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Article

Anna Moszynska

Term applied in its strictest sense to forms of 20th-century Western art that reject representation and have no starting- or finishing-point in nature. As distinct from processes of abstraction from nature or from objects (a recurring tendency across many cultures and periods that can be traced as far back as Palaeolithic cave painting), abstract art as a conscious aesthetic based on assumptions of self-sufficiency is a wholly modern phenomenon (see Abstraction).

In the late 19th century, and particularly in Symbolist art and literature, attention was refocused from the object to the emotions aroused in the observer in such a way that suggestion and evocation took priority over direct description and explicit analogy. In France especially this tradition contributed to the increased interest in the formal values of paintings, independent of their descriptive function, that prepared the way for abstraction. In his article ‘Définition du néo-traditionnisme’, published in L’Art et critique...

Article

David Anfam

Term applied to a movement in American painting that flourished in the 1940s and 1950s, sometimes referred to as the New York School or, very narrowly, as Action painting, although it was first coined in relation to the work of Vasily Kandinsky in 1929. The works of the generation of artists active in New York from the 1940s and regarded as Abstract Expressionists resist definition as a cohesive style; they range from Barnett Newman’s unbroken fields of colour to De Kooning family, §1’s violent handling of the figure. They were linked by a concern with varying degrees of abstraction used to convey strong emotional or expressive content. Although the term primarily denotes a small nucleus of painters, Abstract Expressionist qualities can also be seen in the sculpture of David Smith, Ibram Lassaw and others, the photography of Aaron Siskind and the painting of Mark Tobey, as well as in the work of less renowned artists such as ...

Article

Nelson Goodman

Term used in an art context in several ways: in general for processes of imagemaking in which only some of the visual elements usually ascribed to ‘the natural world’ are extracted (i.e. ‘to abstract’), and also for the description of certain works that fall only partially, if at all, into what is commonly understood to be representational. Differing ideas and manifestations of abstraction appeared in artists’ works in the successive modern movements of the 20th century (see Abstract art). As the notion of abstraction in the second sense is always dependent on what the parameters of representation are thought to be, the two terms can be contiguous in definition, raising interesting points for the general theory of reference. For instance, an abstract work is often defined as one that does not represent anything, but not every work that does not represent anything is necessarily abstract. A painting that has a fictitious subject, for example a painting of Don Quixote or Camelot, does not represent anything (for there is no such person or place) but is not therefore abstract. A Zeus-picture or a Paradise-picture is no more abstract than a Napoleon-picture or a Paris-picture. An abstract work neither represents anything nor is representational....

Article

International group of painters and sculptors, founded in Paris in February 1931 and active until 1936. It succeeded another short-lived group, Cercle et Carré, which had been formed in 1929 with similar intentions of promoting and exhibiting abstract art. Its full official title was Abstraction-Création: Art non-figuratif. The founding committee included Auguste Herbin (president), Georges Vantongerloo (vice-president), Hans Arp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Hélion, Georges Valmier and František Kupka.

Membership of Abstraction-Création was in principle open to all abstract artists, but the dominant tendency within the group was towards the geometric formality championed by Theo van Doesburg and by other artists associated with De Stijl. Works such as Jean Hélion’s Ile-de-France (1935; London, Tate), which came to typify the group’s stance, owed more to the post-war ‘rappel à l’ordre’ interpreted by the Purists in terms of a ‘classic’ and ‘architectonic’ ordering of art, design and architecture, than to the biomorphic abstraction derived from Surrealism. During its brief existence the group published annual ...

Article

Anneke E. Wijnbeek

(b Berlin, July 15, 1904; d Ann Arbor, MI, June 9, 2007)

American psychologist and writer of German birth. He studied with Gestalt psychologists at the University of Berlin in the 1920s. His secondary studies in art history and musicology, together with Gestalt psychology, were the basis for his subsequent research into the mechanisms of perception. During the 1930s he studied film, finding in the silent film’s unadorned method of reproduction an artistic interpretation of perceptible reality. He wrote film reviews and published the book Film als Kunst (Berlin, 1932). In 1940, he settled in the USA, where he taught psychology and the psychology of art at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY; in 1968 he was appointed professor at the Harvard University Carpenter Center of Visual Arts, Cambridge, MA.

