From Picasso to Pollock: Classics of Modern Art: Highlighting the Aesthetic Vanguard from Cubism through Abstract Expressionism, This Wide-Ranging Exhibition Features Works by Some of the Last Century's Most Influential Artists

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FORMULATED by Pablo Picasso and his Parisian colleague, Georges Braque, Cubism offered new possibilities for rendering three-dimensional objects on the two-dimensional picture plane; images are fractured into myriad small facets and depicted as if seen from several viewpoints simultaneously. Excellent examples include Picasso's "Accordionist" (1911) and Braque's "Violin and Palette" (1909). Robert Delaunay, Fernand Leger, Albert Gleizes, and Juan Gris elaborated on Picasso and Braque's interpretation of Cubism, tailoring it to their own sensibilities. Through the evolving experiments of these painters, Cubism became more expressive in its range of subject matter and color.

Some of the formal devices of Cubism also were utilized by the Russian-born artist Marc Chagall, who moved to Paris in 1910. He integrated personal fantasy and narrative elements from Russian folk art into an advanced formal vocabulary indebted to the French artists. Associated with the School of Paris, Chagall and a number of other figurative artists such as Italian-born Amedeo Modigliani had diverse stylistic approaches to representational subjects, but were united in their rejection of academicism. Delaunay's "Eiffel Tower" (1911) and Chagall's "Paris Through the Window" (1913) typify the revolutionary work of the Parisian avant-garde.

While Cubism was at the forefront of new art in France, equally radical approaches to painting were taking place in Italy, Russia, and Germany. Italian Futurists such as Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini integrated some of the principles of Cubism and Divisionism in creating images that glorified the energy and speed of modern life. "Red Cross Train Passing a Village" (1915) by Severini shows the signature bright colors and technical innovations present in Italian Futurist painting.

Artists of the Russian avant-garde such as Alexander Archipenko, Mikhail Larionov, Kazimir Malevich, and Liubov Popova combined political and social concerns with their stylistic innovations. In works characterized by potent and unnatural color, German Expressionists drew on the work of Symbolists, often linking extreme emotional sentiments with symbolic images derived from the visible world. There is no better example of this than Franz Marc's "Yellow Cow" (1911), which demonstrates the artist's theory of color symbolism kind use of animal imagery in representing spiritual ideals.

Russian-born Vastly Kandinsky made important contributions to German Expressionism while working in Munich during the early part of his career, but his later formulation of a completely nonreferential mode of painting is what makes his work unique. His vision of a pure painterly abstraction is evident in his 1911 treatise, "On the Spiritual in Art." Here, Kandinsky connected abstract painting to music and an "inner necessity," rather than to the external world. He believed that the task of the painter was to convey, not an imitation of natural appearances, but an evocation of his or her own inner, spiritual world, as exhibited in "Black Lines" (1913) and "Several Circles" (1926). …