The Roots of Magic Realism

        The turn of the 20th century ushered in dynamic and fundamental changes for the world of art . It is generally agreed that the Modern era of art beganPortrait of an Artist - Andre Derain ca1912-14 in the Realist movement in France during the 1840's. With each successive generation, artists with a progressive outlook pushed the frontiers of the art world further away from its academic establishment . However, in the years just prior to World War I, a counter Modernist movement established itself in the arts. Expressionism, Cubism and Futurism had each pushed formal design to an extreme that many people were not yet ready to accept . The counter movement came to be known as the "Return to Order" or the "Call or Order", and can be seen in the work of a many established artists during that time, especially after the war. For example Andre Derain's quickly transitioned from Fauvism to Realism influenced by Cezanne. The "Call to Order" saw other French artists migrate toward traditional French styles and neoclassicism . In Italy, similar momentum lead to the formation of Il Novecento Italiano, which promoted styles derived from primitive Italian or Roman cultures. This group was actively promoted by Margherita Sarfatti, who was Mussolini's mistress. After World War I even Picasso produced work in a classical mode, especially from 1920 to 1923. The same can be said for many other artists who were based in Paris during this period. Immediately after the war, the public had little taste for avant-garde art, and its value plummeted for a number of years.

        The devastation of World War I brought pervasive disillusionment and mass disassociation in most European countries, but it took by far its heaviest toll in the defeated Germany. The initial reaction in the art world was the nihilistic Dada experiment. Then in the early twenties many artists began moving away from the emotionally charged, introspective Expressionism toward realistic representations. Two types of art initially evolved, as suggested by Gustav Hartlaub in 1922. On the right, a type of naturalism, influenced by Classicism and related to Return to Order. On the left, an incisive, socially critical realism, which produced a detached and sometimes cynical imagery. Toward the mid 1920s, this left wing became tempered and moved closer to a more centered approach .

       The artists of the twenties found two importantThe Snake Charmer 1907 by Henri Rousseau sources of inspiration, both of which helped them express the feelings of alienation and anxiety that were so prevalent during these times. These were the "metaphysical" paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and the naive art of Henri Rousseau. German artists adapted the mysterious and dreamlike elements from these and other predecessors, and combined them with objects from everyday life. They endeavored  to infuse "magic" into ordinary, even banal objects. The effect was enhanced by sharply focused realistic style, resulting in paintings whose details held the viewers interest while also exploring deep emotional reservoirs .

       In addition to the influences of the artists de Chirico and Rousseau, some of the German artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit drew stylistic techniques from the art of the Flemish and German masters of the 15th and 16th centuries. From these early models came an art with a highly detailed treatment of subject matter, with sharp focus in both of the foreground and the background, and with multiple centers of interest . The were also able to draw from the Realism of several contemporaries, such as the French artist, Felix Vallotton .

       Our discussion continues....             

Neue Sachlichkeit Gallery
European Magic Realism Gallery
American Magic Realism Gallery

Chapter 1 - Magic Realism Introduction
Chapter 3 - Neue Sachlichkeit Artists
Chapter 4 - Surrealism vs Magic Realism
Chapter 5 - Magic Realism in other European countries
Chapter 6 - Magic Realism in the Americas (1)
Chapter 7 - Magic Realism in the Americas (2)

Chapter 8 - Contemporary Magic Realism
Chapter 9 - The Future of Magic Realism