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AMERICAN MODERNISM American modernism is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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  • American modernism is a trend of thought that
    affirms the power of human beings to create,
    improve, and reshape their environment, with the
    aid of scientific knowledge, technology and
    practical experimentation, being in its essence
    both progressive and optimistic.
  • It covers many political, cultural and artistic
    movements rooted in the changes in Western
    society at the end of the nineteenth and
    beginning of the twentieth century.
  • American modernism is an artistic and cultural
    movement in the United States starting at the
    turn of the 20th century with its core period
    between World War I and World War II and
    continuing into the 21st century.

Modernist Art
  • Modernist art has a tendency to abstraction, is
    innovative, aesthetic, futuristic and
    self-referential. It includes visual art,
    literature, music, film, design, architecture as
    well as life style.
  • It reacts against historicism, artistic
    conventions and institutionalization of art. Art
    was not only to be dealt with in academies,
    theaters or concert halls, but to be included in
    everyday life and accessible for everybody.

  • In the past, cultural institutions concentrated
    on fine art and scholars paid little attention to
    the revolutionary styles of modernism.
  • Economic and technological progress in the U.S.
    during the Roaring Twenties gave rise to
    widespread utopianism, which influenced some
    modernist artists, while others were skeptical of
    the embrace of technology.
  • The victory in World War I confirmed the status
    of the U.S. as an international player and gave
    the people self-confidence and a feeling of
  • In this context American modernism marked the
    beginning of American art as distinct and
    autonomous from European taste by breaking
    artistic conventions that had been shaped after
    European traditions until then.

Social changes
  • American modernist design and architecture
    enabled people to lead a modern life.
  • Work and family life changed radically and
    rapidly due to the economic upswing during the
  • In the U.S. the car became popular and
    affordable for many, leisure time and
    entertainment gained importance and the job
    market opened up for women.
  • In order to make life more efficient, designers
    and architects aimed at the simplification of

Late Modernism and Postmodernism
  • The Great Depression at the end of the '20s and
    during the '30s disillusioned people about the
    economic stability of the country and eroded
    utopianist thinking.
  • The outbreak and the terrors of the World War II
    caused further changes in mentality. The Post-war
    period that followed is termed late Modernism.
  • The Postmodernist era is generally considered
    characteristic of the art of the late 20th
    century beginning in the 1980s.

  • The suffrage law was passed in the United States
    in 1920 for women who were householders or wives
    of householders and in 1928 for all adult women.
    (African-American women were not included. They
    only received the right to vote in the Civil
    Rights Movement of the 1960s.)
  • The National Organization for Women (NOW) was
    founded in 1966 by a group of feminists. The
    largest women's rights group in the U.S. NOW
    aimed to end sexual discrimination, especially in
    the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying,
    litigation, and public demonstrations.
  • The following years of the late 20th century
    witnessed a great expansion of women's rights in
    all areas of the modern society.

Gender and Sexuality
  • The upcoming interest in popular psychology,
    especially Freudian theories, encouraged a new
    approach to gender roles and sexuality in the
  • It also promoted the breaking up of traditional
    gender roles. They were no longer exclusively
    male or female but there was also an
    acknowledgment of homosexuality, feminine men,
    and masculine women.
  • The concept of sexuality became multi-layered.
  • Women writers became the subjects of extensive
    literary study. Gay and lesbian communities
    became revalued as patterns of modern aesthetic
    experimentation, and sexual identity and gender
    formation were interpreted in a new way.

  • Early in the 20th century, jazz evolved from the
    blues tradition, but also incorporated many other
    musical and cultural elements.
  • In New Orleans, often considered to be the birth
    place of jazz, musicians benefited from the
    influx of Spanish and French colonial influences.
  • In this city, a unique ethnic cultural mix and
    looser racial prohibitions allowed African
    Americans more influence than in other regions of
    the South.
  • The Spanish American War brought Northern
    soldiers to the region with their bands. The
    resulting music adopted sounds from the new brass
  • During the Great Migration, jazz spread from New
    Orleans to New York, Chicago, and other cities,
    incorporating new sounds along the way.
  • Harlem, New York City, became the new center for
    the jazz age.

