The Shock of the New  

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"The essential difference between a sculpture like Andre's Equivalent VIII[1], 1978, and any that had existed before in the past is that Andre's array of bricks depends not just partly, but entirely, on the museum for its context. A Rodin in a parking lot is still a misplaced Rodin; Andre's bricks in the same place can only be a pile of bricks."--The Shock of the New, Robert Hughes.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Shock of the New (1980) is a book and a television series by Robert Hughes.

In 1980 the BBC broadcast Hughes's television series on the development of modern art since the Impressionists. It was accompanied by a book of the same name. Its combination of insight, wit and accessibility are still widely praised.

In July 2004, the BBC re-aired this series as follows:

  • The Mechanical Paradise - Episode 1
  • The Powers that Be - Episode 2
    • Hughes explores the interplay between art and politics, seeing how artists were affected by the development of mechanised warfare and ideologies like fascism and communism.
    • See also: art and politics
  • The Landscape of Pleasure - Episode 3
    • The French artists who attempted to reconcile man with nature, from the determination of the impressionists to paint outside to Matisse's vibrant use of colour.
    • See also: impressionism - landscape
  • Trouble in Utopia - Episode 4
    • How modern architects in the wake of the Bauhaus aspired to change societies with their designs, a move represented both by Le Corbusier and the plans for the city Brasilia.
    • See also: utopia - architecture
  • The Threshold of Liberty - Episode 5
    • The art movement that gripped its exponents with the fervour of a religion: surrealism. Artists like Di Chirico, Ernst, Miró and Dalí; brought the subconscious to the fore and attempted to tap into innocent and irrationality.
    • See also: Surrealism
  • The View From the Edge - Episode 6
    • Expressionism sprung out of the harsh, secular atmosphere of the 20th Century and evolved, through the strong colours and often sombre moods of artists like Munch, to the non-figurative work of Pollock and De Kooning.
    • See also: Abstract Expressionism
  • Culture as Nature - Episode 7
    • Artists began to take man-made images as their inspiration, leading to the pop art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as well as Stuart Davis' collages inspired by jazz.
    • See also: Pop Art
  • The Future That Was - Episode 8
    • The final episode in the series explores the decline of modernism and how various artists have reacted to the consequent commercialisation of their art.
    • See also: postmodern art

Notes: Robert Hughes fails to mention the influence of photography and illustrated newspapers on Impressionism.

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