Arnheim was responsible for the revision of the prevailing opinion that perception was a primary, physiological function and thought a secondary, interpretative one; he did this by discovering an inseparable mutual interaction between perception and thought. Arnheim considered pictorial art the highest expression of visual thought, or thought in images, and, using Picasso’s sketches for ...

Article

Roger Cardinal

[Fr.: ‘raw art’]. Term used from the mid-1940s to designate a type of art outside the fine art tradition. The commonest English-language equivalent for art brut is ‘Outsider art’. In North America, the same phenomenon tends to attract the label ‘Grass-roots art’. The French term was coined by Jean Dubuffet, who posited an inventive, non-conformist art that should be perfectly brut, unprocessed and spontaneous, and emphatically distinct from what he saw as the derivative stereotypes of official culture (see Cow with the Subtile Nose, 1954). In July 1945 Dubuffet initiated his searches for art brut, attracted particularly by the drawings of mental patients that he saw in Switzerland. In 1948 the non-profit-making Compagnie de l’Art Brut was founded, among whose partners were André Breton and the art critic Michel Tapié. The Collection de l’Art Brut was supported for a while by the company but was essentially a personal hobby horse of Dubuffet and remained for three decades an almost entirely private concern, inviting public attention only at exhibitions in ...

Article

Roger Cardinal

(b Bar-sur-Aube, June 27, 1884; d Paris, Oct 16, 1962).

French philosopher . The son of a provincial shoemaker, he came late to philosophy after teaching natural science (1919–30), then rose to eminence at the Sorbonne to enjoy for several years the status of cultural guru. Bachelard followed an idiosyncratic yet consistent path from an early concern with the philosophy of scientific knowledge as grounded in empirical observation to a fascination with the ways in which human perceptions of concrete phenomena inevitably yield to the pressure of subjective feeling and fantasy; his mature work represents a celebration of the richness of the world as it is filtered and transfigured by consciousness, especially in the work of creative writers. While works by such painters as Monet or van Gogh are occasionally cited in his essays, he wrote only one major text about art, for an album of engravings by the little-known Albert Flocon (b 1909). The relevance of Bachelard’s ideas to the visual arts or to architecture is indirect, and derives from the fluency and suggestiveness of certain of his more lyrical pages, on such themes as the sensation of space and the fantasy of flying, or the associations inherent in landscapes and natural textures. His last, brief book returns to his favourite theme of the ‘poetics of fire’ in a compelling meditation upon the solitary candle-flame that might profitably be read as an involuntary commentary on the chiaroscuro paintings of Georges de La Tour....

Article

Stephen Bann

(b Cherbourg, Nov 12, 1915; d Paris, March 20, 1980).

French critic. His work is closely identified with the methods of Structuralism and Semiotics. By the 1970s he was one of the most internationally celebrated French critics and, although his main contribution was to the analysis of literature and other linguistic modes, his influence on the criticism of the visual arts was also substantial.

In two articles written during the early 1960s for the sociological journal Communications (‘Le Message photographique’, 1961, and ‘Rhétorique de l’image’, 1964; see L’Obvie et l’obtus), Barthes pioneered the study of photographs in their social and cultural context, paying particular attention to a colourful advertisement for pasta by the Panzani company. His detailed analysis of the way in which the photographic medium helps to endorse and authenticate the message of the advertiser looks back to the earlier, more impressionistic study of mass communications carried out in his Mythologies. But it is strengthened by Barthes’s determination to probe the philosophical implications of photography’s relation to the object depicted and its status as a ‘message without a code’. The fact that photography, alone among the different modes of visual communication, offered itself as a ‘mechanical analogue of the real’ implied that it needed more sophisticated modes of interpretation than the traditional arts, if it were to be considered semiotically. Barthes’s last published work ...

Article

Bauhaus  

Rainer K. Wick

[Bauhaus Berlin; Bauhaus Dessau, Hochschule für Gestaltung; Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar]

German school of art, design and architecture, founded by Walter Gropius. It was active in Weimar from 1919 to 1925, in Dessau from 1925 to 1932 and in Berlin from 1932 to 1933, when it was closed down by the Nazi authorities. The Bauhaus’s name referred to the medieval Bauhütten or masons’ lodges. The school re-established workshop training, as opposed to impractical academic studio education. Its contribution to the development of Functionalism in architecture was widely influential. It exemplified the contemporary desire to form unified academies incorporating art colleges, colleges of arts and crafts and schools of architecture, thus promoting a closer cooperation between the practice of ‘fine’ and ‘applied’ art and architecture. The origins of the school lay in attempts in the 19th and early 20th centuries to re-establish the bond between artistic creativity and manufacturing that had been broken by the Industrial Revolution. According to Walter Gropius in ...

