Teach Yourself Modern and Contemporary Art Bibliography, Part 2: The Twentieth Century

Fred Tomaselli, Dead Eyed Bird Blast, 1997. Photo by Renée DeVoe Mertz.

Once again, this bibliography should be understood as in-progress. There are currently some important holes, the most obvious and serious being Fluxus as well as the recent arts of China and Latin America. I hope to add these later.

In addition to checking out some or all of the following books and essays, the most helpful thing anyone can do in increasing their understanding of modern and contemporary art is to go to exhibitions and read the wall labels.


Lynn Gamwell. Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual. Princeton University, 2002.
This book begins in the mid-19th century and concludes in the early 20th century. It is a great alternative to a regular survey book for those who are particularly interested in the role of science in Modern art. [also listed in the 19th century bibliography]

Nicholas Mirzoeff. “The Multiple Viewpoint: Diaspora and Visual Culture,” in The Visual Culture Reader, Second Edition. Edited by Nicholas Mirzoeff. Routledge, 2002. 204–214.

Helen Molesworth. Part Object, Part Sculpture. Wexner Center for the Arts, 2005.

Alex Potts. The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist. Yale, 2000.
This beautifully produced book covers a broad range of sculpture, but focuses primarily on Western productions from the 20th century. Although the writing is clear enough for the casual reader, the content, which deals with the shifting philosophical underpinnings of sculpture, is more complex than most historical or stylistic surveys.

Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Bits and Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections. Walker Art Center, 2005.
As one of the pre-eminent museums for contemporary art in the United States, the Walker’s collection catalogue reads as a who’s-who in contemporary art, up to the date of publication. Although not every included artist is equally well represented, the catalogue nonetheless serves as a good introduction to the variety of contemporary practices.

Essay Collections

Hal Foster. The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century. MIT Press, 1999.

Salah Hassan and Iftikhar Dadi (eds). Unpacking Europe: Towards a Critical Reading. NAi, 2001.
Among other things, this exhibition catalogue and essay collection serves as a critique of, and counter-point to, the canonical narrative of Western Art.

Rosalind Krauss. Passages of Modern Sculpture. MIT, 1977.
This is a definitive collection of essays and should be read (critically) by anyone with a serious interest in Modern art.


William Rubin. Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern. The Museum of Modern Art, 1984.
See also: Thomas McEvilley. Artforum 23 (November 1984): 54–61 and Artforum 28 (March 1990): 19–21. [Artforum essays in Flam and Deutch, Primitivism and 20th Century Art: A Documentary History]


Turn-of-the-century Vienna: Secession, Expressionism, and the Wiener Werkstätte
Compared to contemporary movements in France and Germany, Viennese artists are under-represented outside of Austria. For those interested in this period, the small but excellent Neue Museum in New York has a solid collection of art and design, and also periodically hosts related temporary exhibitions. Otherwise, Vienna is the place to go.

Elisabeth Schmuttermeier and Christian Witt-Dörring (eds). Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte: A Catalogue Raisonné (Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection). Neue Museum, 2010.

Kirk Varnedoe. Vienna 1900: Art, Architecture and Design. The Museum of Modern Art, 1986.

Peter Vergo. Art in Vienna, 18981918: Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele and Their Contemporaries. Phaidon, 1975.

Viennese Actionists (1960s)
There are even fewer resources on the Viennese Actionists in the US. Exhibitions and other resources are more common in Europe, particularly Austria.

Museum Hermann Nitsch. Hatje Cantz, 2008.

Stephen Barber. The Art of Destruction: The Films of the Vienna Action Group. 2004.

Malcolm Green. Writings of the Vienna Actionists. Atlas, 1999.


Fauvism and Matisse

John Elderfield. The Wild Beasts: Fauvism and its Affinities. The Museum of Modern Art, 1976.
There are larger, more recent books on Fauvism, but Elderfield’s slim volume is still a useful and accessible introduction.

John Elderfield. Henri Matisse: A Retrospective. The Museum of Modern Art, 1992.


T. J. Clark, “Cubism and Collectivity,” in Farewell to an Idea. Yale, 1999.

William Rubin, et al. Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism. The Museum of Modern Art, c. 1989.

A number of museums around the country possess works by Brancusi. However, some of the best collections are to be found at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Friedrich Teja Bach, Margit Rowell, and Ann Temkin. Constantin Brancusi. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1995.
If you read one book on Brancusi, this should be it. An excellent and far-reaching catalogue of the sculptor’s production.

