I would like to invite interested artists or art interested persons to join me in discussing the book titled: “The Meanings of Modern Art” by John Russell.
A Little Information About the Author:
John Russell is an art historian and art critic born in England in 1919; dying in the Bronx of NY in 2008. In his lifetime he was chief art critic for both the Sunday Times and the New York Times, as well as authoring many articles on a variety of subjects that appeared in numerous journals. In 1978 he received the “Mather Award” for his work.
Over the years John Russell took a personal interest in the artists of his era and traveled frequently to meet and mix with them. Because he so intimately knew many of the Master Artists he really came to have special insight into them, and in this book he shares those insights, along with any stories and quotes he heard from the many artists he befriended. That is why his book is special. Russell is not just an academic, but actually new these artists from real-life relationships with them.
“The Meanings of Modern Art” is a survey of Modern Art as it grew out of the previous eras of Representational Art and Impressionism. Russell brings alive the spirit in which the Master Artists struggled and worked to break free from tradition into what we now have come to know as the Expressionist Movement. He does this by weaving together the central historical and cultural events of these times.
Russell’s writing style is quite engaging! It is informative while enjoyable, personal, and easy to read. He often reflects on the Master Expressionists in the context of their world situation and the ways in which they each were impassioned by the dynamics of the art scene of their times. He really is a bit of a genius in putting together the development of Modern Art into an exciting and never-ending dialog without using a lot of literary jargon, although he includes the personality of the artists, and the psychology, philosophy, science, sociology, and politics of the various eras, including the Modern Era, to frame the context in which the budding of Modern Art began to flourish and expand.
I found this book extremely lively, especially since Russell includes so many quotes and stories from the mouths of the Masters themselves. Once started, I don’t think you will want to put this book down. For example, I loved this statement Russell made “The history of art if properly set out, is the history of everything” [!!!] Wow, when you reflect on that statement you have to ask yourself “why might that be true”?
There is a lot to reflect on in this book. It is as much about the past as the present; as much about what made the Expressionist’s “tick” – as it is about YOUR response, YOUR process with these artists and their movements, and how it impacts your own interests, style, and work today.
Ok, So How Will the Book Club Proceed:
I will provide a short review of each chapter on a twice a month basis, which will review the main points. I will include important assertions, sources of quotes, and photographs so that the discussion makes sense in light of them. Your part will be to obtain a copy of this book and read along with the discussion. Likely we will start with some reflective questions so that we as readers can co-participate in a mutual exchange of our ideas, interpretations, or experiences, as we engage together with Russell’s material, the artists within the book, as well as, and most importantly, the artist within you!
Purchasing the Book:
“The Meanings of Modern Art” by John Russell, can be found in hard and softcover, new or used, and also on Kindle (for rent or for purchase). It may be available in your local library too. It is published by Harper and Row and there are two versions: the first edited in 1974,’75, and ’81; the revised version in 1981. Either book is good for the purpose of this discussion. I found the book for sale on Amazon, for a reasonable price between $7 to $25. The book is out of print so you will be buying a used book. I found the price to dependent on the book’s condition.
Joining the Book Discussion:
The Book Group is FREE to registered artistvenu members and is not a black-tie affair. If you want to join but haven’t received your copy yet, please feel free to jump into the first discussion in any way you find meaningful. Come as you are and have fun with our Art Community.
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