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16/9/2017 GeometryinArt&ArchitectureUnit16

EARLYTWENTIETH
CENTURY
Description
and
Requirements

TheBook
GEOMETRICART
Bibliography

Syllabus

Introduction
TheGreat
Pyramid
Musicofthe
Spheres
Number
Symbolism
Polygonsand
Tilings
ThePlatonic
Solids
Roman
Architecture
Number
Symbolisminthe
MiddleAges
TheWheelof
Fortune
Celestial Slide1912:Mondrian:Composition,1933
ThemesinArt
Originsof
InthisunitwewillshowsomeoftherootsofgeometricabstractionintheTwentieth
Perspective Century,andpresentanoverviewofsomeoftheearlymovements.
WhatShape
Frame? Uptonowwe'veseenpaintings,sculpture,andarchitecturethathadgeometricelements:
Pierodella
geometricfigures,particularratioslikethegoldenratioandthemusicalratios,andwhere
Francesca spacewasorganizedbythegeometricperspectiveconstruction.Butnow,wehave
Leonardo paintingsandsculpturethatistotallygeometric.
Faade
measurementby
We'vealreadyseendecorativeornamentationthatwascompletelygeometric,withno
Trigonometry recognizableelements.Butthesearenotdecorativeornamentsthisishighclassartfound
EarlyTwentieth inmuseumsandgalleries.Thiskindofartiscalledgeometricabstraction.
CenturyArt
Dynamic Outline:
symmetry&The GeometricAbstraction
Spiral
TheScientificRevolution
TheGeometric
ArtofM.C.Escher Cubism
LaterTwentieth Constructivism
CenturyGeometry Summary
Art

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Artandthe
Computer
Chaos&Fractals GeometricAbstraction

OT1:Brancusi:TheKiss,1908

ThreeMainCurrents
ThearthistorianH.W.Jansonseesthreemaincurrentsinart,beginningnearthestartof
thecentury,Expression,Fantasy,andAbstraction.

Expressiondealswithfeelings,andtheconcernwiththehumancommunity.Theseartists
stresstheiremotionalattitudetowardstheworld.Imaginationandfantasyexplorethethe
labyrinthofthemind,andAbstractionstressesorderandtheformalstructureofthework.

Thebestworkshaveallthree:
Withoutfeelingweareunmoved.
Withoutimagination,wearebored.
Withoutorder,weseechaos

Ineachofthese,workshavebeenmaderangingfromrealistictononrepresentational
(nonobjective).Inthisunitwearegoingtoexaminenonrepresentationalabstractionin
particular,geometricabstraction.

WhatisGeometricAbstraction
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Startingaroundtheturnofthecenturytherewasacompleterejectionofliteraryacademic
artartistsdidn'twanttojustmakeacopyofarealobjectthenewlyinventedcamera
coulddothatfasterandbetter.Theydidn'twanttomakeananillustrationforastory.
TheyrejectedAlberti'sistoriaorhistorypaintinginwhichpartofthepainting'spower
camefromthestoryitillustrated.Thephrasestorybookrealismbecameatermofderision

Theideanowwasthatonedoesn'tpaintaboutanythingonejustpaints.

Theoldvisionswerewornout.Artistswantedtocreatesomethingthatdidnotexist
before,toseetheworldinnewways,totalkabouttheirinnerworld,tograpplewithlarge
ideasthatwereuniversalandutopian.

Abstractartisanattempttoanalyzeandsimplifywhatwesee,topickandchoose.Buta
workcanbeabstract,likeBrancusi'sKiss,andstillberepresentational,whilethe
Mondrianshownatthestartofthisunitiscompletelynonrepresentational.

Let'strytotracethestepsthattookusfromtheimpressionistlandscapesofthelate19th
centurytototalgeometricabstractionsofthetwentieth.

TheScientificRevolution

Slide191:Shlain:ArtandPhysics,cover

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OT2:ComparisonofMajorTwoDimensionalGeometries.Smith,TheNatureof
Mathematics,p.501

Artisn'tcreatedinavacuum.Itusuallyreflectswhatisgoingonelsewhereinaculture.

