The 20th Centrury

 

Suburb of Collioure, Andre DerainSuburb of Collioure, Andre Derain

 Girl with a Mandolin, Pablo Picasso
Girl With A Mandolin, Pablo Picasso

 Flanders Fields
Flanders Fields

 Tamara in the green bugatti, tamara de lempicka
Tamara in the Green Bugatti, Tamara de Lempicka


The 20th Century was marked by numerous artistic and philosophical movements, but to varying degrees they all gathered around a central theme:  undermining and abandoning convention.  In England, Victorian sensibility had reached stifling levels, and maintaining form for form's sake was seen as increasingly empty.  T.S. Eliot's "Hollow Men" strikes at the heart of this issue: 

We are the hollow men 

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw.  Alas! (1-4)

Sigmund Freud, in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), for the first time in scientific terms revealed the dangers of emotional and sexual repression, forcing the English to confront the possibility that it was the denial and not the expression of themselves that resulted in so many people committed to the asylums for mental disorders.  Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity (1915) overthrew the scientific monopoly of Newtonian physics.  Artists also began experimenting with and challenging social and aesthetic traditions.  However, perhaps more than anything else, the First World War devastated the reliance on form, for it was form that led several million--an entire generation--of young men to their deaths.  It also marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire.  This combined assault on Victorian decorum left many feeling broken-hearted and numb, but it also fueled one of the most creatively productive artistic periods in history:  Modernism. 

The 1920s, new forms of art and music, like cubism and jazz, and new social freedoms, especially for women, infused people with the sense of newness.  But all this optimism came crashing to a halt with the crash of the American Stock Market, precipitating a worldwide economic depression out of which Adolf Hitler would build his Nazi regime.  World War II gave rise to two new superpowers but weakened the British Empire to the point it could no longer stand.  

Out of the dust of the Empire rose some of the strongest voices to write in the English language:  the voices of the dispossessed who had lived under the yoke of Western imperialism. 


Gandhi Marching
Gandhi Marching
Protest in Northern Ireland
Prostest in Northern Ireland


 

 

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