Modernisms: 1900-1980

This period witnessed divergent ideologies and terrible global conflicts: WWI and the collapse of the great empires, Totalitarianism, the Holocaust, the dismantling of colonialism, WWII and the Cold War. It was also a time of unprecedented growth in global population, wealth, and communication and it was a period that saw great gains in human rights. Art of the 20th century is full of experimentation, the “isms” of Modernism: Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism and the later Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Minimalism to name just a few as artists sought to reflect a world that was being radically transformed.



John Sloan, Movies, 1913, oil on canvas, 50.3 x 61 cm (Toledo Museum of Art)
When movies were new and lights transformed the darkened city streets.

John Sloan, Movies






Marisol Escobar, The Party, 1965-66, fifteen freestanding, life-size figures and three wall panels, with painted and carved wood, mirrors, plastic, television set, clothes, shoes, glasses, and other accessories, variable dimensions (Toledo Museum of Art, © artist’s estate)
At this party, everyone has the same face and seems profoundly alone.

Marisol, The Party





Bill Traylor thumbnail
At the height of the Great Depression, Traylor moved to Montgomery to look for work and ultimately found himself homeless, and he began to draw.

Bill Traylor


Aaron Douglas, Aspiration, 1936, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 152.4 cm (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)
Aspiration was one of only two panels to survive the Texas Centennial where it pointed to a future that transcended the racism of the day.

Aaron Douglas, Aspiration











George Grosz, Remembering, 1937, oil on canvas, 71.2 x 91.76 cm (Minneapolis Institute of Art, © Estate of George Grosz)
Nazi violence forced many artists and intellectuals to leave Germany in the 1930s, and like Grosz, many came to the United States.

George Grosz, Remembering


Ku Klux Klan robe, c. 1928 (The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford)
Artifacts like this are key for reminding us of a history of racism that is all too easy to forget.

Connecticut Klan robe