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Movements in Films | An overview

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 4819 words Published: 16th May 2017

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Neoclassicism (began after 1750) was a revival of Greek and Roman art; a direct reaction to the excessiveness of Baroque and Rococo styles. During the American and French Revolutions, the political atmosphere began to lean towards an Age of Reason and Enlightenment. With admiration for classical Roman and Greek art renewed after excavations of Herculaneum and Pompei, efforts for style to accompany philosophy caused an inevitable return to the “classics”.

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During this period, the subject matter often included a reverence for nature, tradition and the classics, moral values (such as nationalism and courage), along with a distrust for innovation. Early works of artists such as Jean August Dominique Ingres and especially Jacques-Louis David encompassed the thematic elements associated with Neoclassicism. Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii can be considered as a turning point for the beginning of the neoclassic style. The painting possesses many qualities synonymous with neoclassicism. It is a tribute to Roman history, depicting three men with intense, dramatic and contrasted lighting, clarity of the characters’ forms/ gestures, and a deliberately simple composition. David’s Death of Marat is another example of a theatrical piece that combines a balanced composition and symbolism (“martyrdom”) with the moral undertone of the painting. Two other examples of Neoclassicist paintings are Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne and La Grande Odalisque.


Romanticism ( early-mid 19th century) was in reaction to Neoclassicism. Characteristics of Romanticist paintings include painterly brushstrokes, a clear display of emotion, nature, and diagonals. Some examples of this type of art includes Liberty Leading the People and Death of Sardanpalus by Eugène Delacroix where his practiced use of expressive brushstrokes is made visible. Liberty Leading the People is an example of a romanticized symbol of France. Different social classes can be seen in French Romanticism, where the dead, dying, stronger, and strongest are specifically allocated throughout the piece. Other examples of Romanticist art includes The Raft of Medusa and Evening: Landscape with an Aquaduct by Théodore Géricault.

British Romanticism was more focused on using pure abstraction to help create expression. Examples include J.M. W. Turner’s Burning of Parliament and Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway. This type of use of ochre and white streaks was common, along with pastoral elements. John Constable’s The Hay Way and Dedham Vale are two other examples of British Romanticism. This type of art was easy to look at for the viewer.


Realism (mid 19th century) was created by a French group called the Barbizon School. Like the name implies a dedication to trying to capture the details through observation was an objective for the French Realists. Examples include Woman with a Pearl and Venise, La Piazzetta. Realists did not necessarily try to recreate what was directly in front of them, adjusting the situation to create an ideal piece was common and more practical. Other examples include Jean-François Millet’s The Sower and The Gleaners. These types of works inspired the (post) impressionists that would see these exhibited paintings later on. Realism in landscapes is also seen in Courbet’s works, such as Plage de Normandie and Self-portrait (The Desperate Man)


Impressionism (1870s -1880s) was a term created from the first named Impressionist work, Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. Characteristics of this type of painting includes the appreciation of art history, and an admiration upon light. Brush strokes are visible despite not being bold. Moments are captured, and time is a dimension that is fundamental in this type of art. Another example of a Monet that reflects Impressionism’s characteristics well is Woman with a Parasol. Impressionism was a style that became highly developed, every brushstroke had its place, working with a highly selective palette. Edgar Degas’ New Orleans Cotton Exchange and The Dance Class are two famous examples of Impressionism. These paintings of ballet dancers became synonymous with the movement. Music in the Tuileries and The Luncheon on the Grass by Édouard Manet both further display this type of freeze-frame feeling. There is a certain serenity to this movement, and though the technique is variable, it ultimately results in a soft feel to the painting. The female figure was also often in the foreground of these pieces due to the political atmosphere, and the type of mood they helped establish within a piece.


Post-Impressionism was a term coined by Roger Fry for one of Manet’s later exhibits. After no longer accepting the simple subject matter, and lack of compositional formatting in Impressionism, Post-Impressionist artists came up with their own ways to restore some more of the traditional compositional values into paintings. Georges Seurat used pointillism, a technique using dots of colour to allow them to blend into new colours through optical illusion, in his pieces – such as Circus Sideshow and Le Chahut. Vincent Van Gogh used raw emotion and expressive brushstrokes in his pieces (Ex: Starry Night over the Rhone and Sunflowers, two of the most recognizable post-impressionist works) to recreate his own life and all the depressions that were contained within it. Other examples include Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge: Two Women Waltzing and Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge.

