Fernand Léger, The Acrobat and his Partner 1948 . Tate . © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022

Room 2 in Media Networks

Modern Times

Shikanosuke Yagaki, Untitled (Street)  1930–9

Influenced by European modernism, Yagaki was a self-trained Japanese photographer active in the amateur camera clubs of Osaka and Kyoto throughout the 1930s. Untitled (Street) shows the front part of a parked car with strong sunlight reflected by the windscreen. Behind the car, the roofs of other vehicles are visible, revealing a glimpse of modern life in the cities of early Shōwa era Japan. Yagaki’s pictures belonged to the Shinko Shashin (‘New Photography’) movement, seeking to distance photography from painting and to capture dynamism in the everyday.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

Robert Delaunay, Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif)  1912

T00920

The Eiffel Tower can just be made out among the planes (flat areas) of colour here. Delaunay included the structure in many paintings. Its construction 25 years earlier caused controversy. Critics called it a ‘ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack’. When Delaunay made this work, it was still a symbol of modernity. He took his inspiration from a postcard showing the tower overlooking rooftops. The many bright colours evoke intense light and suggest fast-paced interactions experienced in the city.

Gallery label, April 2019

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artworks in Modern Times

William Roberts, The Diners  1919

This is one of three decorative ‘panels’ commissioned for the ‘Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel’ in London. All three panels hung in the first floor lobby leading to two private dining rooms, one of which was known as the ‘Vorticist Room’, named after the group of avant garde artists engaged in expressing the dynamic modern world who congregated there.

Gallery label, February 2016

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artworks in Modern Times

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Diego Rivera, Still Life  1916

The objects depicted in this painting include a flask, a wine glass, a soda dispenser, a book and a tin of milk on a table. He also included his signature and the date of the painting on the milk label (‘DR/anno 16’). Rivera applied paint in different ways to create a variety of textures in the work. As a young painter in Paris, Rivera embraced cubism, a way of showing different viewpoints in a single painting. In the 1920s, he would go on make large mural paintings. He said he had not abandoned cubism but was ‘following the natural evolution’ of the style.

Gallery label, September 2019

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artworks in Modern Times

Aenne Biermann, Ceramic Cup  c.1929

Keramiktasse shows an arrangement of ceramic crockery laid out on a table, photographed from above. The ceramic cup and saucer are the focus of the photograph and two other plates on the table are cropped by the composition. Biermann was one of the major proponents of the German Neue Sachlichkeit (‘New Objectivity’) photography movement that developed in the 1920s, embracing the mechanical ability of the camera to capture the real world in a clear, objective manner. She was influenced by other artists working at the time, including Albert Renger-Patsch (whose work hangs nearby) and August Sander.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

Judith Karasz, Material Structure (Anyagstruktúra)  1931

Kárász’s photographs explore the material qualities and structures of everyday things. Whether folded fabric, parched soil or cotton wool, the physical nature of the subject is the primary focus. Informed by her Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy, she felt that photography could make tangible aspects of its subject matter that could not be detected by the eye alone. In each case the resulting image is carefully constructed from a delicate balance of light and shadow across the surface of the chosen material. Like Coppola (hung nearby), Kárász also studied under photographer Walter Peterhan.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

Horacio Coppola, London  1934

Coppola’s photographic series London documents street life in the city during 1934. Various vendors, artists, and bystanders are featured. The person depicted here is appealing to the charity of passers-by through the use of a gramophone or record player. Coppola’s photograph indicates the widespread use of the modern device (invented in 1887), and the reproduction of popular music in London streets.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

Gino Severini, Suburban Train Arriving in Paris  1915

This painting of a train arriving in Paris attempts to express movement and conflicting energies through its fractured, interpenetrating forms. Like all the Italian futurists, Severini was inspired by modern machinery and was enthusiastic about the idea of war. In June 1915 he stayed for some weeks just outside Paris where the sight of trains passing close by day and night laden with munitions, soldiers or wounded prompted the creation of this work.

