Modernism


Modernism

In the arts, a radical break with the past and concurrent search for new forms of expression. Modernism fostered a period of experimentation in the arts from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, particularly in the years following World War I. In an era characterized by industrialization, rapid social change, advances in science and the social sciences (e.g., Darwinism, Freudian theory), Modernists felt a growing alienation incompatible with Victorian morality, optimism, and convention. The Modernist impulse is fueled in various literatures by industrialization and urbanization, by the search for an authentic response to a much-changed world. Among English-language writers, the best-known Modernists are T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf. Composers, including Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, sought new solutions within new forms and used as-yet-untried approaches to tonality. In dance a rebellion against both balletic and interpretive traditions had its roots in the work of Émile Jaques-Delcroze, Rudolf Laban, and Loie Fuller. Each of them examined a specific aspect of dance—such as the elements of the human form in motion or the impact of theatrical context—and helped bring about the era of modern dance. In the visual arts the roots of Modernism are often traced back to painter Édouard Manet, who beginning in the 1860s broke away from inherited notions of perspective, modeling, and subject matter. The avant-garde movements that followed—including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Constructivism, De Stijl, and Abstract Expressionism—are generally defined as Modernist. Over the span of these movements, artists increasingly focused on the intrinsic qualities of their media—e.g., line, form, and colour—and moved away from inherited notions of art. By the beginning of the 20th century, architects also had increasingly abandoned past styles and conventions in favour of a form of architecture based on essential functional concerns. In the period after World War I these tendencies became codified as the International style, which utilized simple, geometric shapes and unadorned facades and which abandoned any use of historical reference; the buildings of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier embodied this style. After World War II the style manifested itself in clean-lined, unadorned glass skyscrapers and mass housing projects.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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