Late 19th Century Architecture

Joseph Paxton’s piece The Crystal Palace was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, a piece that was the result of a movement away from traditional materials such as wood. Rather, a progression towards steel and new, more advanced materials was created. The Eiffel Tower (named after its engineer Gustave Eiffel) is another example of this type of architecture. An internation symbol for France, the tower is an engineering marvel, despite its intense criticism. Using purely steel for the structure of the body, it is an exploration of the new materials available during the era.

Early 20th Century Architecture

This type of architecture was a direct tie-in with Bauhaus. Artists such as Frank Lloyd Wright began exploring functional forms, and houses being living machines led to the creation of his works such as Falling Water, The Robie House and The Walter Fale House. The flat roofs and cantilever systems were brand new ideas in this type of art. Other examples include Le Corbusier’s Centre Le Corbusier and Villa Savoye. Walter Gropius and Mies Van Der Rohe also explored the new possibilities created by mechanization and factories. (covered in Bauhaus)


Suprematism (which began in 1915) was a purely Russian art movement was devised by Kasimir Malevich as an era dedicated to geometric forms. Painting was reduced to ideas belonging to a “supreme” reality that embodied the essence of purity. This was a period that intersected cubo-futurism and (but came slightly before) Suprematism. Lyubov Popova was another important artist during this movement and a member of Malevich’s Supremus group. His philosophy was that art should be reduced into a spiritual essence that exceeds the limits of religion and attains “the supremacy of pure emotion”. These paintings were minimal and done in a linear fashion.

Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White is the ultimate example of Suprematism. After much experimentation with the tilting of a quadrilateral within a “4-dimensional” frame and tampering with the relationship between art and science, the result was an incredibly pure painting using two shades of white. Another example would be Malevich’s Black Square.


Constructivism (1919-1934), literally meaning “to construct” was a disciplinary artistic style that rose during the Russian Revolution. The new Communist order had decided to progress the ideas Analytic Cubism into the third dimension through sculpture. Contemporary, industrial materials such as glass, steel, wood, plastic were used in order to create engineering feats that were beyond “art for art’s sake”. The movement was highly developed by Vladmir Tatlin, Naum Gabo, and Aleksander Rodchenko, the latter two who officially coined the term. According to Tatlin and his followers, these “constructions” were actually four-dimensional. Since they implied motion, they also implied time.

The most recognizable piece of Constructivism was Tatlin’s attempt to create The Monument to the Third International. Meant to be constructed out of glass, iron and steel, it was hoped to have been a tower to supersede the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Even if the technology to create the monument had been available, there would most likely have been little to no structural practicality to it. In this type of utilitarian construction art, beauty is combined with some type of function or geometry: a twin helix being the main structure, glass four suspended forms (a cube, pyramid, a hemisphere, and a cylinder) all have practical uses, and the entire piece consists of futuristic paths to carry people through the structure with mechanical devices.

Naum Gabo was colleagues and friends with Tatlin, Wassily Kandinsky, and Rodchenko. He began a new kind of plastic construction strung with nylon filament that comes very close to mathematical models. After looking for ties between art and science, the models he created in his Linear Construction series reflect upon modern physics that came after his time. Nylon threads are strung around a plexiglass base in an entirely mathematical arrangement. Contrary to many other constructivists, he partook in the movement in a purely spiritual sense. Gabo also had a strong interest in kinetic sculptures, which can be seen in his Revolving Torsion Fountain in London. With the main structure being made out of stainless steel, the contrastingly formless water is used as an integral moving element to complete the 4-dimensional composition. The jets pulsate at different levels, rotating and in particular rhythms. Selecting elements for specific purposes is a common trait of the mindset of a constructivist.


Dadaism (1916-1922) was a direct reaction to the absurdity of World War I and the devastating amount of deaths it caused. This intellectual, anti-war movement ridiculed the disgusting parts of the world, such as the upper-class, rationale, and false nationalism and materialism. The name was selected randomly after flipping through a dictionary. This “anti-art” symbolized the opposite of everything that used to be considered aesthetically acceptable. Groups created in the name of Dada began forming, and the First German Dada Manifesto was published.