Athena Spear. Brancusi’s Birds. New York University, 1969.
A closer look at one of Brancusi’s most discussed series of sculpture, covering related topics ranging from Romanian folklore to the importance of the base.

See also the “Europe Between the Wars” section, below, for related materials.

Kenneth Silver, “Purism: Straightening Up After the Great War,” Artforum 15 (March 1977): 56–63.
There are good books on the subject of Purism, but Silver’s article outlines the basics and is probably all most people will need.


Kandinsky, the Blaue Reiter, and the Blue Four

Kandinsky. Guggenheim, 2009.
A well-illustrated catalogue and good survey of Kandinsky’s work.

Vivian Endicott Barnett and Josef Helfenstein (eds). The Blue Four: Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Klee in the New World. Dumont, 1997.

Wassily Kandinsky. Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Translation and introduction by M.T.H. Sadler. Dover, 1977 [1914].

Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. The Blaue Reiter Almanac, Documents of 20th-Century Art. Viking, 1974 [1965].

German Art Before and After WWI: Expressionism and Neue Sachlichkeit
See also “Dada” section for other relevant readings.

Max Beckmann. Self-Portrait in Words: Collected Writings and Statements, 1903–1950. Edited by Barbara Buenger. University of Chicago, 1997.

Maud Lavin. Cut with the Kitchen Knife: The Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Hoch. Yale, 1993.

Jill Lloyd. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Royal Academy of Arts, 2003.
This monograph on Kirchner also serves as an accessible introduction to German Expressionism.

Olaf Peters. Otto Dix. Neue Galerie, 2010.

Sabine Rewald, Ian Buruma, and Matthias Eberle. Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007.


Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity. The Museum of Modern Art, 2009.

Walter Gropius. “The Theory and Organization of the Bauhaus [1923],” in Art in Theory: 1900–1990. Blackwell, 1993. 130–135.

Russia: Suprematism and Constructivism
I am still waiting for a single accessible, informative, and enjoyable text on Constructivism. However, the movement is too important to the development of later art to exclude.

Yve-Alain Bois. “Lissitsky’s Radical Reversibility,” Art in America 76, 4 (April 1988). 160–181.

Briony Fer. “Metaphor and Modernity: Russian Constructivism,” Oxford Art Journal 12, 1 (1989). 14–30.

Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner. “The Realistic Manifesto,” in The Tradition of Constructivism. Edited by Stephen Bann. Da Capo, 1974.

Maria Gough. “Faktura: The Making of the Russian Avant-Garde,” Res 36 (Autumn 1989). 32–59.

Nina Gurianova, et al. Kasimir Malevich: Suprematism. Guggenheim, 2003.

Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds). Art in Theory: 19001990. Blackwell Press, 1992. See the manifestos on pages 308–330.

Christina Lodder. Russian Constructivism. Yale, 1984.

Victor Margolin. The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy: 19171946. University of Chicago, 1997.

Margarita Tupitsyn. “From the Politics of Montage to the Montage of Politics: Soviet Practice 1919 through 1937,” in Montage and Modern Life: 19191942. MIT, 1992.


Mondrian and De Stijl

De Stijl, 191731: Visions of Utopia. Walker Art Center, 1981.

Yve-Alain Bois and Angelica Rudenstine. Mondrian: 18721944. National Gallery of Art, 1995.

Nancy Troy. The De Stijl Environment. MIT, 1983.



Italian Futurism 19091944: Reconstructing the Universe. Guggenheim, 2014.

Umbro Apollonio (ed). Futurist Manifestos. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1973.
See especially the manifestos by Marinetti and Boccioni.

Rosalind Krauss. “Analytic Space: Futurism and Constructivism,” in Passages of Modern Sculpture. MIT, 1977.

Christine Poggi. Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism. Princeton University, 2009.

Caroline Tisdall and Angelo Bozzolla. Futurism. Thames and Hudson, 1977.



Gennifer Weisenfeld. MAVO: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde, 19051931. University of California, 2001.

Alexandra Munroe. Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky. Harry N. Abrams, 1994.


Although Futurism, Cubism, and the Bauhaus gathered together multinational artists or had ramifications outside their countries of origin, they are each still largely associated with Italy, France, and Germany, respectively. In contrast, the following movements are intrinsically international and should be understood as such.

Europe Between the Wars: “The Return to Order”

Emily Braun, et al. Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy and Germany, 19181936. Guggenheim, 2011.

