(ARTH013) Introduction to Early Twentieth-Century European Art, 1900-1945

Guernica by Picasso



Course starts date: Monday 5th October 2020
Course end date: Friday 11th December 2020
Price £150:

Tutor: Dr Jeni Fraser
Course Code: ARTH013
Level: Non-accredited, non-credit bearing
Assessments/Exams: None. Throughout the course you will be given ideas and questions to respond to in the online discussion area. Participation in online discussion is encouraged, but not compulsory.
Duration: 10 weeks
Estimated Student Study Time: 2 – 3 hours per week are recommended, but time spent is flexible and at your discretion.
Price: £150.00
Pre-Requisites: No academic qualifications nor experience are required – you will simply need an enthusiasm for this subject.
Delivery: Online Distance Learning
Late Entrants: If this course is not full by the start date then late entrants will be accepted for up to two weeks after the start of the course. As a late entrant you can choose to catch up on the material you have missed or you can skip the missed weeks and concentrate on the material at the point where you join the course, but unfortunately we cannot offer fee reductions or course extensions for late entrants.
Recommended Reading**:

Preparatory study is not expected. A recommended reading list is provided within the course.

Required Reading**: None

**Please note: All courses are subject to sufficient numbers of students registering before they are confirmed as running. Therefore, after booking your place you are advised not to purchase any texts until you have received confirmation that the course is running.

This course was previously taught by Dr Jeni Fraser when it was offered by the University of Exeter*. If you studied it with the University of Exeter* you might not wish to study it again with Learn for Pleasure as although we have revised and updated our courses where necessary, it will likely be substantively the same.


At the turn of the century Paris was the epicentre of art production although challenges were made by Austrian, German and Russian artists.

This course will guide you through the social, political and economic contexts that influenced art production during the first fifty years of a new century in Europe.

Syllabus Plan

Week 1: The Belle Époque and the Vienna Secession Fin de Siècle art in Europe
Week 2: Fauvism: A Revolution in Colour
Week 3: The Birth of Expressionism and the Art of Angst
Week 4: Die Brücke and the German Expressionists
Week 5: Primitivism and Picasso’s ‘Demoiselles’
Week 6: Cubism: A Revolution in Form
Week 7: Der Blaue Reiter and the Birth of Abstraction
Week 8: Futurism and De Stijl: A New Dynamic in Art
Week 9: Russian Suprematism and Constructivism
Week 10: Dada and Surrealism: A Different Point of View

Course Content in Depth

Week One
The Belle Époque and the Vienna Secession Fin de Siècle art in Europe

As a new millennium dawns, the mid-19th century revolution of Impressionism seemed old-fashioned. Younger artists searched for new art forms that better expressed the idea of being mdoern. The Vienna Secession was among the vanguard creating art that blends the boundaries between ‘fine’ and ‘applied’ art.

Week Two
Fauvism: A Revolution in Colour

On the south coast of France, a loosely-knit group of artists (dubbed ‘wild beasts’ for their rebellious use of colour) created ‘sensational’ paintings. Henri Matisse, Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck are the leaders of this new movement: Fauvism.

Week Three
The Birth of Expressionism and the Art of Angst

All art is expressive, but the early years of the 20th century witnessed a development of art that can best be termed ‘visceral’. Edvard Munch, Kathe Kollwitz, Egon Schiele are among the artists reviewed in week three of this course.

Week Four
Die Brücke and the German Expressionists

Ernst Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, three architecture students, created paintings under the group name Die Brucke (The Bridge). They were later joined by Max Pechstein, Emil Nolde and Otto Mueller. Their work so outraged Adolf Hilter that it was gathered, along with other examples, in a 1933 exhibition of ‘degenerate art’ in Berlin.

Week Five
Primitivism and Picasso’s ‘Demoiselles’

Primitivism as an aesthetic consideration moved many early 20th-century artists to adopt non-Western stylistic elements. Their interest can be traced back to the French artist Gauguin (who lived in Tahiti) and Europe’s fascination for people of other cultures. In week five we will look at Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Brancusi’s The Kiss as we explore the topic of primitivism in art.

Week Six
Cubism: A Revolution in Form

A short-lived but highly influential movement, Cubism was pioneered by just two men: Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. The first two stages of Cubism – Analytical and Synthetic – were later developed by the addition of Robert Delaunay’s Orphism.

Week Seven
Der Blaue Reiter and the Birth of Abstraction

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) was the name of a movement pioneered by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc that concerned the spirituality of colour that also paved the way for non-representational art.

Week Eight
Futurism and De Stijl: A New Dynamic in Art

Early modernist architecture is a term applied to a group of styles which emerged in the first half of the 20th century which became dominant after World War II. In week eight we’ll look at the work of Otto Wagner (Vienna) Peter Behrens (Germany) Gropius (Bauhaus Dessau), among others.

Week Nine
Russian Suprematism and Constructivism

Italian Futurism, Russian Suprematism and Russian Constructivism were responses to a rapidly changing world. The threat of war and revolution inspired a burst of creativity that influenced many of the art movements that followed. Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Malevich’s Black Square and Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International are among the works we’ll explore in week nine.

Week Ten
Dada and Surrealism: A Different Point of View

Dada was a continuous attack not just on existing art and society but on itself, too (‘the true Dadaist is against Dada’), while Surrealism erected a set of strong and even rigid principles. From the Cabaret Voltaire to Salvador Dali, this final week will expand our understanding of what art is and what it looks like.