Friday, January 27, 2017

Three: 20th Century European Artists

We will be looking at artists from each of the major countries of Europe: Germany, France, Russia, Switzerland, Holland, Spain, Britain.


1876-1907: Paula Modersohn-Becker
  • Paula was an early German Expressionist who created a number of groundbreaking images in the first decade of the century.
  • Paula Becker married Otto Modersohn, one of the founders of an artists' colony that she joined in Northern Germany.
  • She was torn between being an artist and being a mother; she felt it was impossible to do both.
  • She finally had a baby at the age of 31, but she died a few weeks later.
  • She was known for painting female nudes and nude self-portraits.

1877-1962: Gabriele Münter
  • Gabriele was a key part of the artistic breakthroughs of modernist artists in Germany before World War I.
  • She was part of the Blue Rider group of artists.  The Blue Rider artists wanted art to express personal experience. It was part of the German Expressionist movement.
  • She studied art a progressive art school founded by Wassily Kandinsky, the most advanced Russian artist of the time, credited with inventing abstract painting.
  • Gabriele fell in love with Kandinsky although he was a married man, and spent many years thinking he would marry her when his divorce came through.
  • Gabriele preserved a large cache of Kandinsky's paintings from Nazi soldiers and later donated them to a museum in Munich called Lenbachhaus, along with works of her own and other artists in their circle.
  • She eventually found true love with art historian Johannes Eichner.
  • She was an heiress who was not dependent on her career.

1865-1938: Suzanne Valadon
  • Suzanne was one of the most innovative painters in France in the early 20th century.
  • Suzanne was trained by some of the finest painters of the previous century, and built her style on Post-Impressionism.
  • Suzanne was raised as a street kid in Montmartre, the artsy district of Paris.
  • She started her career as an artist's model for all the most important artists in the area.
  • She learned to paint by studying the work of her clients.
  • The artists she posed for tended to become infatuated with her for awhile.
  • She had a child out of wedlock when she was 18. He became a famous painter named Maurice Utrillo.
  • One of her favorite subjects was candid nudes.
  • She also excelled at portraiture.

1883-1956: Marie Laurencin
  • Marie  was a famous painter all through the first half of the 20th Century.
  • Marie studied at a major art academy in Paris, along with Georges Braque.
  • Georges Braque introduced Marie to his friends, including Picasso.
  • She had a famous affair with poet and art critic, Guillaume Apollinaire.
  • Her early fame rested on two group portraits featuring herself, Apollinaire, and Picasso.
  • In the 1920s she worked in a graceful, decorative style that made her a popular portraitist among prominent social figures.
  • She designed costumes and sets for various productions for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.
  • She was extremely prolific; a museum devoted to her in Japan has 600 works.
  • Marie was the only child of an unwed mother but she had a proper middle-class education.

1885-1979: Sonia Delaunay
  • Sonia was a pioneer of abstract art in the years before World War I.
  • She was a co-founder of a movement called Orphism.
  • Originating around 1912-1913, Orphism was a development of Cubism that made use of color relationships to get the effect of movement and music.
  • Sonia was married to artist Robert Delaunay, co-founder of Orphism.
  • She also achieved fame as a designer of fashions and costumes.
  • Sonia was raised by a wealthy Jewish family in the Ukraine. 
  • She moved to Paris at the age of 20 in 1905.


1881-1962: Natalia Goncharova

  • Natalia was a leading artist of the Russian avant-garde in the early 20th century.

  • She experimented with several advanced styles, including Neo-Primitivism, Rayism, and Cubo-futurism.
  • She also achieved fame as a designer of theatrical costumes.
  • Her partner in life was another advanced Russian artist, Mikhail Larionov.
  • Natalia and Mikhail immigrated to Paris in 1914 and became French citizens in 1938.
  • Natalia came from a noble and well-educated family. She studied art at the finest Russian art school.
  • Natalia holds the world record for the price paid for a work of art by a woman.

1882-1949: Alexandra Exter
  • Alexandra Exter was a Russian painter and designer of international stature in the early 20th century.
  • Alexandra painted some of the earliest works of Abstractionism.
  • She played a key role in the development of a Russian movement known as Constructivism, and was closely associated with Kazimir Malevich.
  • For the first 20 years of her career, Alexandra traveled between Paris, Milan, and Rome, in addition to Kiev and Moscow, to show her work.
  • In 1924 she immigrated to Paris where she became a famous theater designer.
  • Her family was wealthy and she was well-educated. She graduated from the Kiev Art Institute. 

1889-1924: Lyubov Popova
  • Lyubov Popova was a leading member of the Russian avant-garde in the early 20th century.
  • She excelled as a painter, graphic artist, theatrical set designer, textile designer, teacher, and art theorist.
  • Prior to World War I her style evolved from Cubism, through Cubo-Futurism, and Suprematism.
  • After 1917, she identified completely with the Bolshevik Revolution.
  • She renounced painting and turned to design of fashion, fabrics and uniforms because these were more useful to society.
  • She died at the age of 35 of scarlet fever.
  • She came from a wealthy and cultured family. She studied art in Russia, as well as an art academy in Paris.


1889-1943: Sophie Taeuber-Arp
  • Sophie is one of the few Swiss artists to achieve international recognition.
  • Sophie was a multi-talented artist who specialized in textile design.
  • Her early textiles were in the Constructivist style.
  • During World War I, she was a central figure in the Dada movement in Zurich.
  • In 1926 Sophie moved to France, where she worked as an interior designer.
  • She married to a German-French sculptor named Hans, or Jean, Arp, who also worked in a Dada style.
  • Sophie died accidentally at age 53. 


1891-1955: Charley Toorop
  • Charley was the only Dutch woman artist of the 20th century to gain an international reputation.
  • She focused all her energy on painting—not sculpture, not design.
  • Her style was heightened realism, confrontational in composition and cinematic in terms of lighting.
  • Charley was the daughter of Jan Toorop, the foremost Dutch painter of his time. She learned painting skills from him.
  • Charley is especially well known for her self-portraits, but her depictions of other character types are even more powerful.


1911-2013: Ángeles Santos Torroella
  • Ángeles was a Spanish painter who created a pair of masterpieces in her teens.
  • Her career was cut short by a nervous breakdown when she was 20.
  • Ángeles resumed painting in her 40s; her work was old-fashioned and failed to win respect in the art world.

  • Bridget is a British Op Art painter whose work played an important part in the culture of the 1960s.
  • She devoted her whole career to variations of Op Art, long after it fell out of popularity.
  • Her Op Art style has passed through several phases of experimentation, holding the interest of her fans.


We considered the art of the early 20th century in 7 European countries.

The Germans were into Expressionism: Paula Mohderson-Becker, Gabriele Munter.

The French practiced post-Impressionism, Expressionism, and Abstraction: Suzanne Valadon, Marie Laurencin, Sonia Delaunay.

The Russians were into Abstraction and socially useful arts: Natalia  Goncharova, Alexandra Exter, Lyubov Popopova.

The Swiss artist was into Abstraction and Dada: Sophie Taeuber-Arp.

The Dutch artist was a stylized Realist: Charley Toorop.

The Spanish artist experimented with Surrealism and New Objectivity: Ángeles Santos.

The British artist is the most widely celebrated Op artist: Bridget Riley.