Revised essay definition

By way of illustration I'd like to go into a little detail about how modernism came about in painting. There the proto-Modernists were, of all people, the Pre-Raphaelites (and even before them, as proto-proto-Modernists, the German Nazarenes). The Pre-Raphaelites actually foretold Manet (with whom Modernist painting most definitely begins). They acted on a dissatisfaction with painting as practiced in their time, holding that its realism wasn't truthful enough. It seemed to belong to this want of truth that color wasn't allowed to speak out clearly and frankly, that it was being swathed more and more in neutral shading and shadows. This last they didn't say in so many words, but their art itself says it, with its brighter, higher-keyed color, which marks off Pre-Raphaelite painting in its day even more than its detailed realism (to which clearer color was necessary in any case). And it was the forthright, quasinaive color, as well as the quasi-innocent realism of fifteenth-century Italian art that they looked back to in calling themselves Pre-Raphaelite. They weren't at all the first artists to go back over time to a remoter past than the recent one. In the later eighteenth century, David, in France, had done that when he invoked antiquity against the rococo of his immediate predecessors, and the Renaissance had done that in appealing to antiquity against the Gothic. But it was the urgency with which the Pre-Raphaelites invoked a remoter past that was new. And it was a kind of urgency that carried over into Modernism proper and remained with it.

Revised essay definition

revised essay definition

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