His paintings were and are provocative because, instead of using personal confessions (like Dali), he uses irony and wit and intelligence to make his point hear. "The Treason of Images" is controversial in the sense that it makes the viewer question art and language and the meaning that we apply to objects. Magritte questions the assumptions made by people about the world, changing the scale of objects and defying the laws of gravity
Picasso, Dali and Magritte were all controversial artists of the early 1920s who expressed their fears, their guilt and fantasies as well as their question through their works of art. All of the artists had a major influence on other artists to come as well as a major impact on society during that time. While some may have considered these artists a threat to society, their works express a heightened sense of reality and an awareness.
Surrealism, expressionism and symbolism attempted to express the inner life or more implicit workings of the human condition. Expressionism was depicted not in an objective realistic fashion but in a subjective fashion, its aim was to stir emotion and illicit response. The works are usually highly personal to the artist and the artist tried to recreate the event or image with his or her own sensibility in mind. Hughes states that the flaw with expressionism was that its only hero was the Self
, which spurred the German Dadaist movement, laughing at the self-indulgence.
Vassily Kandinsky was highly spiritual and expressionistic in his perspective on art. More radical members of the art world laughed at him, and his work was labeled bourgeois and self-indulgent. His works were abstract, employing non-representation properties of color and form
. His 1913 piece or art entitled "Composition VII" was one of the most complex and confounding pieces he ever painted. This piece is an emotional composition that is representative of his great artistic vision and his necessity to express his emotional thoughts and feelings. The oval at the center of the piece appears like the center of a hurricane, encompassed by swirlings and twisting of color. Kandinsky was always trying to create a pure painting and though his art was considered highly emotional during his lifetime, his maelstrom of colors and life is a vivid interpretation of his incredibly expressive inner life. He once said, "Black is like the silence of the body after death, the close of life"
"saw art not as an end but as a means to an end -- spiritual clarification"
. He always tried to link his spiritual life and his philosophies with his art. He truly believed that art could change a person's life for the better and many considered him to be downright religious in his views. He was a devout man who, similar to Kandinsky, came to abstractionism through another medium - not via expressionism but via cubism
While his later works often appear cold in appearance at times a bit too methodical, his paintings are representative of a search for a different form that doesn't have any links to modern or daily life. In a way, it could be stated that he was looking for the divine through his paintings. While being deeply spiritual in idea, his paintings, especially "Composition No 10, Pier and Ocean," painted in 1915, appears to be incredibly mathematic in style. This painting was created in two version and one can see the first version subtly coming though; Mondrian didn't seem to care that the first version was visible and perhaps this is something worth considering.
While Salvador Dali may have been controversial in his day with such works as "The Persistence of Memory," he was also a surrealist who used his inner world to express his art. Precisely, surrealism can be defined as what lies beneath reality and while Dali has proclaimed that he uses images to confuse reality, there is also an indirect meaning beneath his works and especially "The Persistence of Memory" as noted earlier. While it can be suggested that the washed up Dali himself on the shoreline of what is possibly his homeland of Spain, the way in which he is washed up is a point of question. The depiction seems to imply some sort of defeat for Dali and thus he is sent back to his home, broken and without anymore time. The location has a dream-like quality, however, with its golden mountains and its blue sea which seems to inspire hope or perhaps that he has been too late in getting to the fantasy place -- wherever that may be. Perhaps Dali saw life and his work as an artist as a race against time, in which case, he is sadly expressing that he could never come out the winner.
Dali was known to by impacted by the landscapes of his boyhood in Spain. The watches in the painting, though they appear to be wilting in the son, perhaps alluding to the notion that time and memory (in the title) can be devastatingly deceptive.
Dali, as well as other Surrealists, admired de Chirico and the fact that he was able to create such strange encounters between objects. Incompatible objects became clear in Dali's world and "The Persistence of Memory" is one of those pieces that can inspire such questions about time and memory and the fight against time, spurring great emotion. While few may look at Dali's work and see an emotional inner life, his work is one hundred percent representation of what was going on in his head. The fact that he so liked to confuse people as to the meaning of his works may be proof that the studies were very intimate to him. Part of the reason one may fail to see the deep inner life in his work could be a result of his image, which was often referred to as manic or mad
All of these artists expanded the realm of visual expression as well as creativity with their use of their inner worlds. Some may be more of less apparent, but Dali, Kandinsky and Mondrian all contributed greatly to visual expansion.
Cottington, David. Cubism in the Shadow of War: The Avant-Garde and Politics in Paris,
1905-1914. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
Elsaesser, Thomas. Metropolis (MFI Film Classics). London: British Film Institute,
Glyphs. Kandinksy: Compositions. May 8, 2010. http://www.glyphs.com/art/kandinsky/
Hughes, Robert. The Shock of the New. New York: Knopf; Rev Sub-edition, 1991.
MOMA. "The Persistence of Memory." 1931. May 10, 2010.