Juan Gris. Portrait of Pablo Picasso, 1912. Art Institute Chicago. Google Art Project.

study days

Modernity and Reaction in European Art 1900-1945

  • Wednesday 12 July 2023
  • Elizabeth Fry Suite, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ
  • Lecturer: Richard Humphreys

Lecture 1: ‘Retour a l’Ordre’: The Paris Avant-Garde and its Enemies

Paris was the centre of the modern art world between 1840 and 1940: Less well-known is the opposition to this ‘progressive’ culture of Impressionism, Cubism and Surrealism and the power of deep conservative forces seeking a return to tradition.

 Lecture 2: ‘Modernitalia’: Futurism into Fascism

The Futurist movement burst on to the European art scene in 1909 and laid the foundations for many developments in avant-garde art. Italian art between the wars comprised an astonishing mix of modernism, classicism and bellicose nationalism.

Lecture 3: ‘Entartete Kunst’: From German Expressionism to Nazi Kitsch

Before Hitler’s rise to power German art was dominated by Expressionist, Dada and Neue Sachlichkeit styles. After 1933 these were ruthlessly ridiculed and suppressed as ‘degenerate’ products of Jewish and Communist influence. They were superseded by a traditional ‘Aryan’ art of muscular warriors and domestic goddesses.

Lecture 4:     ‘Agitprop’: From Constructivism to Collectivism

The Russian Revolution of 1917 ushered in an extraordinary flourishing of avant-gardism with an emphasis on the unity of art, design and architecture building a new Communist society. From the mid-twenties Stalin destroyed this culture in the name of a ‘Socialist Realism’ dedicated to his political and economic aims.


 Richard Humphreys was educated at the University of Cambridge and The Courtauld Institute of Art. He was a curator and Head of Education at Tate for many years. Over the last decade he has lectured on a wide range of themes and curated exhibitions across the world and has published several books and catalogues. His recent research concerns modernism and myth.

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