Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Modernism - Barnett Newman

American Modernist artist Barnett Newman(1905-1970) is renowned for being one of the leading figures in colour field painting and abstract expressionism.

The title of this painting, Vir Heroicus Sublimus, translates to "Man, heroic and sublime". Created using flatly painted saturated oil paint, Newman's work was often overlooked in favour of more colourful characters such as Jackson Pollock, who made use of more expressive brushwork.

The vastness of this painting in person creates an engulfing environment , broken only by five thin vertical stripes. Newman drew inspiration for this piece from Alberto Giacometti's bone-thin sculptures of the human form, and the signature stripes or "zips" as he called them, in is paintings, are said to symbolize figures against a void. 

Barnett Newman. 2011. Barnett Newman. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 2011].

The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army - An example of Modernism used in culture today.

"Modernism is a term widely used, but rarely defined. Though restricted largely to the Anglo-American world, it is ubiquitous within that sphere, used not only in academic writing, but in the arts pages of newspapers and magazines, and on television and radio, yet it's ubiquity hides a surprising vagueness and ambiguity of meaning. The Oxford English Dictionary cites, as did Samuel Johnson's Dictionary (London 1755), as a term of derogation for those he thought abused contemporary language. Nineteenth century usage varied, but the term often meant something characteristically modern. Modernism was rarely accompanied by a formulated idealogical or aesthetic definition, rather it was used to describe the new, or in a slightly different form, a person who was an advocate of the new (a Modernist)."

Modernism - Designing a New World, by Christopher Wilk, 2006, p12-13

Upon further research, I have discovered that the term Modernism has no definitive meaning, but is used worldwide as a description of something new, radical, and modern, either aesthetically in the art and architectural world, in literature, or even television.

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