Marcel Duchamp was a pioneer in this movement, beginning the use of “readymades” or found objects, and labelling them as art. His famous Fountain is nothing but a signed urinal, but captures the spirit of Dada. A worthless object has been signed to turn it into art, and is now something “of value”. Time, effort, and composition are no longer necessarily take into consideration to create art. L.H.O.O.Q. (Duchamp) was also another readymade piece of art, that is a mockery of traditional art. The name of the piece implies some kind of sexual joke based off the pun that comes from the French translation of “Elle a chaud au cul”, translating into “There is a fire down below” or “She has a hot ass”. This variant of the Mona Lisa was created many times, always with a moustache and beard in pencil upon the androgynous figure’s face.

Taking part in the anti-art and nihilistic movement, Man Ray also began using “readymades” along with more conventional forms of media. His piece The Gift is a combination of an iron with rows of tacks glued to the bottom of. The object combines two ordinary objects to create a sadistic image and evokes a painful connection with the viewer. Another piece using a readymade by Ray is Indestructible Object. After photographing a picture of friend Lee Miller’s eye and placing it onto the moving pole of an analog metronome, Man Ray exhibited the piece naming it Object to Be Destroyed. In 1957, students destroyed his work, and after reconstructing, the piece was renamed Indestructible Object. Not only is the piece a part of Dada due to it being a “readymade” but the process and social criticism it received was expected from the movement. Acting against art, and raging for anti-art was a suitable response from viewers


Surrealism (began in the early 1920s) was a movement that succeeded Dada and contained many of the same artists. This cultural movement was highly influenced by the Freudian school of thought and psychiatry, dreams, fantasies and political motivations (Marxism/Communism/Anarchism) becoming a very intellectual reflection upon Parisian Nationalism, (sub)consciousness, and led to the creation of the Surrealist Manifesto. This movement to place across all media, such as painting, sculpture, photography, and film.

The Surrealist Manifesto and the Second Manifesto of Surrealism were both written by Andre Breton. This poet was also a participant in the Dada movement, and at first praised automatic art and automatism of thoughts in art but later was more interested in narratives of dreams.

The work of Salvador Dali is the quintessence of the period. His The Persistence of Memory is frighteningly realistic in terms of his technique like many of his other works, and uses symbols such as clocks, ants, and other unconscious creations. The reformation of a dream (in this case one of a paranoiac) on a canvas is the basis of most surrealist works. Another work that illustrates this Freudian idea of paranoia is Dali’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus. The direct reflect of the staring Narcissus and the hand and egg is meant to recreate the feeling of paranoia when one mistakes one scenario for another.

German Expressionism

German Expressionism (1905-1925) was a period of raw, emotional art that took place between wars, during the recovery of World War I. The Treaty of Versailles had just been signed, and Germany was in large debt. This era was dedicated towards reflecting upon the difficult economy through not only paintings, but largely on film as well. This period was largely an influence on the Expressionism coming out of Germany at the same time. A cinematic example of a work of the era would be Metropolis by Fritz Lang. This science-fiction film was set in a relatable dystopia within a capitalist society where inter-class issues are the focus.

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Die Brucke was a group founded by four students specializing in architecture. These artists had no solid formal educations or school in art expect for some lessons. They worked cohesively and began a philosophical quest to bridge a bohemian life-style with “a sense of imminent disaster”. They were the driving force behind this movement. Sexual tension was a common theme in these pieces such as in Ernst Ludgwig Kitchner’s Self Portrait with Model and Georges Roualt’s Head of Christ. Both simplify shapes and use raw, simple colours to create very heavy, dense atmospheres around the pieces.

Der Blaue Reiter was another group of artists led by Kandinsky and Franz Marc that wanted to approach their art more spiritually. These idealists sought to revive German art and eventually used woodcuts as their patriotic medium. Works from the group include Marc’s The Tower of Blue Horses and Kandinsky’s Composition VII. This type of extreme and spiritual abstraction, and form simplification was part of the group’s search for philosophical truth.


Fauvism (1904-1908), French for “wild beasts”, was a movement led by Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. Characteristics of the movement included bright areas of colour and flattening of form. The works were passionate and emotional with very painterly brush strokes and a focus on colour rather than realism.

Matisse’s Woman with a Hat demonstrates this. Patches of colour surround the figure, and though a form is clear, there is definitely no focus upon trying to recreate what the artist saw directly. Rather, the colour scheme and interpretation of the colours at the moment are more important. This type of simplified colour/ figures is also seen with Matisses’s The Joy of Life.

