Sculpture and Architecture in the Modern Era

Sculpture and Architecture in the Modern Era

As society experienced rapid change due to industrialisation and World War One, artists sought new subjects and working techniques – eventually leading them down the road of Modernism.

Architecture styles such as Bauhaus, Art Deco, and Moderne emerged to abandon historical building precedent and emphasize functional, spatial and technical properties in designs.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was an enormously significant transformation that profoundly altered how we lived, worked, and thought. It changed the economy, society, and culture more than any other event ever has; over a period of one century production shifted from home businesses to large factories while manufacturing and transportation were transformed along with revolutionizing everyday lives.

One of the most notable effects of the Industrial Revolution on architecture was architecture itself. Due to technological advancements that followed it, architects began seeking ways to merge traditional designs with contemporary materials and technology – giving rise to what came to be known as Modernism movement. Early Modernists such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Robert Mallet-Stevens sought clean lines without ornamentation – their motto being: “form follows function”.

Building materials underwent significant change as well, with reinforced concrete and steel replacing stone and brick as the predominant building material for thinner, lighter buildings that could be assembled more rapidly. This allowed construction crews to complete projects quicker.

Other architects saw Modernism as too limiting and created alternative architectural movements which fought against its doctrines – known collectively as Modernisms; examples include Art Nouveau (Victor Horta in Belgium and Hector Guimard in France), Arts and Crafts movement and Chicago School of Architecture.

The First World War

World War I (also known as the Great War), which occurred from 1914-18, involved most major European powers as well as their overseas colonies. It was an innovative war using advanced weapons such as machine guns and long-range artillery fire which caused unprecedented levels of slaughter and destruction.

As a response to this calamitous event, artists and architects across the globe embraced modernism. Though there were different forms of modernism, its common thread was its rejection of traditional and historical forms; its central philosophy being form follows function; ornament should come from within its structure instead of being added just for decorative effect.

With this new style, architecture became less focused on recreating past styles than on experimenting with design and scale; buildings could now become taller and more complex than in earlier generations.

At this pivotal moment in European art history, various movements arose that ultimately comprise what we know today as modernism. From Suprematism in Russia and Purism in France to Futurism in Italy – precursors to what took shape at America’s Armory Show of 1913 with modern European and American paintings, sculptures, photography – which challenged preexisting ideas about what art could and should be.

Duchamp’s Readymade

Marcel Duchamp was best-known for his groundbreaking readymade art movement. This movement involved shifting sculpture’s role away from being physical object to being more conceptual in nature; Duchamp’s 1917 sculpture Fountain featured an unusual object – an old urinal on a pedestal – as an artful provocateur which raised questions such as “What defines art?”

Duchamp began his artistic journey as a painter, participating in both Impressionist and Cubist movements before realizing he couldn’t change the world simply through those styles. Thus he developed the idea of readymade art – taking mass-produced objects like toys or appliances and altering or recontextualizing them in order to give it new significance and create something altogether new.

Duchamp first introduced readymade art with his Bicycle Wheel (1913), an inverted bicycle wheel which he mounted atop a draughtsman’s stool upside-down. Fountain (1917) further developed this idea of readymade art by employing porcelain urinal bearing the text “R. Mutt 1917” painted onto it and moving its placement and adding mistletoe, thus creating a slapstick joke which challenged viewers assumptions of what constitutes art objects.

Duchamp then staged another exhibition called Box in a Valise (From or by Rrose Selavy), 1935-41 which included his original Fountain along with other objects including snow shovel and toothbrush. However, this endeavor proved ineffective due to public not recognizing it for what it is.


Dada was a counter culture movement founded in 1916 by Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, and Tristan Tzara at Zurich Switzerland’s Cabaret Voltaire. Composed largely of draft dodgers dissatisfied with nationalistic conventions leading up to World War I – these activists came together as antiauthoritarian squatters, unorganized groups without leadership making up this antiauthoritarian art movement that ultimately proved quite disruptive to its respective societies.

Dada principles involved an embrace of the irrational and rejection of traditional concepts of reason, logic, and history. Artists incorporated everyday objects such as paper knives, typewriters, clocks into their work – often staples of consumerism such as paper knives. Marcel Duchamp developed a style known as the readymade; purchasing existing objects from stores then displaying them in galleries as art. Hannah Hoch pioneered a form of photomontage where elements from multiple photos were combined together into new images using different layers from different images combined together – her works were inspired by domestic feminine ideas such as sewing patterns and images depicting German military and industrial society decline.

As with all forms of art, Dadaist writings and artwork were filled with humor and silliness in order to provoke their audiences and break down formal barriers separating art from daily life. Additionally, this levity served to demonstrate that art wasn’t simply aesthetics but instead had meaning beyond its surface appearances.

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali was an unparalleled master of precise draftsmanship and striking images, drawing upon Renaissance masters like Titian to modernists such as Picasso and Ernst for inspiration, but ultimately his extraordinary imagination was the source of his true genius.

Dali was born in Figueres, Spain near the Pyrenees Mountains on 11 January 1904 to a middle-class lawyer and notary with an authoritarian approach to raising his children; Felipa Domenech Ferres however was much softer in her approach and encouraged his art and early eccentricities as much as possible.

In 1928, Dali collaborated with filmmaker Luis Bunuel on Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), an experimental film which explored abject obsessions and surreal imagery, sparking discussion among Parisian Surrealists who invited Dali into their movement via Andre Breton; however, soon enough their relationships would sour as Dali fell out with other members.

Dali first adopted surrealism during the late 1920s and quickly established himself as one of its premier artists. His use of found objects to construct sculpture helped break away from traditional practices in Surrealism, and inspired more progressive Assemblage artists like Joseph Cornell to embrace this form. Today, his influence can still be found amongst painters using surrealist styles of painting along with visionary arts forms like visionary arts spheres or in digital art and illustration spectrums.

Andy Warhol

At the outset of his career, Warhol demonstrated an extraordinary talent for accurately anticipating and responding to social and cultural trends. His fascination with fame, fashion, celebrity, and Hollywood was likely due to his experiences growing up in Pittsburgh where he sought refuge in popular teen magazines while collecting autographs of Hollywood stars.

In the 1950s he dabbled in commercial art, such as shoe illustration and album cover design. Additionally he created stippled portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger and Mao Tse-tung for magazine covers and celebrity albums. Additionally he began experimenting with drawing techniques, eventually developing his blotted line technique by blotting ink renderings before they dried completely.

By the 1960s, Warhol had established his professional studio – known as “the Factory” – in an old warehouse on East Forty-seventh Street that once housed a hat factory. Here he employed assistants who assisted with creating his paintings, prints and drawings; by having multiple people involved with production processes for these pieces simultaneously he could increase commercial productivity of them further.

Warhol’s works often explored repetition and mechanical reproduction, reflecting his use of silkscreen printing for many of his pieces. You can recreate his style of drawing by tracing an image freehand or from a magazine and then redrawing its lines with ink or watercolour before pressing another sheet of paper over top to form a ‘print’ – repeat this process multiple times until you’ve created an array of repeated images!