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Toward Abstraction: Ranking European Painters of the Early Twentieth Century


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  • David W. Galenson
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    Paris was the undisputed capital of modern art in the nineteenth century, but during the early twentieth century major innovations began to occur elsewhere in Europe. This paper examines the careers of the artists who led such movements as Italian Futurism, German Expressionism, Holland's De Stijl, and Russia's Suprematism. Quantitative analysis reveals the conceptual basis of the art of Umberto Boccioni, Giorgio de Chirico, Kazimir Malevich, and Edvard Munch, and the experimental basis of the innovations of Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Piet Mondrian. That the invention of abstract art was made nearly simultaneously by the conceptual Malevich and the experimental Kandinsky and Mondrian emphasizes the importance of both deductive and inductive approaches in the history of modern art.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11501.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2005
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    Publication status: published as Galenson, David W. "Toward Abstraction Ranking European Painters of the Early Twentieth Century." Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 39, 3 (Summer 2006): 99-111.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11501

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    1. David W. Galenson, 2004. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Very Young or Very Old Innovator: Creativity at the Extremes of the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 10515, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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