Influence of African American Culture in the 20th Century!

Treden Wagoner, 20th Century

Treden Wagoner, 20th Century

20th century was a time of great change and social shifts. With the Great Depression, Roaring 20’s, and the Stock Market Crash, a lot was going on. What was also going on, was an African-American Renaissance that shook the world and brought on the beginnings for social change, jazz, black dance, and jazz. Did I mention Jazz?


After the emancipation Proclamation that Abraham Lincoln was so kind to write, African American’s were freed and got a small hold in the middle class of America. They mostly migrated North because of great equality and the promise of industrial jobs. The Harlem Renaissance was a burst of culture that originated in an area of New York City called “Harlem”, hence the name. African-American arts, music, and culture exploded into a beautiful time of expression and newfound sense of pride and identity. It was basically a giant social revolt against realism and inequality. This attitude and ideals set the tension that pushed through the civil rights movements later in the century, which led to African American equality in America.

The Harlem Renaissance also brought literary artists like Zora Neale Hurston whose short story Sweat was written in the African American vernacular and opened the doors for the true story of what life was like. Here is the link to the short story , I highly recommend reading it!

Pearl Primus, first African American modern dancer

Pearl Primus, first African American modern dancer



Jazz, as it so happens, was the biggest artistic thing of the century.  Yes, Jazz was THAT big. It’s creation is mostly accredited to African Americans, as it’s foundations came from the African music style that was preserved through the slaves. It even influences us today. Almost everything we listen to has Jazz roots. Jazz music revolutionize the music realm, and blew everyone’s minds away. The music was played on regular European instruments, yet sounded like nothing anyone had ever heard. Jazz was upbeat, loose, and was a full body experience. Jazz also caused ripples in social settings. Jazz music challenged racial segregation by being popular among all races. It also helped bring about the commercial radio stations, which allowed the African-American influence of jazz to be broadcasted around the world! Some of the most influential and popular artists came from this time, like Billy Holiday and Louis Armstrong, whose music is still heavily featured on today’s movie soundtracks.

Here, Louis Armstrong plays his oh-so-poplular What a Wonderful world. This song, and many other of Armstrongs’ works, have been credited on 201 movie soundtracks.

 Jazz not only brought about a revolutionary and ground breaking style of music, but it also created a culture of brand new dances which were showcased throughout the century. Dances that started in black jazz clubs and the Harlem spread throughout the nation, to Caucasians and African Americans alike. Dances such as the “Charleston“, “Swing”, and “Lindy Hop” spawned dance competitions between people of all races and ages. The 20’s Flapper girls especially took a liking to the Jazz culture and Swing dance.



The African-American influence on 20th Century America was no small thing. Jazz revolutionized the music world, the Harlem Renaissance challenged social barriers and ideals, and black dance brought about a newfound frivolity and excitement that especially permeated the roaring 1920’s. What a Wonderful World.


Sources, Yal!

*A large portion of my information came from the Audio Learning Portion of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s ART_MUS_THR 200 class, provided by Professor Lisa Kljaich*

Trueman, Chris. “The Jazz Age.” The Jazz Age. History Learning Site, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

“Louis Armstrong.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2014

“African Dance Music.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.

“The Jazz Age.” Boundless. Boundless, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

“Ray Charles – Hit The Road Jack (Original).” YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2009. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.

“Louis Armstrong What A Wonderful World.” YouTube. YouTube, 09 Nov. 2010. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.

Urton, Robin. “Eyeconart: The Harlem Renaissance.” Eyeconart: The Harlem Renaissance. Eyeconart, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.

JChamBliss. “The Harlem Renaissance: A Social Documentary Through Art @ Project Mosaic: Hurston.” The Harlem Renaissance: A Social Documentary Through Art @ Project Mosaic: Hurston. Project Mosaic, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014

Hurston, Zora. “SWEAT – Zora Neale Hurston.” Biblioklept. Biblioklept, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.


This Is The Romantic Era, But Don’t Swoon Just Yet!


The 1800’s were a time of great progress and re-activity. I use the term “re-activity” because it perfectly describes the artistic transitions of the time. The major styles of art that took place during this era were created as reactions of previous styles of art. The Romanticism was a reaction to Neoclassicism, Realism was a reaction to Romanticism, and Impressionism was an adaptation of Realism. Impressionism was the “big kahuna”, if you will.  As stated in the ART161 audio learning portion of the “Romantic Era” section, “…Impressionism is where art really begins. Prior to impressionism, art was harnessed to journalism, portraiture, and storytelling. Impressionism disengaged art from those conventional roles.”  (Lisa Kljach, ART 200, 5.4 – Visual Arts in the Romantic Era).

Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise

Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise

Personally, Impressionism is my favorite art style of the era. Impressionists took fleeting moments of time and captured them in art. They wanted to focus on the “here and now”, and strayed as far away as possible from the traditional subjects of religion, history, and morality. They wanted to elicit emotions, and show the viewer’s their take on the scene they were painting. Impressionists favored transitional pieces showcasing the change of light and weather. They rely on the use of color and broad, sweeping strokes to draw attention to the painting, instead of falling back to the use of lines. In French impressionist painter Claude Monet’s, Impression Sunrise (circa 1871), you can see the embodiment of the impressionist style. The thick broad strokes of the sea, the sweeping and blending of the colors of the sky blend together nearly effortlessly. Adding a bold splash of color, orange in this case, was Money’s calling card. All of these elements come together to form the seamless transition in the piece, showcasing the transitional effect that a sunrise has on a beautiful harbor.

Eduoard Manet, Olympia

Eduoard Manet, Olympia

In contrast, the Realism style of painting was much more rigid. Impressionists painted what they saw and tried to capture that moment through their own eyes. Realists worked to capture their scenes exactly as it was. Their subjects were everyday scenes of the average life, and strayed away from religious undertones or political satire. Most notable was the change in the depiction of women. Instead of painting the notion of a woman (as was previously popular) in a mythical or historical theme, French painter Eduoard Manet painted a courtesan as real as he possible could in his artwork Olympia (circa 1865). Unlike an Impressionist painting, you can clearly see the harsh lines of her figure and the shadows playing on her skin. The use of harsh black background to make the courtesan stand out is also an element not common to impressionist paintings. Impressionists use a plethora of colors to convey meaning, rather than flat pallets.

A style that I feel falls in the middle between Impressionist and Realism and one that comes as a close second to my favorite style of the era it is named after, is the Romantic style. Not to be confused with the notion of love, Romantic style of art was a reaction to the stark formality of the Neoclassical style that preceded it. As with Impressionism and the Baroque era, Romantics wanted to elicit a reaction from their viewers. They wanted their patrons to be able to create their own stories from the paintings. Romantic painters favored mists, fantasies, exotics, dreams, and fantastical landscapes. What sets the Romantic era apart from impressionists is the subject matter, as well as that Romantics’ paintings leaned more toward Realist’s technical style of painting. Some of the most famous Romantic style of paintings were of horrific and violent scenes, used to illustrate the horrors of war and corrupt politics.

Francisco Goya The Third of May 1808Unlike the sweeping and bold strokes of Monet’s Impression Sunrise, Spanish painter Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808 showcases a fantastically brutal scene. Derived from the historical events that took place in 1808, Goya used light and subject placement to showcase the martyr in the center (practically glowing) with his hands raised as if he were, I don’t know, crucified. If this doesn’t scream religious undertones, I’m not sure what does. Goya also used a dark background, and shadowy gunman to portray the dark backside and shadowy nature of politicians of the day. I’ve noticed that Romantic style of painters were really big on their lighting.

The 1800’s were a time of great change, specifically artistically. The different art styles played off of each other, ultimately giving way for the Impressionist style which is “…where art really begins.”

Here’s Where I Got My Brain Juice!

Francisco De Goya, . N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

Edouard Manet, . N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

“Tips by Dr. Lori: What is Impressionism.” Dr. Lori. N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

Cauderlier, A.. N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

Claude Monet, . N.p.. Web. 21 Mar 2014. <>.

Revolution and Art

Surrender of General Burgoyne by John trumbull

Surrender of General Burgoyne by American artist John Trumbull in 1822

The American Revolution. A time of bloody war that led to liberation, freedom, and our nation as we know today. This revolution caused the subjects of american painters’ artworks to center predominately around the war and it’s prominent figures. Here, John Trumbull painted General Baron Reidesel,  Colonel William Prescott, General Gates, and Colonel Morgan and their part in the surrender of General Burgoyne at the battle of Saratoga.

But the American Revolution not only affected America as we know it today, nay, it also affected the world as we know it. It drove nations to separate from their “overlords”, caused revolutions around the world, and brought about an era of liberation. The people who were, arguably, most affected were the French. They modeled their revolution almost entirely after the American Revolution; The Declaration of Rights and Man echoing the sounds of the Declaration of Independence, and the Enlightenment itself drawing it’s inspiration from the Declaration of Independence. Of the French aspects affected by the American Revolution, a major part was the art produced by the French. It not only affected the style of art that was produced, but changed the subject.

