How Were Catalan Modernista Painters Influenced by French Art? Term Paper

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French Influence Upon Catalan Modernists

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It is difficult to imagine the art world without a French influence. It seems that throughout history much of art has been based out of French culture and social ideas. The central location for such artistic creation has primarily been that of Paris, France. It seems that many artists have journeyed there for education or intellectual freedom of expression. It is a special place, a place that thrives on the energy art represents to the world. Even today, it is the place to be an artist. There is a certain allure and safety as if an artist's identity automatically fits with Paris. Maybe the draw can be attributed too much of its pulse is generated by art and the museums there that house art. This pulse breeds a certain rhythm artistic people can relate to and feel comfort. This in not to say that art cannot be produced in other cities. It just seems that many artistic movements have found their beginnings in this city. Still I think the reason that many movements thrive elsewhere is because artists take their experiences home with them. The cultural influence carries over to their new environment. Or is their influence upon Paris that changes the movement? Artists are like nomads; they adapt to any setting and change their surroundings to meet their needs. This paper will focus on the Modernist or modernista movement of the early 20th century and how French culture and artists of the time influenced these artists. This paper will also examine how these influences bleed through to their own cultural identity and expression in Spain. I think that it is an interesting relationship and idea to explore how one culture influences another but I also think that this notion can be interchangeable. It is very possible the Catalans also influenced the French and artistic expression coming out of Paris. I believe this to true because their connections were so closely tied together.

Spain and the Modernist Time Period

Term Paper on How Were Catalan Modernista Painters Influenced by French Art? Assignment

Spain at the turn of the century was still a dominant force within European politics and economic power. This energy spawned a great renaissance of sorts for creative types such as artists, writers, musicians, and other great thinkers to name a few. Still this type of intellectual freedom had a sort of backlash later when the government and internal struggles started to weaken Spain's nationalism. "Wars and internal conflict reduced the dominance which Spain had amassed, and into the 1900's internal political and social difficulties continued. Civil war erupted in 1936 and for three years Spain was torn by foreign powers involved in Spain's civil war." The government was a dictatorship until 1975, when a monarchy was re-established in the country. Since then Spain has struggled to recoup its losses as a world power but is slowly returning to the limelight economically, culturally and socially.

During this time in the art world, two schools of thought originated in France had particular impact on the Modernist period. The first was Impressionism, a school of painting, which was initially focused on work done, not in studios, but in the "plain air." They argued that human beings do not see objects, but instead see light itself. The school gathered adherents, and despite deep internal divisions among its leading practitioners, became increasingly influential. Initially rejected from the most important commercial show of the time, the government sponsored Paris Salon. Emperor Napoleon III created the "Salon des rejects," which displayed all of the paintings rejected by the Paris Salon. While most were in standard styles, but by inferior artists, the work of Manet attracted tremendous attention, and opened commercial doors to the movement. The second school was Symbolism, marked by a belief that language was expressly symbolic in its nature, and that poetry and writing should follow whichever connection the sheer sound and texture of the words created. The poet Stephane Mallarme would be of particular importance to what would occur afterward.

At the same time social, political and economic forces were at work, which would eventually be used as the basis to argue for a radically different kind of art and thinking. Among these was industrialization, which produced buildings such as the Eiffel Tower that broke all previous limitations on how tall man-made objects could be and at the same time offered a radically different environment in urban life. The miseries of industrial urbanity and the possibilities created by scientific examination of subjects would be crucial in the series of changes which would shake European civilization. Europe, at this point, regarded itself as having a continuous progression in innovation, rapidly staying ahead of America and Great Britain. The Continent was the place to be, especially the central location of Paris, France.

Modernist Definition

The modern movement was rooted in the idea that "traditional" forms of art, literature, social organization and daily life had become outdated, and that it was therefore essential to sweep them aside and reinvent culture. It encouraged the idea of re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was "holding back" progress, and replacing it with new, and therefore better, ways of reaching the same end. In essence, the Modern Movement argued that the new realities of the 20th century were permanent and immanent, and that people should adapt to their worldview to accept that what was new was also good and beautiful.

Out of this Art Nouveau or New Art was born. In the region of Catalonia, it was called Modernista. In many ways, the art coming out of this region was not much different than art coming out of other areas of Europe like Germany or Scotland. The Modernist movement became a phenomenon where artists were pushing the envelope of what society would accept as beautiful. For the Catalan artists this meant not only painting but also entering other mediums where art had maybe not had such a presence before. As a result, a lot of their art is reflected in architecture, early graphic arts used as advertisements like posters or cafe menus and also arts and crafts for the home like dishes. Any aspect of art was open game in their expression as well as types of medium used in expression such wood, clay, brick and glass. Their use of color and establishing color as theme for their pieces also resonated. The Catalan artists focused on decorative arts that are still evident in Barcelona today. This type of Art Nouveau added richness to the city that had not been available before to the grey city. Art Nouveau represented "all over the world and specially in Catalonia the liberty to create new shapes not previously accepted."

This is not to say that such movements were not occurring elsewhere. One could argument that much of Art Deco in American Art is an offshoot of the Nouveau Art movement. What made the Catalan artists different from other areas are two factors. One, the artists clear relationship and influence from the French artists and culture and two, how this influence created their own identity and popularity for the region. Many of the early Catalan artists were pioneers and aided the later artists in expressing their ideas and goals. There seemed to an element of non-fear and the ability to work for the joy of creation and art for art's self. One of the artists influenced and inspired by the movement would later become the century's most famous and innovative thinkers of the time; Pablo Picasso.

Other Important Art Movements

In 1905 a group of young painters exhibited in Paris. They began to be called "Les Fauves," or "the wild beasts" because they used such savagely bright colors and free brushstrokes and disregarded all the traditional rules of illusionistic rendering. They were not really so very wild; their compositions aimed towards more at decoration than at revolution. Georges Braque was a member; later, explaining the decline of the Fauve movement, he remarked, "you can't remain forever in a state of paroxysm."2 the dull colors of Analytical Cubism were a sort of counter-movement to the wild colors of Fauvism. Henri Matisse became the most well-known of the group and, later, perhaps the most famous artist of the century besides Picasso.

The Impressionists were a loose group of late-nineteenth-century French painters who painted casual, everyday scenes of middle-class life with bright colors laid on rapidly, almost hastily. Some of the best known include Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro. While the Impressionists' work became extremely popular in the twentieth century -- a museum show would be an almost guaranteed blockbuster -- they were outcasts in the art world of their own time.

Symbolism was mostly a literary movement, never officially organized -- perhaps it was actually more a contagious mood than anything else -- although certain visual artists are often associated with it. The Symbolists sprang up first in late nineteenth-century France, rebelling against the predominant naturalism and realism of their time. They… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How Were Catalan Modernista Painters Influenced by French Art?.  (2005, January 10).  Retrieved August 15, 2020, from

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"How Were Catalan Modernista Painters Influenced by French Art?."  January 10, 2005.  Accessed August 15, 2020.