It’s everywhere — the nonsensical, usually obnoxious and obscene, rarely aesthetically pleasing modern art.
It is celebrated by higher institutions and museums around the world. Modern art has defined our culture since its emergence during the 1850s in France.
Duchamp’s urinal piece entitled “Fountain”
It all started with the early modern artists who founded the Realist and Impressionist movements in the mid-18th century set to turn the centuries-old art establishment in France and French culture, with its Judeo-Christian values, on its head.
They had an agenda directly tied to promoting Socialism, Atheism, Hedonism, and Materialism through their arts.
Art was originally taught in churches and classical academies. Painters and sculptors adhered to the principles of truth, goodness, and beauty and it’s meant to reflect and reveal the truth of creation, and beauty transports us there.
This wisdom developed the Classical and Greco-Roman styles that sought to harmonize themselves with the universal order.
Fused with classical aesthetics, the renderings of stories from Greek and Italian antiquity and all the panoply of Christianity, with angels, cherubs, saints, and heavenly scenes, were the dominant source material for the old masters.
They, in turn, created and shaped a culture that placed revering and respecting the Divine as the pinnacle of human endeavors that steered humanity and its visual inclinations toward goodness.
Enter the a shift in perception. French society’s understanding of beauty began to change dramatically. Several key figures emerged in the 1800s who would radically transform humanity away from its sacred roots and begin a methodical and carefully orchestrated campaign to plummet humanity toward atheism, hedonism, nihilism, materialism, utilitarianism, scientific rationalism, moral relativism, and Socialism.
The degrading aesthetics used by the Communists were all by design, meant to culturally and spiritually alienate people from their roots.
The entirety of Western civilization afterward has been tainted by their radical, modern ideologies that arguably fueled two catastrophic world wars and wrecked mankind’s morality.
The foundations of the modern movements in art began with the musings of Baron d’Holbach and his influential book, The System of Nature, published in 1770. In the book, Holbach touted atheism, materialism, and scientific rationalism as the means and method of understanding the world.
Holbach goes on to describes the creation of man and the universe as only machinations of motion, the soul as a physical impulse, morality only as a material concept to secure safety in a decidedly material world, and the five senses as being the only reliable methods for understanding the world we live in. Belief in God to Holbach was a human construct meant to attach greater significance to mortal, material life.
Among them were the theories of Anarchy, Communism, Utopian Socialism, and Atheism. In the cafés and salons of France, these new radical ideas were a hot topic of discussion by the intellectuals, philosophers, and “cultural elite.” The new philosophies were seen as risqué and highbrow, a way to separate oneself from the uneducated.
Several artists were among their ranks who would lead the charge in implanting the new “isms” into French society.
The advent of Socialist organizations in France
The first Socialist organizations and communes in France and Western Europe began to spring up, experimenting with and living out Holbach’s and other philosophers’ theories that focused on Atheism, Materialism, and Communism.
Within the communes, liberation from traditional values and morality began to take root.
The Desperate Man is among the earliest works by the artist that he completed in 1845. With his eyes wide-open, Courbet is staring straight at you and tearing his hair.
Anatole France, a French poet at the time, described the communes as “a committee of assassins, a band of hooligans, a government of crime and madness.”
Édouard Manet and Gustave Courbet, the radical shock artists, as well as the early Impressionists, including Monet and Cézanne, antagonized human dignity and mocked the traditional academies with nearly every one of their paintings and found their inspirations within the communes surrounded by like-minded individuals.
“Impression,” Claude Monet,1872, Oil on canvas.
The term impression is used because of its lack of finish. It had been adopted by the rebellious painters, who saw traditional techniques and subject matter stifling. They adopted the term “impression” and called themselves the Impressionists.
Gustav Courbet was one of the most outspoken members of the new modernist trends in art. A staunch atheist and anarchist, Courbet was a leading figure in the Paris Commune uprising in 1871.
He adhered to the Communist Manifesto, published by Karl Marx in 1848, who laid out stratagems in using the working-class to break and topple society’s social structure, “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and liberating citizens from the bourgeois, which was in reality a way to take down and remove influential segments in society and have Socialist elements take total control.
Along with Marx, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a writer, and philosopher found an adoring fan in Courbet, who took to his musings, particularly on the role art plays in society.
Proudhon’s views on art were that it was a tool of reforming society and making political statements.
