Archive for January, 2010


Dates: 1914-1934

Origin: Russia

Key Artists: El Lissitsky, Naum Gabo

A movement that originated in Russia c.1914, it dominated art there after the 1917 Revolution and spread to the West in the 1920s. It was characterized by its abstraction and its use of industrial materials such as glass, plastic, and standardized metal parts. Its archproponent, Vladimir Tatlin, put forward the concept of the ‘artist-engineer’, fulfilling the social needs of Soviet post-Revolutionary society. With the triumph of Constructivism and the founding of the Institute of Art Culture (Inkhuk) many Russian artists wedded to the more traditional concepts of the fine arts left their native country: among the émigrés were figures such as Wassily Kandinsky and the brothers Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner. In Russia, with the devaluation of traditional easel painting, Constructivism exerted its clearest influence in a number of other fields including architecture, typography, and theatre. Tatlin’s wooden model for the gigantic monument (never built) he planned for the Third International became the symbol of Soviet Constructivism.

“Constructivism.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Naum Gabo



Dates: 1913-1919

Origin: Russia

Key Artists: László Moholy-Nagy

A non-objective type of art, devised by Kasimir Malevich, in which ‘new symbols’ such as the square, triangle, and circle replaced the more traditional concern with the human face and natural objects. Malevich announced his new system at the exhibition 0.10 held in 1915 which included works such as Black Square (Russian Museum, St Petersburg), although his Suprematist Composition (Museum of Modern Art, New York) dated from a year earlier. After 1916 Malevich’s compositions became more complex and, with the series White on White, more mystical. The graphic artist El Lissitzky exported Suprematism to Germany when he moved there in 1922 and the ideas of the movement were transmitted to the Bauhaus via Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

“Suprematism.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

László Moholy-Nagy


Dates: 1910-Present

Origin: Europe

Key Artists: Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich

A term which can generally be applied to any non-representational art (most decorative art, for example), but which is more specifically used, from the early 20th century onwards, to describe painting and sculpture which are deliberately non-representational. Implicit to abstract art is the notion that the work of art exists in its own right, and not necessarily as a mirror of reality. The Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) is generally credited with producing the first abstract painting c.1910. In the decade 1910–20 a number of movements such as Cubism, Suprematism, and De Stijl either developed or embraced abstraction. In its many forms abstraction has been one of the main preoccupations of much modern art.

“abstract art.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Kazimir Malevich




Dates: 1910-1940

Origin: France

Key Artists: Amadeo Modigliani, Marc Chagall

A term that was originally applied to a number of artists of non-French origin, predominantly Jewish in background, who in the years immediately after the First World War lived in Paris and painted in figurative styles that might loosely be called poetic Expressionism, forming the most distinctive strand in French painting between Cubism and Surrealism. Chagall (a Russian), Tsugouharu Foujita (a Japanese), Moïse Kisling (a Pole), Modigliani (an Italian), Jules Pascin (a Bulgarian), and Soutine (a Lithuanian) are among the most famous artists embraced by the term. However, the meaning of the term was soon broadened (particularly outside France) to include all foreign artists who had settled in Paris since the beginning of the century (the Dutchman van Dongen and the Spaniard Picasso, for example), and then it expanded still further to cover virtually all progressive art in the 20th century that had its focus in Paris. In the broadest sense, the term reflects the intense concentration of artistic activity, supported by critics and dealers, that made the city the world centre of innovative art up to the Second World War.

Chilvers, Ian. “École de Paris.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Marc Chagall


