Early Modernism 1910-1935 By: Kerstin Ricca
Early Influences • Early Modernism was a movement characterized by its deliberate break from design patterns and traditions of the past. • Reacting against Victorian sensibilities, and distraught by political and social upheavals across the globe, these artists sought to create a new concept of design through experiments in simplicity, geometry, color, and photography. • Early modern designers drew inspiration from modern art movements, and frequently traveled through Europe to draw inspiration from each other as well.
Early Influences • Early pioneers of Modernism began to experiment with geometric forms. • A major player in the early days of Modernism, Peter Behrens designed for the Allgemeine Elektrizitats-Gesellschaft (AEG). (Top) • This cover for the Berlin Electric Works Magazine (bottom right, 1908) demonstrates his geometric approach to design problems. • Edward Johnston contributed an exclusive typeface for the London Underground, in addition to this revised symbol (bottom left) which was used until 1972.
Modern Art Influences • Around the world, modern art was in a constant state of change. Pressing economic and political turmoil pushed artists to find new ways of expression, resulting in a series of modern art movements that went on to influence graphic design.
Cubism • Cubism began to appear in the first part of the 20th century. Cubist art often displayed its subject using a series of geometric planes, allowing the viewer to see multiple angles in one piece. • The geometric abstraction present in Cubist paintings became a pivotal influence on modernism. Left: Woman with a guitar, by Georges Braque, 1913 Right: Le Guitarist Pablo Picasso 1910
Futurism • Futurism was a movement launched by Filippo Marinetti, designed to express the speed and noise of 20th century life. • Futurist artwork used typography and writing as its own expressive means. Words used color, character attributes, and position to express what images could not. Top: Carlo Carra, Guerrapittura (War-Painting), 1915. Bottom: Cover and page design for Zang Tumb Tumb: Adrianopoli Ottobre 1912 by Filippo Marinetti.
Dada • Dada was a short-lived movement reacting to the horrors that fell on society during and after World War I. • Dadaists sought to destroy tradition through the use of shock and nonsense, and the movement became a means for protest with a deep underlying negativity. Left: Dada 6 (Bulletin Dada), Tristan Tzara 1920 Right: John Heartfield, Hitler tells fairy tales II, INSCRIPTION: “...and then the poor German Michel screamed so long, that finally the whole world believed him: ‘Help, help, I'm surrounded!’”
Surrealism • Artists found a means of expressing fantasy and intuition through Surrealism. • Surrealist works often included dream-like images, unexpected juxtapositions, and non-sequiturs. Top: The Difficult Crossing by Rene Magritte, 1926. Bottom Left: The Red Tower by Giorgio de Chirico. 1913. Bottom Right: Salvador Dali. (Spanish, 1904-1989). The Persistence of Memory. 1931.
Expressionism • Expressionism extended beyond its subject to depict emotions and personal responses using color, line and proportion. • Images were often exaggerated or distorted in symbolic representation. Top: Woman with Dead Child by Kathe Kollwitz, etching, 1903 Bottom Left: On White II by Wassily Kandinsky, 1923. Bottom Right: Henri Matisse. Portrait of Madame Matisse. (The green line). 1905
Left: Man Ray (Rayograph) Untitled, Center: Alvin Langdon Coburn, Vortograph, 1917 Right: Man Ray, Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924 Photography • Although not a new medium, photography was rapidly developing during this time period. Artists began to explore photographic options such as multiple exposures, and differences in light and shadow. • Often these photographic discoveries intersected with surrealism, resulting in dream-like images.
Art Nouveau • Art Nouveau was a movement characterized by its simplification of objects. • Subjects were drawn with very little detail, and little or no tonal variation. Modernists expanded on this idea, simplifying objects even further. • The result was a mechanized, often geometric representation of subjects that embodied the cultural shift toward reliance on technology and industry. Left: Folies-Bergere, Jules Cheret Right: Ambassadeurs, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Plakatstil (Poster style) • Early expressions of modernism are evident in the simplistic and flat-colored Plakastil (poster style) design school. Plakatstil artists often included nothing more than a single background color, a large simple image, and the product name. • The Sachplakat movement in Switzerland was closely related to the Plakatstil, sharing characteristics of minimalism. Left: Ludwig Hohlwein, Gaba (bookplate), 1926 Center: Otto Baumberger, Hotel St. Gotthard Zurich, 1917 Right: Lucian Bernhard, Breisgau-Perle, 1914
Political & Social Climate • The political and social climate during the first part of the century was a major catalyst for modernist ideas. • Starting before World War I, many countries were facing growing tensions and unrest in the social order. • These tensions became evident in the design world as modernists sought to break from past ideologies, and experiment with new forms that echoed their dissatisfaction with tradition.
