Art and Innovation in 20th century- The changing landscape

I have always been attracted to new things, may it be a new phone, new invention, new national budget, new clothes, new books, new movies, new sporting events, new holiday destinations and so on.

One more things which fascinates me equally is art and innovations in art. This is no brainer as I believe, I am not alone when I behave in this fashion.

Why do we all have this thing in common? Why do we like to try out new things, make new friends, visit new places, read new books and buy new phones? It is natural to behave like this as our brain dictates this to us and we simply follow our subconscious.

The subconscious brain and the super-conscious brain (arguably) carry out innovations which leave their footprints for the mankind. Future generations follow and use them for generating more innovative ideas. This article focuses specifically on the innovations by artists (who are believed to be highly driven by subconscious and super-conscious) in the 20th century.

Art and innovations- The ties

Art and innovations have always been associated and have also been under-appreciated to an extent. I will however concentrate in this article on art and associated innovations in art in the 20th century.

Related article- Under appreciated ties between art and innovations

Art and Innovations in 20th century

The introduction of new materials and techniques both tangible and intangible helped drive art and innovations during the 20th century.

This period witnessed a new blend of traditional techniques and materials along with the innovative ideas. These innovations gave world some exquisite pieces of art to cherish for generations to come and a pool of great artists and innovators.

20th century saw an expansion in the usage of traditional material together with oil painting and sculpting leading the way into the 21st century. Pigments and materials diversified and added colours to the palette of artists.

Pablo Picasso, a household name for Artists and probably even the non-artists, led the way in terms of art and innovations in 20th century.

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art- Picasso art


List of art and innovations in 20th century

Here is a quick list of how the artists saw things differently and used innovations to raise the level of art. Creativity and innovation elevate Art and innovations associated to art to a new height and this happened in 20th century under the stewardship of several outstanding artists, some of whom are mentioned below.

Picasso, Georges Braque among others incorporated mixed materials to draw masterpieces in form of paper collage. This made way to popular digital collage of the current form.

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art- Pablo Picasso

Kinetic energy in art

Both Picasso and Marcel Duchamp pioneered the use of found objects as material for paintings and sculpture during the 1910s. Duchamp was a painter, sculptor, chess player and a writer and opened up art and innovations to a lot of future generation of artists through his work on Kinetic energy, Wheel and other forms of conceptual art which later gained in popularity. He was among the pioneers in mixing media with art.

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art Duchamp_LargeGlass

David W Galenson has mentioned in his book on conceptual revolution in 20th century about how few artists led the way of innovation to change how Art would behave to amusers in future. Abstract- Conceptual innovations in 20th century.

“From Picasso’s Cubism and Duchamp’s ready-mades to Warhol’s silkscreens and Smithson’s earthworks, the art of the twentieth century broke completely with earlier artistic traditions.

A basic change in the market for advanced art produced a heightened demand for innovation, and young conceptual innovators. From Picasso and Duchamp to Rauschenberg and Warhol to Cindy Sherman and Damien Hirst. They responded not only by creating dozens of new forms of art, but also by behaving in ways that would have been incomprehensible to their predecessors.”

Going green and women power

While West dominated innovation, East was not far behind in creating impact by value additions in subtle manners. Rabindranath Tagore was a poet, musician, writer and painting came naturally to him.

An exhibition named “Last Harvest” displayed his paintings and was declared a world event. He promoted innovations in art and used his paintings to empower women and promote increased vegetation cover. He was termed Guru due to his philanthropic innovative approach.

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art-Rabindranath_Tagore_Untitled_Dacing_Girl

Art and innovations- the aluminum paint

In the 1940s Jackson Pollock pioneered the use of silver and aluminium paint and various objects in his paintings. This fuelled the expansion of Graffiti art alongside traditional art work.

The longevity of paintings greatly increased by this innovation and gained in popularity in the later years. Varieties of paints have been added to the list that helps in making images more vibrant.

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art- Jackson Pollock

The ceramic work

Shōji Hamada is a Japanese artist famous for his ceramic work. His innovations helped the craftsmen in Japan and neighbouring countries to reinvent their art.

His art crossed national boundaries and the acclaim his innovations received in America made him a household name to all ceramic artists. It was him who helped pottery resurface in the Art Arena to complement paintings. He was declared a Living National treasure by Japan in 1955.

One of my earlier post discusses more on The Ceramic art.

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art-tea_bowl_by_Shoji_Hamada

The 3rd Dimension

In the 1950s Robert Rauschenberg came up with another dimension as an innovation by using 3- dimensional objects like tires, waste and discarded materials and stuffed animals.

He was a painter and a sculptor and has received several national and international laurels for his innovative assemblages. His early works anticipated the pop art movement.

His fusions (combines) are a combination of painting and sculpting which amused art lovers all around the globe and still continues to do so.

Related article- Robert Rauschenberg innovations

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art-Robert_Rauschenberg's_'combine'


Art and innovations- Soil and tar

Anselm Kiefer and Richard Long used mud, soil or tar in their works.

This innovation helped the environmentalist find a new medium to communicate for preservation of nature and promotion of natural resources in our day to day lives to increase our proximity with nature.

Kiefer is a Painter, photographer and sculptor. With his innovative approach, in his entire body of work, Kiefer argues with the past and addresses taboos of the history.  He has been successful in promoting art as a strong medium to fight existent prejudices.

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art_'Grane'_by_Anselm_Kiefer._Woodcut_with_paint_and_collage_on_paper

Abstract art

Mark Rothko through his abstract art reiterated the relationship Art has with meditation. Rothko Chapel, which was established in 1967 in Houston, USA by John and Dominique de Menil, houses most of the abstract art from Rothko and silent meditation is encouraged here in presence of modern art.

This was an innovation of connecting brain to an unknown zone for eternal peace through abstract pieces of art. The relationship between art and meditation is well explained by the under noted statement and the image of art at the Rothko Chapel.

“Resting the mind can be accomplished by meditation, and also by artwork, which allows the intuition to flow: the conscious mind recedes. Meditation and artwork at their best complement each other, and true things emerge.” (Candace Loheed)

Art and Innovations in 20th century- The changing landscape of Art_In_the_Tower_Mark_Rothko

Several other innovations like Dadaism, Realism, Surrealism, American Modernism etc. marked the 20th century and several other outstanding artists deserve mention in the list of great innovators of 20th century. Innovations won’t stop, nor can the natural human quest towards creativity and looking for new ideas be prevented. Innovators and creators silently weave magic to their art-works and leave their legacy behind for everyone else to follow.

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