Cultural Studies Homepage

Subject - CSG / CSV (Cultural Studies)

Courses: Diploma of Graphic Design (CUV50311), Diploma of Visual Art (CUV50111)

VUIT Digital Arts

Teacher Name: Lisa Cianci - email:
Education Manager: Adam Hutterer - email:

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Class 04 - Lecture Notes - Developments in Early Modern Art & Design





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Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s. The name of the style is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, Sunrise, which provoked the art critics to coin the term in a satirical review published in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari. The Impressionists were not very popular because they had a different approach to painting. At this time many artists painted in a very traditional way that involved spending hours in a studio, painstakingly creating paintings that were extremely detailed. These paintings were neo-classical or academic in style, more often than not depicting mythical subjects or historical events. The English romantic landscape painters - Joseph Turner and John Constable and the French painters - Eugene Delacroix, Jean-Francois Millet, Camille Corot and Eduard Manet, all influenced the Impressionists with either their socialist beliefs or experimental painterly techniques.

The Impressionists painted out of doors in a style called ‘plein air’ and wanted to show the more immediate effect of light and colour at particular times of the day. Their works are sometimes described as 'captured moments' and are characterized by short quick brush-strokes of colour which, when viewed up close, look quite messy and unreal. If you step back from an Impressionist painting, however, the colours are blended together by our eyes and we are able to see the painter's subject which often showed colourful landscapes, sunlight on water as well as people engaged in outdoor activities and enjoyment. Paintings by Impressionist artists have become some of the most popular artworks of all time. This is probably due to the fact that their subjects were usually pleasing and uncomplicated.


Claude Monet, “Impression, Sunrise” 1873

Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes; open composition; emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time); common, ordinary subject matter from social life; the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience; and unusual visual angles. The development of Impressionism in the visual arts was soon followed by analogous styles in other media, which became known as Impressionist and Impressionist literature. Much of what has been called "impressionist" literature is actually subsumed into a number of categories, especially Symbolism, its chief exponents being Baudelaire, Mallarme and Rimbaud.

Key impressionist artists include:
Pierre August Renoir: His work was light and lively showing scenes of daily Paris life with people socialising and enjoying entertainment.
Claude Monet who is best known for paintings of sunsets, haystacks and waterlilies.
Edgar Degas who is best known for his pictures of ballet dancers, the romantic Paris nightlife and horse racing scenes. He often used charcoal and coloured chalk to create his artworks. In his last years fading eyesight saw him painting less and turning more to sculpture and modelling.
Camille Pissarro who is known for his depictions of farm workers and landscapes.


Edgar Degas"The Absinthe Drinker” 1887



Post-Impressionist paintings were a broad reaction against Impressionism. The works continued to use the bright Impressionist palette, but rejected the Impressionism’s emphasis on the spontaneous recording of light and colour. Post-Impressionists sought to create art with a greater degree of formal order and structure. Georges Seurat’s ‘pointillist’ technique, calculated exactly which hues should be combined, in what proportion to produce the effect of a particular colour – divisionist technique; the optical mixture dots of colour, large enough to remain separate in the eye, giving his pictures a grainy appearance.



Georges Seurat “Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte” 1884-6


Vincent Van Gogh’s brushwork, led to more expressionistic styles. He recorded his heightened emotional state in paintings that contributed significantly to the emergence of the expressionistic tradition, in which the intensity of an artist’s feelings overrides fidelity to the actual appearance of things.



Vincent van Gogh “The night café” 1887

Paul Gauguin’s compositions focused on the personal and symbolic experience of colour, as opposed to the subject of light like in Impressionism.

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Paul Gauguin “The Spirit of the Dead Watching”1892

Paul Cézanne, developed a new method of paint application, which involved the use of small facets or blocks of colour and viewing the subject from multiple angles, was more was more important than subject matter itself. Cézanne dedicated himself to the objective transcription of what he called his sense of doubt before nature. Unlike the impressionists, he did not seek to capture transitory effects of light and atmosphere, but rather to create a sense of process in nature through a methodical application of colour that merged observation, drawing and modelling into a single process. His approach to the observation of nature would have a lasting influence on the Cubist and the creation of formalist abstract throughout the 20th century.


Paul Cézanne "Mont Sainte Victoire" 1904-1906



The Industrial revolution set in place a change in all aspects of life in the late ninetieth century, with technological innovations transforming society at every level. At the same time we see the advent of Marxism as an alternative to the dominance of Capitalism in Europe. Marxism is an economic and social system based upon the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism is summed up as “a theory in which class struggle is a central element in the breakdown of social change in Western societies.” As a result Marxism is seen as the opposition of capitalism, which is defined as “an economic system based on the private ownership, characterized by a free competitive market motivated by profit.” As a philosophy Marxism was to have a strong influence on cultural thought of artist and intellectuals not only at this time, also throughout the 20th century.



