The Evolutionary Psychoanalysis of Painting and Architecture in the Historical Context of World War I to World War II

Document Type : Research Article



Progressions in the twentieth century’s scientific, industrial, social, ideological, economic, political, cultural, and artistic aspects were larger than other centuries combined. Today, with the passage of nearly a century since World War II, a review of the milestones of that era provides greater insight into how external influences affected both painting and architecture. The consequential psychological factors become evident in the production and transformation of the artwork.  Explanation of the emergence of trends in fine arts and architecture often review artworks separately, leaving out important variables from the equation. Yet art trends of certain kinds cannot be fully explained without looking at the adjacent fields.  It is critically important to consider historical events like war and revolution as they oftentimes cause fundamental changes or collapse in people’s value systems and worldview. The aim of this research is to conceive the complex and historical process of the subject as a film in motion rather than a separate format and sort of silent and static photograph. The importance of and the reason for selecting this method is a response to the shortcoming that accounted for separate review of the artworks of important and well known painters and architects, and also intends to highlight the importance of understanding social interactions, mutual influences and interdependencies between the artworks of painters and architects in their historical context. This research is going to illustrate these interwoven streams by focusing on the period from World War I to World War II. This period is a very complicated stream of history so this study begins with a historic and cultural journey starting before World War I, when naturalism and romanticism transformed into abstract forms of expression. It becomes noticeable that upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914 artwork shifted very descriptively.  One such example is the works of artist, Piet Mondrian.  In each period of his life, his work changes reflect the dynamic external environment. Changes in his work are demonstrated by comparing the words used during the time with the colors, tonalities, lines and shapes in his artwork.  In this case, the artist illustrates what he feels and thinks. Another example is an investigation of the effect of war on abstract paintings in Dutch modern architecture - particularly in De Stijl style in Gerrit Rietveld’s architectural work in Schroder House in 1924.  The architecture of the Schroder house simulates the three-dimensional abstract paintings of Mondrian with the spatial vertical and horizontal surfaces of Theo van Doesburg.  A similar observation of changes during this time is revealed during an exploration of the German pavilion at Barcelona International Exposition of 1928, which is Mies van der Rohe’s work.  Notably, the pavilion’s surfaces significantly gained importance.  One can see and feel how approaches for defining space in these buildings changed and clearly linked this architecture to the work of Dutch abstract painters like De Stijl.  Another illustration of transformation and how an artist’s work is marked by historical events are in the works of Le Corbusier which are deeply affected by the ruinous World War I.  There is no similarity in his after-war works with his pre-war traditional romantic style.  After the war the needs of people changed therefore the manner of his design also changed. One of the best examples in this analysis for the impact of historical events is the Guernica painting created by Pablo Picasso. In this painting it is obvious how the Spanish artist’s feelings were after the bombing of Guernica by the Luftwaffe. Using this method to outline individually influencing factors and relate them to each other, then considering all the variables in the equation and their interdependencies, the reader of this study gains deep insight and begins to understand the reasons for evolution in contemporary art and architecture, especially in the works created in the context of social, economical, cultural and identity crises.  This approach brings about a broader view to art discussions and breaks down the prejudice, outdated approach, rigid and analytical formats that is common in theoretical rules and bolsters the dialectical process of formation phenomena.  The contents of this research is mostly derived from the author’s personal impressions arrived at through studies in art, different fields of art history and architecture including analysis of articles, books, research papers and documents on websites.  Questions posits by the author arise concerning whether respect of today’s economic and social crises is possible, whether these experiences and interactions are evident in a review of the dialogue between painting and architecture, and whether another Renaissance in art and architecture is needed are.