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Art History During Twentieth-Century Essay

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2021

Experimentation in literary, artistic, and musical form is one of the defining features of early twentieth-century culture. Compare and/or contrast the ways three creators of the period broke away from traditional form. Using specific examples, explore the relation between form and meaning in the texts they created.

Various writers, who worked in the early nineteenth century, tried to experiment with new literary forms. For example, one can mention such authors as Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Italo Svevo. They relied on such techniques as a non-linear plot and the use of involuntary memory. It means that a certain event, action, or object can give rise to recollections that the main character reflects upon.

This approach enables the writer to change the setting of the narrative. Such literary works as In Search of Lost Time, Ulysses, and Zeno’s Conscience illustrate the use of this method. However, there are also some important differences. For instance, James Joyce refers to other works of art. In this case, one should speak about Homer’s epic poem Odyssey. This approach is not adopted by Proust or Svevo.

Overall, formal elements help the writers to depict the inner world of the characters. For example, one can better understand the behavior of Leopold Bloom in Ulysses if one tries to compare him to Odysseus. In turn, the use of a non-linear plot helps Italo Svevo to show how the worldviews of Zeno Cosini were formed. Finally, by relying on involuntary memory, Marcel Proust is able to show how the childhood experiences of the protagonist resulted in his anxiety.

Making specific reference to The Descent of Man and The Communist Manifesto, explain how Darwin, Marx, and Engels challenge older explanations of human life and society

In his book, The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin postulates that human beings evolved from other animals; therefore, he challenges the traditional religious views according to which people were created by a divine entity (Darwin, 2004, p. 10). In turn, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel introduce the concept of class struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. When The Communist Manifesto was first published, such an approach to society and history was unprecedented.

To some degree, the ideas of Darwin, Marx, and Engels are reflected in Herbert Wells’ novella The Time Machine. This author shows that contemporary people evolved into two groups Eloi and Morlocks. It should be noted that Eloi are week and carefree creatures, while Morlocks are aggressive creatures living in permanent darkness (Wells, 2010). This novella implies that such distinctions can be the result of the evolutionary process and class discrepancies. In turn, visual arts could often explore the ideas of class struggle within a community. This argument is particularly relevant to various posters and caricatures that could be created during that period.

How early twentieth-century artists reflect the changes taking place in society? Choose two works from two different media

Various artists attempted to reflect the changes that took place in societies. For example, they could choose subjects that were not explored before. Moreover, they attempted to experiment with different forms and styles. For example, in his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso depicts nude prostitutes, while in the early nineteenth century, such people could be marginalized. In turn, one can speak about Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring.

The composer strived to combine classical art forms with the visual images representing pagan Russia. Overall, the interest in pagan culture emerged during the late nineteenth century. Additionally, these people used new techniques. For example, Picasso relied on rectangular forms as well as spheres, cylinders, or cones. In turn, Igor Stravinsky experimented with tonality, rhythm, dissonance, and meter. These are the main details that can be distinguished.

Art, poetry, and music from the Harlem Renaissance also reflected a strong desire for social change. We find similar themes and approaches in certain European artists such as Picasso. Choose two artists and discuss how their work essentially criticizes the status quo and calls for changes in social and political conditions.

In many cases, art is aimed at challenging the status quo and changing social and political situations. For instance, it is possible to discuss, such as an artist like Kathe Kollwitz and her sketch Widow. The viewers can see that she is stricken by grief and poverty. Moreover, this person seems to be completely abandoned. To some degree, this work of art urges policy-makers to remember that military conflicts usually affect innocent people.

Moreover, Kathe Kollwitz strives to demonstrate that more support should be provided to women whose husbands died during the war. The problems related to social justice were relevant to artists living in other societies. In particular, it is possible to refer to the painting Female Laborer by Jacob Lawrence. The author explores the life of African-Americans during the early twenties. This painting implies that black people were significantly disadvantaged, even at the time when America passed through the period of economic growth. This work of art draws the eye of the public to the challenges encountered by these people.

Expressionism, and abstraction, from Monet to Kandinsky and Picasso. It is possible sometimes to find common themes in such diversity. For example, are there any connections between Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, various artists and philosophers could explore common themes, even they worked in entirely different fields. In particular, one can look at the works of Karl Korsch, who represented Western Marxism. His book Marxism and Philosophy is aimed at demonstrating that the class struggle can be a valid tool for explaining the development of society (Korsch, 2013, p. 7).

More importantly, he demonstrates that there are many social groups that are disadvantaged by the rules adopted in the community (Korsch, 2013, p. 7). This issue is partly examined by such an artist as Heinz Fuchs. In particular, one can refer to his painting Workers’ Famine. This artwork throws light on the experiences of workers living in a post-war society. Moreover, the author implies that these people can eventually revolt against the existing social system. This is one of the details that can be singled out.

Reference List

Darwin, C. (2004). The Descent of Man. Boston, MA: Digireads.com Publishing.

Korsch, K. (2013). Marxism and Philosophy. New York, NY: Verso Books.

Wells, H. (2010). The Time Machine. New York, NY: Starbooks Classics

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