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Synchromism Collage

Synchromism

Started: 1912

Ended: 1924

Synchromism Timeline

Important Art and Artists of Synchromism

The below artworks are the most important in Synchromism - that both overview the major ideas of the movement, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist in Synchromism. Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.

Synchromy in Orange: To Form (1913-1914)
Artwork Images

Synchromy in Orange: To Form (1913-1914)

Artist: Morgan Russell

Artwork description & Analysis: This large canvas, about eleven feet square, with a frame painted by the artist that both contains the painting and lets the painting spill into the space around it, has been described as Russell's greatest work. The planes of saturated colors that curve and fold have a remarkable density and three-dimensional effect. The green and red triangles on the upper left seem to buckle with intensity, weighing on the yellow, green, and white irregular geometric shapes in the center. A dynamic stacking of various planes creates a sense of unfurling while being simultaneously energetically contained.

Russell used his sculptural study of Michelangelo's the Dying Slave as the foundation for this work, as he evolved his abstract composition. As he said, "I always felt the need to impose on color the same violent twists and spirals that Rubens and Michelangelo imposed on the human body." When shown at the Salon des Indépendants, the work was titled Synchromie en orange: la création de l'homme conçue comme le résultat d'une force génératrice naturelle (Synchromy in Orange: the creation of man conceived as a result of a natural generative force). The artist meant the work to be a tour de force of the Syncrhomist style as well as a response to the large abstract Orphist paintings of the Delaunays and Franz Kupka.

Oil on canvas - Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Day of Good Fortune (1914)
Artwork Images

Day of Good Fortune (1914)

Artist: Arthur B. Davies

Artwork description & Analysis: This painting, depicting two dancing, nude women, shows Davies bringing a Synchromist treatment to his characteristic figurative work. The woman on the left, rendered primarily in tones of white, her arms over her head, bends forward gracefully, while on the right, another woman, a kaleidoscope of color, lifts her left leg and arches her arms above her head. Depicted in variously colored geometric shapes, the women become closer to abstracted figures of movement, flowing into the shapes that extend and swirl around them like the music that attends them. The black background, suggesting the backdrop of a stage, creates a sense of space through which the music swirls, embodied in the movements of the dancers and extending out of the pictorial frame.

Davies, already well-known for his somewhat lyrical and Symbolist figurative work that had a fundamentally decorative effect, was equally interested in more avant-garde art. He helped to organize the 1913 Armory Show that introduced European avant-garde work to the American art world, and his subsequent explorations of other styles, including Cubism, show the impact the show had on his own work. Both Russell and Macdonald-Wright attempted Synchromist figurative work, as seen in Macdonald-Wright's self-portrait, though not as successively as Davies does here.

Oil on canvas - Whitney Museum of Art, New York, New York

Bubbles (1914-1917)
Artwork Images

Bubbles (1914-1917)

Artist: Thomas Hart Benton

Artwork description & Analysis: The title of this work, assigned by its first owner the writer H. L. Mencken, suggests that the painting is illustrative, but in fact it was meant to be entirely abstract. Using a vibrant color scheme, the painting depicts a number of variously colored circular shapes radiating from its center, as larger varied geometric forms, predominantly blue, green, purple and yellow curve around it. Crescents of more intense color on the circles draw the viewer's eye up along the center right as if following a kind of implicit J shape.

Benton's painting, influenced by MacDonald-Wright's circular forms in Conception Synchromy (1914), exudes a sense of vibrant rhythm. A visual syncopated din and bustle is created by the juxtaposition of curvilinear shapes and angular geometric forms. The viewer's eye moves through the canvas, following the complex movement of color as one might hear the interplay of different instruments in a musical piece. Benton had a lifelong interest in music, and part of the effect of this work is based upon his understanding of how sound works. Created in waves, different notes bounce off one another, and the aural quality is changed.

Close friends with Macdonald-Wright, Benton tried Synchromism for a time and exhibited this painting at the Forum Exhibition in 1916, but, more importantly, he shared with Russell a profound interest in sculpture, saying, "Following the Synchromist practice at the time, I based the composition of these pictures on Michelangelo's sculpture." The implicit J shape, creating a sense of both physical movement and pictorial unity, and the emphasis upon the color triad of red, yellow, and blue, were derived from studying the Renaissance master's work. While Benton abandoned Synchromism, feeling dissatisfied with the results, the rhythm and vibrant color used in this work became noted elements in the American regionalist work for which he became famous.