Andre Derain had worked with Matisse, and works such as Charing Cross Bridge exhibit the same type of bright, simplified colours but in a landscape setting. His Self-portrait in studio also shows this type of simplification, but with darker colours and more depth. This was a possible lead in to some of the ideas in the following movement.

The boldness in colour and distortions during Fauvism is thought to have been from the influence of Van Gogh and Gaugin’s exhibited works. This was an incredibly modern movement in the 20th century.


Analytic Cubism (1907-191) involves looking at the “volume and space the structural unites from whicj to derive the faceted shapes of Analytic (or Facet) Cubism… The facets are now so small and precise, more like prisms, and the canvas has the balance and refinement of a fully mature style” There are high contrasts of texture and colour, monochromic palettes are common, and complex structures. Everything is broken down geometrically with sharp lines into cubistic forms. Synthetic Cubism (1912-1919) on the other hand was an “alternative to Fauvism”. Artists such as George Braque fell into this category, after beginning in Fauvism. This is also known as collage cubism. Form is flattened and there is a celebration of colour and the technique of collage.

Some of Braque’s work in Analytic Cubism includes Violin, a piece that breaks apart a violin and is based off of a green hue, and The Mandolin, which focuses on different facets of a woman’s body practically disintegrating into sections. Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning and Guitar, Sheet Music, and Wine Glass are two examples of synthetic cubism. There are frames of reference, and things have been broken down in a way where it looks as if the final product was created through images being cut and paste on together.


Bauhas was a school of thought that was founded by Walter Gropius in Germany and after development from previous concepts, buildings, and schools, the Bauhaus school building existed between 1919 and 1933 and had moved through three different cities due to Nazi pressure. Important components and influences of Bauhas wereInternational Style, functionalityin terms of (architectural) engineering, and geometric design principles. The Industrial Revolution, favtories, mass production and manufacturing were also a part of the movement. After the movement, many schools based their buildings and programs off the school. In general, the school’s influence upon architecture, engineering, and redesign still impacts current lifestyles, presenting themselves everywhere in daily life (ex: the invention of tubular steel, flat-roofed buildings).

The original director and master of Bauhaus, Gropius was largely responsible for the F 51 Armchair and Sofa. Other creations in modern décor by him include the D 51 and F 51-2. One of the later directors Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the Farnsworth house, 960-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, and Seagram building. All these buildings reflect upon his mission to advance architecture with the leaps in technology and industry, combining rationalism with spirituality. Universally known, his Barcelona Chair and Ottoman is a modernistic icon that involves a twist upon Curule chairs and was manufactured/ targeted towards the “common man” market. Hannes Meyer was the second director of Bauhaus and was the first to help the school earn profit. He brought significant commission for the school, including creating building for the Gederal School of the German Trade Unions in Bernau and five apartment buildings in Dessau.

American Abstract Expressionism

Abstract expressionism (1940s-1950s) was the first entirely American-caused movement in direct reaction to World War II. Paint was put onto a surface to create “pure art” that had no narrative. Rather the pieces depended purely on line, form, surface, and the way paint acts. Harold Rosenberg described Pollock and other Abstract Expressionist canvases as “an arena in which to act. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.” Many paintings were described as action paintings, in where the process and layering of the paint could be considered more interesting and important than the final product and composition itself. Mark Rothko would use chunks of paint to create his pieces, to create “multiforms”. This was his key style and can be seen in No. 3/ No. 13. The canvas consists of only 6 colours in blocks. Another example is his painting No. 10. In contrast, Jackson Pollock often threw paint onto the surface, allowing it to “do what paint does”. His paintings No. 5, and Lavender are examples of his paint-throwing and recognizable dripping techniques. Other examples of Abstract Expressionist works include Lee Krasner’s Celebration and Little Image paintings, along with Barnett Newman’s Onement 1and Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue?

Pop Art

Pop art (began in mid 1950s) was based in Britain and the United States. Pop art was a diurect reaction to the high intellectualism of Abstract Expressionism, often focusing upon ordinary objects and regular daily commodities. Subject matter often included objects such as soup cans, boxes, comic boos, photos, etc. Pop culture and the Hollywood scene was a major influence upon the art during this age of mechanical reproduction.

