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Presentation Slides & Transcript
Artistic Movements of the 1930sBy Jake Kahane, Hannah Rindlaub and Brian Erickson
Overarching Modernist VisionThe literary, performative and visual trends of art during the 1930s all encompassed a modernist vision, that of which looks at the everyday with a new heightened consciousness and questions social structures at play. To prompt these universal conversations, artists rethought, and reconstructed.
Literary MovementsModernismLost GenerationHarlem Renaissance Magical RealismNegritudeAbsurdism
Modernism (1890’s-1940’s)A literary and artistic movement that provided a radical breaks with traditional modes of Western art, thought, religion, social conventions, and morality. Major themes of this period include the attack on notions of hierarchy; experimentation in new forms of narrative, such as stream of consciousness; doubt about the existence of knowable, objective reality; attention to alternative viewpoints and modes of thinking; and self-referentiality as a means of drawing attention to the relationships between artist and audience, and form and content.Spanned many decades across many continents. The following movements were subdivisions of modernism, whereas modernism was a term to encompass the sentiment of writers around the world grappling with the reality of their time. The Lost Generation is quintessential modernist literature that expressed these sentiments.
Lost Generation (1917-1930’s)The term specifies a generation of writers suffering from the loss of innocence and overall disillusionment felt from the experience of internal destruction brought on by WW1.Used to mainly describe many expatriated writers living in Paris, Spain, and around Europe during the 20’s and 30’s. Term coined by a garage mechanic servicing Gertrude Stein’s car saying, “You are a lost generation.”This generation included distinguished authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Erich Maria Remarque among others.
Lost Generation & Modernist TextsT.S. Eliot’s, The WastelandJames Joyce’s, UlyssesWallace Stevens’ Poems Ernest Hemingway’s, The Sun Also RisesHenry Miller’s, Tropic of CancerGertrude Stein’s, The Autobiography of Alice B ToklasFitzgerald’s, This Side of Paradise
Harlem Renaissance (1920’s-1930’s) Harlem became populated with thousands of Negroes migrating north to look for jobs and a decent living. Settling in Harlem, the black intellectual vanguard emerged. The HR was a space where African-American literature, art, and music flourished during the 1920s and 30s. Art made efforts to reject racist stereotypes and celebrate the New Negro and his participation in civil society.
Harlem Renaissance Authors & TextsLangston Hughes’, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, “I, Too”, “Mulatto”Countee Cullen’s, “Yet I do Marvel”, “Incident”, “Heritage”Zora Neale Hurston’s, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”, The Gilded Six Bits.Claude McKay’s, “Harlem Shadows”, “If We Must Die”
Magical Realism (1925-Present) Magic realism, has come to signify an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements are blended into a realistic atmosphere in order to access a deeper understanding of reality. A style of writing originating in Latin America but had influence from European Surrealism.Emerged in the 1930’s but widely popularized in the 1960’s when Gabriel García Márquez published 100 Years of Solitude.
Magical Realism Texts & AuthorsJorge Luis Borges’, A Universal History of InfamyGünter Grass’, The Tin Drum, The Danzig Trilogy.Gabriel García Márquez, 100 Years of SolitudeJunot Diaz’s, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Negritude (1920’s-1960’s)Began among French-speaking African and Caribbean writers living in Paris as a protest against French colonial rule and the policy of assimilation.Movement influenced by the Harlem RenaissanceLiterally mean Negro-nessIdeology believed that the shared black heritage of members of the African diaspora was the best tool in fighting against French political and intellectual hegemony and domination. They formed a realistic literary style and formulated their Marxist ideas as part of this movement.
Negritude Authors & TextsLéopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire,“Notebook of a Return to My Native Land”Birago Diop, Lures and GlimmeringsDavid Diop, PoundingLéon Damas
Absurdism (1915-Present) Absurdism is a philosophical school of thought stating that the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning will ultimately fail because the sheer amount of information as well as the vast realm of the unknown make certainty impossible. In absurdist fiction, characters are caught in a constant attempt to derive meaning from a meaningless world.
