Among its best known figures was the poet and playwright Langston Hughes. In his poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Hughes reflects on the rivers associated with the African and African-American experience from the Euphrates, Congo, and Nile to the Mississippi. Novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston studied African American folklore and traditions.
How did postwar authors show disillusionment with prewar institutions?
In the early 1900s, many Western artists rejected traditional styles. Instead of trying to reproduce the real world, they explored other dimensions of color, line, and shape. Painters like Henri Matisse (ma TEES) utilized bold, wild strokes of color and odd distortions to produce works of strong emotion. He and fellow artists outraged the public and were dubbed fauves(fohv), or wild beasts, by critics.
Before World War I, the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and the French artist Georges Braque (brak) created a revolutionary new style called cubism. Cubists painted three-dimensional objects as complex patterns of angles and planes. By redefining objects into separate shapes, they offered a new view of reality.
Pablo Picasso, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, co-developed the movement known as Cubism. He painted Woman Sitting in an Armchair in 1920.
Later, the Russian Vasily Kandinsky and the Swiss Paul Klee moved even further away from representing reality. They created a new style of abstract art, composed only of lines, colors, and shapes, sometimes with no recognizable subject matter at all.
During and after the war, the dada movement burst onto the Paris art world. Dada was a European art movement that rejected traditional artistic values by producing works that seemed like absurd nonsense. Dada was a revolt against civilization. Paintings and sculptures by Jean Arp and Max Ernst were intended to shock and disturb viewers. Some Dadaists created works made of objects they found abandoned or thrown away.
Cubism and dada both helped to inspire surrealism, a movement that attempted to portray the workings of the unconscious mind. Surrealism rejected rational thought, which had produced the horrors of World War I, in favor of irrational or unconscious ideas. The Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali used images of melting clocks and burning giraffes to suggest the chaotic dream state described by Freud.
Architects, too, rejected classical traditions and developed new styles to match a new urban, industrialized world. The famous Bauhaus school in Germany influenced architecture by blending science and technology with design. Bauhaus buildings used glass, steel, and concrete but very little ornamentation.
The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright reflected the Bauhaus belief that the function of a building should determine its form. He used materials and forms that fit a building's environment. He believed that “a building should grace its environment rather than disgrace it.” One of Wright's most famous designs is Fallingwater, a house in Pennsylvania built on a waterfall. The structure works in harmony with the surrounding environment, as Wright intended.
What effect did World War I have on artistic movements in the 1920s?
As nations recovered from the war, people began to feel hope rising out of their disillusionment. But soon, the “lost generation” would face a new crisis that would revive many old problems and spark new conflicts.