An Essay on Modernism

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Modernism describes the ideology of the art and design that were produced during the modernist period. There has been a lot of controversy about when modernism started, yet many believe it initiated sometime in the late 19th century and continued to the early 20th century. The modernist movement was meant to be a break from traditions and it was set up to separate the value of certain works from the conservative realism. For instance, Unlike the traditional art that was aesthetic, this movement was more about space and form. In modernist design, shape and organization of products and buildings were based on their functional requirements. As a result, designs became simpler without the traditional decorative concepts. The idea behind the plain designs also was to make the production easier for mass-production. Furthermore, this avant-garde movement gave artists the freedom to create unconventional subject matter, style and experimental techniques.

Additionally, after the first World War, different groups of international contributors were found across Europe. In Holland, Theo Van Doesburg and a small group of artists, founded a movement and magazine named De Stijl in 1917. The iconic elements in the works of supporters of this artistic movement were simple compositions of vertical and horizontal lines with black, grey, white and primary colors. In Germany, modernism started in Bauhaus (1919-1933), a school of art and design. It was founded by Walter Gopius and directed by the architect, Mies van der Rohe in its last year. The main purpose of this school was to focus on functional design in architecture and the applied arts.

1. Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright Building, St. Louis, 1890-92.

As in 1890s, the 10-story Wainwright building in Chicago was considered as a skyscraper, which’s exterior was designed for its interior purpose. The first floor was designed for shops, and the public offices were on the second floor and the next 7 floors were dedicated to



Bibliography: Blaser, W. (1997), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Lilly Reich: Furniture and Interiors. 6th ed. Basel: Birkhäuser. Collings, M. (1999), This is Modern Art. Great Britain: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Cottington, D. (2005), Modern Art. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. Dormer, P. (1993), Art Since 1945. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. Harrison, C. (1997), Modernism. London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd. Jaffe, L.C. (1982), De Stijl: 1917-1931, Visions of Utopia. Oxford: Phaidon Press Limited. Parmesani, L. (1998), Art of the Twentieth Century. Milan: Skira editore S.p.A. Meadmore, C., ed. (1997), The Modern Chair. Toronto: General Publishing Company Ltd. Morrison, H. (1998), Louis Sullivan Prophet of Modern Architecture. New York: Norton & Company, Inc. Pevsner, N., ed. (1960), Pioneers of the Modern Movement. London: Penguin Books. Schulze, F. (1985), Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Smith, V. (2005), Forms in Modernism: A Visual Set. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications Sola-Morales, I Online Images Barcelona Chair (1929) [online image] [Accessed: 18 November 2011] Composition A (1923) [online image] Ford Model T Touring Car (1910) [online image]. Available from < http://www.american-automobiles.com/White-Star.html> [Accessed: 2 December 2011] Rietveld Schröder House (1924) [online image] Wainwright Building (1892) [online image]. Available from [Accessed 2 December 2011] E-Journals Model T Facts. Ford, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 13 December 2011] Slade, J., Lee, J., 2004 Van Zanten, D. (2000), Master of the Skyscraper. National Endowment for the Humanities, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 12 December 2011].

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