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FAH246 - Primitivism

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Mark Cheetham

FAH246 –Sept 21 st PRIMITIVISM  All of these artists sought to challenge European conventions that they felt to be repressive, and all imagined the primitive as an exotic world where style and self might be refashioned dramatically.  Primitivism extends beyond art, it’s a fantasy: return to origin, escape into nature, liberation of instinct  Journey outside Western art was strategic: exceed old academic conventions and recent styles Paul Gauguin ‘s primitivism –Major theme in 19 century What comes into museum practice, what should be displayed?  The primitive, the basic pure  He was looking for the primitive, something that was untouched by modernity  Colonial period, Tahiti, was a French colony. He was the colonizer  The search for primitivism became the looking for other cultures  The term is derogatory in itself, its part of the colonial mentality, the French, the Dutch, the German, the superior races  Primitive people had access to the spiritual and unsullied with the modern world, speed and money, free perverse repression sexual and otherwise  They thought they could get away from this repression and suppression. They could be more themselves by getting access to this kind of primitivism; we should be critical of their attitude.  The father of ‘modernist primitivism’  Inspired by him, many modernists drew on tribal art for forms and motifs: Matisse and Picasso, but with different trajectories. Spirit of the Dead Watching -1892  He is thinking of the fears and superstition  The embodiment of her fears, shes extremely vulnerable not only to Gauging but to the viewer  we become voyeurs of her nakedness, of her superstition her fears  It echoes Olympia. He plays off this difference with Manet’s Olympia (she was not vulnerable, she was a prostitute, in charge of her own sexuality) Hes changing it, he shows you much more. The voyeuristic aspect here is even stronger.  Primitivism is modernism’s troubled rejection of modernity. Projects contemporary European society, as it seeks an out. Its a troubled rejection because it gets u into another set of problems, because Gaugin couldn’t get away from his society, from his own desires, you cant get away from your own dreams anymore than his partner cant get away from her dreams.  Primitivism is modernism’s attempted flight from the fundamental realities in modernity  Not so much rejection of something in contemporary society around 1900, but the desire for the primitive. They only get out in terms of these primitivism but they can’t get out.  Makes reference to tradition (academic nude and avant-garde subversion), shows deference to its masters like titian and Manet, and shows his own difference as he proposes a new relationship THE EXOTIC/ EXOTICISM Matisse Blue Nude -1907  Dealing with the primitive too in a way, African society and the Islamic influences that infiltrated into Europe  He was very influenced by Islamic art, patterns 1  Depictions based on trips to North Africa/Orientalism  Islamic societies  He was not looking for primitivism but for the exotic. Yet these two play back and fort.  Brutality of depiction, abrupt movements and curves of the female nudes. Idealized forms going back to the Greeks.  Exhibited in 1907, people in the art world and the general public came to see works like these and were outraged.  Plastic alternative to cubism Picasso Demoiselles d’ Avignon -1907  Focused in Iberian reliefs/sculptures  Iconic of 20 century painting  Instantiation of the Primitive  Did number of drawings of research for this painting. Constantly reworking in individual fragmentary parts, changed the story lines.  So, it’s a struggle around the question of expression of the primitive  Mapping of different kinds of primitive sources. The women on the left side are taken from Iberian sculptures. As he was developing to the right hand side, African masks like faces. The sense of shocking antiquity and primitivism.  Probably not the first cubist painting. Wasn’t exhibited until 1937  It didn’t have huge impact, only close people saw it.  Innovators of Cubism, although there are cubistic aspects there are really not cubes in this painting. (Technically)  Tremendously radical painting, it draws the viewer through its shock value  It was a statement  A manifesto, set of ideas.  It changed by the middle teens and 1920s. Three women Transition from Cubism  Mask-like faces, reminiscing, not straight trajectory to Africa  Interesting blue background, soft edges and tones gives sense of framing  Each artist looks outside the Western tradition to tribal art, in a fantasy of the primitive body, to advance within Western art. Rose Selavy: Was Marcel Duchamp’s alter ego EXPRESSIONISM AND EXPRESSIONIST/ COLLECTIVITY  Came to describe German art Die Bruke  Expanded completely, quite typical  Formed in Dresden 1905 by group of Expressionist artists  Different reasons for forming groups.  Collectivity helps you exhibit, and allows you to form a kind of school  German phenomenon, radical new thoughts in the art world  Social art, reflect on contemporary German society. All of these were interested in the primitive (Northern group of Die Brucke)  They were all architecture students with no art training.  All artist interested in expression and primitive more than in other places 2  All artists were uneducated in the arts, they had studied
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