 19th century, Academie des Beaux-Arts dominated the world of French art. Works of art primarily depicted history and religion. The paintings lacked vibrancy and brightness. The Academie held restrictive views about the style of paintings and did not promote young artists who wanted to bring in newness to the art form.

The Academie used to hold an annual art show where a panel of judges reviewed the paintings of the artists of those times and the Academie gave away prizes to the artists, judged as being best by the panel. The judges strongly rejected the paintings that portrayed unconventionality, thus suppressing the freedom of expression of some young artists. Particularly in 1863, many paintings by the young artists were rejected, which made Emperor Napoleon III look into the matter. He declared that the paintings should be made open to public judgment and organized a huge exhibition of the rejected paintings. It was called Salon des Refuses. It led to a new trend in art and attracted many.

The artists requested that Salon des Refuses be held in 1867 and later in 1872. Both their requests were not honored. In 1873, Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro established an association of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers in order to exhibit their art. The first exhibition was organized in the April of 1874. It included works of thirty artists. The tradition of these exhibitions had to bear criticism from the society as well as face some internal conflicts. Renoir went against Impressionism in the 1880s. Pissarro was the only one to participate in all the eight exhibitions of Impressionism.

The exhibitions earned the artists fame and monetary gains. Durand Ruel, the dealer of these artists was instrumental in making Impressionism popular. He brought the Impressionists’ artworks before the society and arranged shows for them. Impressionism soon became prevalent in society.

Apart from Renoir, Pissarro, Monet and Sisley who can be considered as pioneers of Impressionism, others like Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin and Frederic Bazille also contributed to earning recognition for Impressionism. Edgar Degas disregarded the term Impressionist and Edouard Manet did not call himself an Impressionist, but both of them are considered a part of Impressionism. James Abbott McNeill Whistler, born in America participated in Impressionism. Works of Eugene Boudin and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot were closely related to the Impressionist style of art.

Thick brush strokes to give the picture a bright look, soft edges, depiction of reflecting light, and the representation of shadows to obtain a natural look, are the signature characteristics of Impressionist art. The history of Impressionism relates the evolution of this novel form of painting that was a major breakthrough in the world of art.