Onethingthatwashappeningatthestartofourcenturywasascientificrevolution

Itappearsthatatthestartoftheourcenturyscienceandartoncemorewerereadyfornew
conceptsofspaceandtime.SomenewspaceconceptscameingeometrywiththeNon
EuclideanGeometriesofBolyai,Lobachevski,andRiemanninthemidninteenth
century.NewtimeconceptscamewithEinstein'stheories,thespecialtheoryof
relativity,1905andthegeneraltheoryofrelativity,1915.

Influenceofphotography
About1883,AmericaninventorGeorgeEastmanproducedafilmconsistingofalong
paperstripcoatedwithasensitiveemulsion.In1889Eastmanproducedthefirst
transparent,flexiblefilmsupport,intheformofribbonsofcellulosenitrate.The
inventionofrollfilmmarkedtheendoftheearlyphotographiceraandthebeginningofa
periodduringwhichthousandsofamateurphotographersbecameinterestedinthenew
process.

Intheearly20thcentury,commercialphotographygrewrapidly,andimprovementsin
blackandwhitephotographyopenedthefieldtoindividualslackingthetimeandskillto
mastertheearlier,morecomplicatedprocesses.Thefirstcommercialcolorfilmmaterials,
coatedglassplatescalledAutochromesLumireaftertheprocessdevelopedbyFrench
inventorsAugusteandLouisLumirebecameavailablein1907.Duringthisperiod,
colorphotographswereproducedwiththethreeexposurecamera.

Thispromptedamoveawayfromrepresentationandrealismandtowardsabstraction.If
youcancaptureascenewiththesnapoftheshutterthenwhysitthereforhourscopying
itinpaint.

Muybridge,Eadweard(18301904),EnglishAmericanphotographerandmotion
picturepioneer,knownforhisphotographsofanimalsandpeopleinmotion.In1877he
demonstratedthroughphotographsthatwhenahorseruns,thereisamomentwhenallof
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theanimal'sfeetareofftheground,andthatthefeetaretuckedbeneaththeanimalatthat
moment.In1881heinventedthezoopraxiscope,adevicebywhichhereproducedona
screenhorseraces,theflightsofbirds,andathleticcontests.HewroteTheHorsein
Motion(1878)andAnimalLocomotion(11vol.,including100,000photographicplates,
1887).PortionsofthelatterworkwerepublishedunderthetitlesAnimalsinMotionand
TheHumanFigureinMotion(1901).

ThroughPicturessuchasthesepeoplebecameusedtoseeingfiguresorpartsoffiguresat
thesametime

Simultaneity

OT4:Balla:LeashinMotion,1912

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Slide192:Duchamp:NudeDescendingaStaircase,1912(Jan776)

SomeworksthatshowatimeelementincludethosebytheItalianFuturists,whosought
meansofexpressioncompatiblewiththemodernindustrialworld,andNudeDescending
aStaircase,nicknamed"ExplosioninaShingleFactory."IntheArmoryShowin1913,it
neededtobeprotectedbyguards.

TheFourthDimension
Thereseemedtobealotoffascinationwiththefourthdimensionearlyinthiscentury,
butitmeantdifferentthingstodifferentpeople:

Timeisoftenconsideredthefourthdimensioninthespacetimecontinuumwith
threespacedimensionsandonetimedimension.
Colorhasbeendescribedasadimension.
Forsomeartiststhefourthdimensionappearstohavebeenametaphorfor
liberationfromtheconventionsoflinearperspective.
Tosomephilosophersitwasaphysicalrealitytowhichwehavelimitedaccess.
Tomanymathematicians,thefourthdimensionsimplymeansanabstractspace
describedintermsoffourmutuallyperpendicularaxes.

Hypercube
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OT5:Hypercube,Manningp.240

Onefourdimensionalobjectisthehypercube,shownhereinanillustrationfroma
textbookongeometriesofhigherdimensions.Itshowshowahypercubecanbefolded
from8cubes,justasaregularcubecanbefoldedfrom6squares.

OT6:SalvadorDali:CorpusHypercubicus,1955

HeretheartistSalvadorDalihasusedanunfoldedhypercubeasacross.

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Cubism
Cubism'sTwoParents

OT7:Africanmask,Iberiansculpture

Geometricarthasitsrootsincubism.Cubism,ontheotherhand,wasbornoftwo
parents:primitiveartandCezanne.