The Enlightenment era featured two distinct styles of art, rococo and neoclassical. Rococo began the era and was the embodiment of upper class. It was bold, curvy.

Les Charmes de la vie (The Delights of Life) by French rococo artist Antoine Watteau in 1718

Les Charmes de la vie (The Delights of Life) by French rococo artist Antoine Watteau in 1718

Rococo, much like the “finer” French class emphasized pleasure and light heartedness. Rococo was bold and colorful, kept the subject matter lavish and light, and was the reflection of the aristocratic tastes.

Here, in Watteau’s Les Charmes de la Vie, you can see the classic rococo features. Bold colors, beautiful backdrops, and scenes depicting pleasure and joy. The people here look like they haven’t a care in the world. Like they are fun and light, airy in nature. There is company in the background, entertaining themselves with the scenery. The upper class of France of this time (Lets be honest, at almost all times in history) were big on social gatherings and parties. They fancied showing off their royal estates, and thought not of the woes of those around them. Here is a quaint video show just what I mean


Napolean in His Study by French artist Jacque-Louis David in 1812.

Napolean in His Study by French artist Jacques-Louis David in 1812.

Consequently, when the lower class French citizens were inspired by revolution and were fed up with their horrendous treatment, rococo also became the embodiment of the perceived moral decline of the upper class. The Pussinista’s of the French academy began an anti-rococo trend on the coat-tails of this unrest. Classified as “neoclassical”, this art style put an emphasis on moral virtue, good deeds, and patriotic self-sacrifice (I couldn’t possible figure out why *sarcasm*). Due to its revolutionary nature, the subjects featured turned towards those seen as figures of importance and inspiration to the movement.

Here, in Jacques-Louis David portrays Napoleon, a highly influential man in the circles of revolutionaries, in his study. Notice the deep colors, this is what separates neoclassical from classical artwork. And to put it apart from rococo, this neoclassical painting boasts intense detail, even down to the wall moldings on the upper left hand corner. Each yellow box represents a different facet of intense detail. As you could see from the Les Charmes de la Vie, rococo was fixated on color and bold lines and less on fine details.

 The revolutions in the Enlightenment era spawned a whole new breed of artwork, along with a whole new attitude. This shows just how influential an artist’s surroundings and period can be. With social unrest at their feet, the French artists took that energy and molded it into a brand new class of art. Neoclassical art, birthed from a distaste of what rococo represented (the plush and morally unmentionable upper society of France).


To Read More Amount Revolutions and Art

Jacques-Louis David, Initials. N.p.. Web. 12 Mar 2014. <;.

John Trumbull, . N.p.. Web. 12 Mar 2014. <;.

Pioch, N.. N.p.. Web. 12 Mar 2014. <;.

(The imformation about the rococo and neoclassical styles of artwork came from the recordings and audio teachings of Professor Lisa Kljaich’s ART/MUS/THTR 200 class)

Baroque: Art for The Masses


The word “Baroque” literally means “irregular”.  It used to be used as a term to describe pearls that were of a lesser value, so it used to be a negative term. But not anymore. The Baroque era was punctuated by ballsy artists who pushed themselves to newer heights. They wanted to be the best, the most artsy, the best at lines, use colors beautifully. This clashed, I feel, a little bit with the wants of this era. The Catholic Church launched a Counter Reformation to beat back the “heresy’ that was ever present with the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. They promoted art, music, and literature in order to “bring back the moon” as some would say. The Church absolutely hated mannerist styles of art, as we saw with Pope Julius I’s Master of Ceremonies severe distaste for Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment”. You would think, with the Mater of Ceremonies being shown as a literal “ass” that the church learned that messing with artists isn’t the best idea.

Ass for Mass? Get it? 'Cause he's Catholic?

Ass for Mass? Get it? ‘Cause he’s Catholic?

But! I digress

One thing the Catholic Church did that I could personally applaud was that they made music, art, and literature more accessible to the general public. It’s a good marketing technique because the more accessible their religious propaganda was, the more people it would reach, and the more successful their reformation. Their intense monetary contributions to artists and art in general also made it possible for common folk to be able to see and experience art. Then there is the rad Academie Royale De Peinture Et De Sculpture (The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture) which was an art school that opened up that could literally just teach you to paint.

Here is an artist's perspective view of an art school! It's... Artception.

Here is an artist’s perspective view of an art school! It’s… Artception.

So more people were painting, which meant more art to trade and sell. Which meant that the Netherlands got it into their head to rise up and make Amsterdam the damn trade hub of the world. So now you have all of the religious followers seeing art, millions of merchants and common-folk seeing art being traded back and forth, and on top of that you have a school making the dream of being an artist a reality. Art, understandably, quickly because a commonplace and easily accessible, yet still totally fabulous, way of being.

