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A revelatory, fast-paced account of the most exciting, frenzied, and revolutionary decade in art history—1905 to the dawn of World War I in 1914—and the avant-garde artists who indelibly changed our visual landscape
Modern begins on a specific day—March 22, 1905—at a specific place: the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, where works of art we recognize as modern were first exhibited. Drawing on his forty five-year fine art career, author Philip Hook illuminates how this new art came to be—and how truly shocking it was.
With Hook’s expert guidance, we witness movement upon movement that burst forth in dizzying succession: Fauvism, Expressionism, Primitivism, Symbolism, Cubism, Futurism, and Abstract art. As Hook barnstorms across Europe—to London, Germany, Moscow, Scandinavia, and everywhere modern art was being made—his vivid accounts breathe new life into the work and times of Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Malevich, Klimt, Schiele, Munch, and nearly two hundred other artists who painted, sculpted, and exhibited alongside them, and whose collective genius was understood and appreciated by few at the time.
Hook reconsiders the decade from a series of fresh angles: What was the conventional art against which Modernism sought to rebel? Why were avant-garde artists so self-obsessed? What persuaded a few bold collectors to buy difficult modern art? And why did others pay so much money for Old Masters at the same time?
Modern helps us answer these questions and more—and to see how avant-garde artists marshaled their genius (and oftentimes their madness) to create works of such profound consequence, they still reverberate today—and which, taken together, made for a movement more influential than even the Renaissance.
About the Author
Philip Hook was, until recently, a board member and senior director of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby’s in London. He has over 45 years’ experience and expertise in the art market as an auctioneer and dealer. He joined Christie’s in 1973 with a degree in the history of art from Cambridge University, and he headed Christie’s 19th Century Paintings Department from 1980 to 1987. He has appeared regularly on the BBC’s classic long-running series, Antiques Roadshow, as a picture expert. He is the author of five novels set in the art world and four nonfiction books, the most recent of which, Rogues’ Gallery, was also published by The Experiment. He lives in London.
“Art dealer and auctioneer Hook delves into modern art and its explosion onto the scene… Those interested in art history, art collecting, and the lives of artists will not be able to put this down.”—Library Journal
“An art auctioneer and dealer looks at the birth of fauvism, expressionism, cubism, futurism, and abstract art in the years leading up to WWI.”—Publishers Weekly, Top 10 Art Book Spring 2022
Praise from the UK for Modern
A Sunday Times (UK) Book of the Year
“A mesmerizing pleasure . . . consummately well-informed and readable, replete with shameless gossip and memorable anecdote. The illustrations are well chosen and interestingly eclectic.”—Stephen Bayley, The Spectator Books of the Year
“Hook’s wonderful book captures a window of time when artistic ideals were shattered and reassembled in dynamic ways.”—Mail on Sunday
“The author writes knowledgeably and from a position of privileged intimacy with the works he discusses. . . . Hook tells with zest and wit the story of this birth of modernism.”—Literary Review
“A vivid survey of art, at once safe and extreme, in the decade before the Great War. This is a spirited history told with the rush and hustle of a true enthusiast. . . . Hook pulls his material together with verve and élan.”—The Times
“Erudite and amusing . . . unfailingly enjoyable. Rich in anecdote and candid in opinion, it has a panache free of sanctimonious claptrap that makes it an invigorating introduction to the subject.”—Rupert Christiansen, The Spectator
“Hook is adept at writing about the many ‘isms’ of this period. From the boldness of Fauvism to the proto-fascism of Futurism, in his hands, these movements are less the theoretical contents of a dry art history lecture than a truly interesting framework through which to view his period of history.”—Reaction