Modernism's History

Overview

The history of twentieth-century visual arts can no longer be written as a succession of avant-garde movements, contends eminent art historian Bernard Smith in this stimulating book. He argues that a return to the concept of period style is inevitable and that modernism - the dominant 'style' of art that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century and continued through the 1960s - deserves recognition as a period style. Smith renames this period Formalesque since it is no longer modern and since it emphasises ...
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Overview

The history of twentieth-century visual arts can no longer be written as a succession of avant-garde movements, contends eminent art historian Bernard Smith in this stimulating book. He argues that a return to the concept of period style is inevitable and that modernism - the dominant 'style' of art that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century and continued through the 1960s - deserves recognition as a period style. Smith renames this period Formalesque since it is no longer modern and since it emphasises the formal values of art more than any previous period.

In a wide-ranging reformulation of art history in the twentieth century, the author defines the nature and development of Formalesque - an avant-garde style that arose between 1890 and the First World War, was institutionalised between the world wars, and flourished anew between 1945 and 1960. Identifying the Formalesque period, says Smith, makes it possible also to identify dialectical adversaries, such true oppositional avant-garde styles of the twentieth century as Dada, Surrealism and the Neue Sachlichkeit. These constitute the formative elements of the modernism - now called Postmodernism - that became increasingly dominant after 1960. The author locates twentieth-century artistic movements and developments in a broad cultural context and concludes with a thought-provoking examination of the relation between the Formalesque and European and American cultural imperialism.

Bernard Smith is president of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He is the author of 'European Vision and the South Pacific' and 'Imagining the Pacific: In the Wake of the Cook Voyages', and co-editor of the three-volume set 'The Art of Captain Cook's Voyages', all published by Yale University Press.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300181920
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/3/1998
  • Pages: 386
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Modernity and its modernisms 15
2 Theoretical sources of the Formalesque 29
3 Exotic sources of the Formalesque 52
4 Occult and 'primitive' sources of the Formalesque 67
5 The creation of the Formalesque 94
6 The origins of twentieth-century modernism 109
7 Institutionalising the Formalesque 147
8 The 1930s: Politics and the Formalesque 197
9 The late Formalesque 233
10 The Eurusan visual culture 255
11 The turn to meaning 272
12 Cultural imperialism and the Formalesque 305
13 Conclusion 343
References cited 346
Index 365
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