Richard Hamilton’s collage Just What Is it that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? is an iconic piece created from images from American magazines and is a reflection upon the economy, homes, and lifestyle of the time. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup I and series used the American food staple as the subject to avoid competing with Roy Lichenstein’s comic strip pieces and his potential as a consumer, being solely dedicated to the brand and product. Lictenstein’s infamous Whaam!contains an image of an American plane destroying an enemy jet. This comic-strip type of art was a reflection on the American lifestyle and the popularity of comic books during the age and the piece was based off an actual comic book panel. The piece tries not to develop a purposeful connection with the audience, allowing viewers to develop their own thoughts and interpretation of the image and caption. Claes Oldenburg also used this idea of consumer products, and often create “soft” sculptures of mundane objects. Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks involved an oversized lipstick that would constantly deflate itself unless pumped by a viewer. Other pieces from the era include Oldenburg’s Soft Bathtub (Model), Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl, Hamilton’s Interior and Warhol’s Brillo Box.

Earth Art

During Earth Art (late 1960s into early 1970s), artists began a movement against the restrictive qualities of galleries and traditional exhibitions. A desire for an open canvas led to the use of nature as a medium. In reaction to consumerism and the vast commercialization of art, the reaction of these artists was to create something impossible to purchase by using only natural materials, usually in an environment that could not be sold. As well, the temporary nature of most of these works would factor into how unfeasible it would be to attempt to purchase these works. Usually, these works can only exist through documentation as they are otherwise eradicated by time. Leading artist Robert Smithson created the Broken Circle and Spiral Jetty, two famous works that emerged during the period. Both pieces are protected, but nevertheless people still try to obtain parts of these works. Richard Long creates his pieces through walking upon paths entirely drawn from him. A Circle in Alaska – Bering Straight Driftwood on the Arctic Circle and A Line Made By Walking are two works both created through the pure interaction of his body and his earth. They will only last until nature takes its course, a trademark of Earth art. Christo and his wife Jean Claude focused their works upon the form that the world takes up, and wanted people to see things in a new perspective. Through many wrapped pieces, they considered themselves to be bringing unseen beauty to certain environemtns. The Running Fence and the wrapping of Point Neuf Bridge are some incredibly recognizable pieces. Both are reflections upon the form of nature.


Minimalism (late 1960s-early 1970s) involved the belief that there should be no agenda for a piece but the piece should be centred on itself. This type of art implies true aesthetic value. Often the works are precise, mechanical, and ready to be manufactured in a factory setting. The pieces are repetitive with no symbolism and are modular. Contrasting colours, sharp outlines, and a basis on geometric forms and the frame of reference were also components of this style. This was also applicable in the sculptural aspects of the style. Materials for this type of sculpture was usually industrial, ex: fiberglass, plastics/ other synthetics, metals. Donald Judd’s pieces are often untitled works that are simple and based purely on mathematics and geometry. This was also the same with Robert Morris. Richard Serra has a piece similar to one of Judd’s untitled works where a sculpture contains contains circles within circles at different tilts and heights. These were installations, however Solomon LeWitt focused more upon two dimensional pieces like Isometric Projection, Untitled (lithograph), and Tower. Serra’s The Matter Of Time and Fulcrum are sculptures based purely on untreated metals and steels.

Performance Art

Current Performance Art began in the beginning of the first half of the 20th century. The movement was dedicated towards the history of theatre. However, by the 1970s, Performance Art was usually concentrated and combined efforts on Happenings and Conceptual Art with installations. Shock value, (self-) mutilation, explicit sexuality, grotesque and unconventional humour. Audience interaction and breaking the fourth wall was also quite common.

Laurie Anderson is a musician who experiments not only in sound through playing the violin and piano, but with her performances as well. She created the tape-bow violin that is still used as an experimental type of instrument by artists and musicians today. In the 1970’s she performed/ recorded a violin piece while performing until the block of ice of which she stood on with ice skates completely melted away. Vito Acconci created an installation named Seedbed in which he was located beneath a ramp at the Sonnabend Gallery, where he masturbated and created a speaker system to allow his speakers here his voice and thoughts. Joseph Beuys had some notable performances, particularly when he became involved with Fluxus temporarily. His performance, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare involved Beuys speaking into the ear of a dead hare he held in his arms, while his boot had an attached piece of iron, and his face was covered in honey and gold leaf. All these objects had a symbolic meaning and there was an intended intellectual message for his audience. This Fluxus movement involiving multi-media “flow” also produced member Yoko Ono. Her performance Cut Piece (which can also be considered a “happening”) involved the audience participating through “cutting” her clothing off until she was naked. This allowed Ono to communicate her own feelings towards her audience through body and performance, rather than conventional mediums.


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