Words on Art circa 1931


Still Life with Glass of Red Wine, Ozenfant, 1921

I’ve been doing a lot of research for the Impressionism to Post Impressionism art history class I am currently teaching . I have a book by the French cubist painter and writer Amédéé Ozenfant. I really enjoy his writing and it has been fun to just spend time with his book Foundations of Modern Art. Here are some passages in relationship to how art evolved at the end of the 19th century/beginning of 20th. Some of these can be applied to broad concepts, not just about art:

– The free thinking rationalism and materialism of the past have brought about individualism which is responsible for lyricism, irrationalism and anti-realism… Such demolition was necessary in order that art might one day attain the truest freedom from every limiting influence.

– Art would perish if it went on idiotically admiring its navel and repeating that it was free, free, free.

– The aspect of the arts changes, not because of fashion, as is often thought, but because the new conditions that affect society and the artist brings with them new demands… This does not at all imply that ancient masterpieces are out of date, for certain demands within us happen to be permanent. [Beauty, structure, order, variety, contrast (my thoughts)].

– Any creative effort is truly related to its epoch when is can satisfy the totality of needs of that epoch, including those which are still inarticulate and of which the greatest artists have as it were a presentiment. The needs of an epoch=eternal needs+recent needs+tomorrow’s needs.

– The search for intensity dominates the whole of modern painting. There can be no intensity without simplification and no intensity without distortion.