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ARTH209: 20th Century Art

Unit 7: The 1940s and 1950s in the United States and Europe   One of the most striking developments of the 1940s and 1950s was the rise of New York City as a major artistic center. This was partly due to the large number of European modernists who fled to the United States during and after World War II. It was also fueled by the United States’s new role as a world leader.
 
In this unit, we will explore the rise of Abstract Expressionism in the United States and the part it played in America’s new artistic prominence. We will also examine several critical approaches that have been used to interpret the art of this movement. Then we will turn our attention to Art Brut and European modernism in this period. As you work through this unit, remember to compare the works of art under discussion with earlier examples of abstract art and to look for similarities and differences in the styles, the artistic motivations, and the meanings conveyed by the works.

Unit 7 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 9.5 hours.

☐    Subunit 7.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 7.2: 6 hours

☐    Subunit 7.3: 1.5 hours

Unit7 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - demonstrate knowledge of main contributors to the development of Abstract Expressionism in the United States and Art Brut in Europe; - identify and discuss the reasons for the development of New York as a major artistic center; - explain the differences between Action Painting and Color Field Painting; - demonstrate an understanding of some of the key critical approaches used to interpret Abstract Expressionism in the United States; and - explain the influence of contemporary historical events on the production of midcentury art in Europe and the United States.

7.1 American Art in the 1940s   - Web Media: arthistoryunstuffed.com: Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette’s “Podcast 40: Painting 6: Art in New York” Link: arthistoryunstuffed.com: Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette’s “Podcast 40: Painting 6: Art in New York” (Flash)
 
Instructions: Click on the red play button, and listen to this podcast. This podcast presents the developments in the art landscape in United States, discusses the developments in the United States since the arrival of European modernists to the establishment of Abstract Expressionism after World War II, and explains Clement Greenberg’s role in the artistic evolution in New York City. Dr. Willette also discusses gesture artists and color field artists.
 
Listening to the podcast should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: sharecom.ca: Clement Greenberg’s “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” Link: sharecom.ca: Clement Greenberg’s “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Clement Greenberg was one of the most influential critics of the 20th century. His critical method came to be known as “formalism,” because he emphasized that only the formal elements (line, color, shape, composition, spatial arrangements, etc.) in a work of art were necessary or important. These, he claimed, were the elements that set visual works apart from all other forms of human production. Recognizable subject matter and narratives or stories were no longer necessary or valuable. In this essay, written in 1939 when fascist or totalitarian regimes were gaining strength and power in Europe, Greenberg outlined his reasons for privileging abstract over naturalistic works of art. He believed that art, as he defined it, was the only way to save culture from the threatening political forces of the time. As you read this essay, make note of his arguments and their social and political, as well as aesthetic, implications. How does he define avant-garde art? How does he characterize kitsch? Some critics have argued that Greenberg’s formalist approach is elitist as it seems to suggest that “true” art is only for the educated connoisseur. Would you agree with this assessment?
     
    Reading this essay and answering the questions should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

7.2 Abstract Expressionism   - Reading: The Art Story: “Abstract Expressionism” Link: The Art Story: “Abstract Expressionism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: First, read over this page as an introduction to Abstract Expressionism. Under “Beginnings,” be sure to click on “More”. Then click on each of the images under “Major Works” at the top of the page and read the accompanying text. Finally, click on “Detail View” under Jackson Pollack, Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline on the right side of the page and read about these Abstract Expressionist artists.
 
Reading these essays should take approximately 1 hour.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: pooter.net: Harold Rosenberg’s “The American Action Painters” Link: pooter.net: Harold Rosenberg’s “The American Action Painters” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this essay. What values does Rosenberg find in the paintings that he discusses? What does he find new and exciting in this kind of art and why?
     
    Reading this essay and answering the questions should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Art Story’s Art Critics Comparison: “Clement Greenberg vs. Harold Greenberg” Link: The Art Story’s Art Critics Comparison: “Clement Greenberg vs. Harold Greenberg” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This is a useful reference for the major similarities and differences in the art theories of Greenberg and Rosenberg.
     
    Reading this piece should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Michigan State University: Eva Cockroft’s “Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War” Link: Michigan State University: Eva Cockroft’s “Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: After clicking on the link above, scroll down to “10 Eva Cockroft—Michigan Sate University” and click to open the PDF file. Read this essay and think about the following questions: What specific connections does Eva Cockroft make between Abstract Expressionist art and the political ideologies of the Cold War period? What types of evidence does she use to support her argument? How persuasive is this argument and why? How does her interpretive strategy compare to those of Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg?
     
    Reading this essay and answering the questions 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 “Abstract Expressionism Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950,” “Mark Rothko’s No. 3/No. 13,” “Newman’s Onement I,” and “de Kooning’s Woman I” Links: Khan Academy’s SmartHistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker’s “Abstract Expressionism Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950,” “Mark Rothko’s No. 3/No. 13,” “Newman’s Onement I,” and “de Kooning’s Woman I (Flash)
     
    Instructions: Watch these videos, which discuss Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950, Mark Rothko’s No.3/No. 13, Barnett Newman’s Onement I, and Willem de Kooning’s Woman I.
     
    Watching these videos should take approximately 30 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. 

7.3 Jean Dubuffet and Art Brut   - Reading: The Art Story: “Jean Dubuffet” Link: The Art Story: “Jean Dubuffet” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this essay and remember to click on “More” after the section “Jean Dubuffet Biography.” Then click on each image under “Analysis of Jean Dubuffet’s Art Works” at the top of the page to read about these works.
 
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: Dubuffet Foundation: “His Work” Link: Dubuffet Foundation: “His Work” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Click on the individual pictures to see larger images of some of Dubuffet’s work from the period 1943 to 1950. If you like, you can click on other time periods from the task bar at the top of the page to see additional works of art. Although there is no explanatory text, the images will give you a very good idea of Dubuffet’s style and the way that it changed over the years.

    Looking at these images should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Tate Shots: Mark Haddon on Jean Dubuffet Link: Tate Shots: Mark Haddon on Jean Dubuffet (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch this video.
     
    Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “ARTH209 Unit 7 Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “ARTH209 Unit 7 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 needed, should take approximately 30 minutes.