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Art History Essay

World War I virtually severed artistic relations between America and Europe. Cultural interchange and patronage was interrupted by problems of social and political urgency, though most artists tended to be antiwar. Visual propaganda was left to the commercial designers and illustrators, while American painters continued in their efforts to consolidate the issues detonated by the Armory show. Dominant tendency in American painting after World War I towards cubism and abstraction was called “Precisionism”.

The artists of this group had been influenced by cubism, which they saw in the work of Marcel Duchamp, a French Dada painter who appeared in New York City after 1915. Unlike European Cubism, where objects tended to break apart visually into numerous planes, Precisionists tried to reduce forms to their simplest shapes, up to the point of being abstract. For all of the artists working in this style, precisionism meant getting rid of all visual excess.

Buildings and forms were reduced to basic geometric shapes, and the volume of buildings was adjusted to create a balanced, austere composition. Curves and straight edges were carefully balanced. Often, buildings or objects were isolated and removed from any context so that an abstract quality results. Precisionism was based in realism, but was controlled by geometric simplification stemming from cubism. The works are almost photographically realistic, stripped of almost all detail. Precisionism was widespread between 1920 and 1935, and continued on a smaller scale through the 1940s.

As was true with most American art movements of the 20th century, the precisionist artists reflected the American concern with the growing industrial scene, machinery, the city, and even prosaic elements of the architectural landscape. As American business grew, the need for urban office space expanded. In most cities, architects could create office space only by building upward. Typical office towers had self-supporting outer stone or brick walls, with the interior structure formed by a skeleton of iron columns and wrought iron beams.

James Bogardus was a nineteenth-century American inventor, machinist, architect, engineer, manufacturer, and builder. His inventions included the eccentric mill, the self-supporting cast iron faade, and most importantly, the skeletal steel-framework of our urban environment. With the construction of The First Cast Iron House Erected in 1850 he had created the first all-iron building ever. In photography during the 19th century there were many revelations as well that happened in America, such as the flexible film invented by George Easton.

However one of the prime movers to premiere photography as an art form was Alfred Stieglitz. Through his own pictures, he showed expression and evoked feeling in viewers. In Fifth Avenue style was created by weather, mood, and atmosphere which all created significant textures. He was also the first to ever have a gallery: Gallery 291. Here he displayed his own works as well as others and it was all strictly photography. After reviewing the varieties of artistic breakthroughs that occurred here in America, it is the idea, the creativity, and the drive to be different, which makes American art.

Although some may have been influenced by European styles and may even appear indifferent, its the concept behind the work. Its the influence of the times in America that only an American can feel, whether it be war, money, farm life, or city life. The art was created from a world built upon industry and how to function and prosper within that society. It was the expression of those feelings induced by social hardships and economic triumphs which was the foundation for new art styles.

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