Classical Echoes in Modern Art Tate Gallery Show Explores the Time from World War I to 1930, When Traditionalist Art Became the Language of the Avant Garde

By Christopher Andreae, Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 23, 1990 | Go to article overview

Classical Echoes in Modern Art Tate Gallery Show Explores the Time from World War I to 1930, When Traditionalist Art Became the Language of the Avant Garde


Christopher Andreae, Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE painter Georges Braque once wrote: "Nobility comes from contained emotion. I love the rule which corrects emotion." A classical credo. It might almost be the motto for an exhibition here called "On Classic Ground."

At the Tate Gallery (through Sept. 2), this show explores a period in the history of 20th-century art when "classicism" - once the academic, traditionalist bedrock of painting and sculpture - became for a decade the language of the "avant garde" itself.

Jean Cocteau used the phrase "a call to order" to describe this somewhat paradoxical turn. Its seeds were sown before World War I, when even Cubism, for all its radical modernity and disruptiveness, was in many ways classical: linear, lacking color, and imposing an order on the seen world. But the budding of the new classicism occurred during that catastrophic conflict, and its flowering belonged to the decade between the end of the war and 1930.

It was a wave that seems to have washed over most of the prominent European artists who were the previous progenitors of Modern art: Fauves, Expressionists, Cubists, Futurists. They did not, however, for the most part just return to some kind of realistic figurative vision. They turned consciously to the antique-classical, the forms and balances, the heroism and antiquity of Greek and Roman sculpture, for something old which they could use in a new way.

They transformed their models, sometimes ironically, sometimes admiringly. And they looked wider than the academicism of the 19th century had usually done - espousing as "classical" less-known, archaic (and sometimes recently excavated) art, early Greek or Etruscan for instance. They also, particularly the Italian ex-Futurist Carlo Carra, emulated painters of the early Italian Renaissance like Giotto, as well as the quiet, mathematical compositions of Piero della Francesca - which gave their work a lucid order both classical in its stability and "primitive" in its directness, without the overworked familiarity of Raphael or Leonardo.

Overall, artists who had before the war been out to "destroy the art of the museums" discovered it again. One of their more recent heroes was Cezanne who, in his time, had worked to mate the transience of French Impressionism with the solidity of the Old Masters in the Louvre.

These neo-classicists of the '20s, though wanting classical order, were at times also interested in the ecstatic side of antiquity, or at least in its Arcadian vision (though this must have been difficult to believe in without irony after that war). Picasso's "Race," for example, in which two gigantic women run in glorious frenzy along a beach, can hardly be called tranquil classicism. "Spring" by Emil-Othon Friesz is characteristic of the idyllic Golden-Age strand, exuberantly ideal in subject, jauntily contemporary in execution. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Classical Echoes in Modern Art Tate Gallery Show Explores the Time from World War I to 1930, When Traditionalist Art Became the Language of the Avant Garde
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.