Kenneth Silver. “Matisse’s Retour à l’ordre,” Art in America (June 1987), 110–123ff.


Dorothea Dietrich, et al. Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris. DAP, 2008.

William A. Camfield, Marcel Duchamp: Fountain. The Menil Collection, 1989. 13–61.

Molly Nesbit. “The Language of Industry,” in The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp. Edited by Thierry de Duve. MIT, 1991. 351–384.


André Breton. Manifestoes of Surrealism. Translated by Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane. University of Michigan, 1969.
See especially “Manifesto of Surrealism” (1924) and “Second Manifesto of Surrealism” (1930).

Hal Foster. Compulsive Beauty. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.

Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingston. L’Amour fou: Photography and Surrealism. Arts Council of Great Britain, 1986.

Frances Morris (ed). Louise Bourgeois. Rizzoli, 2008.

Jennifer Mundy (ed). Surrealism: Desire Unbound. Tate, 2001.

Michael R. Taylor. Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009.
This exhibition catalogue focuses on Duchamp’s last and most Surrealistic work, Étant donnés, as well as its relevant context and legacy. Made secretly over the course of 20 years while Duchamp was an ex-patriot in New York, this sculptural installation is well worth the kind of deep analysis it receives here and is an excellent jumping-off point for a broader understanding of Surrealism and Surrealist circles in New York.


Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eckmann. Exiles + Emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler. LACMA, 1997.

Abstract Expressionism

Emile de Antonio. Painters Painting (1972) [DVD 2010]

Serge Guilbaut. How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War. University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Michael Leja. Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s. Yale, 1993.

Ann Temkin (ed). Barnett Newman. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2002.

Stephanie Terenzio (ed). The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell. University of California, 1999.

Jeffery Weiss. Mark Rothko. National Gallery of Art, 1998.

Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg: Between AbEx and Pop

Paul Schimmel (ed). Robert Rauschenberg: Combines. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2005.

Jeffery Weiss. Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 19551965. National Gallery of Art, 2007.

Los Angeles
See also The Rise of the Sixties under “Art of the 1960s and 70s.”

Robin Clark (ed). Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface. University of California, 2011.

Rebecca Peabody, et al. Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art, 19451980. Getty, 2011.

Native American (U.S. and Canada)

The Spirit Within: Northwest Coast Art from the John H. Hauberg Collection. Seattle Art Museum, 1995.
In this context, I especially recommend Nora Marks Dauenhauer’s essay, “Tlingit At.óow: Traditions and Concepts,” as a window into the role of tradition and traditional objects in Tlingit culture.

Janet C. Berlo and Ruth B. Phillips. “The Twentieth Century: Trends in Modern Native Art,” in Native North American Art. Oxford University, 1998. 208–239.
The line between “Modern” and “Contemporary” art is blurred here, but the emphasis in this chapter is primarily on works that are more in keeping with broader “Contemporary” practices.

Peter Macnair, Alan Hoover, and Kevin Neary. The Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Northwest Coast Indian Art. University of Washington, 1984.


Africa and the diaspora
See also the “1980–2010: A few biased selections” section for additional readings.

Okwui Enwezor. The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 19451994. Prestel, 2001.

N’Goné Fall and Jean Loup Pivin. An Anthology of African Art: The Twentieth Century. DAP, 2002.

Shannon Fitzgerald and Tumelo Mosaka. A Fiction of Authenticity: Contemporary Africa Abroad. Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis, 2003.

The “Return of the Real” in Art of the 1960s and 1970s: Minimalism, Pop, Land Art, Conceptualism, Performance, and their legacies
See also the “Viennese Actionists” section [above].

Donald Judd’s Marfa, Texas/Tony Cragg: In Celebration of Sculpture [2006, DVD].

Richard Serra: The Matter of Time. Bilbao: Guggenheim, 2005.

Thomas Crow. The Rise of the Sixties: American and European Art in the Era of Dissent. Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

Corinne Diserens (ed). Gordon Matta-Clark. Phaidon, 2003.
See especially the text by Thomas Crow, pages 7–132.

Jack Flam (ed). Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings. University of California, 1996.

Laura Hoptman, Akira Tatehata, and Udo Kultermann. Yayoi Kusama. Phaidon, 2000.
Covers Kusama’s career from the late 1950s through the 1990s.