Absurdism Writers and TextsAlbert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”, The Stranger Franz Kafka, The MetamorphosisSamuel Beckett, Waiting for GodotKurt Vonnegut, Cat’s CradleJoseph Heller, Catch-22
Performance MovementsSurrealism (early 1920’s to 1940’s; intermittent revivals)Epic theatre (early 1920’s to 1950’s)The “Golden Age” of Hollywood (1927 to early 1960’s)Swing music (mid-1930’s to mid-1940’s)Theatre of cruelty (1938 to 1940’s; intermittent revivals)
Surrealism (Performative)(early 1920’s to 1940’s; intermittent revivals)Extending across artistic, performative, and literary realms, surrealism was an offshoot of the Dada movement of the early 20th century. Dada was a response to the inhumanity of World War I and corresponding absurdity of human existence. Surrealism served to question what constituted human existence in the first place, melding the real and the imagined, the rational and the irrational.Performative art may embody the spirit of surrealism through the use of atypical structure, illogical storytelling, or iconoclastic aesthetics.
Surrealism(Performative Examples)Examples of theatrical surrealism include Federico García Lorca's plays When Five Years Pass, The Public, and Play Without a Title; Michel de Ghelderode's Red Magic and Ballad of the Grand Macabre; and Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author and Henry IV.Arguably the earliest examples of filmic surrealism are Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel's films An Andalusian Dog and The Golden Age. Buñuel is probably the most famous surrealist filmmaker; his other works include The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty. The films of David Lynch are contemporary examples of surrealist cinema.Musical surrealism is marked primarily by the use of abnormally juxtaposed musical techniques, fragmented sounds, and automatism. Examples of musical surrealism include the works of Igor Stravinsky, Kurt Weill, Eric Satie, and George Antheil.
Epic Theatre(early 1920’s to 1950’s)Epic theatre is primarily defined as a piece of theatre that consistently calls attention to its own artifice and theatricality. It is a direct response to naturalism, which aims to create a "fly-on-the-wall" ambiance through realistic characters and situations, clearly defined settings and plot structures, and the maintenance of a "fourth wall."Most pieces of epic theatre include a chorus, whose job it is to state in no uncertain terms exactly what is happening in the play. Even characters within the story regularly talk to the audience directly about what is happening on stage.Because epic theatre aims to eliminate the escapist aspect of conventional theatre by constantly reminding audiences that they are watching a play, epic theatre typically addresses pressing themes such as war, politics, and corruption.
Epic Theatre (Examples)Bertolt Brecht is the most prominent playwright of the genre; his most notable work includes Mother Courage and her Children, Life of Galileo, The Threepenny Opera, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle.Other notable epic theatre writers popular in the 1930's include Edwin Piscator, Vsevold Meyerhold, and Vladimir MayakovskyMeryl Streep performs in a 2006 revival of Mother Courage and her Children
The “Golden Age” of Hollywood(1927 to early 1960’s)With the advent of “talkies” in 1927, the 1930’s gave rise to film as a legitimate mode of art and entertainment and saw the production of some of the most popular films of all time.Characteristics of films from the “Golden Age” include an emphasis on humanism, a classic and linear story structure, and glamorous depictions of the film’s leading performers.The 1930s also marked the rise of “movie stars”--Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, and James Stewart all rose to fame during this decade.
Hollywood Golden Age (Examples)
Swing Music(mid-1930’s to mid-1940’s)Swing is a musical genre, developed in the 1930's in the United States, comparable to jazz but with a faster pace and rhythm. Generally, "big band" music can be categorized as swing.As with jazz, swing was created by African Americans in the 1920s.The popularity of Swing from the mid-1930’s to the mid 1940’s led many to categorize the period as “the Swing Era.”
Swing Music (Examples)Ella FitzgeraldDuke EllingtonLouis ArmstrongCount BasieBillie HolidayBenny GoodmanGlenn MillerFats Waller
Theatre of Cruelty(1938 to 1940’s; intermittent revivals)Coined in 1938 by French playwright and director Antonin Artaud, "theatre of cruelty" refers to the notion that theatre can only be meaningful if it reveals a greater truth that is ugly or unpleasant. Theatre of cruelty is generally difficult to produce because it almost always contains gloomy and highly metaphoric content.Artaud rejected the idea that text was the ultimate determinant of a play's theme; he believed that scripts should serve as mere blueprints which actors use to navigate, arrive at, and present what they feel to be the most salient truths.
