Courtesy Monsoon Canvas
It is interesting to observe how societal progress or change has affected artists and art through the ages.
The industrial revolution in the mid 19th century was responsible for many innovations and inventions that influenced painting. One of the main influences was the improvement of quality and variety of paint itself.
Artists were previously restricted to painting in earthy colours, using minerals that were naturally available. However the advances in chemical pigments bought with it the ability to create varied colours and shades that were previously impossible. The new colors like cobalt blue, emerald green broadened the artist’s venue of expression.
Machinery also made it possible to grind minerals faster and in larger quantities, making life more convenient for the artists. Traditionally the artist had to grind the paint himself and then mix it with linseed oil. Paint making was part of every artist’s training. The commercialized version of paint used poppy oil as a binding agent which gave the painting a more textured look.
One of the biggest changes resulted from the invention of collapsible tin tube in 1840. This enabled the artists to move out of their studios and paint outdoors. The artist was able to recreate nature, without depending on vague impressions from his memory. The Impressionists took great advantage of this by introducing bright colors of the spectrum into their paintings and also depicting the effects of changing natural light. The impressionists like Manet, Monet started and ended their paintings outdoors, which was contrary to the then norm.
Claude Monet, 1872, Impression, soleil levant,Musee Marmottan
Industrial development also indirectly contributed to the increase in creativity of the artists, as his patronage from nobility and the Church dwindled. The artist now had the freedom to experiment and move away from the restrictions of commission work. Thus the birth of the various ‘isms’: fauvism, cubism, impressionism etc.
Over the years the building architectural style and purpose changed from grandeur to more practical structures that could house assembly lines and the working class. These vertical structures changed the way man understood shapes and also influenced the artists. Sculptors were equally influenced by the architecture and also the new materials that were used at the time like metal, new technology like welding and new forms and shapes.
With the advent of photography, mass media (print and television), motion pictures, the artist’s perception of image, time and space changed. The new mediums of capturing still and moving images compelled artists to use innovative techniques to attract an audience towards the fine-arts. There was no point in competing with technology, so they chose to innovate. This fact combined with increasing psychological awareness, helped artists to gradually move away from reproducing actual images to depicting a more abstract sense of the reality they experienced. Artists also started thinking in terms of mass and movement rather than a static likeness.
Pop-Artists in the 50s and 60s were inspired by the consumerism in society. Inspiration and themes were derived from everyday objects of commercialization like the new neon signs, television and hoarding advertisements. Andy Warhol’s “100 Campbell’s soup cans” is one of the best examples of this trend. Roy Lichtenstein another Pop artist preferred to create art works based on comic strip imagery subtlety mocking its influence on the American culture.
100 Campbells’ Soup Cans, 1962 By Andy Warhol
The later part of the 20th century saw artists racing to be unique and original and not merely novel. Major developments like moon landing, science fiction, women’s lib movement, etc played an important role in expanding people’s imagination and outlook. Since the public’s imagination was way beyond what it was years ago, the artist was forced to work harder to create a novel experience for the public. All these influences had a huge impact on the themes artists worked on.
With the advent of computer and electronic imagery, a new genre of art called electronic art, came into being, examples being new media art, interactive art, video art etc. Computers have enabled artists to create images and art works with lesser effort but with unimaginable levels of creativity. With the help of computers, graphic software and the internet, it has become possible to experiment with art more rapidly and imaginatively. The rule of this genre of art dictates novelty, innovation and extreme imagination.
There are surely many more influences that could be mentioned and in future, there is sure to be a lot more influences that determine trends, style and the course of art. But one thing is for sure, artists will never stop imbibing form the environment around them.