Stephen Koch. Stargazer: Andy Warhol’s World and His Films, Second Edition. New York: Marion Boyars, 1985.

Daniel Marzona. Conceptual Art. Taschen, 2006.
A slim and inexpensive volume that offers a good introduction to Conceptual Art and several of the movement’s most notable artists. Consists of a brief historical overview in the introductory essay followed by a series of 2-page spreads, each focusing on a signature work by artists like Marcel Duchamp, Mel Bochner, and Ana Mendieta.

*James Meyer. Minimalism. Phaidon, 2010.
This is an abbreviated version of Meyer’s 2001 book, Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties. Informative, well-illustrated, and to-the-point; highly recommended.

Pamela M. Lee. Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s. MIT, 2006.

Anne Rorimer. New Art in the 60s and 70s: Redefining Reality. Thames and Hudson, 2001.

Mark Rosenthal. Joseph Beuys: Actions, Vitrines, Environments. Tate, 2004.

Elizabeth Sussman (ed). Eva Hesse. SFMoMA, 2002.

Elizabeth Sussman and Fred Wasserman. Eva Hesse: Sculpture. The Jewish Museum, 2006.
Although shorter and more limited in scope than the SFMoMA catalogue, Eva Hesse: Sculpture has the advantage of being more easily available than the previous publication, while focusing on Hesse’s most iconic works through a collection of well-illustrated, thoughtful essays.

Eugenie Tsai and Cornelia Butler. Robert Smithson. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2004.
See especially Moira Roth’s interview with Smithson (p. 80-94) and the essays by Thomas Crow and Jennifer Roberts (p. 32-56 and p. 96-103, respectively).

Paul Wood. Conceptual Art. Tate, 2002.
Another slim volume which takes a broad view of conceptual art, and would perhaps be better titled, The Conceptual Basis of Contemporary Art. Regardless, it is a very good introduction to contemporary productions in Europe and the Americas during the 1960s and 1970s.

1980–2010: A few biased selections
In addition to the below, which are mostly monographs, I also find biennial catalogues to be useful references for the major concepts, concerns, and artists of their times. The Venice Biennale is the oldest and most famous of the biennials, and its catalogues are also the easiest to come by. The 1997 Johannesburg Biennial was a pivotal exhibition, both intellectually and politically, but the catalogue is more difficult to find. A review by Carol Becker, originally published in Art Journal, can be found online via Google Books as part of her book, Surpassing the Spectacle.

For those interested in watching artists talk about their work, the Art:21 series—which covers a range of themes and methods from the 21st century—is also very informative. It is available on DVD.

Daina Augaitis. Brian Jungen. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2005.

Jack Bankowsky, Alison M. Gingeras, and Catherine Wood (eds). Pop Life: Art in a Material World. Tate, 2009.

Rainer Crone and Petrus Graf Schaesberg. Louise Bourgeois: The Secret of the Cells. Prestel, 2008.

Thierry de Duve. Jeff Wall: Complete Edition. Phaidon, 2010.

Okwui Enwezor, et al. Contemporary African Art Since 1980. Bologna: Damiani, 2009.

Dana Friis-Hansen, et al. Outbound: Passages from the 90’s. Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 2000.
This well-illustrated catalogue includes short but incisive texts on some of the most sustaining artists of the 1990s (and today), including Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Cai Guo-Qiang, Robert Gober, Ann Hamilton, Jim Hodges, William Kentridge, Shirin Neshat, and Fred Wilson.

Ann Goldstein. Barbara Kruger. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1999.

Eleanor Heartney. Roxy Paine. Prestel, 2009.

Jeff Koons, et al. Jeff Koons. Taschen, 2009.

Takashi Murakami. Super Flat. MADRA, 2000.

Louise Neri (ed). Looking Up: Rachel Whiteread’s Water Tower. Scalo, 1999.
An in-depth look at one of Whiteread’s major works. Highly recommended.

Norman Rosenthal. Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection. Thames and Hudson, 1998.
There has been a lot written on individual YBA artists—including Damian Hirst, Tracey Emin, and Yinka Shonibare—but this is the exhibition that introduced most of them to the US. It is also the exhibition that sparked serious discussion and controversy about public funding and censorship in the arts.

Paul Schimmel (ed). ©Murakami. Rizzoli, 2007.

Nancy Spector. Matthew Barney: The Cremaster Cycle. Guggenheim, 2002.

Chris Townsend. The Art of Rachel Whiteread. Thames and Hudson, 2004.
A solid overview of Whiteread’s work up to the date of publication, approximately the first decade of her career.