Dates: 1909-1944

Origin: Italy

Key Artists: Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini

An artistic movement of the early 20th century with political implications, Futurism embraced not only the visual arts but also architecture, music, cinema, and photography. Italian in origin, it expressed the disappointment felt there in advanced artistic and political circles at the apparent lack of progress the country had made since its unification in the mid-19th century. Accordingly, stress was laid on modernity, and the virtues of technology, machinery, and speed were promoted by the Futurists, whose founder was the wealthy poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. He published the first Futurist manifesto in the French newspaper Le Figaro in 1909 and was soon joined by the painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, and Gino Severini, who all publicly proclaimed their allegiance to the movement in March 1910. This was followed by a technical manifesto a month later and further publications included Boccioni’s manifesto of Futurist sculpture in 1912. That year also saw the first proper exhibition of Futurist art, which was widely shown around Europe in Paris, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Zurich, Vienna, and Budapest. The Futurist style drew on a number of sources, including Neo-Impressionism and Cubism, and favoured faceted forms and multiple viewpoints allied to a sense of movement and speed. Although the movement lingered on in Italy until the 1930s, it was already moribund there by the end of the First World War. It had considerable influence abroad, however, most notably in Russia, where a vigorous Futurist movement sprang up which numbered Larionov, Goncharova, and Malevich among its principal adherents. In Germany the Dadaists learnt from the noisy publicity techniques of the Futurists, as did the Vorticists in England, while in France both Duchamp and Delaunay were sympathetic to the Futurists’ promotion of a modern spirit in art.

“Futurism.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Umberto Boccioni


Dates: 1908-1918

Origin: United States

Key Artists: Robert Henri

A term later applied in the 1930s to a disparate American school of realistic painting formed in the first decade of the 20th century and known as The Eight. Its members concentrated on scenes of everyday life derived from sketches made rapidly on the spot. Four of them, of whom the most famous was John Sloan, had been artist-reporters on the Philadelphia Press and had joined Robert Henri, generally credited as the founder of the Ashcan School, at his Philadelphia studio.

“Ashcan School.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Robert Henri


Dates: 1907-1921

Origin: Europe

Key Artists: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque

Generally acknowledged to have been the most significant movement in 20th-century art, Cubism was created by Georges Braque (1882–1963) and Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) in the period 1907–14. It abandoned the traditional fixed viewpoint which had dominated western painting since the Renaissance, and instead explored a multiplicity of viewpoints to develop an accumulated idea of the subject. The term was first applied to a group of landscapes painted by Braque at L’Estaque in the summer of 1908 and rejected for exhibition that year at the Salon d’Automne. A member of the selection jury is said to have denigrated them as petits cubes, ‘little cubes’. By 1911 the word ‘Cubism’ had entered the English language. The stylistic genesis of Cubism lay in the late art of Cézanne (whose memorial exhibition had been held in 1907) and African art. These two influences were clearly visible in Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York) of 1906–7. Mature Cubism can be divided into two phases: Analytical (1909–11) and Synthetic (1912–14). The former often involved an analysis of objects into their compound elements and rearranging them on the canvas in a new pictorial order. In both Picasso’s and Braque’s work there is a complex interpenetration of small intricate planes which fuse with one another and the surrounding space. There is little if any sense of spatial recession and colours are muted, often virtually monochromatic greys or browns. Braque was the first of the two to introduce stencilled lettering into his compositions around this time. He also experimented with mixing materials such as sand and sawdust with his paint to create new textures, thereby emphasizing the idea that a picture was a physical object in its own right rather than an illusionistic representation of something else. Picasso produced his first collages in 1912, heralding a break with the cerebral near-abstraction of Analytical Cubism. In Synthetic Cubism, in which the Spanish painter Juan Gris also played a vital role, the image was built up from pre-existing elements or objects, rather than being created through a process of fragmentation, as in Analytical Cubism. Colour was also reintroduced. By 1911 Cubism had become the dominant avant-garde idiom in Paris and was first shown in any quantity at the Salon des Indépendants. In 1912 two of the many artists who had been attracted to Cubism, Gleizes and Metzinger, published Du Cubisme, which was translated into English in 1913. The English-speaking public was acquainted with Cubism by Roger Fry’s second Post-Impressionist Exhibition held in London in 1912 and by the 1913 Armory Show in New York, in both of which Cubist works figured prominently. Among the movements which took Cubism as a starting point or an essential component were Constructivism, Futurism, Orphism, Purism, and Vorticism. Cubism was not confined to painting: a significant quantity of Cubist sculpture was produced, not least by Picasso, and, in the brief flowering of Cubism there before the First World War, Prague saw the construction of an innovative form of Cubist architecture.

“Cubism.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Pablo Picasso