Cubism And Dadaism: The Effects Of A Turbulent 20th Century

The 20th century brought great change to the nations across the world. For one, the effects of World War I took the countries by storm. The Great Depression surfaced in the late 1920’s as a possible result of the political decisions made after the war. World War II began after the Great Depression left its lasting effects on the American population. Once again, the country was thrust into forced industrialization to cope with the strenuous requirements of war. Such upheaval was accompanied by social movements such as The Great Migration during which many southern African Americans moved west and north. The diverse conditions our country was forced to go through affected art in a way it had never been affected before. Before, art had many separate movements that were oftentimes conventionally followed. When these conventions were broken, new movements began. Now, a wide variety of approaches were offered as styles such as Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Purism, Futurism, Suprematism, Dadaism, and Surrealism all arose during the early 20th century. Works that can address such different simultaneous movements include Picasso’s infamous Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and Duchamp’s Fountain.

Picasso is oftentimes credited with birthing Cubism with his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon painting. This painting is said to have offended the Paris public upon its unveil in 1907. This painting has its African influences, as some of the nude females’ faces appear to resemble African masks. The women whose faces are not directly influenced by African art are influenced by Iberian sculpture. The jagged shapes that fill the compressed canvas and make up the bodies of the women appear to remove sensualism from nudity. Such sensualism is replaced with crude, nude representations. The five prostitutes depicted in this piece come from an actual brothel on Avignon Street in Barcelona, hence the name of this piece. Turning on tradition, Picasso opts to show sexual liberation.

Fountain was created with direct influence from the Dadaist movement. Dadaism was an anarchical artistic movement created out of the loathing of political, social, and cultural values during the 20th century. The Dada movement was anti-war, thereby rejecting World War I, which was occurring around the same time. Originally, it was created in 1917, but remade in 1964. Duchamp went to a plumbing supply store, bought this urinal, and turned it into a work of art. He added his finishing touches by signing it “R. Mutt” and dating it 1917. His piece opens up the questions of what is art? And does art have to be made by the artist?

The drastically different art movements of Cubism and Dadaism were just two of the many born out of the early 20th century. The stark contrast between Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and Fountain shows just how diverse the world was at the time. This difference in approaches illustrates the different ways in which artists expressed their interpretation of the changing world around them during the 20th century.

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