Individuality in 20th Century Art
Individuality in 20th Century Art
20th Century art has spawned great art forms. Its evident transformation had triggered the question of whether or not the development was caused by the pure genius of the artist or by the preceding art that he was born into. This essay will discuss how the artists of the 20th century have made art almost indefinable (Nicolas Pioch, The 20th century) by looking into the quotes of Immanuel Kant (1790) and Andre Malraux (1953), as well as looking at some actual works before and after 1950 which would illustrate that art has clearly become an expression of an artist’s emotions and thoughts as honed by the past.
As individuality steps in, we will closely look at how an individual’s person is actually affected by his experiences and orientation on various aspects of his existence such as how he could have been raised, how he may have been exposed to previous artworks and the like. Immanuel Kant, in his quote from the Critique of Judgment (1790) had clearly defined genius as, “a talent for producing that for which no definite rule can be given”.
I believe that this is like how scientists are referred to as geniuses, they have defied popular beliefs or what had actually become a norm for their time or era. They would produce materials that are not usual for the majority. Similar to this, I believe that such was also the case as he may have found that an artwork, which proved to be unique for its genre, is already a product of a genius. A good example of what was said to be a work of a genius was that of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Donatello’s Crucifix (images shown in the Documentation).
These were considered unique and were painted outside the what was considered as standard during their time or era, as these works had clearly defied the usual idea of what our usual picture of the heavens is (Starry Night) as well as the common picture of how Christ was crucified. Texture of these creations also scream of individuality as was the case with Van Gogh’s work. As was said by I. Kant, “originality must be its primary property” for an art to be considered as the work of a genius.
It is clear he meant that it was something that was not usually done but did not deduce it to not being influenced at all by artworks that came before them. Instead the focus was on how they have made their creations different from the others without necessarily straying from the same idea or thought. Like in Van Gogh’s work, there had already been paintings depicting the heavens at night but its form and texture as well as the colors utilized were clearly out of the ordinary and had been very original despite the presence of previous artworks that had been made.
On the other hand, Andre Malraux’s, “The Voices of Silence” (1953) compared artwork to a child that matures. Meaning that art basically evolves. It does not necessarily veer away from its contemporaries but is created from what he may have experienced. Like a child that may have learned to walk more carefully after acquiring a scratch from a fall, an artist was also said to rise from their own conflicts and the achievements of their predecessors.
A person that may have lived within a war-torn era may create an artwork that depicts what he had witnessed, at the same time picking out best practices from works that were previously done by others and using them as inspiration to put his experience or what he had witnessed into a work of art. As such, A. Malraux was right about picking them out “from their struggle with the forms that others have imposed on life”. We note though, that experiences do not necessarily remain within the context of a person’s personal struggles but can derive thoughts from their successes as well or the comfort that they may have had.
A classic example is Jose Manuel Merello Arvilla’s “bodegon electrico”, which depicts Spain’s colorful yet subdued culture evident in the shades and texture utilized. Similar to this is Vijendra Singh Devra’s painting of a three-part series called the Blue Night, where the texture was actually smooth and the contrast was stark that may be an evidence of the painter’s experiences or social status. It may not be easy to defy the norms. An artist is faced with the risk of being singled out either as great or poor.
The genre of which the artwork is in defines the product that the artist creates. As mentioned in “Necrophilic Logics and the revolt of the imagination”, http://www. geocities. com/kk_abacus/carp. html: A split between the rational and irrational is constructed by every rational system; each rationality creates a corresponding irrationality, that which does not fit inside of it. Therefore, each rational system has inherent limits. To break out of a rationality, one must also be capable of conceiving of that which lies beyond the limits of that system.
Rational systems can be useful tools but they can also become mental prisons. There is a slim demarcation between the subconscious and the imagination of a person as it says that both are something that goes beyond the inherent limits of man’s rationality. As such, it is clear that an artist’s genius is based on how he creates a unique description of what he has undergone or experienced as well as his absorption of what had been proven effective and successful for other artists as well.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 13 January 2017
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