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Art Through Time: A Global View

The Urban Experience Compare: Why Has the Modern City Inspired so Many Artists?

Paris Street; Rainy Day

Paris Street; Rainy Day
Artist / Origin: Gustave Caillebotte (French, 1848–1894)
Region: Europe
Date: 1877
Period: 1800 CE – 1900 CE
Material: Oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 83 ½ in. (212.2 cm.), W: 108 ¾ in. (276.2 cm.)
Location: Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Credit: Courtesy of Art Resource/Photo by Erich Lessing

The City Rises

The City Rises
Artist / Origin: Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882–1916)
Region: Europe
Date: 1910
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 78.5 in. (199 cm.), W: 118.5 in. (301 cm.)
Location: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Credit: © The Museum of Modern Art, Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY

Why has the modern city inspired so many artists?

In ancient Mesopotamia, the rise of the city inspired innovation. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, urban innovation inspired art. Both Caillebotte and Boccioni took the modernization of the city as their subject. However, their different approaches to that subject reveal not only distinct aesthetic goals, but also different underlying preoccupations.

Questions to Consider

  • These two paintings were created less than half a century apart. The period that they encompass, however, was one of rapid changes to city life. To what kinds of changes is each artist responding? How do you think the artist feels about these changes?
  • Caillebotte’s street scene might be described as more naturalistic, while most people would talk about Boccioni’s work as more abstract in form. How does each artist’s style help to express his distinct vision of urban life?
  • In the history of European art, especially, cities have long been the subject of representation. Why do you think cities have appealed to artists and audiences as subject matter for art?

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Art Through Time: A Global View

Credits

Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2