Self  Portrait of a Portrait Genius.

Self Portrait of a Portrait Genius.

I say all of this background to thoroughly introduce to you Rembrandt, a portrait genius of the Baroque era.

Why the lengthy intro, you ask? I wanted to make sure it was perfectly clear just how common art had become by this time. Portraits were no longer for the rich, normal folk were having their portraits done too! Companies were commissioning artists to paint company portraits and banners. It became our modern day equivalent of doing a family photo or a company photo. Continue reading

The Renaissance: La Giudizio Finale (The Final Judgement)


Michelangelo was a man of great intellect and artistic capabilities. One of his crowning achievements was the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, the painting of the Sistine Chapel was a grand artistic endeavor that punctuated the victory of Rome over the French. Pope Julius the II was known as a “Warrior Pope, and used aggressive campaigns to unite Italy under the Catholic Church. The painting of the Sistine Chapel was one of his campaigns, and his goal was to use traditional iconography to strengthen the papacy.  Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Chapel in the manner of books of scripture.


Look at all of those fancy names.

 Michelangelo was known as a great role model of the mannerism style of art during the Renaissance. Mannerism is characterized by an instability and tension, as opposed to the harmony and balance of early Renaissance works of art. It is shown through disproportions of human anatomy, lack of clear perspective, and “chaotic” scenes. He was also a great patron of humanism, an intellectual movement during the Renaissance. Humanism is a state of mind characterized by a higher concern and focus on secular and world subjects, rather than religious motivation.


Wow disproportions. What chaos. Such lines. Wow.

 Michelangelo’s contributions to the Sistine Chapel Ceiling are numerous, but one of the most controversial of his paintings is the work entitled The Last Judgment. The Last Judgment is a fresco painting done on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, which depicts the second coming of Christ. While the Church claimed this to be a time of wonderful reckoning, the artist definitely depicted it as more of a chaotic and horrific thing.


The Last Judgement

Michelangelo used a blend of classic Catholic beliefs and greek/roman characters to make up the subjects in the painting. Christ is at the center of the painting looks more like an angry Apollo than a loving redeemer. Charon, the greek ferryman who leads the dead down the river Styx, is pictured in the bottom leading the souls. St. Bartholomew is pictured to be holding his flayed skin, which starkly resembles Michelangelo himself. Even Minos, the judge of the damned, makes a guest appearance. And did I mention almost everyone in the painting is completely nude?

Charon making a guest appearance from Greek mythology

[From Left: Charon and St. Bartholomew with a flayed Michelangelo]

The Last Judgment actually came under heavy criticism during the Counter Reformation, which was the Catholic churches response to the Protestant reformation. The Protestant reformation was a time where everyone questioned the church, there were a lot of angry words, and people rioted. Etc. Etc. The Catholic church responded to this burst of angry people by launching a reformation of their own, in which they used spiritual movements and politics to try to bring the world back to its original Pope-Rule state.

But I digress!

The Last Judgment came under fire because of its obvious deviation from the traditional Catholic portrayals of scripture. Everyone was naked, people were flaying skin, Christ looked more like a movie star than a humble savior, and the entire picture more closely resembled a crazy swirly motion than the traditional horizontal-heaven-hell layering that was typical of religious paintings of the times.

Most notably was the critique of Biagio da Cesena .Da Cesena said that The Last Judgment was “mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully.” And that the painting was not suitable for the church, but rather for “public baths and taverns.” Basically, he said the painting was tasteless and should be in a place where people poop rather than where people come to be awed and inspired. So what did Michelangelo do? He worked Da Cesena’s face into the painting as Minos, except with donkey ears to show what an ass Cesena had been. It’s the modern day equivalent of drawing devil horns on the face of that one girl in high school that you just couldn’t get along with.

This is why you don't anger an artist. Taylor Swift could take a pointer or two from Michelangelo.

This is why you don’t anger an artist. Taylor Swift could take a pointer or two from Michelangelo.

The nude parts in the painting were eventually covered up by Daniele da Volterra in 1564 when the Council of Trent decreed that nudey parts were unacceptable and outlawed in religious art.

All in all, The Last Judgment was basically a giant “I DO WHAT I WANT” by Michelangelo. And a beautiful piece of Renaissance rebellion, at that.

Where I Acquired My Tidbits On…

The Sistine Chapel

Pope Julius II AKA Warrior Pope

The Last Judgment (Michelangelo) , Again,

The Renaissance


The Northern Renaissance

The Itallian Renaissance