Modern Abstract Art

A talk by Rotarian Paul Todd

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Modern Abstract Art

An illustrated talk by Rotarian Paul Todd 19th July 2017

Paul took us through the beginnings and evolution of modern abstract art, an artform that largely replaced all existing canons, instead forging a new framework that was not grounded in reality.

The movement started in the 19th century by Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883) whose paintings, although still considered figurative, cast aside many of the rules prevailing at the time. He could be considered the father of modern art and one of the first in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. His iconic painting Olympia bears witness to this.

Wassily Kandinsky (1886 – 1944) the Russian artist who died in France, developed the artform further by producing work that bore no likeness to reality. He called this devotion to inner beauty, fervour of spirit, and spiritual desire inner necessity; it was a central aspect of his art.

A great many artists decided to follow this direction. The American artist Man Ray (1890 – 1976) worked in a variety of media. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements.  Marcel Duchamp (1887 – 1968) was a French-American painter associated with Cubism, conceptual art and Dada. Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944), a Dutch artist who evolved a non-representational form which he termed neoplasticism. This consisted of white ground, upon which he painted a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colours.

Aleksander Rodchenko, Russian: (1891 –1956) was a Russian artist. He was one of the founders of constructivism.

Paul ended his talk with Picasso and Braque’s cubism and Salvador Dali (Surrealism). Further mention was made of Jackson Pollok with his abstract expressionism and drip paintings, Willem de Koonig abstract expressionism and Mark Rothko’s abstractionism and, in later life, multiform canvasses with horizontal layers of colours.

The question posed by Paul at the end was: Is abstract art a genuine form of art? Answers varied from a definite No to Maybe to Some. A fascinating talk and food for thought.

Dieter Shaw