The term 'modernism' is notoriously difficult to define due to the term encompasses of a variety of artistic and philosophical movement which include symbolism, futurism, imagism, vorticism data and others.
Modernism is a progression of life of a group of people from an antique or old fashioned way to a new way of living. It is the philosophical movement that arose from the wide seek along with cultural changes in transformation of the western society in the 19th and 20th century.
It can be seen as an attempt to shape, or as a progressive trend that helps human beings to reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology.
The historical factors that influenced modernism include: world war, industrial revolution, new technology, changes in politics. And the two broad movements which is: socially progressive- celebrates man's ability to change the world and the Artistic introspection-a means of tackling the new world.
WHEN WAS MODERNISM?
The roots of modernism emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century, in France with Charles Baudelaire in literature, Eduard Manet in painting and Gustave Flaubert in prose fiction. In the 1980s, a strand of thinking began to assert that it was necessary to do away with the old norms entirely. In the 15yrs of the twentieth century, some writers, thinkers, artists, made the break with traditional means of organising literature, painting and music. Modernism in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture. The modernist literature was characterised by a rejection of the 19th century traditions and of their consensus between author and reader (baldick 159). Modernist tried to break away from the conventions of the Victorian era. They wished to distinguish themselves from the history of art and literature. Ezra Pound with his famous dictum 'make it new' captured the essence of modernism. Therefore, in order to create something new, they had to create new forms of writing.J.M.W Turner being one of the greatest landscape painters of the 19th century believed that his works should express significant historical literary or other narrative themes unlike the French impressionists who had unconventional formulas.
Industrial revolution had a great impact on modernism as some innovations like steam powered industrialization helped in development of railways which started in Britain in 1830s. Some advancement in physics, engineering, was also a great achievement. The crystal palace which was the huge cast iron and plate exhibition hall built for the great exhibition of 1851 in London. Two of the most significant thinkers of the period were biologists Charles Darwin (1809-1882), author of on the origin of species by means of natural selection and a political scientist Karl Marx (1818-1883) author of das capital. Darwin's theory on natural selection undermined religious certainty and the idea of human uniqueness. While Marx argues that there were fundamental s and that workers were anything but free within the capitalist system. This gave the rise to the working class as the poor ones lived in bad conditions whilst the few cream of the profits.
Futurism is yet another modernist movement in 1909, the parison newspaper le Figaro published F.T. Marinetti's first manifesto. A group of painters co-signed the futurist manifesto (Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carra, Luigi Russolo, and Gino Servini.) which was modelled on Marx and Engels famous 'communist manifesto. Such manifestos were put forward to provoke and gather followers. Arguments in favour or abstract painting were, at this time largely confined to 'little magazines' which had only little circulations. The mainstream of the first decade was the inclined faith towards progress and liberal optimism. Balla initially studied the speed of automobiles, thus discovering laws and essential line forces of speed. After more than twenty exploratory paintings, he understood that flat plane of canvas prevented him from reproducing the dynamic volume of speed in depth. To this, he felt he needed to do something more as to construct strands of wire, cardboard sheets, fabrics, tissue paper, etc. Ballla was able to create the first plastic ensemble. It revealed an abstract landscape composed of cones, pyramids, polyhedrons, and the spiral of mountains, rivers, lights, and shadows. This was known as 'the artificial landscape'. Balla felt the need to renew some of the men's clothing. In his manuscript 1913, he wrote 'we futurist, in those brief gaps between our great struggles for renewal, have spent time discussing, as is our wont, very many subjects. For quite some time now we have spent time and have been convinced that today's clothes, while they may be somewhat simplified to certain modern requirements, are still atrociously passiest'. He was concerned about the boring, tight-fitting, colourless, decadent clothes.
We are fighting against:
- The timidity and colours which are arranged in wish washy patterns of idiotic spots and stripes
- All forms of lifeless attire that made man fell tired, depressed, miserable and sad...
All futurist clothes must be comfortable as they said. 'Futurist manifesto in men's clothing'.
Modernism reversed in the 19th century relationship of private and public. Public buildings were horizontally expansive while the private buildings were vertical. This was done so as to fit more private space on increasingly limited land. Conversely, in the twentieth century, public buildings became vertically oriented and private buildings became organised horizontally.
The coming of the great war of 1914-1918 and the Russian revolution of 1917 changed the world drastically. Prior to 1914, it had been argued that no one would fight such war, since the cost was too high. The birth of the new age machine which changed the conditions of human lives in the nineteenth century radically changed the nature of welfare. The view that mankind was making steady moral progress now seemed ridiculous in the face of senseless slaughter, that was described in works such as Erich Maria Remarque novel 'all quiet on the western world'. Modernism continued to evolve in the 1930s, it influenced the mainstream culture. For example, the New Yorker magazine started publishing work which was influenced by modernism. The adoption of technology into the daily life of people in the western society, electricity, and telephone, automobile were all being used. The need to need to repair them and work with them created social change. For example, the speed of communication reserved for the stock brokers became part of family life. Families changed relationship between parents and children also changed. During the great depression of 1930, the painting of Edward Hopper portrayed people sitting downtown diner late night. This scene was inspired by a dinner in Greenwich Village. Marxist communism was the boldest attempt yet to create a better society, adopting not a political democracy but an economic democracy which aimed at achieving economic equality. It offered a vision of universal freedom on the freedom of ideas.
Exhibitions, theatre, cinema, books, buildings all served to cement in the public view that the world was changing. 'The jazz age' that showed more concern about cars, telephones and other technological advances. Not all agreed to this modernism as some viewed it as destructive and mad. For them, it has come to destroy all forms of culture and immorality.it had tampered with their way of living, the car which has four wheels was seen as a device which could harm the phone which could talk. Etc.
Some of the goals of modernism include; rejecting tradition and discovering or making art, hierarchical system of organising works of music, redefining art. Other modernists, especially those involved in design, had more views that were pragmatic (dealing with things in a way that is based on practice rather than theoretical considerations). Modern design of houses, furniture, utensils,helped hasten work. Horses were replaced with cars.
Modernism has gone far across the globe, given birth or rises to new advanced technologies which have helped in the human society. In Nigeria today, certain things have been produced which has helped in so many ways. For example, in the transport sector; in rural areas for instance, bicycles have been produced. This has helped so many individuals who do not have efficient finance to purchase cars and also it has helped reduce stress.People living in the urban areas now use cars, aeroplanes, ships as a means of transporting themselves to various places. During ones leisure time, he or she could visit the cinema to watch movies. The internet has made it easy for individuals to get information right at their doorsteps.
In some fields, the effect of modernism has remained more persistent than in others. More cities have made break with the past, some of the capital cities have museums devoted to modern art. Examples include; Museum of modern art in New York, Tate modern in London, and centre Pompidou in Paris which has been seen as developments within modern society.
Architecture has changed leaving behind the unnecessary ornamentation of thepast; it has produced the best innovations which has made life better, faster, and more enjoyable. It has also given us the illusion of live. If not for modernism, some underdeveloped countries would have remained isolated.
Arthistorysources.net/modernism/politics-Christopher LCE Witcombe
-Bradbury, Malcom,and James McFarlane modernism: a guide to European literature 1890-1930
-Hughes, Robert. The shock of the new art and century change. Gardeners' books 1991
-Weston Richard, modernism.phaidon press 2001
-Persner Nicklaus, the sources of modern architecture and design, Thames and Hudson 1985
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