Oil on canvas - Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland

Improvisation (c.1915-16)
Artwork Images

Improvisation (c.1915-16)

Artist: Andrew Dasburg

Artwork description & Analysis: Interlocking shapes in primarily green, blue, and yellow tones suggest an extemporaneous feeling. The intersection of the yellow vertical and horizontal shapes in the center gesture energetically outwards toward greyish violet and green curved blades in the bottom third of the painting and toward lighter blue curves above. Dasburg's title, Improvisation, recalls the titles of Kandinsky's early abstract paintings that he likened to music. Dasburg later explained his "improvisations" to an interviewer, "You invented what you were doing. In other words, an invention of your own and not a replica, something you had seen, any recognizable things, but independent of an object...."

Andrew Dasburg was a close friend of Morgan Russell, and this painting may have been one of the nine paintings he showed in The Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters in 1916. Most of Dasburg's work during this period has been lost or destroyed, and he later became best known for his landscapes of New Mexico, where he subsequently resided. His interest in landscape can already be seen in this work's color palette, as the darker greens that dominate the foreground contrasted with the brighter blues at the top create a horizon effect. His use of geometric shapes, many of them curved or resembling the blades or stalks of vegetation, suggest an organic energy out of which the center yellow seems to spring, almost like a figure raising its arms.

Oil on canvas - Private Collection

Breakfast Table (1917)
Artwork Images

Breakfast Table (1917)

Artist: Stuart Davis

Artwork description & Analysis: Davis depicts a table as seen from above. A circle dominates the lower two thirds of the painting, and a pitcher, not depicted on the table, floats above it, occupying the top of the canvas. Here, Davis explores Synchromism's dynamic irregular geometric shapes, jostling with vibrant color, combined with the grid of Cubist shallow space.

Following the 1913 Armory Show, Davis experimented with a number of avant-garde movements, including Cubism, Orphism, Futurism, Synchronism. Though the influence of Cubism is also apparent in the breaking up of forms, the emphasis on bold and vibrant colors that pulsate suggest the bright liveliness and cacophony of morning. Davis had a deep interest in popular culture and in jazz music and later became well known for his unique Cubist style that juxtaposed angular planes to mimic the rhythm and dissonance of jazz.

Oil on canvas - Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

Synchromy in Blue (ca. 1917-1918)
Artwork Images

Synchromy in Blue (ca. 1917-1918)

Artist: Stanton Macdonald-Wright

Artwork description & Analysis: This work uses geometric planes of varying shades of green and blue, layered with curvilinear planes of pink and red, occasionally punctuated by areas of yellow and white. Two primarily white triangles intersect the painting from left and right in the upper third, meeting a center triangle, its apex extending beyond the canvas' surface. Macdonald-Wright creates a sense of depth in the work by layering the planes of color, and as a result, the painting has a feeling of solidity and gravity. Color becomes more tactile and physical in Macdonald-Wright's composition.

While the painting is non-representational in overall effect, one can make out the shape of a seated male figure, with his knee bulging to the left, and his back and shoulder on the right. This is yet another reference to the sculptural qualities of the much older art of Michelangelo.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

Color Form Sychromy (Eidos) (1922-23)
Artwork Images

Color Form Sychromy (Eidos) (1922-23)

Artist: Morgan Russell

Artwork description & Analysis: This painting focuses on an abstract form made up of irregular shapes of color that create a spinning motion in the center of the canvas. The spiraling form in the center is surrounded by areas of black that create a sense of space, and the effect is as if the form were opening up into the top part of the canvas. The lower left corner of the canvas consists of small, interlocking shapes of color, primarily somber-hued red and green.This work shows Russell both following and expanding upon his own painterly dicta, as he said, "Forget the linear outline of objects (...) never will you arrive at expression in painting until the habit is lost - ignore borders - profiles except when light renders them prominent - make little spectrums that is all - an order of little spectrums."

