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ARTH209: 20th Century Art

Unit 6: The “Return to Order” in France, Germany, and the United States   We’ve see that much of the art of the early 20th century was characterized by the breakdown of forms, nonnaturalistic colors, crude drawing, asymmetrical compositions, and a move toward abstraction. Some of these works—such as those by the German Expressionists—conveyed anxiety over the rapid and radical transformations of modern life; others—such as those by the Futurists—celebrated modernity’s speed and dynamism and welcomed the destruction of the past and its traditions. After World War I, there was a shift in styles and attitudes as artists reacted to the social and political chaos caused by the conflict. Simplicity, legibility, and rational order became highly valued artistic attributes. Scholars have loosely described this as a desire for a “return to order.”
 
In this unit, we will see how these new values appeared in France, Germany, and the United States. In France, the Purists produced paintings with clearly defined objects and stable compositions in order to evoke the same sense of harmony and balance found in classical works of art. In Germany, the artists of the Bauhaus tried to design works that would be suitable for mass production, while the New Objectivity artists focused on social and political critiques that would be easily understood by the public. In the United States, the Precisionists, Regionalists, and Urban Realists emphasized clarity of form and recognizably American subject matter. As you work through this unit, pay particular attention to the similarities and differences in the artistic styles, social goals, and motivations of these artists.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 11 hours.

☐        Subunit 6.1: 1 hour

☐        Subunit 6.2: 4 hours

☐        Subunit 6.3: 6 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - identify and describe the visual characteristics and technical principles associated with the Return to Order in France, Germany, and the United States; - demonstrate knowledge of the individual artists’ contributions to the development of Purism in France, the Bauhaus and the New Objectivity in Germany, and Precisionism, Regionalism, and Urban Realism in the United States; - discuss the impact of the 1913 Armory Show on artists in the United States; - describe the educational program and goals of the Bauhaus School in Germany: - identify and explain the goals of the artists associated with Purism, the New Objectivity, Precisionism, Regionalism, and Urban Realism; and - explain the influence of nationalism and industrial production on the modern art of France, Germany, and Russia in the 1920s and 1930s.

6.1 France: Purism   - Web Media: Philadelphia Museum of Art: “The City, 1919” Link: Philadelphia Museum of Art: “The City, 1919” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on “1 audio stop 930” at the top of the page to hear curator Michael Taylor discuss Fernand Leger’s painting, The City, 1919. Then click on “Teacher Resources” at the top of the page to read an essay about this work and more about this artist. Note how Leger’s style relates to earlier artistic styles as well as the increasingly industrial cityscape.
 
Reading the essay and listening to the recording should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: mariabuszek.com: Excerpts from Le Corbusier’s “Towards a New Architecture” Link: mariabuszek.com: Excerpts from Le Corbusier’s “Towards a New Architecture” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Click on the link, “LeCorbuNewArch.pdf,” and read the first 3.5 pages, up until “The Engineer’s Aesthetic and Architecture.” Although this essay deals with architecture, the ideas that Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (popularly known as Le Corbusier) outlines here were enormously influential in all of the visual arts. Basically, Le Corbusier attempts to reconcile spiritual expression in the arts with the rationality and logical calculation required by industrial production. Note the values that he emphasizes here: simplicity, geometry, clarity, rational order, and logical analysis. For Le Corbusier, these values will result in human creations that adhere to supposedly “universal laws” and result in harmony. As you work through the rest of the material in this unit, note how many other artists espouse similar values and goals for their art.
     
    Reading this essay should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2 Germany: The Bauhaus and the New Objectivity   - Reading: mariabuszek.com: Walter Gropius’s “The Theory and Organization of Bauhaus” Link: mariabuszek.com: Walter Gropius’s “The Theory and Organization of Bauhaus” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on the link “GropiusBau.pdf,” and read the document. Gropius, like Le Corbusier, writes about the need to reconcile art as a spiritual expression with the industrial production of useful goods. Note the similarities in goals and values between Gropius and Le Corbusier. While both emphasize the practicalities of designing for mass production, they also have rather utopian goals in that they see art, architecture, and crafts as a way to improve human life.
 
Reading this essay should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.1 The Bauhaus   - Reading: MOMA: Bauhaus Workshops for Modernity: “Explore Bauhaus” Link: MOMA: Bauhaus Workshops for Modernity: “Explore Bauhaus” (Flash)
 
Instructions: Please explore Bauhaus by reviewing the designs created at three locations of the school. Click on the Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin links to see examples of graphic design, architectural sketches, furniture design, and utilitarian objects created by Bauhaus members. Also, click on “Kandinsky Questionnaire” on the menu bar, and then click on “Begin Questionnaire” for a fun way to learn about Kandinsky’s thoughts on the relationship between color and shape.
 
Reading this material and completing the questionnaire should take approximately 1 hour.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.2 The New Objectivity   - Reading: The Museum of Modern Art, New York: “New Objectivity” Link: The Museum of Modern Art, New York: “New Objectivity” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this brief description of the New Objectivity in Germany. Then click on the individual images to read more about particular works and artists.
 
