What exactly was Modernism? From our vantage point a century later we shall be examining the avant-garde movements in the visual arts in Europe from 1900 to 1940. Modernism had its roots in the late nineteenth century when artists began a move toward abstraction albeit in very different ways. Increasingly less reliant on nature they were interested in art for art's sake. We shall see that in the high period of modernism, art divorced itself from its societal moorings and withdrew, supposedly to save its creative essence, from the real world. There were certain artists who bucked this trend toward abstraction: the Surrealists, whose notion of reality fell entirely outside traditional views of the world and the artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit who addressed the problems of Weimar society. One of the major debates during the period was about the role of art in our society. Arnold Schoenberg once declared that nothing done for a purpose could be art, whereas Picasso remarked that art was not something to hang on a wall but a weapon with which to attack an enemy, We will begin with the Austrian Secession; Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka and move on to Germany : The artists of Die Brucke and Der Blaue Reiter. We'll encounter the Fauves in France: Matisse, Derain, et al. The pioneers of Cubism: Braque and Picasso, Orphism and the Delaunays will be followed by a study of the Italian Futurists. We will pay special attention to the Women artists of the Russian Avant-Garde as well as the enigmatic, colorful visions of Marc Chagall. We will return to Germany to see what Kandinsky and Klee are teaching at the Bauhaus, to Holland, then Paris for the artists of de Stijl: Mondrian and Van Doesburg and at the artists of Die Neue Sachlichkeit-- Then to Paris to see what was happening between the wars. We conclude with Dada and the beginnings of Surrealism in the work of de Chirico, Miro, and Dali.
Italian Futurism 1909-1944, by Guggenheim Museum
Kerrin Meis taught art history at SFSU for ten years and now lectures for the College of Marin and Dominican University and leads study tours in Europe. Her Book Passage classes have been big favorites for years.