CezanneCubism

Slide193:Cezanne:RockyLandscapeatAix,1887.(Harrisp.67)

Infact,thefirststageofcubismisevencalledCezanneCubism.Notethattheareasofthe
paintingarebecomingsimplifiedandmoregeometric.

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Braque

Slide194:HousesNearl'Estaque.GeorgeBraque1908.Cat#2578,p.158(Wolfep.8)

TheverynameCubismcamefromthispainting.WhenthecriticVauxcellessawthis
paintinghesaidthehouses"looklikeabunchoflittlecubes."Hemeantthecommentto
beinsultingbutthenameCubismstuck.

KindsofCubism
Cubismissometimesbrokendownintothreekindsbyarthistorians:

Facet,Collage,andAnalytical

Thisfirststage,Cezannecubism,isalsocalledfacetcubism,becauseofthedifferent
planesorfacets.Thestagecalledanalyticalcubismistypifiedbytwoormoreviewsofa
subjectbeinggivenatonce.

Analyticalcubism

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OT3:Metzinger:TeaTime,1911"MonaLisawithaTeaspoon."

Thesenewwaysoflookingattheworldmayhaveinfluencedartiststointroducetimeinto
theirworks,asinTeaTime.Notethatthefaceisbothprofileandfrontview,andthecup
isbothsideandtopview.Itshowssimultaneity,asifonewerewalkingaroundthescene.
Thisisalsoanattackonperspective,whichgivesthescenefromasingleviewpoint.

LossofPerspective
Inarevolutionoldideasaretossedout.We'vealreadyscrappedrepresentationand
storybookrealismatthestartofourcentury.Anotherdiscardedideawasperspective.

Perspectivewasusedextensivelyuptotheendofnineteenthcentury.Butnowtheartist
wassaying,Thisisapainting,notawindow.Thispaintingisaboutitself,notabout
somethingoutthere.

Flatness
Cubism,forthefirsttimesincetheRenaissance,dispensedwiththeneedtoproducean
accuratecopyofexternalreality.Itacknowledgedthatapaintingisaflatsurfaceon
whichcoloredpatchesofpigmentarearranged.

Constructivism
Collagecubism

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Slide195:Picasso:Stilllifewithchaircaning.191112(Janswon771)

BraquewasoneofthepioneersofCubism,butPicassoiscreditedasbeingthereal
creatorofabstraction.

Uptonow,allsculpturecarvedormodelledfromamonolithiclumpofmaterial.But
anotherbranchofCubismchangedallthat.Asperspectivewasdroppedimagesmoved
forwardtothepictureplane.Someimageswentevenfurtherandinvadedtheviewer's
space,whenPicassoandBraqueinventedthenextstageofcubism,calledcollagecubism.

Collage=pasteup.Stuffgluedon,paintaddedlater.

Thistoo,wassomethingnewinthehistoryofart.Thickpicturesarenothingnew,recall
Donatello'sFeastofHerod.Butcollageisdifferentfromreliefcarving.Itcomesoutfrom
thepictureplaneinsteadofbeingcarvedin.Itisbuiltup.

Constructions
OT8:Picasso:Guitar,1912andViolin,191314

CollagewasfollowedbyPicasso'sandBraque'sopenworksculpture.Ledtomany
sculpturesthatwerebuiltup,piecebypiece,calledconstructivism.

NegativeSpace

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Slide1913Brancusi:BirdinSpace,1928(Janson818)

Ofcourse,monolithicsculpturedidn'tdissapear.

Slide197:HenryMoore,RecumbentFigure,1938.Jansonp.826

Butnowtheopenspaces,ornegativespace,playedamoreimportantrolethanbefore,
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andmanysculptureshadholes.

RussianConstructivism

Slide198:AntoinePevsner:Torso,c.1925(Dab.94)

ConstructivismpopularwithRussianartists,likePevsnerandGabo.ButRussian
ConstructivismgottangledupwithCommunistdoctrine,theroleoftheartistengineer,
theproductionofutilitarianobjects,therejectionofpaintingasobsolete,andsoforth,and
hadrunitscourseby1930.

Strings

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OT9:NaumGabo:TorsionBronzeVariation,1963

Picasso'sGuitarandViolin,beingstringedinstruments,had,ofcourse,strings.Other
artistsalsousedwireorrodsintheirworks.