Theatre of Cruelty (Examples)Artaud of course provides the best examples of theatre of cruelty. More famous for his work as a dramaturg, director, and theorist than as a writer, his best known work is Jet of Blood.Today Pina Bausch, Heiner Müller, Peter Brook, and Caryl Churchill are among the many theatre practitioners who credit Artaud's theory as influential to their artistry.Peter Weiss’ relentless 1963 play Marat Sade is perhaps the most famous post-Artaud example of theatre of cruelty.
Visual MovementsSocial Realism (1800s→*peaked in 30s)Mexican Muralism (1920s-1970s)Harlem Renaissance (1919-mid1930s)Surrealism (1920s→)Art Deco (1930s and 40s)
Social Realism (1800-Now) *peaked in 1930sWhile concerns with the everyday laborer first were voiced in painting during the early 1800s, Social Realism took on new appreciation during the 1930s. The international movement explored social structures with an emphasis on the worker. Works in this movement prompted conversations about the everyday person and issues surrounding their life. Some of those concerns were the dehumanization of urbanization (responding to industrialization and the great migration), workers rights, economic suffering. One vehicle that mobilized the notions of Social Realism was the documentary style iconicized in Dorthea Lange’s famous “Migrant Mother.”
Mexican Muralism (1920s-1970s)Mexican Muralism is one avenue of Social Realism.Socialist Mexican Artists began to promote public murals often politically and or socially charged in the 1920s. Diego Riviera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros headed the movement that continued all the way into the 1970s and influenced many other countries aside from Mexico. Themes confronted in these murals during the 1930s include social tensions surrounding labor, urban versus rural life, the effects of industrialization, and the Mexican American.
Example of Mexican MuralismSiqueiros’ “America Tropical” 1932Mural in Los Angeles of a Mexican American being crucified with an eagle perched over the cross. There was so much controversy over this piece that it ended up being whitewashed. Fortunately in 2012 the Getty Museum began to restore the hidden mural .
Harlem Renaissance (1919-mid 1930s)The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement referred to at the time as the “New Negro Movement” that was conceived out of the the growing African American urban communities growing due to the Great Migration. Harlem being the largest of those communities initiated the translation of a heightened sense of social consciousness into all forms of art that birthed a cultural phenomenon. The visual art produced out of the Harlem Renaissance often depicted the “New Negro,” and thus the achievements of Black America through a bold and stylized aesthetic influenced by French impressionism and cubism.
Example of Harlem RenaissanceSelf Portrait by Malvin Gray Johnson (1934)Johnson moved with his family from North Carolina to New York City identifying intimately with the great migration. He was one of the youngest artist coming out of the Harlem Renaissance and worked for the FPA The self portrait clearly embodies notions surrounding the “New Negro” because we see an African American painter announcing the new roles the African American can play in society and the dignity that comes with this new freedom. The setting looks as if it is in a apartment or studio in New York. A painting hangs in the background with imagery that reference African masks. The power of both the young mobilizing artist pared with long (almost) lost roots synthesises the New Negro.
Surrealism (1920s)Surrealism is an international subculture of the art and literary world whose aim is to elevate the dream above rational thought. As mentioned in the literary movements section, Surrealism evolved out of DADism. Visual work that came out of the movement tend to involve bizarre juxtapositions and surprises commenting on delusions of reality and engages the viewer’s mind in a new way.A theme of dismemberment also takes place in Surrealism as a direct link to DADAism and its critic on the horrors of World War I.
Example of Surrealism Salvador Dalí’s “Persistence of Memory” 1931Dalí’s Persistence of Memory” is his best known work, epitomizing his concern with the relativity of time and space. The piece clearly uphold the value of the dream world.
Art Deco (1930s and 40s)Art Deco began in France and became international. It was a trend of design that captured the organic and translated those shapes into streamline geometric patterns. This design motif steamed from the essence of the industrial era. Art Deco took from in lots of utilitarian art such as architecture, furniture, and graphic design.