Article

Frances Spalding

(Heward)

(b East Shefford, Berks, Sept 16, 1881; d London, Sept 17, 1964).

English writer. He studied history at Trinity College, Cambridge (1901–2), where he came under the influence of the writer G. E. Moore (1873–1958) and met Thoby Stephen (1880–1906). On leaving Cambridge he spent time in Paris, and on his return to London he began to frequent the ‘Thursday evenings’ held at 46 Gordon Square, home of Thoby Stephen, his brother, Adrian, and his sisters, Vanessa (later Vanessa Bell) and Virginia (later Virginia Woolf). It was from these gatherings that the Bloomsbury Group emerged, Bell becoming a central figure of it largely due to his marriage to Vanessa Stephen in 1907.

In 1910 Bell met Roger Fry, who shared his interest in modern French art. Bell assisted with the organization of the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in 1912 and contributed to the current debates about art and aesthetics. His book, Art (London, 1914), popularized the notion of ‘significant form’: it stated that form, independent of content, was the most important element in a work of art. In this and other writings he simplified many of Fry’s ideas. ...

Article

Martin Jay

(b Berlin, July 15, 1892; d Port Bou, Spain, Sept 25, 1940).

German writer. He was born into a cultivated, assimilated German Jewish family and was compelled to leave Nazi Germany in 1933, first for Denmark and then France. Although the exiled Frankfurt Institute of Social Research in New York (later famous as the Frankfurt School) provided some support, his existence as an unaffiliated intellectual without university or party ties grew increasingly desperate. Finally driven to leave Paris in 1940, he was stopped for trivial bureaucratic reasons at the Spanish border and in a moment of despair took his own life. Only with the posthumous publication of a selection of his works in 1955, edited by Theodor W. Adorno and Gretel Adorno, did he emerge into the public eye, soon gaining an international reputation as possibly the most brilliant and original cultural critic of his era. Like many in his generation, Benjamin came under the spell of a politically ambiguous, romantic anti-capitalism during the waning years of the German empire under William II. An early fascination with messianic and redemptive religious themes, nurtured by his friendship with the great scholar of the Jewish cabbala, Gershom Scholem, remained a potent element in all his subsequent thought. Even when Benjamin turned to Marxism in the 1920s, in part because of friendships with the poet and dramatist Bertolt Brecht and the philosophers Ernst Bloch and Theodor W. Adorno, and a love affair with the Latvian Communist Asja Lacis, his theological preoccupations never dwindled. They remained perhaps most apparent in his linguistic philosophy, which revealed his hope in the restoration of a prelapsarian ...

Article

Margaret Moore Booker

(b Butrimonys, Alytus County, Lithuania, June 26, 1865; d Settignano, Italy, Oct 6, 1959).

American art historian, critic, and connoisseur. Berenson was perhaps the single most influential art historian in the USA for much of the 20th century. As the leading scholar and authority on Italian Renaissance art, his opinion greatly influenced American art museums and collectors, whom he guided in the purchase of many important works of art. His pupils and disciples became the curators of many of the world’s great museums. His dealings with art galleries also made him a highly controversial figure.

Born to Albert and Julia Valvrojenski in Lithuania, Berenson immigrated to Boston, MA, with his family in 1875, at which time his surname was changed to Berenson. Later called ‘BB’ by friends and family, he dropped the ‘h’ from his first name around 1915. Jewish by birth, he converted to Christianity and was baptized in 1885. He attended Boston Latin School, Boston University, and finally Harvard University, where he studied under Charles Eliot Norton and received a BA in ...

Article

David Kinmont

(b Paris, Oct 18, 1859; d Paris, Jan 3, 1941).