World War I • With the onset of World War I in 1914, applied art took on a new role as a means of propaganda. • Countries seeking to justify their involvement in “the war to end all wars” launched poster campaigns to acquire resources necessary for the conflict, and to garner support from the public. • Modernist ideals of simplistic form and geometric expression are evident in these examples of propaganda from various countries.
The Nazi Rising • The National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party, led by Adolf Hitler, rose to power during the economic and political turmoil in Germany that followed World War I. • Hitler and the Nazi party launched a massive, and psychologically powerful propaganda effort in order to advance their views and gain power. • These posters, like propaganda used during World War I, embody the ideals of modernist theory. Even the swastika symbol of the Nazi party (right) embraces the pure geometric form loved by modernists.
The Russian Revolution and the Spread of Socialism • Like Germany, Russia was facing serious political and economic turmoil following the war. • Political and social upheavals resulted in the overthrowing of Czar Nicholas II and the end of Russia’s Romanov dynasty. • Shortly after, the Bolshevik party led by Vladimir Lenin, gained power, establishing rule in what was to become the Soviet Union. • Under the new socialist regime, the artist’s sole purpose was to advance socialist theory. Art for art’s sake was denounced, and artists who refused to comply were severely punished. Unable to express themselves, many artists and designers perished in the Gulags (Soviet prison and labor camps).
Constructivism • A result of changes in Russia (USSR), a new movement of art and architecture called Constructivism was born. • Constructivists believed that “pure” art had no purpose in society, and that art’s only application was to serve the new socialist regime. • Dominant motifs in constructivist art include minimal use of colors (generally red, black, and white), and a strong geometric element. Klutsis, Gustav, Millions of qualified workers for the 518 new factories, 1931 Advertising poster for the state airline Dobrolet. 1923. A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova Archive, Moscow
Constructivism • Constructivist artists, such as El Lissitzky, experimented with photomontage and abstraction in shapes. Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, 1919 El Lissitzky Proun 12E, El Lissitzky, 1923 Top: Photomontage study Bottom: Exhibition poster, El Lissitzky, 1929
Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red, 1939-1942, Piet Mondrian De Stijl • De Stijl was a short, yet influential, movement launched in the Netherlands in summer 1917. • De Stijl artists sought universal harmony and order through the use of pure abstraction. Subjects were reduced in form and color. • Characteristics of classic De Stijl design include strong horizontal and vertical components, and the use of primary colors with black and white. • Proponents of De Stijl include its founder, Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian. Arithmetische Compositie, 1924, Theo van Doesburg
Bauhaus • At the height of the Modernist movement emerged one of the most influential design schools of all time, the Bauhaus. • The Bauhaus was opened in 1919 in Weimar, and closed in 1933 as a result of Nazi persecution. • Even after its closing, the Bauhaus continued to leave its mark on the world, through influences on graphic design, architecture, and furniture design.
Bauhaus • Faculty and students from all over the world united at the Bauhaus to combine new design approaches using elements from a variety of movements. Bauhaus Ausstellung Poster, Fritz Schleifer, 1922 Staatliches Bauhaus, Weimar, 1919–1923, 1923, Walter Gropius
Die Neue Typographie • Jan Tschichold became an advocate of Modern design after attending the first Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar. • By applying modernist principles to everyday design problems, Tschichold introduced a new approaches to a wide audience. • His 1928 book, Die Neue Typographie, outlined these new approaches and condemned all but sans serif fonts. Though he later denounced this work as being too rigid, Die Neue Typographie remains a classic. Der Berufsphotograph Poster, Jan Tschichold, 1938 “We do not know why, but we can demonstrate that a human being finds planes of definite and intentional proportions more pleasant or more beautiful than those of accidental proportions.” Jan Tschichold, The Form of the Book, 1975 Konstruktivisten Poster, Jan Tschichold 1937
Modernism in Furniture Design • Modernist ideals became a pivotal influence in other areas of design as well. • These examples show how furniture reflected modernist principles. Nonconformist Chair, Eileen Gray Red and Blue Chair, Gerrit Rietveld, 1917 The Barcelona Chair, Mies van der Rohe The Barrel Chair, Frank Lloyd Wright
Modernism in Architecture • These examples show modernism’s influence on early and present day architecture. The Bauhaus Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, Walter Gropius I.M. Pei, Architect - Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University The Berlin Holocaust Memorial, Peter Eisenman.
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