Gallery label, February 2016

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artworks in Modern Times

Horacio Coppola, Egg and Twine  1932, printed c.1950–70

An experimental photographic study in form, materiality and contrast, Egg and Twine shows a white egg alongside a twisted piece of white string. These two bright objects sit against a dark background of what appear to be wooden floorboards. The study likely dates from the Argentinian Coppola’s time studying at the Bauhaus Photography Department in Berlin, Germany, from 1932–3, under the German photographer Walter Peterhan.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

Fernand Léger, Still Life with a Beer Mug  1921–2

Léger believed that art should be accessible to all. He moved away from pure abstraction and towards the stylised depiction of real objects. He put great emphasis on order, clarity and harmony. In the 1920s, he developed an interest in geometric compositions. This painting shows a relatively naturalistic still life of a workman’s lunch on a table. The primary colours of the mug and tablecloth contrast with the black and white patterns in the background

Gallery label, June 2021

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artworks in Modern Times

Amédée Ozenfant, Glasses and Bottles  c.1922–6

Ozenfant applied the principles of classical proportion to everyday, modern subjects. The fluting of the bottles in this painting recalls classical columns, and is echoed in the glasses. The relationships between these objects creates harmony and unity. Ozenfant believed that finding order in the world around us was fundamental to the experience of beauty. He wrote, ‘the greatest human satisfaction is the feeling of collaboration or participation in this order’.

Gallery label, January 2019

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artworks in Modern Times

Jean Hélion, Ile de France  1935

Hélion was one of the most prominent abstract artists in Paris in the 1930s. He later returned to a more representational style. Ile de France is mostly composed of flattened planes of colour but the forms in the foreground appear solid and three-dimensional. At the time, Hélion reflected: ‘The more I advance the more evident is the attraction of nature…the volumes want to become complete: objects, bodies.’

Gallery label, January 2019

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artworks in Modern Times

Albert Renger-Patzsch, Hörder Verein - Coal Mixing Plant (Dortmund)  before 1929, printed c.1929

This photograph shows the exterior of a mixing plant in which coal was sorted and cleaned, located in Dortmund in the Ruhr valley, Germany. From the mid-1920s Renger-Patzsch embarked on a series of photographs documenting the industrialisation of the Ruhr landscape. Like the majority of his industrial compositions, the scene in this image is deserted, devoid of workers, with the focus falling on the isolated building that dominates the composition. Shot from a low angle, the perspective lends the plant a monumental air.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

György Kepes, Prism and Wood  c.1939

Kepes was introduced to the ‘new vision’ of modern art techniques while collaborating alongside László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) at the Bauhaus School in Germany. In 1937 Kepes emigrated to the US at the invitation of Moholy-Nagy to run the Color and Light Department at the New Bauhaus in Chicago. He created photographic studies, like Prism and Wood, using geometric forms of prisms and cones and more organic elements including leaves, rocks, and wood. In this work, an optical prism shows the refraction of light.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

Werner Bischof, Crate with cardboard  1933

Crate with Cardboard depicts a seemingly discarded piece of corrugated cardboard on top of a beaten wooden packing crate. The crate bears the name of the place of origin (‘Lausanne-Gare’ – Lausanne Station) and destination (‘Zürich-Hbf [Hauptbahnhof]’ – Zürich Main Station). Bischof was interested in the formal qualities, structures and textures of everyday found objects. The graphic style of the photograph resembles the layering effects seen in popular collage and photomontage works of the 1930s.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

Fernand Léger, The Acrobat and his Partner  1948

Léger was closely involved with the Peace Movement at the height of the Cold War. Together with Picasso, he attended the Communist-sponsored Peace Congress in Poland in August 1948. The Acrobat and his Partner was completed only months before and captures the circus as a symbol of the energy of modern life and popular entertainment. He wrote of this painting: ‘I work less by reflection than by instinct’. He strove to balance ‘the dynamic and the static.’ Here the partner holding the ladder provides the stability for the energetic movement of the acrobat and his disc.

