Art 473: Twentieth Century Art History I

Hello and welcome to the class blog for Art 473 this Fall 2016 semester.  In this class we will look at the work of visual artists working/creating at the fin de siecle (end of the 19th century) and into the 20th.  We will focus on artists and their works from 1890 to the Post World War II era.  The work produced during this era of time has been known for its contributions to Modernism’s legacy of creating the Avant-Garde or Experimental Art.  This era of time is rich in fostering a unique creative environment the likes of which had never been seen before.  Our investigation begins with artists searching for truth different from a century driven by the Industrial Revolution and the Age of the Machine.  Artists begin to demand the right to “escape from the bonds of naturalistic objectivity” in favor of a “realm of expressive equivalences”.  These artists have a great love for nature and truth, but truth is their own truth!  Linda Nochlin, in Impressionism and Post-Impression 1874-1904, describes this time of dramatic change best in the following passage about Vincent van Gogh:  “In the case of Vincent van Gogh, despite the sometimes baffling strangeness of his works, it is hard for an unprejudiced and knowledgeable spectator either to deny or question the naive truthfulness of his art, the ingenuousness of his vision.  Indeed, apart from that indefinable aura of good faith and the truly-seen which emanates from all his pictures, the choice of his subjects, the constant harmony among the most extreme colors, the conscientious study of character, the continual search for the essential sign for each thing—a thousand significant details undeniably affirm his deep and almost childlike sincerity, his great love for nature and truth; his own truth.”

What are your thoughts on the Nochlin statement above in relationship to the life and work of Vincent van Gogh?  Has enough time elapsed since Vincent’s death that we can now “listen to him”?


Photograph of Vincent van Gogh, 1866


Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1890