The Arts and Crafts Movement came about as a reaction to the industrial revolution, advocating design and craftsmanship in place of the mass production of the Victorian era. The new wealth created by the Industrial revolution established the need to supply, a newly literate and educated population in England, America, Europe and Australia (with a disposable income) with products that could be circulated and sold to an expanding market place. The new printing press technology drew the fine artist from their studios to the print factory. A link with commercial business was established that was quick to use the printing press. The commercial artist, the forerunner of the graphic designer was born. This merger of art and craft gave to craft the new visual language needed to communicate to a new consumer audience on behalf of the business. Advertising in the modern sense became a profession in its self.

The leading figure of the British Arts and Crafts movement was William Morris 1834 -1896. He was a painter, designer, printer, publisher, author, typographer and type designer. His philosophy established the work ethics of modern industrial design. He rejected the notion that art should be separated from every day life. Morris developed a quasi-socialist philosophy where the hand crafted approach to art and design would be valued over the machine aesthetic and mass production. Morris’s designs are often characterized by their intricate foliage patterns inspired by Gothic art and architecture. Morris believed that Gothic art was the best national idiom of English art for England.



William Morris (designer) and Walter Crane (illustrator), title‑page
Spread for “The Story of the Glittering Plain”, 1894.

In 1861 he formed Morris and Co, the firm designed and manufactured tapestries, wallpaper and complete interiors. It was particularly well known for stain glass, examples of which can be seen in churches throughout England.



William Morris “Guinevere and Iseult” Cartoon for stained glass, 1862



William Morris “Bird wall hanging”, (detail). Wool woven double cloth. 1878

Between 1840 and 1914 the Arts and Crafts movement flourished in America largely through the Chicago Society of Arts and Crafts and the Arts Institute of Chicago and would eventually come to influence one of the 20th century’s greatest architect’s Frank Lloyd Wright, who is credited for instigating the move in America away from 19th century craft to 20th century architecture. 



Frank Lloyd Wright. Tree of Life Window (detail) from the Darwin D. Martin House, 1904



Frank Lloyd Wright “Dana Thomas House interior”, Springfield, Illinois.



Inspired by the Arts and Craft movement, Art Nouveau emerged in Europe in the late 1880s to become a universal design style, embracing all areas of the visual arts and architecture. The style was characterized by fluid, curvaceous lines, which were inspired by nature and included loose tendrils, flower and leaf motifs. It is still considered that the best of all Art Nouveau interiors were produced in Paris, where the unity of art and life was the declared aim of this new style whose sensuous and graceful lines were more eloquent than the sobriety of Arts and crafts design. Purists today still prefer to apply the term art nouveau only to the largely nature inspired curvilinear French pieces made at Paris, although the influence was widespread. In Europe, England, America and Australia builders, designers, artists and craftspeople all responded to the asymmetry and organic sensuality of art nouveau design.



Victor Horta Staircase - Hotel Tassel 1893


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Louis Comfort Tiffany ”Lamp with Dragonflies” 1891

Dating from the 1880s to the outset of World War 1, Art Nouveau was a rebellion against the entire Victorian sensibility, steeped as it was in the past and moral regulation. Aubrey Beardsley was a controversial English illustrator and author. His drawings in black ink, influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the reactionary art movement, which also included Oscar Wilde and James Whistler. Beardsley's contribution to the development of the Art Nouveau was significant, despite the brevity of his career before his early death.



Aubrey Beardsley “The peacock skirt”, print for Salome by Oscar Wilde 1893


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Aubrey Beardsley “The masque of the red death” print 1892


Fashion and Art Nouveau

As Art Nouveau spread through countries and across media, it is not a surprise that it also came to influence the fashion world. The flowing lines and organic forms of the Art Nouveau style are reflected in the clothes of the era, especially in ladies dresses, the skirts of which were full and bell shaped, flowing lines. Women were heavily represented in Art Nouveau, the shapes and curves of the female form were a natural and important aspect of the flowing, sinuous and organic lines that make the Art Nouveau style so instantly recognisable. Women are represented in the work of the movement in almost every medium, from jewellery to domestic furnishings and from prints and paintings to architecture and metalwork.



Toulouse Lautrec – “In the Salon of the Rue des Moulins”, 1894



Alfonse Mucha “Summer” 1892

Art Nouveau took its inspiration from nature to create decoration and typeface from organic foliate forms and curvilinear motifs. Art Nouveau used an elegant figurative style of illustration encompassing mannered figures, floral motifs, and whiplash lines drawn with characteristic heavy out lines.



