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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: September 2011

11 - Modernism and the visual arts


The ancient parallel between literature and the visual arts - i.e., painting, sculpture, and architecture - became newly relevant in the twentieth century. Painters were the first to explore the revolutionary possibilities of Modernism, so that painting became the leading art form. Modernist writers often patterned their literary experiments on parallels drawn from the visual arts. It is impossible to understand fully the development of literary Modernism, therefore, without at least a rudimentary knowledge of modern art. This chapter is intended to provide a brief history of modern art for those whose primary interest is modern British and American literature. It follows the version of Modernism that was endorsed by the Museum of Modern Art in the 1930s and that served as the standard for most of the twentieth century. Literary parallels will be drawn primarily from poetry, since there the influence of the visual arts is deepest and most direct.