Reading this essay should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Museum of Modern Art, New York: Ursula Zeller’s “George Grosz” Link: The Museum of Modern Art, New York: Ursula Zeller’s “George Grosz” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this essay. Click on the link “Fit for Active Service” in the third paragraph to see an example of Grosz’s political satire.
     
    Reading this essay should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
     Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The J. Paul Getty Museum: “Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920–1938” Link: The J. Paul Getty Museum: “Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920–1938” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this essay. You can click on “Enlarge” below each of the images for a larger view. Click on “i+ Learn about the AIZ” to read more about this political newspaper and Heartfield’s important contributions to it. Heartfield’s work was a direct response to the rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 1930s.
     
    Reading this essay should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3 The United States: The Armory Show and American Realism   The Armory Show of 1913 was the first major exhibition of modern European art in the United States. The European artists’ move away from naturalistic representation shocked both the American critics and the American public. After seeing this show, many American artists were inspired and emboldened to experiment even more freely with abstract form, nonnaturalistic color, expressive brushwork, and new materials.
*
*During the period between the world wars, a number of American artists turned away from the extreme abstraction displayed at the Armory Show and instead chose to convey modern themes through more naturalistic, and therefore more easily understandable, styles. As with Purism in France and the New Objectivity in Germany, Precisionism, Regionalism, and Urban Realism in the United States have been interpreted in terms of a desire for a “return to order” after the chaos and carnage of World War I.

The artists associated with Precisionism used hard-edged styles, flat colors, and predominantly geometric forms to depict the human-made environment. Regionalist artists focused on the themes and subjects of American rural life in various areas of the nation, while Urban Realists favored depictions of metropolitan life.

6.3.1 The Armory Show in New York, 1913   - Web Media: University of Virginia: Shelly Staples’ “The Armory Show” Link: University of Virginia: Shelly Staples’ “The Armory Show” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the poster image to enter the main site, read the introduction, and then click on the following at the bottom of the page to read thematic essays: “As Avant-Garde as the Rest of Them: An Introduction to the Armory Show” and “Marketing Modern Art: From the Armory to the Department Store.” Then click on the icon “Tour the Armory” at the bottom left of the page to explore individual works of art.
 
Exploring this site and reading the essays should take approximately 2 hours.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.2 American Realism: Precisionism, Regionalism, and Urban Realism   6.3.2.1 Precisionism   - Reading: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Jessica Murphy’s “Precisionism” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Jessica Murphy’s “Precisionism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the essay, and then click on the images at the top of the page to see examples of works by some of the artists associated with Precisionism.
 
Reading this essay should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Jessica Murphy’s “Charles Sheeler (1883–1965)” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Jessica Murphy’s “Charles Sheeler (1883–1965)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the essay, and then click on each of the images at the top of the page and read more about these works by Charles Sheeler.
     
    Reading this essay should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.2.2 Regionalism   - Reading: American Studies at the University of Virginia: “Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975)” Link: American Studies at the University of Virginia: “Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975)” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the essay, and then go to the menu bar on the
left of the page and click on “Gallery” under Thomas Hart Benton to
see examples of his work.  
    
 Reading this essay should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: University of Virginia: “Going Back to Iowa: The World of Grant Wood” Link: University of Virginia: “Going Back to Iowa: The World of Grant Wood” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Click on the large image at the top of the page. This will take you to a page labeled “Introduction.” Read this page. Scroll down to the bottom and click on the Gallery icon on the far right to see images of Grant Wood’s works. This website has a great deal of useful information and you may wish to explore it further. Please note that this additional material is optional reading and is not figured in the time advisory for this unit.
     
    Reading this essay should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker’s “Grant Wood’s American Gothic” Link: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker’s “Grant Wood’s American Gothic” (Flash)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video. As you watch, please note the connections that the speakers make between this painting and the historical circumstances as well as the artist’s biography.
     
    Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareALike 3.0 United States License. It is attributed to Khan Academy. 

6.3.2.3 Urban Realism   - Reading: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Jessica Murphy’s “Edward Hopper (1882–1967)” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Jessica Murphy’s “Edward Hopper (1882–1967)” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the essay, and then click on each of the images at the top of the page and read about the individual works of art.
 
Reading this material should take approximately 1 hour.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker’s “Hopper’s Nighthawks” Link: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker’s “Hopper’s Nighthawks” (Flash)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video. Edward Hopper was one of the most critically acclaimed and popular artists associated with Urban Realism. Note the way that the painting conveys meaning through style as well as subject matter.

    Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareALike 3.0 United States License. It is attributed to Khan Academy. 

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “ARTH209 Unit 6 Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “ARTH209 Unit 6 Quiz” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Complete this assessment to gauge your understanding of the topics covered in this unit. The correct answers will be displayed when you click the “Submit” button.

    Completing the quiz and reviewing, if necessary, should take approximately 30 minutes.