Toulouse Lautrec,Queen of Joy Colour lithograph 1892


Some of the most original artist and designers emerged during this period including Toulouse Lautrec and Alfonse Mucha. Their layout and typeface included vignettes and ornaments used to embellish the page and colours of desaturated earthy hues that reflected the organic nature of the design. Colour was used harmoniously bright clashing colours were avoided.


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Alfonse Mucha, "Zodiac", 1896. Colour lithograph. 65.7 x 48.2 cm.


The exponents of the Art Nouveau style in Paris hoped to revolutionize every aspect of design in order to set a standard that would be compatible with the new modern age particularly in Paris that came to epitomize all that was radical and new. For a while Art Nouveau was seen as a way for art and industry to derive a vision of the future together. Although the Art Nouveau decorative style was ultimately limited and thus incapable of realizing such a vision it did provide a stepping-stone that the Modernist would later employ to attain that future.



Gustave Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, 1889 - For the World Fair of 1900.



Art Nouveau flourished in other European countries, taking on an individual style in each. In Austria led by the young painter Gustav Klimt, the movement was known as the Vienna Secession. The Secession rejected the over abundance of floral ornamentation favoured by French Art Nouveau and turned to the more controlled use of line and decoration, taking inspiration from classical form and symbolism.



Gustav Klimt “The Tree of Life” 1905


In 1903 led by artist Kolman Moser and Josef Hoffman the Viennese workshop opened as an extension of the Secession. The graphic designs produced there where very distinctive and influential. The colours where iridescent metallic and strong hues of green, red and orange, as well as more subtle light ochre back grounds. Innovative materials were also used such as linen and transparent paper. They created a hand drawn typeface following the Art Nouveau ethic of flowing organic form.



Joseph Hoffman

The work of Gustav Klimt and other members of the Vienna Secession including Egon Schiele, embodied the psychological, erotic and artistic preoccupations of Vienna at the turn of the century. Faced with a society in which death and sexuality were regarded as elements of chaos and therefore prohibited as proper subjects for art, Klimt and Schiele seemed from this time on to be directed more than ever to be engaged in a demanding, turbulent and sometimes frightening quest, in search of answers to the definitive questions of human existence and human expression.



Gustav Klimt “Time” 1903



Egon Schiele “Death And The Maiden “ 1907

Vienna was places of extraordinary intellectual and cultural breakthroughs including the advent of psychoanalysis due to the work of Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, the unconscious is the source of our motivations, whether they are simple desires for food or sex, neurotic compulsions, or the motives of an artist or scientist. And yet, we are often driven to deny or resist becoming conscious of these motives, and they are often available to us only in disguised form. These ideas where to have a profound effect on the artistic outcomes of Modern art throughout the 20th century.


Discussion & Participation

Group Discussion - your essay topic

You should know by this week what you will be writing about. We will go around the room in an informal style, and you will tell us the following three things...

Which artist/s are you selecting and have you found them to be the most engaging and are they relevant to your practice?

How you are researching?

What types of sources are you using and where are you finding them?

There are no right or wrong answers, you just need to PARTICIPATE and be ENGAGED!!

You can also ask questions and ask for help with problem areas you are facing.


Online Participation:

Research and gather material and examples in written a visual form that helps you articulate the aims and objectives of the Impressionist and Post Impressionist, Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession. Discover examples of their styles, visual elements and imagery.

Pick ONE artist/designer mentioned today in the lecture and make a short response (300 - 500 words) in the online dicsussion area that you will be shown in VU Collaborate.


Some starting points for research:



What are the visual elements found in Impressionist art including:

Line - Form - Colour - Composition - Texture ?


What are the themes found in Impressionist art?

Many Impressionists used landscape; investigate the artists and their work.

What does Plein air mean and how was it represented by some Impressionist artists? Discover examples.


The theme of Social life was represented best in the works of which Impressionist artist? Discover examples.

How was Post Impressionism different from Impressionism?

Post Impressionism consisted of which artists? Discover examples of their work.

What where the legacies of Post Impressionism on the 20th century?


Identify three graphic designs by William Morris. Describe his use of motifs and composition technique.

Investigate the graphic designs by Toulouse Lautrec and Alfonse Mucha. Describe their composition techniques, motifs and colour.

How did Art Nouveau differ from Arts and Crafts?


What was the Vienna Secession?

Describe the work of Gustav Klimt.

Describe the themes explored in Klimt’s artwork.