Modern and Contemporary

Highlights of NOMA’s European modern paintings include outstanding examples of the important art movements of the 20th Century: Fauvism, Cubism, Die Brücke, Blaue Reiter, School of Paris, Surrealism and l’art brut.

Fauvism burst onto the Paris art scene with the 1905 Salon d’Automne. The artists were dubbed fauves, or “wild beasts” for their bold, subjective use of color. Kees van Dongen, one of the original Fauves, is represented with his work Woman in a Green Hat. NOMA’s collection of works from the Fauvist movement also includes Maurice de Vlaminck’s The Seine, André Derain’s Landscape at Cassis, and Georges Braque’s Landscape, l’Estaque. Braque, along with Picasso, was one of the most important figures in the development of 20th Century art because of his role as a founder of the Cubist movement in 1908, shortly after he completed Landscape, l’Estaque.

Pablo Picasso’s work is characterized by continuous radical change. After his Blue and Rose periods of 1901-1907, Picasso joined with Braque in developing the wholly new artistic style called Cubism. He once stated, “I am always a Cubist,” but Picasso never ceased to explore the expand the pictorial possibilities that emerged in the Cubist Revolution. Later, Picasso merged political and psychological tension and anguish into much of his work.

The Cubism movement is also evidenced in sculpture, such as Jacques Lipchitz’s Bather, which allows the exploration of cubism from all sides and angles.

Amedeo Modigliani was the epitome of the bohemian, left-bank artist of the School of Paris, enjoying the city’s cafés and nightlife. His controlled design and individually mannerist mode was unique in the Parisian art world of the day, which was largely preoccupied with Fauvism and Cubism.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was a founding and dominant figure of Die Brücke, or The Bridge, a group of German Expressionist artists who put great emphasis upon the instinctive, spontaneous and subjective. Die Brücke artists expressed their strong emotional attitudes toward their subject matter in a forceful style.

Wassily Kandinsky was the initial practitioner of non-objective art and a founding member of Blaue Reiter [Blue Rider], the second Expressionist group movement in Germany. Kandinsky’s Search for Several Circles demonstrated his fascination for the circle, the form which he believed “points most clearly to the Fourth Dimension.”

Henri Matisse was another giant of 20th Century art, ranking with Picasso in the quality and quantity of his production. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and papier découpés, works using paper cut-outs which Matisse called “drawing with scissors.” The work Jazz is from one of his eight illustrated books which rank among his most outstanding achievements.

The Surrealist Movement is well-represented in NOMA’s collection by such works as Max Ernst’s Gulf Stream, with his signature creative rubbing techniques, Joan Miró‘s Portrait of a Young Girl, and René Magritte’s Witty Fantasy, The Art of Conversation.

Jean Dubuffet’s art fits into no particular school or movement, and continually challenges the traditional aesthetic of the beautiful. Dubuffet came to create what he called l’art brut, or “raw art,” in which ordinary and banal subjects are exploited to shock the viewer out of accepted aesthetic responses.

NOMA’s collection of American Modern and Contemporary art ranges from the Impressionism of Mary Cassatt to the modernism of Georgia O’Keeffe, from the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock to the dynamic and varied work of contemporary artists. Also noteworthy is the Museum’s Photography Collection, Prints and Drawings Collection, and the planned Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden which encompass many 20th Century treasures.

Among the visionary and generous donors who have contributed fine art to NOMA’s 20th Century collections, in addition to the Besthoff Family, are Mrs. P. Roussel Norman, the late Muriel Bultman Francis, the late Victor K. Kiam, and the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation.

Georgia O’Keeffe developed a highly individualistic style in her paintings of sprawling desert landscapes and unfolding flowers. Her work is distinguished by her ability to distill the essence of natural forms through the use of simplification and soft color.

Marsden Hartley experimented with the range of European art movements from Post-Impressionism to Cubism to German Expressionism. In The Ice Hole, Maine, Hartley uses a stitch-like brushstroke influenced by the Post-Impressionist Swiss painter, Giovanni Segantini.

Ralston Crawford was a notable participant in the development of American modernism. His work, based upon observation, emphasized the two-dimensionality of the canvas and demonstrated the balance, indeed tension, between abstraction and representation.

Jackson Pollock was the most famous Abstract Expressionist or “action painter” of his generation, exerting a tremendous influence in the New York art world. Pollock is known for drizzling and flinging different kinds of paint, the work of art being created through the action of his own body movements.

Joseph Cornell is an enigmatic figure in 20th Century art. He lived an almost hermetic life but created miniature, magical assemblages inspired by Surrealist concepts of poetry. Radar Astronomy is one of Cornell’s several boxes on the theme of space.

Milton Avery, who began his career as a commercial artist, is known for both the style and highly personal content of his work. He is considered, along with O’Keeffe and Hartley, to have forged an indigenous modern American artistic idiom.

Robert Gordy, one of the Louisiana artists who achieved national prominence during the 1970s, featured abstracted female figures in a two-dimensional, decorative landscape in many of his pieces. Gordy is also known for integrating positive and negative space in a pattern within each of his works.

Stung by the Wasp and the Cross We Have to Bear