French philosopher. The son of a Polish Jewish musician, he took his baccalauréat at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris and entered the Ecole Normale Supérieure in 1878. He gained his Licencié ès Lettres in 1879 and during 1881–8 taught in secondary schools at Angers, Clermont Ferrand and Paris. The publication of one of his two doctoral theses, Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (Paris, 1889), brought him public recognition. It was followed in 1896 by Matière et mémoire.

Bergson was concerned with the problem of expression, and he attempted to resist the linguistic snares that he associated with conceptual thinking, arguing instead for an organic philosophy. He was aware of the inadequacies of the mechanistic determinism of 19th-century scientism, especially as presented in the English philosopher Herbert Spencer’s First Principles (London, 1862). Bergson saw reality as a constant state of dynamic flux in which past, present and future formed a single continuum. The question of time was all important to him, and he insisted that the time of consciousness existed on multiple interrelated levels. The fusion of these heterogeneous instants comprised a duration. This was not purely quantitative measurable time, but time as it is experienced by human consciousness. To Bergson, duration meant memory, and memory was synonymous with consciousness, an unending flow rather than a succession of discrete instants....

Article

James Smalls

The Black Arts Movement spans the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Inherently and overtly political in content, it was an artistic, cultural and literary movement in America promoted to advance African American “social engagement.” In a 1968 essay titled “The Black Arts Movement,” African American scholar Larry Neal (1937–81) proclaimed it as the “artistic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept.” The use of the term “Black Power” originated in 1966 with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) civil rights workers Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks. Quickly adopted in the North, Black Power was associated with a militant advocacy of armed self-defense, separation from “racist American domination” and pride in and assertion of the goodness and beauty of “Blackness.”

In addition to “Black Power,” the slogan “Black is Beautiful” also became part of the Black Arts Movement and the Black Cultural Movement (also known as Black Aesthetics). The aim of these maxims was to counter and dispel the widespread notion throughout Western cultures that black people’s natural features, such as skin color, facial characteristics and hair, were inherently ugly. The central purpose was to subvert decades of anti-black rhetoric and “to make African Americans totally and irreversibly proud of their racial and cultural heritage.” Black Arts Movement cultural theorists and artists reasoned that promotion of a black aesthetic was mandatory to help the African American community perceive itself as not only beautiful, but also as proud of the legacy of African American achievement, self-determinacy and self-identification with all black peoples throughout the African diaspora. The tone was militant and separatist, not conciliatory and assimilationist, and resulted in a call for a revolutionary art that spoke to a definable black aesthetic. In ...

Article

Richard Shone

Name applied to a group of friends, mainly writers and artists, who lived in or near the central London district of Bloomsbury from 1904 to the late 1930s. They were united by family ties and marriage rather than by any doctrine or philosophy, though several male members of the group had been affected by G. E. Moore’s Principia Ethica (Cambridge, 1903) when they had attended the University of Cambridge. Moore emphasized the value of personal relationships and the contemplation of beautiful objects, promoting reason above social morality as an instrument of good within society. This anti-utilitarian position coloured the group’s early history. It influenced the thinking of, for example, the biographer and critic Lytton Strachey (1880–1932) and the economist John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) and confirmed the position of conscientious objection maintained by some members of the group in World War I. Before 1910, literature and philosophy dominated Bloomsbury; thereafter it also came to be associated with painting, the decorative arts and the promotion of ...

Article

Tom Williams

Movement in performance art that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s in which artists use their own bodies or those of their audience as the basis for their work. Body art performances have frequently involved transgression and occasionally violence, and they have often entailed extreme acts of endurance on the part of the artists. This term is typically in used in reference to artists such as Vito Acconci, Chris(topher) Burden, Valie Export, Gina Pane, Carolee Schneemann, the Vienna Actionists, Hannah Wilke, Marina Abramović and her former collaborator Ulay, as well as Brazilian artists in the Neo-Concrete movement such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. (For information about the permanent decoration of the body, see Tattoo.)

Although the emergence of body art is often traced back to early 20th-century trends in performance art, recent accounts have pointed to Hans Namuth’s famous photographs of Jackson Pollock (1912–56) in the act of painting as a particularly important precedent. This practice was taken up by a number of performance artists during the late 1950s and early 1960s, including artists involved in Happenings such as ...

Article

Henri Béhar

(b Tinchebray, Feb 19, 1896; d Paris, Sept 28, 1966).

