13   Fleming, Arts and Ideas, 367.

        14   Fleming, Arts and Ideas, 368.

        15   https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/ernst-ludwig-kirchner-street-dresden-1908-reworked-1919-dated-on-painting-1907/

        16    Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), 97. 

        17   Janik and Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna, 94. 

        18   Janik and ToulminWittgenstein’s Vienna, 95.

        19   Daniel Albright, “Musical motives in Modernism” in The Cambridge Companion to Modernism, ed. Michael Levenson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 232. 

        20   Albright, “Musical motives in Modernism,” 232-233. 

        21   Ibid.,  232-233. 

        22   Marianne Dekoven, “Modernism and gender” in The Cambridge Companion to Modernism, ed. Michael Levenson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 227. 

        23   Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro,” Poetry Foundation, accessed February 21, 2020, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/12675/in-a-station-of-the-metro.

         24   Albright, “Musical motives in Modernism,” 236.

        25   Ibid.,  235.

         26   Ibid., 235.

         27   Ibid., 237.




Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Street (1907)


Gustav Klimt

Water Serpents II (1907)


Alfred Barr's Chart




Looking at Alfred Barr’s chart (Figure 21), we can see how the different movements of Post-Impressionism of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Paul Gaugin (1848-1903), Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), and Georges Seurat (1859-1891), created the point of departure for the large number of movements that came to define the Modernist era. One of these directions stemmed from Van Gogh’s reaction to the “detachment” of Impressionism, reclaiming expressionism in paintings by creating “frenzied canvasses, passionate pictorial outbursts, saturated colors.”13 This lineage inspired the movements of Fauvism and the Expressionism, that, through color, gave insight to the “emotional and psychological states” in “all phases of contemporary life.”14 Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) anticipated this movement in his Scream (Figure 20) which could be interpreted as the cry that foresaw the distress of following decades. In the same vein, paintings like Street (Figure 22) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), which showed an image of the everyday crowd in Dresden, exhibited the “alienation wrought by modernization” by the intense use of color and by depicting the crowd with mask-like faces.15


Even in conservative societies such as Vienna, artists were challenging the traditions of aesthetics, which confronted the very “foundations of society.”16 Taking a very different direction from the Impressionists 20 years earlier, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) ignited a rebellion by withdrawing from the Art Academy with a group of 19 students (which called themselves the Secession), claiming “Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit (‘To the era its proper art, to art its proper freedom’).”17 Klimt’s particular aesthetic showed his predilection for extravagant detail and ornamentation, which like the earlier Pre-Raphaelite painters, (see his Klimt’s Water Serpents Figure 23), instigated a line of Expressionism in Austria that culminated with the works of Egon Schiele (1890-1918) and Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980).18 The latter’s Bride of the Wind (Figure 24) shows a psychological reading of his affair with Mahler’s wife, Alma (1879-1964). Through rough brush strokes and the use of unsettling and jarring color, his painting embodied the feelings of the longing and rejection that he felt.

In a time when “Everything is permitted,” artists were left with an “uncomfortable” sense of freedom, urging them to place some sort of order for themselves.19 One way that they did this was by searching for the equivalent of a “subatomic particle” in language, music, and painting. For Kandinsky, it was the color, for Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) it was the motive, and for Ezra Pound (1885-1972) it was the image. Kandinsky, later in his career reverted to the point, saying that was the “basis for all art.”20 He experimented with the placement of periods, seeing how they would affect meaning:



      Today I am going to the cinema.

        Today I am going, To the cinema.

        Today I. Am going to the cinema.21



Inspired by Chinese ideograms, Pound tried to find something comparable in English by making images do "the poetic work of making meaning,” with compactness, “direct treatment of the material,” and by following the “musical phrasing.”22 He wanted to avoid all superfluous ornamentation and go to the core essence of things. His “In a Station of the Metro,” shows precisely this kind of condensed experience into two verses, avoiding even the use of verbs:



        The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

        Petals on a wet, black bough.23



Schoenberg aimed for similar things in his work, making the motive the basic unit that “gives rise to a motion.”24 He no longer wanted to depend on the traditional rules of consonances and dissonance to structure his music, for he saw dissonances as “nothing more than remoter consonances.”25 His Five Pieces for Orchestra exemplified this liberation of tonality, which he used to show a constant “succession of moods.”26 Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969), argued that this liberation had a big insight into the human experience at this point in time:


        music was not an image of feeling, but feeling itself, made audible. The absence of a tonic

        note corresponded to the absence of conscious mental control; the forbidden intervals in the

        chords and melodies corresponded to the naked confrontation with taboo; the emancipation 

        of dissonance corresponded to a filling out of the full spectrum of human emotion.”27 




Oskar Kokoschka

Bride of the Wind (1913-1914)