There will always be names missed that may be deserving, but this is the last of our blogs on some of the great modern artists of the movement, including Impressionist master of movement Degas, Gauguin the Post-Impressionist who most admired him, Moore the great name of abstract sculpture, Chagall’s luminous stained glass colours, and Braque, Picasso’s partner in the creation of Cubism.
Edgar Degas, the Impressionist that painted dancers
Best known for his paintings of dancers, which make up around half of his works, Edgar Degas was an Impressionist painter, who also produced many drawings, sculptures, and art prints, showing an impressive mastery of each. One of his great talents was for capturing movement, which made dancers an ideal subject for his work. Rejected, as many of the great modern artists were, by the Salon, he began to exhibit alongside other Impressionists independently, playing a key role in organising the art gallery exhibitions, but often falling out with his contemporaries over subject, politics, and the scandal created around their works. True to his beliefs that an artist’s life had to be a lonely one, his career wound down with his eyesight, and his later days were spent largely in isolation.
Paul Gauguin, Post-Impressionist inspiration for the French avant-garde
With a childhood unsettled by European revolutions and the politics of Peru, which saw him flip from riches to rags of a sort, in a family supported by his mother’s dressmaking in Paris. He joined the French navy, and later became a very successful stockbroker, eventually deciding to pursue art after a stock market crash. Already mixing in the art scene as a buyer, Gauguin began painting with artists like Pissarro and Cezanne, all searching for new directions in Impressionism, and eventually falling out over them. He began to found his own style taking influence from folk art and Cloisonnism, working with flat colours and thick outlines, which he felt expressed the true essence of his subjects.
Henry Moore, the abstract sculptor of the female form
Best known for his sculpture, Henry Moore also produced many drawings, but his uniquely formed and shaped figures, often with holes pierced through them, were instrumental in popularising much of Modernism in the UK seeing him complete many large scale and significant commissions. Inspired by Michelangelo he began sculpting in clay and wood when he was just 11, and after serving in the army during WW1 he focused on it as a profession, studying at Leeds and then the Royal College of Art. Quickly tiring of classical form he developed an increasingly modernist style, taking to Toltec-Mayan sculpture and adopting abstractism into his work. He became something of a household name and influenced generations of sculptors that followed him, eventually passing away at home in his late 80s.
Marc Chagall, the colour genius who worked in stained glass
A multi-disciplinary artist who produced paintings, drawings, illustrations, stained glass, art prints, stage sets and ceramics, Chagall developed his Modernist style based on his own perspective of Eastern European and Jewish folk culture, which sat across many movements including Cubism, Expressionism, Fauvism, and Symbolism. Most widely admired for his mastery of colour, he often projected a simple happiness in his works; music and circuses were often subjects, reflecting on his happy childhood memories of growing up in Belarus. His childhood memory of Jewish culture was also important; in the happy times before two World Wars tore apart the culture of Eastern European Jews. And much of this work was realised in stained glass, bringing further luminosity to his colours and images. He worked until his death having witnessed almost a century of tumultuous human history.
A major figure in Fauvism and the development of Cubism, Braque’s quiet nature meant that he was often lost in Picasso’s shadow, even though their work was often indistinguishable and Braque impacted on painting, collage, art prints and sculpting as much as any other great modern artists. Studying in Paris he initially adopted an impressionist style, but was seduced by the colours and ideals of Fauvism, but rapidly found further inspiration in the artworks of Cezanne, geometry, and perspective. He and Picasso worked together extensively developing Cubism and a near identical style, but they were separated by war, and eventually Braque would find a more individual style, full of colour and texture but without the abstraction of Cubism. He continued to produce paintings and art prints until he passed away in his 80s.