lance, American Gothic, by Grant Wood (1930), Fish Magic by Paul Klee (1925), The Human Condition by Rene Magritte (1934) and The Creation by Diego Rivera (1923) seem to have little in common, except for the coincidental timing of their creation within a twelve or thirteen year span. The idealistic intentions of the four artists, however, bind these four artworks - three paintings and a mural - because of their direct and immediate messages, which were perhaps more obvious in their time.
The twelve year span fell neatly between the first and second world wars: a time when the market for non-Academic art expanded massively, and it was no longer necessary for an artist to be exhibited in the known ‘Salons’. Solo or joint exhibitions in new commercially owned galleries, that were mushrooming all over Europe, was enough to keep an artist going.1 It was a time of hope, fierce energy and voluminous creation in art and literature.
Debate over the meaning of art at the time when observers tended to group everything new under the label ‘Modern Art’ grew more passionate between the wars. And artists seemed to be able to express opinions simply. But it was still difficult to determine the various complex social messages in the art.
Diego Rivera’s Creation seems to be a universal message of peace, unity and hope. Adam, Eve and the personified Christian virtues are necessarily symmetrical, because of the wall shape, and convey a sense of order. The biblical inferences are unmistakable, and the symbols for the four evangelists place it squarely in the Christian camp. This cuts universality or even ecumenism out of the picture. It is an encaustic mural painted from live models, and all appear to have the physiognomy of Mexican Indians: there is no attempt here to include representation from a broad range of nationalities or races. Even God and Adam and Eve belong to the identifiable group. 2 This to the observer makes this mural a clear appeal to God from the ...
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