Russell returned to his Synchromist style in 1922 after recovering from a period of difficulty and depression. In the Eidos paintings, any sense of a figurative basis disappears, and the works emphasize a spinning space, rather than the spiraling motion of his earlier Synchromist work. The artist hoped to display the works with the use of a kinetic light machine to suggest the lingering effects of fireworks in the room.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York



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Related Art and Artists

Le Bonheur de Vivre (1905-06)

Le Bonheur de Vivre (1905-06)

Movement: Fauvism

Artist: Henri Matisse

Artwork description & Analysis: The Joy of Life, possibly Matisse's best-known Fauvist work, was created in response to the negative critical reactions that followed Matisse's contributions to the 1905 Salon d'Automne. Although the subject of merry-making figures within a pastoral setting is a venerable one in Western art, Matisse's daring use of non-natural color to structure this enigmatic world, and his free delineation of its inhabitants, gave a fresh update to this imagery. Matisse's nudes perform activities of sensual bliss: dancing, making music, and embracing. They are connected to each other and to the vividly colored landscape by a sinuous network of curving lines and by the artist's radical use of the same pure colors for all the elements of his composition. Pairings of complementary colors (red and green, purple and yellow) produce strong visual contrasts that almost seem to vibrate, and the traditional means of suggesting depth and lighting have been eliminated. This idyllic scene unites thematic and visual influences from the Renaissance to Art Nouveau to Persian miniature painting, but it does so in a way that is undeniably modern. The Joy of Life was as influential as another large figurative canvas, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), in its expressive reimagining of the human figure and its surroundings.

Oil on canvas - The Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA

Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif) (1912)
Artwork Images

Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif) (1912)

Movement: Orphism

Artist: Robert Delaunay

Artwork description & Analysis: This view of Paris, centered on the Eiffel Tower, recognizable as a green silhouette, appears throughout Delaunay's Simultaneous Windows series. Conveyed in translucent, overlapping, and contrasting color planes, the window serves as a framing device and a way of overlapping interior and exterior spaces in the painting. The influence of Symbolism can be seen in the artist's use of the Eiffel Tower as a symbol of modernity, and also in his use of windows, as Symbolism used images of glass to symbolize the connection between internal and external realities. Although the work was based on a photographic postcard, it also shows the influence of Sonia Delaunay's quilt in its grid-like pattern of rectangular and triangular planes.

The Simultaneous Windows paintings were a breakthrough for the artist, helping to differentiate him from other Cubists; as he explained, they were "in reaction to the academicism and confusion of early Cubism." While the influence of Cubism can be seen in the use of multifaceted planes, his emphasis on structuring the work through blocks of vibrant color, rendered here in vibrant translucencies was radically different from his colleagues. The name of the series refers to Chevreul's idea that the eye perceives contrasting colors simultaneously and it also references Bergson's ideas on the structure of time and experience as a continuum. Looking at the work, the viewer's focus shifts between the forms and the planes of color, drawn by the relationships between the hues. Color becomes structural in the work, and the painting itself becomes a window, where all the elements are present simultaneously, but harmoniously.

Oil on canvas - Tate Modern, London

City Building (Part of American Today Mural) (1930)
Artwork Images

City Building (Part of American Today Mural) (1930)

Artist: Thomas Hart Benton

Artwork description & Analysis: Commissioned by New York City's innovative and progressive New School for Social Research, Benton's America Today murals joyfully celebrate an America before the full impact of the Great Depression had been realized. Here, a multi-racial labor force - this in itself is modern and utopian image because of heavily segregated labor in America - busily build the city. Emphasis is placed on the producer, rather than on material consumption. Benton pictures high skyscrapers, which were markers of the new modern city, urbanism, and industrialism. The presence of a ship recalls Benton's earlier work for the US Navy, and reminds us of New York's prominence as a port city. Benton applied wood molding to the canvas to separate one vignette from the other, which gives a modern, cinematic quality to the overall composition. (Benton had earlier worked in the film industry as well.) His rapid compositional shifts in depth between the foreground and deep background recall cinematic effects. In addition to Benton's murals, the New School also commissioned the great Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco to paint a suite of frescoes which complement Benton's tribute to the national by focusing on the international. Standing in front of this monumental and brightly colored image, one senses the city humming and pulsating with new energy.

Distemper, egg tempera, and oil glaze on linen - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY

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Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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