Sunday, August 19, 2012

African Influence on Modern Art

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There were and will continue be artists whose work was/is greatly influenced by the art of Africa. The earliest of these artists were found in France in the beginning of the 0th century. Such artists are Maurice de Vlamick, Emil Nolde, Andre Derain and Amedeo Modigliani. Of the artists listed Vlamick is considered to be the first of these to realize and appreciate the value of African Art.

Vlaminck a self-professed ``primitive, dismissed “affluent” art seen in the Louvre, and chose to collect African masks which in turn became invaluable to early 0th-century art. Derain also showed a “primitive” wildness. His late work, after 11, showed the influence of many styles-including African sculpture-and tended to become increasingly traditional and derivative, characterized by muted color and elaborated technique.

Emil Nolde was another artist who showed interest in the arts of Africa. His grotesque faces, as seen in the Head of Christ (below), demonstrate this interest in primitive societies and cultures. Nolde belonged to the group of artists characterized by German Expressionism. Their goal was not to illustrate objective reality but the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events that excited the artist and people in general.

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Many German Expressionists studied sub-equatorial African art, trying to incorporate elements such as the masks and carvings into their works. Franz Marc was another such expressionist. Marc had painted many different things; but found his passion and talent with animals. Prior to Marc, only ethnic and primeval artists only placed an emphasis on animals.

Amedeo Modigliani was an Italian painter who spent most of his life painting in Paris. At first Modigliani’s work was strongly influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec. However, after meeting with Vlamick in Paris and being exposed to African art (especially masks) he soon adapted the unique style of elongated distortion and strong linear rhythms of African sculpture. His portrait sculptures are reflective of African masks. This is evidenced in paintings such as Madame Kisling and Adrienne (woman with bangs) seen below respectively.

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