American Modernist Painting
  • There is no single date for the beginning of the
    modern era in America, as dozens of painters were
    active at the beginning of the 20th century.
  • It was the time when the first cubist
    landscapes, still-lives and portraits appeared
    bright colors entered the palettes of painters,
    and the first non-objective paintings were
    displayed in the galleries.
  • The beginning of American modernist painting can
    be dated to the 1910s. The early part of the
    period lasted 25 years and ended around 1935,
    when modern art was referred to as avant-garde.

Contributions of Visual Arts
  • Modernism bridged the gap between the art and a
    socially diverse audience in the U.S. A growing
    number of museums and galleries aimed at bringing
    modernity to the general public.
  • Despite initial resistance to the celebration of
    progress, technology, and urban life, the visual
    arts contributed enormously to the
    self-consciousness and awareness of the American
    people. New modernist painting shined a light on
    the emotional and psychic states of the audience,
    which was fundamental to the formation of an
    American identity.
  • Numerous directions of American "modernism" did
    not result in one coherent style, but evoked the
    desire for experiments and challenges. It proved
    that modern art goes beyond fixed principles.

What is an American Icon?
  • American Icons are people or objects that are
    representative of American modernism.
  • Generally speaking, these famous human beings
    and well-known objects are called icons since,
    apart from radiating an aura of uniqueness as
    well as originality , they awoke public interest
    in this period and have had a lasting influence
    on future generations.
  • Thus, they serve as focal points for collective
    memory or identity at present. Even some people
    in Europe still recognize them as symbols of
    American modernism.
  • An icon captures the atmosphere of a particular
    period/country and is acknowledged by
    contemporary societies as well as future

New York City
  • New York City is one of the most iconic cities in
    the United States and one of the major global
    cities of the world due to its important
    business, financial, trading and cultural
    organizations, such as Wall Street, United
    Nations, the Metropolitan Museum of Arts and
    Broadway theaters with their (in that time
    innovative) electric lighting.
  • It is regarded as the birthplace of many
    American cultural movements, including the Harlem
    Renaissance in literature and abstract
    expressionism in visual art.

New York City II
  • New York City is iconic not only for Americans
    but also for many Europeans as the city of
    melting pot where many different ethnic groups
    live often in ghettos such as Chinatown, Little
  • In American modernism, New York became the first
    stop for immigrants seeking a better life. The
    city's population boomed, 5 boroughs were formed,
    the New York City Subway was opened and became a
    symbol of progress and innovation.
  • The city also saw the construction of
    skyscrapers in the skyline.

Charlie Chaplin
  • Charlie Chaplin is regarded as a movie icon.
  • Born in London, and while not a U.S. citizen, he
    had a strong sense of belonging to American
  • Chaplin became famous after starring in his
    first movie, Making a Living, (1914). As a
    10-year-old boy "he worked as a mime on the
    British vaudeville circuit".
  • The fact that he was once very poor inspired his
    Tramp's trademark. He created a distorted version
    of a formal dinner suit (which was regarded to be
    a symbol of an adult man personified) combined
    with the attitude of an innocent child.

The Model-T Ford
  • Icons are usually capable of conveying awareness
    of tradition and the notion of progress.
  • Some concepts of modernism in the U.S. were the
    sense of forward-looking contemporaneity , the
    belief in the power and potential of the machine
    and industrial technology and the emphasis on
  • All these aspects can be associated with the
    1913 Model-T Ford.
  • By using assembly-line systems, Henry Ford and
    his men applied continuous-process principles
    during its production.
  • Many unskilled immigrants were employed by the
    expanded Ford factory in order to meet the
    increasing demand for this material icon of
    American modernism on the emerging mass market.
  • In consequence, the foreign workers contribution
    helped highlight the myth of The American Melting

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Everyday Life and Culture
  • The modernist movement caused vast changes in
    societies in which it took place.
  • With the introduction of industrial developments,
    the American people started to enjoy the outcome
    of the new modernist era.
  • Everyday life and culture are the areas that
    reflected the social change in the habits of the
  • Developments that occurred with modernism
    influenced American people life standards and
    gave way to new style of living.

