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Milestones in Art and Architecture
Art Nouveau 1890-1910
The art nouveau was an art style designed in Europe used especially in decorative arts. This art style was motivated by nature and natural forms and structures. The art nouveau was considered as part of daily life and the style was used to decorate jewelry, furniture, household items, lighting, fine arts, interior design and textiles. The art design was reflective of the lives of the wealthy Europeans at the turn of the century, using the style to decorate all aspects of their homes and offices. The art nouveau style was adopted by wealthy Americans still seeking to connect with their original European descent, bringing European ornate art to the U.S.
Modernism late 19th to early 20th Century
Modernist artists believed that traditional forms of art like romanticism, architecture, religious beliefs, sciences and social organization was outdated in the new world. These artists experimented on art that promoted self-consciousness, self-reference and denied the philosophy of realism. The artists made use of divisionism painting styles which divided colors into individual patches that interacted with each other optically. The modernist artists also used abstract art which used visual aspects such as shape, form, color and lines to create imagery in art, keeping away from realism. The modernist art reflected the society at the turn of the 20th century which considered past art and architecture as outdated and out of time. The modernist artists sought to use new ideas and experimentation with common materials and functions of art to create abstract art or contemporary art (Dana and Iverson, 2013). In the I and the Village 1911 painting by Marc Chagall, the painting portrays the theme of society elements present in the United States. The painting shows the various natural elements present in society and how they interact to create balance in nature. The painting is attached below.
Gilded Age Realism Art 1890-1905
The Gilded Age was an era in American history marked by rapid industrialization, urbanization and growth. The rapid economic growth only benefited a few wealthy merchants and businessmen, while the majority of ordinary Americans and a new flock of immigrants from Europe and Asia languished in poverty and lived in slums. The artists of the Gilded Age sought to paint the real picture of the situation on the ground to expose that deep down this golden/gilded age was a foundation of poverty and hopelessness. The art of the Gilded Age thus introduced realism in American art.
The Snow in New York 1902 oil on canvas painting by Robert Henri is a good example of the art milestone of depicting realism in art.  The art is reflective of 19th century life as seen by the poor road network, poor drainage and road management and overcrowding. This is the poor side of New York housing the millions of poor migrants and workers. The art piece is representative of the gilded age since it is realistic and presents New York at the time with congested and poorly lit streets. The theme of the piece of artwork is to portray the dire conditions that Americans lived in despite the public image if a prospering economy and booming industry, the average Americans suffered greatly in these urban ghettoes (Dana and Iverson, 2013).
Fauvism 1900-1910
The Fauvism style also emerged during the early twentieth century. This style was developed by a group of modern artists whose paintings emphasized on painting qualities and strong color instead of realism as practiced by the gilded artists. The fauvism movement lasted from 1900 to 1910 and the paintings used wild brush work, strident colors with the painting subject remaining simple and abstract. Below is the Portrait of Madame Matisse painted by Henri Matisse in 1906.
The fauvism art is representative of modernist art which emphasized on the saturation of colors and painting aesthetic appealing art. The theme of the painting is to create aesthetic and appealing feel good art using saturated colors and abstraction.
The Ashcan School Early 20th Century
The Ashcan school of art prospered in the early 20th Century and produced art works depicting scenes of day to day life among the poor in New York. The aim of majority of Ashcan artists was to expose the rising economic and wealth gaps in the United States. While other enjoyed the economic boom, a majority of New Yorkers and immigrants lived in poor neighborhoods lacking basic amenities (Shiner, 2013). The Cliff Dwellers 1913 oil on canvas painting depicts the poor and congested New York streets at the time. The Ashcan School thus incorporated realism and used the theme of poverty and hopelessness in the 1913 painting.
Futurism Early 20th Century
Futurism is an artistic movement that originated in Italy in early 20th Century. The futuristic art represented the changing technologies as subjects for paintings and portraits. Futuristic art depicted the modernist era and included objects such as cars, aero planes and industrial cities. The futuristic artists used different mediums including painting, sculpture, interior design, theatre and fashion to express their message. Futurism style focused on speed, technology, youth and violence as the main themes in the art. The Brooklyn Bridge 1919 oil on painting canvas is an example of futurism. The theme of the painting is a depiction of technology used in building the bridge.
Art Deco 1920-1930
The art deco is a visual art style and design developed in France after World War I. this art style was representative of the modernist era and it combined modernism with professional craftsmanship and a variety of rich materials. Dana and Iverson (2013) states that art deco combined the bright and concentrated colors used in Fauvism and bold geometric forms used in Cubism. Art deco influenced the designing of buildings, furniture, fashion, cars, ocean liners and movie theatres. Art objects using the art deco style had well curved features, smooth and polished surfaces.
The Prometheus 1934 bronze sculpture by Paul Manship is an example. The theme used in the sculpture expresses progress and economic prosperity representative of the economic boom of the American economy during the 1930s, years before the great depression.
Dana, A. & Iverson, M. (2013). Art and Thought. London: Blackwell.
Shiner, L. (2013). “The Invention of Art: A Cultural History“. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.