Gallery label, February 2016

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artworks in Modern Times

Max Beckmann, Carnival  1920

This work captures the climax of carnival season in Germany. A period of fancy-dress parties, masked balls and street processions. The two standing figures are based on close friends of the artist. The masked clown on the floor is thought to be Beckmann himself.The Nazis did not approve of Beckmann’s work. They dismissed the distortions of his figures as ‘degenerate’ art. In 1933 the Nazi government removed Beckmann from his teaching post in Frankfurt. Several of his works were also included in their 1937 Degenerate Art show, prompting him to leave Germany for Amsterdam.

Gallery label, July 2019

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artworks in Modern Times

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Iosif Gerasimovich, The Mullah’s Third Wife  1928

Soviet cinema flourished during the 1920s, as Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) replaced the military communism of the Russian Civil War. Cinema poster artists such as Gerasimovich often blended geometric forms with the newly developed technique of photomontage. The Mullah’s Third Wife addresses the struggle for the emancipation of women amongst the Soviet Muslim population. Gerasimovich, working for the state-sponsored production company Sovkino, presents the film by employing the star aesthetics of contemporary western cinematography, which had flooded the Soviet Union during the NEP period.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

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Georgii Stenberg, Vladimir Stenberg, An Ordinary Story  1927

The creative duo Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg are considered to be the most innovative and important poster artists of 1920s Soviet cinema. With backgrounds in abstract painting and construction-making, they created stage sets and costumes for the avant-garde theatre and pioneered photomontage in cinema posters. In 1928 they stated, ‘We have complete freedom in handling the material, without observing any proportions between objects and figures, and between their individual details. In short, we use everything that can captivate any passer-by in his tracks’.

Gallery label, January 2022

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artworks in Modern Times

Albert Gleizes, Painting  1921

Gleizes’s abstract paintings often keep strong links with subject matter that inspired them. Here the image may be based on a female head, possibly that of the artist’s wife. Gleizes was a pacifist but was conscripted into the French army in the First World War. Deeply affected by this experience, he became gravely concerned with the future of society. He thought artists could help create a better world, not just by making beautiful things but by offering new ways of looking.

Gallery label, January 2019

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artworks in Modern Times

Juan Gris, Bottle of Rum and Newspaper  1913–14

Like many cubist works, Gris’s painting provides a revised experience of the everyday, whether in the studio or in a familiar café. Glimpsed letters confirm the positions of the two objects: UM for rum, JOUR (of ‘journal’) for the newspaper. A table is indicated by the false wood-graining, a house-painter’s skill much admired by the cubists because it is identifiably an illusion. Gris interweaves these fragmentary images of the familiar into a complex, carefully balanced structure.

Gallery label, August 2013

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artworks in Modern Times

Juan Gris, Pierrot with Book  1924

Although this painting is resolutely figurative, it is strongly influenced by Cubism. Pierrot’s upper body is neatly framed within the architectural framework of the window behind him and the depiction of his face combines a frontal and sideways perspective. The greatly exaggerated hands contrast with the impression of daintiness given by Pierrot’s cupid-bow mouth and the soft pastel hues employed by Gris.

Gallery label, September 2004

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artworks in Modern Times

Art in this room

P13147: Untitled (Street)
Shikanosuke Yagaki Untitled (Street) 1930–9
T00920: Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif)
Robert Delaunay Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif) 1912
T00230: The Diners
William Roberts The Diners 1919

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Diego Rivera Still Life 1916
P80261: Ceramic Cup
Aenne Biermann Ceramic Cup c.1929
P80991: Material Structure (Anyagstruktúra)
Judith Karasz Material Structure (Anyagstruktúra) 1931

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