For centuries, classical art has been passed down from generation to generation. This tradition continued until the 20th century, when it came to an abrupt end. The transmission and inheritance of art was replaced by a radical avant-garde and began quickly degenerating. As artist Robert Florczak says, “The profound, the inspiring and the beautiful were replaced by the new, the different, and the ugly. … Standards declined until there were no standards. All that was left was personal expression.” Humanity thus lost its universal sense of the aesthetic.
The source of this battery of new artistic movements is closely connected to ideological trends influenced by communism. Many of these artists are either straight communists or para-communists of one kind or another, or they have been subject to the sway of these ideologies.
Georg Lukacs, the Hungarian cultural commissioner of the Communist International and founder of Western Marxism, founded the Frankfurt School. One of its tasks was to establish a “new cultural form” by abandoning traditional culture. This new cultural form set about excluding art that sought to represent the divine. As Herbert Marcuse, a German socialist and a representative of the Frankfurt School wrote: “Art both protests these given social relations, and at the same time transcends them. Thereby art subverts the dominant consciousness, the ordinary experience.”
That is, they enlist art in the revolt against the divine and the subversion of morality. Views of this sort dominate the direction of modern art.
Gustave Courbet, the founder of the French realist school, was one of the participants in the Paris Commune. He was elected as a committee member of the Commune and the chairman of the radical Federation of Artists. Courbet devoted himself to transforming the old system and establishing new artistic directions. He ordered the Federation to demolish a neoclassical building, the Vendôme Column (which was later rebuilt). Courbet denied that human beings were created by God, and was determined to use art to express the worldview of the proletariat, as well as materialism. He is known for remarking, “I have never seen either angels or goddesses, so I am not interested in painting them.”
Courbet believed reform of the arts was really a revolution. In the name of painting what he called reality, he replaced beauty with ugliness. His nude paintings, for instance, focused in particular on depicting the female genitalia, a supposed revolutionary act, as a way of rebelling and transgressing against tradition and somehow further inciting communist activism. The thinking and life of Courbet is an illustration of the close link between the communist ideology of revolution and modern art.
Under the influence of modernist thought, the revolutionary fervor of artists from the late 19th century brought about a series of movements in the art world. Unlike traditional schools of artistic expression, these were avant-garde movements that explicitly sought to rupture tradition. The term “avant-garde” was first used by socialist scholars to describe artistic movements that matched their own political aspirations.
In the late 19th century, these influences brought about impressionism. Ever since, modern artists have abandoned the demands of traditional oil painting, including the need for precision, proportion, structure, perspective, and transitions between light and shade. Neoimpressionism (pointillism) and postimpressionism then came along, centering their works on the exploration of the personal feelings of the artist. Representative figures in this school include Georges-Pierre Seurat and Vincent van Gogh, both of whom were involved in socialism. Van Gogh abused absinthe and suffered mental illness, and his paintings seem to reflect these tendencies.
Works of art contain the messages their creators want to convey and are the media by which their authors communicate to their audiences. The artists during the high Renaissance conveyed compassion and beauty to their audiences. Compare this to contemporary artists, who exude negative and dark messages. Modern artists abandon their own thoughts and allow themselves to come under the control of low-level and ghostly entities. They themselves are often incoherent and confused, and their works are similar — dark, negative, hazy, gray, depressed, decadent, and disordered.
After impressionism came expressionism and fauvism, followed by Picasso’s cubism. In 1944, Picasso joined the French Communist Party. In his letter “Why I Became a Communist,” he said: “My joining the Communist Party is a logical step in my life, my work and gives them their meaning. … But during the oppression and the insurrection, I felt that that was not enough, that I had to fight not only with painting but with my whole being.”
Picasso encouraged a break with the classical methods of painting. For him, everything was a piece of dough to be picked up and shaped as he pleased. The more eerie his works became, the happier he was. The process of creating monstrous images is the process of destroying an image, to the point where no one can understand it. Even Georges Braque, the modern artist who co-founded cubism with Picasso, didn’t like his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and claimed that Picasso must have taken a swig of petroleum and spat fire on the canvas.
Marcel Duchamp, the founder of the dada art movement, also sought to subvert and rebel against tradition with his display and use of readymade objects. He repurposed found or factory-made items and turned them into so-called art installations. Duchamp was called the father of conceptual art, and advocated the idea that anything could be called art. The dadaist movement is itself a communistic project, as evidenced by the manifesto of the Berlin dadaists, who called for an “international revolutionary union of all creative and intellectual men and women on the basis of radical Communism,” as well as “the immediate expropriation of property” and “immediate regulation of all sexual relations according to the views of international Dadaism through establishment of a Dadaist sexual center.”
Dada’s criticism of tradition evolved into surrealism in France, as represented by the communist André Breton, who advocated revolution. He was against the supposed suppression brought by reason, culture, and society — typical perspectives for modern artists in Europe at the time. The artistic movements that extended these principles include abstractism, minimalism, and pop art. Abstractism is about the emotional expression of rebellion, disorder, emptiness, and escapism. All of these schools are a kind of postmodernism, which sets out to overturn all rules, reasoning, and morality. At their most outrageous, these artists create works that openly desecrate the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Not all modern artists support left-wing politics, but there is a clear ideological commonality with communist thought — that is, the rejection of the divine, and the attempt to replace God as the starting point for understanding human life. These isms came to exert increasing influence in the public sphere and have ultimately come to completely marginalize classical art.
From Chapter Eleven: Desecrating the Arts