It radically shifted art’s role as it was, acting as a vehicle to understand the transcendental and creating dignified, beautiful works.
The foundations of modern art lay in this shift in the understanding of art and its purpose.
Art would from then on be viewed based on a praxis-based approach to art. It means to study art through theory, which could mean studying it through a social, political, or philosophical lens.
It was almost a prerequisite then for artists to attach deep philosophical and political statements to their artworks.
Art was evolving into a mode of pure self-expression in theme and technique, and for Courbet, it meant sharing his political and social opinions.
He created the “Realist” philosophy of art, to not dramatize life in any way, but to show how it is — (according to him) ugly, macabre, and nihilistic.
Painting how life “is” and “Realism” were foils to spread his beliefs.
He was depicting scenes with some amount of accuracy in terms of his subject matter, having studied in traditional art academies himself, but the themes were demeaning, immoral, and relied on shock and outrage to attract attention.
Many citizens in France were furious over Courbet’s insensitive and provocative paintings. The National Guard had to be called in when Manet’s prostitute painting Olympia made its hesitant debut at the Paris salon in 1865.
The art academies and salons refused many of his and his Impressionist friends works on account of the indecent subject matter and the confusing and rough techniques used in producing their compositions.
The modernist artists didn’t take the rejection lightly. They launched a propaganda campaign against the traditional academies, using arguments that they were oppressive, old-fashioned, and stuck in irrelevant themes, that they were outmoded by the invention of the camera.
The “Realist” painter had many influential connections to help sway public opinion. Emperor Napoleon III was a friend of Courbet and fell for his raison d’être and took pity on him.
The Monarch of France built the Salon des Refusés to exhibit Courbet and his friend’s works that were rejected by the traditional salons.
Over time, the smear campaigns waged on the old-fashioned, out of touch, stifling, and sentimental academies took their toll.
Many traditional academies, the heart, and soul of France, founded by King Louis XIV, had to shut their doors.
The French populace had been coerced into accepting the new, in-vogue works by the new “tastemakers” and under the tide of the Modernists arguments and attacks against their historic institutions.
The many prostitute paintings from Courbet, the Absinthe Drinker of Manet, to the ear-mutilated self-portrait of Van Gogh upended traditional techniques and morality in favor of absolute self-indulgence in depravity.
Their deleterious lifestyles and bizarre behaviors influenced by Communist ideologies gave rise to the modern concept we have of artists as being unhinged derelicts that visit brothels, do copious amounts of drugs, extol morose and nihilistic outlooks on life, and who dive into demonic states of mind.
This behavior became customary and expected way artists should live. Their lifestyles were soon viewed and risqué and fashionable.
Society in Western Europe deteriorated rapidly with the mainstream acceptance of these arts, philosophies, and lifestyles as normal.
Any protests to the new styles of art were handled easily with accused attacks on freedom of expression.
After Realism and Impressionism came Abstractionism, Fauvism, Dada art, Cubism, Surrealism, along with Pop-Art, and so on.
The Bauhaus movement under Walter Gropius turned our cityscapes into lifeless, utilitarian hives for people to “live” in under their mantra “form follows function.”
” A house was only to live in, no extraneous fun or decor allowed!
Cities and businesses were to only places people “existed in” to fulfill tasks in an orderly manner.
Humans, as depicted by our pervasive, modern architecture have been designed under the ideology that sees humanity as nothing more than the sum of its parts.
Most art classes in our public school systems and universities put Van Gogh and Picasso, both lunatics, as the pinnacle of artistic expression and achievement.
The old Masters, like the charitable Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, the serene early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico, the charismatic Guido Reni, along with thousands of others, have been nearly forgotten and erased from history.
What remains of the old master’s works and legacies has been brought down to the level of a Hallmark postcard.
A vast majority of the entirety of Western art’s most glorious artworks have been intentionally buried. All that is mentioned in society now of the old masters are cheap and tacky lessons on Da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Throughout the West’s history, art played a critical role in disseminating transcendental wisdom and maintaining a moral and upright society. Art can still have that effect. If we can understand the effect art plays in our society, we can use it to create a healthy, respectful society that cherishes life and the Sacred.
Along with the French Revolution and the first Communist uprising in 1792, many architectural splendors in Paris had been reduced to rubble by the Communards, who saw the elaborate structures as part of Bourgeoisie oppression.”