UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Ang, Hwee Loo
National Institute of Education
Year of completion: 
Country of Research Data: 

An Academic Exercise submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for Bachelor of Arts (Hons)


An article, Definition of Neotraditionism (1890), by the 20 year-old French artist, Maurice Denis, contains the following dictum: " It is well to remember that a picture - before being a battle horse, a nude woman, or some anecdote - is essentially a plane surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order." (Chipp, 1968, p91).

This is the starting point for research into some directional shifts in late 19& century Western art away from the pictorial norm of Renaissance, i.e. Linear Perspective, towards an increasing emphasis on the integrity of the picture plane as a major factor in image making.

In this paper, there is an examination of Symbolist Theory and practice as it relates to previous and contemporary movements in 19" century Western art and subsequent developments in early Modernism. There is also reflection on the historical, social and economic changes at that time that might have driven this shift in the pictorial spatial paradigm as it developed into early 20th century Modernism.

Several artists together with their work in this new pictorial realm are studied. It shows that most of the artists were able to synthesize depth and flatness in their work. They were able to preserve this spatial illusion despite overthrowing the system of Linear Perspective. Generally, it reveals the growing concern for flatness, linearity and decoration as positive elements in artistic creation in both 'high' and 'applied' art at that time.

Another aspect of this paper contains an analysis of the writer's own artwork in a series of symbolic paintings based on the theme: Mirrors of the Interior Reveries, which took up and explored some of the issues that were simultaneously being investigated in this dissertation.

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