French writer. While still an adolescent he came under the influence of Paul Valéry and Gustave Moreau, who for a long period were to influence his perception of beauty. From that time on, his poetic creation interrelated with his reflections on art, which like Gide’s were conditioned by a moral code. He considered that it is not possible to write for a living, but only from interior necessity; in the same way, painting must always derive from an irrepressible need for self-expression. These criteria guided Breton both in his dealings with the Surrealist group (of which he was the uncontested leader) and in his articles on painting, collected in editions of Le Surréalisme et la peinture (first published in 1928).

Breton’s family were of modest means. He was educated in the modern section of a lycée, without any Latin or Greek, and had embarked on a study of medicine when he was called up to serve in World War I. During this period he was drawn to poetry by his fascination with Arthur Rimbaud. His meeting with the aesthete Jacques Vaché temporarily dulled his interest in Rimbaud, and instead he turned to Guillaume Apollinaire, whose advice and friendship were a significant influence on him. Through Apollinaire he came into contact with Marie Laurencin, Derain, De Chirico and Picasso, and became friendly with the French poet and novelist Philippe Soupault. The review ...

Article

Michelle P. Brown

(b Brighton, July 16, 1867; d Kew, May 1, 1962).

English museum curator and collector. He was the son of a coal merchant and in 1884 joined the family firm, where he remained until the end of 1891. He had early on been attracted by the aesthetics and politics of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and had met and assisted such figures as John Ruskin, William Morris and Octavia Hill (1838–1912). His role as secretary to the Kelmscott Press (1892–8) fostered a particular love of books. From 1900 to 1904 he was in partnership with the process-engraver Sir Emery Walker (1851–1933). As a private collector of printed books and manuscripts and as director (1908–37) of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Cockerell was responsible for developing this area of study, as well as other aspects of medieval and Renaissance art. In 1908 he organized the first major exhibition of illuminated manuscripts at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, also editing the catalogue. He subsequently published a number of scholarly works. As both a curator and a collector of manuscripts he did much to influence British bibliophily, ranking alongside the bibliophiles Eric Millar and Henry Yates Thompson (...

Article

Mick Hartney and Jeffrey Martin

Term formerly used to describe any work of art in which a computer was used to make either the work itself or the decisions that determined its form. Computers became so widely used, however, that in the late 20th century the term was applied mainly to work that emphasized the computer’s role. It can cover artworks that use computers or other digital technology not only for their creation but for their display or distribution. It can also include interactive works, installation art and art created for the internet.

Mick Hartney, revised by Jeffrey Martin

Such calculating tools as the abacus have existed for millennia, and artists have frequently invented mathematical systems to help them to make pictures. The Golden section and Leon Battista Alberti’s formulae for rendering perspective were devices that aspired to fuse realism with idealism in art, while Leonardo da Vinci devoted much time to applying mathematical principles to image-making. After centuries of speculations by writers, and following experiments in the 19th century, computers began their exponential development in the aftermath of World War II, when new weapon-guidance systems were adapted for peaceful applications, and the term ‘cybernetics’ was given currency by Norbert Wiener. After the war, ‘mainframe’ computers, which first used vacuum tubes and later transistors and silicon chips, became widespread in their application. Their prohibitive size and cost, however, restricted their use to government agencies, major corporations, universities and other large institutions. It was at these institutions that early attempts at using computers to create simple geometric visual images were carried out. Artists exploited computers’ ability to execute mathematical formulations or ‘algorithms’ from ...

Article

David Craven

[idea art; information art]

Term applied to work produced from the mid-1960s that either markedly de-emphasized or entirely eliminated a perceptual encounter with unique objects in favour of an engagement with ideas. Although Henry Flynt of the Fluxus group had designated his performance pieces ‘concept art’ as early as 1961 and Edward Kienholz had begun to devise ‘concept tableaux’ in 1963, the term first achieved public prominence in defining a distinct art form in an article published by Sol LeWitt in 1967. Only loosely definable as a movement, it emerged more or less simultaneously in North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia and had repercussions on more conventional spheres of artistic production spawning artists’ books as a separate category and contributing substantially to the acceptance of photographs, musical scores, architectural drawings, and performance art on an equal footing with painting and sculpture. Moreover, conceptual art helped spawn the move towards multimedia installations that emerged to such prominence from the 1980s....