Modern Art and Ideas, Unit 1: 1882–1900

Setting the Scene

1. World’s Fair

The 1889 Exposition Universelle, or World’s Fair, took place in Paris and showcased new innovations, recent geographical and scientific discoveries, and works of art. World’s Fairs, or Expos, as they are often called today, still take place and are hosted by various countries. Research the Paris World’s Fair of 1889 to learn about the themes, events, and inventions that were seen there. Has there ever been a World’s Fair in your country? Where and when did it take place? What were the important ideas that were represented there? Research modern World’s Fairs that have taken place in countries across the globe.

Create your own mini world’s fair in the classroom. As a class, come up with a list of themes or ideas your fair should represent (i.e., technology, innovation, environment, politics, etc.). Form small groups. Each group should create a presentation based on one of the themes or ideas. (Individuals may work independently if preferred.) Include photographs, drawings, or replicas of important inventions already in existence (or drawings or models of your own inventions) that you would like to include in your fair.

2. Environment

Many artists whose works are described as Post-Impressionist took their inspiration from the unique surroundings in which they lived and worked. They worked for extended periods in a place and therefore became closely associated with a specific geographical location. For example, Paul Cézanne is closely associated with Aix-en-Provence, France; Paul Gauguin, with Tahiti; Vincent van Gogh, with Arles and Saint Remy, France; and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, with Paris. Research these artists, focusing on their relationship to where they lived and worked. Compare and contrast art by artists associated with a city and by those who worked in the countryside. Consider how your environment influences how you think, work, live, and play. Compare your own experiences with what you would imagine life to be like for someone inhabiting a very different kind of environment.

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