A-level: Modernism in Europe

Two world wars, sweeping technological change, and the undoing of traditional academic art.


Beginner's guide

The 20th century saw radical shifts in the way art was made—and it kept on shifting.

videos + essays

A-level: Modern art and reality
A-level: Modern art and reality

By observing nature more closely, absorbing new scientific theories and spiritual investigations, many modern artists sought higher truths.

A-Level: Sample set of works for Modernism in Europe
A-Level: Sample set of works for Modernism in Europe

Created in Europe between 1900-39, this set of works includes paintings of urban life and modern factory buildings.

A-Level: Alberto Giacometti, <em>The Palace at 4 a.m.</em>
A-Level: Alberto Giacometti, The Palace at 4 a.m.

The architectural forms of a dream are constructed as a stage set, ready to be taken apart and reconfigured.

A-Level: Constantin Brancusi, <em>The Kiss</em>
A-Level: Constantin Brancusi, The Kiss

Brancusi retains the materiality of the stone, honoring it rather than denying it as past artists had done.

A-Level: Constantin Brancusi, <em>Bird in Space</em>
A-Level: Constantin Brancusi, Bird in Space

When this traveled from France to the U.S. for an exhibition, customs agents couldn’t believe it was a work of art.

A-Level: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, <em>Self-Portrait As a Soldier</em>
A-Level: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Self-Portrait As a Soldier

Kirchner is rendered unable to create or destroy in this nightmarish wartime painting.

A-Level: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, <em>Street, Dresden</em>
A-Level: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street, Dresden

Kirchner defines his city with only the figures: there is not a building in view.

A-Level: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, <em>Street, Berlin</em>
A-Level: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street, Berlin

Kirchner’s claustrophobic city scene reflects on a culture where everything is for sale.

A-Level: Expressionism, an introduction
A-Level: Expressionism, an introduction

Not a term chosen by the artists, it describes art that emphasized the emotional impact over descriptive accuracy.

A-Level: Georges Braque, <em>Le Viaduc à L’Estaque, (The Viaduct at L’Estaque)</em>
A-Level: Georges Braque, Le Viaduc à L’Estaque, (The Viaduct at L’Estaque)

An homage to Cézanne, but also a reaction to having seen Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Braque is exploring.

A-Level: Georges Braque, <em>The Portuguese</em>
A-Level: Georges Braque, The Portuguese

What does this painting by Braque have to do with a cup of coffee?

A-Level: Henri Matisse, <em>Bonheur de Vivre</em>
A-Level: Henri Matisse, Bonheur de Vivre

Though its languid poses reference Titian, this was regarded as the most radical painting of its day.