Subject: English
Level: A Level
Exam Boards: All

Modernism | Movements, Leading Figures and their rise and fall

Movement Active From Leading figures Manifesto Description
Realism 1840 Gustave Courbet, Gustave Flaubert Courbet, “Realist Manifesto” (1855) A reaction against idealism and romanticism; realism proposed to represent life as it really was, rather than ideal beauty. “To be capable ot depicting the manners, ideas, and appearance of my time as I see it, in short, to produce living art, that is my goal.” (Courbet)
Naturalism 1860s August Strindberg, Emile Zola Zola, “The Experimental Novel” (1880 An extension of realism; naturalism intended to incorporate scientific principles, especially determinism. “The novelist is but a recorder who is forbidden to judge and to conclude” (Zola)
Impressionism 1870s Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro Jules Lafourge, “Impressionism” (1883) Inspired in part by realism; impressionism sought to convey the impression of reality at a given moment, free from academic restrictions. The impressionists rejected “the three supreme illusions by which technicians of painting have always lived- line, perspective, studio lighting.” (Lafourge)
Decadence 1880s Joris-Karl Huysmans Huysmans, “Against Nature” (1884)
A reaction against naturalism; decadence celebrated aesthetic experience and predicted the decline of Western civilisation. “To fix the last fine shade, the quintessence of things; to fix it fleetingly; to be disembodied voice, and yet the voice of a human soul: that is the ideal of Decadence.” (Arthur Symons)      
Symbolism 1880s Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud Mallarmé, “The Crisis in Poetry” (1886)
A reaction against naturalism, closely allied to decadence; symbolism fragmented syntax and logic in an attempt to capture elusive, private meanings. “To name the object is to destroy three quarters of the enjoyment of the poem, which comes from guessing at it bit by bit: to suggest the object, that is the dream. It is the perfect practice of this mystery which constitutes the symbol.” (Mallarmé)      
Aestheticism 1870s Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde Pater, “The Renaissance” (1873)
English movement celebrating art for art’s sake. Corresponds roughly to French symbolism and decadence. “For art comes to you frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake. (Pater)      
Futurism 1909s F T Marinetti Marinetti, “Futurist Manifesto” (1909) Italian movement; celebrated speed, technology and war; attacked symbolism and museums. “We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty; the beauty of speed.” (Marinetti)
Imagism 1912 H D, Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound Pound, “A Retrospect” (1918) Anglo-American movement; opposed ‘high-falutin’ poetic diction; championed free verse. “Use no superfluous word, no adjective which does not reveal something.” (Pound)
Vorticism 1913 Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound Various authors, “Long Live the Vortex” (1914) English movement inspired by futurism and imagism; adds to imagism an emphasis on movement. “The modern world is due almost entirely to Anglo-Saxon genius.” (Long Live the Vortex)
Expressionism 1911 Kasimir Edschmid, Wassily Kandinsky
Edschmid, “On Literary Expressionism” (1917) German modernist movement; celebrates the primitive forces within the individual and the breaking of rules. “In this art, each becomes the most elevated and the most deplorable of things: becomes a human being.” (Edschmid)  
Dada 1916 Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara Tzara, “Dada Manifesto” (1918) International movement; attacks the very concept of art; embraces randomness and performance art. “The abolition of memory: DADA; the abolition of archaeology: DADA; the abolition of prophets: DADA; the abolition of the future; dada.” (Tzara)
Surrealism 1920s Louis Aragon, André Breton Breton, “Manifesto of Surrealism” (1924)
Continuation of dada by other means; concerned with the unconscious mind; uneasily allied with communism. “Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any moral or aesthetic concern.” (Breton)    
Year Events Other
1848 Revolution in France Louis Napoleon elected President  
1851-2 Napoleon stages coup d’état; Second Empire begins in France  
1857   Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary prosecuted for obscenity
1863 Manet, Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Olympia  
1873 Walter Pater, The Renaissance  
1874 First Impressionist Exhibition  
1876 Queen Victoria named Empress of India  
1878 JAM Whistler sues John Ruskin for libel  
1888 Van Gogh, Night Café  
1889 Ibsen, A Doll’s House, performed in London  
1891 Gauguin first visits Tahiti  
1894 Dreyfus Affair begins in France, ending in 1899  
1895 Trials of Oscar Wilde  
1898 HG Wells, The War of the Worlds  
1899 Beginning of Boer War  
1899 Conrad, Heart of Darkness  
1900 Death of Oscar Wilde  
1901 Death of Queen Victoria  
1902 August Strindberg, A Dream Play
1906 Death of Paul Cézanne
1908 Braque and Picasso paint their first Cubist paintings
1909 Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto  
1910 Death of Edward VII According to Virginia Woolf, “on or about December, human character changes”
1911 Ezra Pound, In a Station of the Metro  
1912 Collage is introduced into Cubism  
1913 Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring; Proust, Swann’s Way  
1914 Beginning of First World War James Joyce, Dubliners
1915 TS Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  
1917 Russian Revolution  
1919 The Treaty of Versailles  
1921 Irish Free State founded Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author
1922 Joyce, Ulysses; TS Eliot, The Waste Land  
1923 Yeats awarded the Nobel Prize  
1924 Death of Franz Kafka and Vladimir Ilich Lenin Breton, Surrealist Manifesto
1925 Mussolini declares himself dictator  
1926 General strike in the UK Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
1927 Woolf, To the Lighthouse  
1929 The Great Depression begins Museum of Modern Art founded in New York
1933 Hitler comes to power in Germany  
1934 Pirandello awarded Nobel Prize
1936 Beginning of Spanish Civil War (ends 1939)
1939 Second World War begins
1941 Death of Joyce and suicide of Woolf

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