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OT10:EncyclopediaBrittanica:MathematicalModels

HenryMooresaysheintroducedstringsin1937afterseeingmathematicalmodelsinthe
sciencemuseuminLondon,wherevolumesofsolidswereindicatedbystringsthreaded
betweengeometricfigures.

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Slide199:BarbaraHepworth:SculpturewithColor,1943.Jan826

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OT12:Picasso:ChicagoCivicCentersculpture,1967

ThisisoneofPicasso'slaterconstructions.Hedidnotidentifyit.

Suprematism

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Slide1910:KasimirMalevich,Samovar,c.1913(Dab38)

Inadditiontotheartisticrevolutionofcubismandthescientificrevolutionofrelativity
therewerepoliticalupheavalslikethefirstworldwar.FollowingthewarwastheRussian
revolution.

Malevich

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Slide1911:KasimirMalevich,WhiteonWhite1918(Jan774)

Malevich'searlypaintings,likeSamovar,werecubistinstyle.Thenhestartedsearching
forameansofexpressioncompatibletomodernvalues,tocreateanartforthenew
industrialCommuniststate.Heandothersfeltthattheolderarthadlostrelevanceina
societychangedbyindustrialtechnology,socialupheaval,andEinstein'sphysics.Builton
cubismandFuturism,itledtoamovementcalledSuprematism.

Suprematistpaintingsfeaturedausterecompositions,flatcolor,unstructuredspace,and
geometricforms.Purearttosymbolizeorderandharmonyofthenewage.Its
philosophicaljustificationcamein1908fromaGermanphilosopherWilhelmWorringer:

"...theurgetoabstractionstandsatthebeginningofeveryartandinthecaseofcertain
peoplesremainsthedominanttendency...thisurgeisbestservedthroughpure
geometricabstraction...freeofallexternalconnectionswiththeworld."

Youcan'tbemoredisconnectedthaninthispainting!MalevichhadpaintedBlackSquare
onWhiteGround,1913,whichhefeltwasthesupremesuprematistcomposition,then
WhiteonWhitein1918.WhiteonWhitewastheultimatepainting.Theproblemis,once
you'vepaintedtheperfectpainting,whatdoyoudoforanencore?Malevichquitpainting
andturnedtoarchitecture.

Beforelongthisgeometricartwasrejectedbytheveryaudienceforwhichintended.
RussiaturnedtoSocialistRealism,wheremuscularmeninoverallsandbuxomwomen
withbabushkasareshownconfidentlybuildingthenewcommuniststate.

DeStijl&Mondrian(18721944)

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Slide1912:Mondrian:Composition,1933

PietMondrian'searlyworksshowinfluenceofCubism,butgraduallyhispaintings
becomemoreabstract.Annoyedatcubistsforreversingcourseawayfromgeometric
abstraction,hetookabstractiontoitsultimateconclusionbycreatingtotalgeometric
abstractions.Hispaintingsfeatures:

simplegeometricalforms

nonaturalforms

flatpictureplane.Noperspective

pureprimarycolors

rectangulargrid

rigorouscomposition

DeStijl(thestyle)started1917,atendofWWI,whentheneedforaneworderwas
sharplyfelt.LikeSuprematism,ittoohadsenseofsocialdestiny,andwasveryutopian.
Itsgoalswere,asforSuprematists,tocreateartthatisacounterparttotheharmonious
relationsintheidealsociety.DeStijlisconsideredthepurestandmostidealofthe
movements.

Summary
Wehaveseenhowthenewgeometriesofthenineteenthcenturies,thescientific
revolutionoftheearlytwentiethcentury,andtheinventionofphotographyhave
contributedtotheradicalchangesinartoftheearlytwentiethcentury.

We'vetracedsomeoftheseinfluencesinearlyartmovements,includingFuturism,
Cubism,Constructivism,Suprematism,andDeStijl.We'veseenpicturesbecometotally
flat,manybecometotallyabstract,manytotallygeometric,andafter500yearsof

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development,perspectivewasscrapped.Inalaterunit,we'llcontinuefollowingthis
threadintothelateTwentiethCentury

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PaulCalter,1998.AllRightsReserved.DartmouthCollege.

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