Art between the wars: the avant-garde and the rise of totalitarianism

Utopia and the dream preoccupied artists during the depression and the rise of dictators like Hitler.

German art between the wars

Germany was defeated and exhausted in 1918 at the end of WWI. The equally exhausted victors imposed harsh terms on Germany. It was forced to forfeit its overseas colonial possessions, to cede land to its neighbors, and to pay reparations. As demobilized troops returned, German cities filled with unemployed, often maimed veterans. The Socialists briefly seized power and by the early 1920s hyperinflation further destabilized the nation. Neue Sachlichkeit or the New Objectivity cast a cold sharp eye on Modern Germany’s hypocrisy, aggression, and destitution even as extremists on the political right consolidated power. The National Socialists or Nazi Party won the chancellorship in 1933 and quickly used art and architecture as a means build the myth of a pure German people shaped by the land and unsullied by modern industrial culture. This tutorial looks at the ways that competing political ideologies each used art for its own purposes.

The international avant-garde

This tutorial could be called the "the School of Paris" Here find the impact of Cubism and pre-war abstraction in de Chirico's Metaphysical painting, Brancusi's biomorphic sculpture, Mondrian's de Stijl grids and other leading members of the avant-garde.


Do we too readily accept the concrete rational world before us as all that is real? Could there be more? Could the dream be a doorway to a more primal creative experience no less real than our waking world? Influenced by ideas of psychoanalysis, such as the unconscious, artists built on the irrational art of Dada to explore the dark world of desire freed from rules created to protect us from our inner ourselves.

Latin American Modernism

Latin America produced many of the most important modernists of the 20th century. Here were artist who drew on their region's colonial and indigenous past and its political present to create entirely new forms of public and private art.

American art to World War II

This tutorial includes many of the most iconic American images, American Gothic and Nighthawks for example. But also find here photographers that documented American poverty during the depression, the gritty cityscape, and the magic of looking up to a night sky through the canopy of a tree.