‘’Arman, why do you paint like that?’’ This is the question which the first Venezuelan modernist painter, Armando Reverón (1889–1954) sought to escape when he began leading a self- imposed Robinson Crusoe existence in the Caribbean village Macuto. Although an eccentric and a schizophrenic, Reverón spent the major part of his life in endless, yet groundbreaking attempts to make the invisible visible by capturing pure light. In 1917, the repressive Venezuelan government declared artists enemies of the state, which prompted him to flee the tense political situation. In Macuto Reverón built his Castillete (‘a little castle’) — both a rustic…

The Situationist International (SI) was a revolutionary postwar group, founded in 1957 by French Marxist philosopher and filmmaker Guy Debord and Danish artist Asger Jorn. Operating primarily in Paris, the SI was a truly international organization within the scope of Europe and North Africa, which developed a critique of late capitalist society through an amalgam of Marxist theory and surrealism. This included strong antagonistic tendencies directed not only at capitalist cornerstones, such as mass production and the unification of labor, but also at other aspects of the system like leisure and commodity. Debord explicitly stated that a principle objective of…

Han van Meegeren (1889–1947) remains in history as the creator of the most scandalous forgeries of 17th-century artworks by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. An alleged Nazi collaborator, a drug addict, a promising artist, victim of unjustified criticism, Van Meegeren has been the subject of much art historical debate. Two main questions raised by his work will thus be the subject of this article: what was it that made his forgeries so plausible that they fooled major authorities of the art world, and are his paintings necessarily inferior in aesthetic value to authentic artworks?

To answer the first question, it…

The Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti has entered the art historical canon as one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. Primarily active in Paris, Giacometti’s early work was conceived under the sign of Surrealism. It centred on the repressed subconscious, enigmatic subject matter, sexuality and aggression. Nevertheless, the sculptures that he produced from 1947 onwards abandoned the surrealist visual vocabulary and turned to an entirely novel approach to art. …

Leon Ferrari is the only twentieth century artist who dedicated a major part of his artistic oeuvre to deconstructing the relationship between the Christian notion of Hell and human violence. His work opposes the tendency of understanding the post-war era as a period of desacralisation and predominant secularism. Examining the biblical notions of good and evil, Ferrari’s work sits in the gray area between artistic appropriation and blasphemy. In particular, it considers the Christian theme of just punishment for the sinful as an ideological basis for present-day warfare and military violence.

Concerns with Biblical ethics were always integral to Ferrari’s…

Hungarian photographer Gyula Halász, more widely known as Brassaï (1899–1984), formed an integral part of the artistic scene of Paris between the two world wars, creating some of the most striking examples of night photography. Brassaï’s oeuvre was eclectically influenced by Surrealism, Italian Baroque, French Realism, and European literature, articulating a visual result of 1930s culture. Although his photographs cannot be classified as belonging to any single art movement the qualities, which they share with Surrealism and Realism bring to mind the debates around photography’s dual nature — its documentary as opposed to its artistic aspects. …

‘Light is the life of everything it touches’. These words were the guiding principle of the oeuvre of the Spanish luminist painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923), whose prolific artistic output is paradigmatic of the varying modernist tendencies of fin-de-siecle Europe. Luminism in itself, a term often criticized by art historians for its rather arbitrary usage, is considered in its modern variant a derivation of Impressionism. It differs from Impressionism chiefly by a preserved adherence to line and figuration. Impressionist painting is characterized by the swift dabs of paint that constitute its surface, emphasizing the picture plane, and by the…

Proclaimed by Pablo Neruda ‘perhaps the greatest of all Mexican painters’, María Izquierdo was born in 1902 in San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco. She was active at a time when Muralists such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco (also known as ‘los tres grandes’ or ‘the three great ones’) were putting forward a view of Mexican art that was largely concerned with establishing an idea of the male, socialist hero and class struggle as the epitome of mexicanidad (Mexican-ness).

Lygia Pape (1929–2004) proved to be one of the most prominent Brazilian artists of the 20th century. Her work is marked by a shift from a formalist concern with geometric abstraction to a multimedia approach, encompassing installation, performance, video and conceptual art. Pape’s early years (1940s-50s) were characterized by her affiliation with the Concrete movement, which was profoundly influenced by European avant-gardes such as De Stijl, Russian Constructivism and the Bauhaus. This development in the Brazilian artistic scene was largely due to the return to democracy in 1945 and the industrialization after the eight-year long dictatorship of GetúlioVargas. …

Remedios Varo (1908–1963) was a Spanish-born Surrealist painter who, similarly to a number of twentieth century artists, did not abandon the search for spirituality at a time of immense theological crisis. Her most famous works were created during the 50s and 60s — after she moved to Mexico — resulting from Varo’s increasing interest in esoteric teachings and mysticism. This is when a definitive split can be observed between Bretonian Surrealism and that of the group of artists, such as Gunther Gerzso and Leonora Carrington, with which Varo was associated. …

Rada Georgieva

Art History and Russian MA student at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

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