Revolutions in the visual arts
The period 1900-30 witnessed revolutions in the visual arts such as had not been seen since the Renaissance. Indeed, they were more radical than the Renaissance revolution. The Renaissance harked back to precedents of what in classical antiquity had been considered fine art. The revolutions of the early twentieth century may have had precedents, but on the whole they were in areas which had not hitherto been regarded as art. Moreover, the scope of these revolutions was wider, since they included film and photography, as well as painting, sculpture, print-making and the so-called applied arts.
It is hard to say when these revolutions began. One could date them from impressionism or even further back. But to keep within our period we must begin with the cubist revolution, which in any case is more radical and more far-reaching in its consequences than any of the others within the period. Indeed, some would say that it was the revolution and that all the others followed from it. I shall discuss this view in due course.
One important feature of the cubist revolution, which revolutions immediately preceding it shared to some degree, was that it took the artificiality of art seriously. All artists (as opposed to critics and public) have recognized this, at least implicitly. But, since the time of the Renaissance, some have behaved as if they believed that the function of art was to 'hold the mirror up to nature' in some literal sense. This, of course, was what Plato accused painting of doing; and persistent misinterpretation of Aristotle's notion of mimesis (usually translated