A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art

By Ian Chilvers | Go to book overview

A

AAA. See ALLIED ARTISTS' ASSOCIATION and AMERICAN ABSTRACT ARTISTS.

Aalto, Alvar (1898-1976). Finnish architect, designer, sculptor, and painter. Aalto is principally renowned as one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, but he was also an important furniture designer and a talented abstract sculptor and painter. His early buildings were predominantly in the sleek International Modern style (see MODERN MOVEMENT), but he developed a much freer and more expressive manner. He had an international reputation by the late 1930s (an exhibition of his work was held in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1938) and after the Second World War several of his most important commissions came from abroad, particularly the USA (he was professor of architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1945 to 1949). Appropriately for an artist who came from a land of forests, Aalto made extensive use of timber in his work, and in 1933 he patented a method of bending plywood for furniture. He not only furnished his own buildings, but also produced his designs commercially, founding a firm called Artek in 1935 to manufacture and distribute them. Completely free of ornament, his designs were well suited to mass production, and their flowing lines became internationally popular. As well as furniture, Artek manufactured fabrics and light fittings and in the 1930s Aalto also designed some excellent glassware. In the same period he engaged in what have been described as artistic laboratory experiments, using laminated wood to make abstract reliefs and free-standing sculptures, characterized by irregularly curved forms. These sculptural experiments served the dual purpose of solving technical problems concerning the pliancy of wood relevant to the manufacture of furniture and of developing spatial ideas for Aalto's architectural work (ideas that received their fullest expression after the Second World War, as in the Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Rooms at the Institute of International Education in New York ( 1965), where the wooden interior walls are conceived as abstract sculptural reliefs). In the 1950s Aalto took up sculpture on a large scale, working in bronze, marble, and mixed media. His outstanding work in this field is his memorial ( 1960) for the Battle of Suomussalmi, a leaning bronze pillar on a stone pedestal set up in the arctic wastes of the battlefield (a Finnish victory against the Soviet Union in 1939-40). Aalto was noteworthy also for helping to introduce modern art to the Finnish public, particularly the works of his close friends * Calder and

Aalto, Ilmari. See NOVEMBER GROUP.

Aalton, Wäinö (1894-1966). Finnish sculptor, born at Marttila, near Turku, the son of a village tailor. He became deaf in childhood and took up art as a way of overcoming his disability, studying painting at the School of Drawing of the Turku Art Association, 1910-15, and then turning to sculpture. Following the period in which Finland declared itself independent from Russia, endured civil war, and established itself as a republic ( 1917-19), Aaltonen made a name for himself as a sculptor of war memorials, and by 1927, when he had a large exhibition in Stockholm, he was regarded as an embodiment of the Finnish national character and way of life. His most typical works are tributes to national heroes such as the monument to the runner Paavo Nurmi ( 1925, the best-known cast is outside the athletics stadium in Helsinki) and the bust of the composer Sibelius ( 1928, various casts exist). In addition to bronze he worked in stone (particularly granite) and various other materials, including glass. His

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A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction vii
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • A 1
  • B 46
  • C 106
  • D 154
  • E 189
  • F 204
  • G 228
  • H 264
  • I 293
  • J 299
  • K 308
  • L 332
  • M 360
  • N 426
  • O 450
  • P 461
  • Q 502
  • R 503
  • S 540
  • T 605
  • U 626
  • V 631
  • W 646
  • X 663
  • Y 665
  • Z 667
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