Read how art and architecture parallelly exuberated the essence of progressive cultural movements in the 20th century symbolising dynamism, hope and a new sense of aesthetic brought by technological innovation amidst modernity. The impact of their complementary relationship continues to influence contemporary style and design across the world.
‘New art’ or its French term, Art Nouveau, sought to break away with traditional styles when it appeared at the end of the 19th century.This style influenced everything from paintings to piazzas, furnaces to furniture, and cabinets. A ‘total art’ movement, Art Nouveau permeated all avenues of visual art and offered a unified vision of aesthetics. Defined by inspirations from nature, curved, stylized lines and elaborate decoration, the movement signified a certain lifestyle thus moving away from a mere assemblage of décor objects.
Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer (1907) by Gustav Klimt, a leading artist of the Art Nouveau movement. In 2006, it became one of the most expensive artworks sold ever.
The eleven set designs in the Lord of the Rings series by Peter Jackson incorporated many Art Nouveau elements such as twisting branches, leaves and continuous themes along all pieces of the décor.
Art Deco emerged as the style of choice during the roaring 1920s and became an emblem of resurgent hope after WWI. With its clean, symmetrical lines and modern outlook, it embraced technology and placed its faith in progress. The movement’s popularity spread globally and reached India, making Mumbai the city with the second largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world. Apart from being visible in buildings, the style can be seen in the many murals and sculptures that adorn the walls of South Mumbai.
Marine Drive, Mumbai is dotted with the then in-style Art Deco buildings mostly constructed by wealthy Parsi businessmen in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Chrysler Building, completed in 1930 in New York City, is among the world’s most recognizable structures and serves as one of the greatest examples of Art Deco design.
New India Assurance Building, Mumbai constructed in 1936.
The De Stijl movement was partly a reactive move away from the decorative aspects of Art Deco. This Dutch movement gained popularity in interwar Europe and radiated towards simplicity, geometric forms, elemental shapes and primary colors. This innovation was integrated into the works of artists and architects alike known for placing importance on basic shapes in their aesthetics and functionality. It would go on to influence other movements like the German Bauhaus, the American born International Style of architecture and the Minimalist Movement.
Composition A (1923) by Piet Mondrian, one of the major contributors in the De Stijl movement.
Piet Mondrian, Red Blue Chair- Gerrit Rietveld, Rietveld Schroder House
The Red and Blue Chair (1917) by furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld presented the ideals of the movement in three dimensions.
The Rietveld-Schroeder House designed by Gerrit Rietveld was constructed in Utrecht, Netherlands presents the De Stilj style and has been converted into a Museum.
Modern architecture and art found one of its most pronounced iterations in the Soviet Constructivist movement that flourished in the 1920s and 1930s. Its core tenants were the use of modern technology and a commitment to hopeful socialist ideas of serving the people. It emphasized the rejection of the old, giving importance to studying materials that would lead to new ‘constructs’ suitable for mass production. Artworks created at this time also reflected the same fervor of the movement.
Figure 2 (1924) by Russian painter Luibov Popova exemplifies her use of Constructivist styles to paint textile designs intended for manufacturing in Moscow.
Head No. 2 (1916) by Nuam Gabo was created using constructivist techniques and directions on traditional subjects.
Tower in Moscow, designed by Vladimir Shukhov
, was built in the early 1920s as a broadcasting tower.The influence of aesthetic movements on art, architecture and design has marked pivotal moments in the history and contributed to the evolution of these fields. This cross fertilization of ideas is a continuous process and paves the way ahead for future generations to critically reflect and create.
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Author: Tulika Tripathi