The late 19th and 20th centuries were full of various technological innovations and major social upheavals. From the conflicts brought by a world at war to the booming revolutions of industry, civilization had gotten quite a boost. This led to new ways of creative expression, in both visual art and literature, that broke the binds of tradition and classical design. The term Modernism can characterize a broad array of styles and techniques, but it encompasses the same core ideals and principals that allows a piece to be easily identified as a Modernist work.
A predominant theme in Modernism is the futility of needless embellishment. Previous forms of art and literature were so ...view middle of the document...
Virginia Woolf denounces such practices in her essay “Modern Fiction,” where she criticizes other contemporary writers such as H.G. Wells saying:
If we fasten, then, one label on all these books, on which is one word materialists, we mean by it that they write of unimportant things; that they spend immense skill and immense industry making the trivial and the transitory appear the true and the enduring.
These authors, gifted with such an amazing way of writing, are wasting all their efforts in writing five or six pages on the beauty of a specific tree, while an entire forest lies behind it. Virginia Woolf makes a huge departure from this conventional style of writing in her short story “Monday or Tuesday.” In it, she strips down her story to the absolute minimum; no plot, no character development, nothing to make the reader feel safe and warm in his routine “rise and fall” forms of literature. She illustrated what a typical novel would look like after you peel away all of the layers of excess imagery and metaphor and personification and whatever other literary techniques an author can cram into an otherwise simple tale.
Another keynote of Modernism was the idea that art is and should be relevant to everyone, not just an elite few. Take for example Ingres's “Portrait of Princess de Broglie.” Depicted is a graceful and elegant woman, adorned in a fantastic dress with many glamorous jewels. This was the image of beauty, the portrayal of the perfect woman, only achievable by those of wealth and stature. The lower class was unable to identify with such a painting because it portrayed an image they could never relate to, because it consisted of luxuries they would never be able to enjoy.
This was the exact issue that Andy Warhol addressed with his innovative pop art. He was able to blend the art world with the life of the common man, bringing beauty and meaning to even the simplest of everyday objects. Items that would be seen every day at the store, such as Brillo boxes and Campbell's Soup cans, were now looked at under a more creative lens for aspects such as color, shadow, or shape. He also made portraits of people that were well known and easily recognizable, such as Elvis or Marilyn Monroe, so that even the average may be able to look for a deeper meaning within the painting.
William Carlos Williams also demonstrates this ideal in his poems. He wrote about basic, everyday topics that everyone could understand. From wheelbarrows to hospital alleyways, the reader never had to stray far to find the object of Williams's poems, but nevertheless Williams was able to bring light and beauty to these otherwise...