Modern Masters: Between the Wars
November 2016 through February 2017
Press Release

Hammer Galleries is proud to present Modern Masters: Between the Wars, a select group of paintings and drawings by Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Kees van Dongen, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso, created between 1917 and 1945. Modern Masters: Between the Wars will be on view from November 1st, 2016 through February 28th, 2017.


The First World War was a war unlike any that preceded it— the first mechanized, truly “modern” war. Hemingway described it as “the most colossal, murderous, mismanaged butchery that has ever taken place on earth.” The two decades that followed were years of great political, social, and intellectual change, influenced not only by the unprecedented horror and chaos of the First World War, but by events such as the Russian Revolution, the rise of Fascism in Italy and Spain, the rise of the Nazis in Germany, and the Great Depression in the United States and Europe. It was also a time of tremendous creative activity, as artists actively responded to the turmoil and change in their environments and throughout the world.

Traditional art history is often presented as a linear progression of artistic movements, where one “ism” evolves into the next. The interwar period, however, demonstrates a very polarized artistic response to the devastation of the First World War, during which a very wide range of styles coexisted virtually side by side. After the First World War, artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Léger shifted away from earlier radical styles like Cubism and looked backward to the classical past for a reassuring artistic language (the “return to order”), while artists like Ernst, Miró, and Kandinsky looked for a new way forward through Dada, Surrealism, and Abstraction. Other artists like van Dongen and Chagall, whose styles did not fit neatly into other categories, were lumped together as the School of Paris. Though their styles varied extensively, the artists of this period were united in the belief that their art could disclose fundamental truth, whether it was spiritual, rational or emotional.

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