Everyday Life II
  • Widespread use of electricity and mass production
    of technological house appliances like
    refrigerator brought about the change of eating
    habits of American people.
  • Use of frozen food became more common. Foods
    formerly manufactured solely for army use were
    put on the civilian market.
  • Dried food products also became popular after the
  • The frozen orange juice quickly overtook fresh
    squeezed orange juice in most American homes.

Everyday Life III
  • With the increasing number of automobiles,
    American people started to get out of their homes
    and had dinner outside.
  • As a consequence, new highways were built. The
    number of drive-ins increased immediately.
  • Drive-ins became part of the social life in
    America by the end of 1940.

Modern life on farms
  • Electricity changed the lives of farm families,
    from the moment they got up early in the morning,
    through meals, chores, and work until they went
    to bed at night.
  • Electricity brought power for lights to work,
    read, and sew at night power for appliances like
    refrigerators and freezers to preserve food
    power for small kitchen devices such as mixers
    and blenders and power for other labor saving
    devices such as electric stoves, irons and
    clothes washers.
  • Electricity brought changes that just made life
    safer and better like colored lights instead of
    dangerous candles on Christmas trees,
    refrigerators to keep food fresh and electric
    fans to bring relief on a hot summer day.

Modern Fashion
  • In the early 1920s, the ready-to-wear fashion
    began to spread in America.
  • More women earned their own wages and didnt want
    to spend time on fittings.
  • Fashion as the status symbol was no more
    important as class distinctions were becoming
  • People especially women called for inexpensive

Womens Fashion
  • By 1921 the longer skirt, which was usually long
    and uneven at the bottom was out of date.
  • The short skirt became popular by 1925. No
    bosom, no waistline, and hair nearly hidden under
    a cloche hat.
  • The manufacturing of cosmetics also began from
    this decade. Powder, lipstick, rouge, eyebrow
    pencil, eye shadow, colored nails, women had them
  • Moreover, pearls came in fashion as well.

Mens Fashion
  • In this period, the clothing for men was a bit
    more conservative.
  • Trousers widened to 24 inches at the bottoms.
  • Knickers, increased the width and length, were
    called "plus fours".
  • During the summer white linen was popular, while
    in the winter an outstanding American coat - the
    raccoon coat - was in fashion.
  • The slouch hat, made of felt, could be rolled up
    and packed into a suitcase. These were very
    popular with the college men.

Modernist American Literature
  • Modernist literature in America dealt with such
    topics as racial relationships, gender roles and
  • It reached its peak in America in the 1920s up to
    the 1940s.
  • Among the representative writers of the period
    we may find Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams,
    F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and William
  • Some historians also include Walt Whitman,
    who,though belonging to the 19th century poets,
    is sometimes regarded as a pioneer of the
    modernist era in America.

The Great Gatsby
  • The modernist period also brought changes to the
    portrayal of gender roles and especially to
    women's role in society.
  • It is an era under the sign of emancipation and
    change in society, issues which reflect
    themselves in the literature of the period, as
  • Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, for
    example, deals with such topics as gender
    interaction in a mundane society.

Hemingway and Steinbeck
  • Influenced by the first World War, American
    modernist writers, such as Ernest Hemingway,
    offer an insight into the psychological wounds
    and spiritual scars of the war experience.
  • The economic crisis in America at the beginning
    of the 1930s also left a mark on the literary
    creations of the period, such as John Steinbeck's
    The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Nevertheless, all these negative aspects led to
    new hopes and aspirations, and to the search for
    a new beginning, not only for the contemporary
    individuals, but also for the fictional
    characters in American modernist literature.