Interviews, Novels, and Other Writings by Artists, Critics, and Philosophers

Georges Bataille. Story of the Eye. City Lights Books, 1987 [1928].
This is Bataille’s first novel and represents a particularly dark (but illustrative) form of Surreal pornography.

Walter Benjamin. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility (Second Version),” in The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media, by Walter Benjamin. Edited by Brigid Doherty, Michael W. Jennings, and Thomas Y. Levin. Harvard University Press, 2008. 19–55.

H. P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy. Wheaton: Quest, 1972 [1889]
Emerging near the end of the 19th century, Theosophy was important to a number of early 20th century artists, including Kandinsky, Mondrian, Kupka, and the Futurists. This abridged version of The Key to Theosophy may be useful to those who want a better understanding of one of the philosophical influences of the period or a peek into the zeitgeist of the late 1800s.

Louise Bourgeois. Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923–1997. MIT Press, 1998.

Andre Breton. Nadja. Translated by Richard Howard. Grove Press, 1960 [1928].
Breton was the founder of the Surrealist movement. This autobiographical novel about his encounter and affair with an unstable woman epitomizes the often troubling gender dynamics of Surrealism.

Michael Fried. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews. University of Chicago, 1998.
See especially “Art and Objecthood (1967),” which critiques Minimalism with a focus on Morris and Judd. Judd’s response to this essay is also an iconic text and represents an important counter-point to Fried’s claims.

Clement Greenberg. Art and Culture. Beacon, 1961.
See especially “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (p. 3-21).

Ernest Hemingway. A Moveable Feast. Scribner, 2003 [1964].
Hemingway’s account of his time in Paris in the 1920s.

D.H. Lawrence. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Penguin, 2006 [1928].
Banned in England and the US at the time of its original publication, Lady Chatterley’s Lover vividly illustrates the appeal of primitivism during the early 20th century and its relationship to the changing social landscape brought on by the Industrial Revolution.

Hans Ulrich Obrist. Interviews, Volume 1. Charta, 2003.
Obrist’s list of interviewees reads like a who’s who of contemporary artists, and the interviews themselves are informative.

Gertrude Stein. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Vintage, 1990 [1933].
Despite its name, this is Stein’s own auto-biography written through the eyes of her partner, Alice B. Toklas. As an avant-garde collector and writer, Stein became close to modern figures such as Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, and her home in Paris often served as a hub for modern artists in the early 20th century.

Unica Zürn. The House of Illnesses. Translated by Malcolm Green. Atlas, 1993 [1977].
Unica Zürn became associated with Surrealist circles through her relationship with Hans Bellmer. This is an illustrated excerpt from Zürn’s Man of Jasmine, and serves as an account of her time in a hospital during a jaundice-induced fever.

Teach Yourself Modern and Contemporary Art Bibliography, Part 1: Modern Art in the second half of the 19th century

This post was inspired by family members and friends who have told me they want a better understanding of Modern and Contemporary Art, but don’t know where to start. The list below is a work in progress and primarily covers the second half of the 19th century in Europe, starting with the Pre-Raphaelites in England and Courbet in France, and concluding with the fin de siècle (a bibliography for the 20th century will be forthcoming). It is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to provide a list of possible readings that I have personally found interesting and believe others would find useful and enjoyable.

Starred entries are texts that are particularly good for casual readers looking for a solid and enjoyable introduction to a subject.

Because the Internet needs more cats. Photo by Renée DeVoe Mertz.

Survey textbooks
I am generally not a fan of broad survey books, but these do a good job of giving contextual information while providing a linking narrative. They also cover most of the major movements and figures I have left out in the other sections.

Chu, Petra ten-Doesschate. Nineteenth-Century European Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003.

Arnason, H. H. and Elizabeth Mansfield. History of Modern Art (6th edition). Prentice Hall, 2009.

Gamwell, Lynn. Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual. Princeton: Princeton University, 2002.
This book begins in the mid-19th century and concludes in the early 20th century.  It is a great alternative to a regular survey book for those who are particularly interested in the role of science in Modern art.

Overviews by country and movement

Garb, Tamar. Bodies of Modernity: Figure and Flesh in Fin-de-Siécle France. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998.

Nochlin, Linda. The Body in Pieces: The Fragment as a Metaphor of Modernity. Walter Neurath Lecture. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Nochlin, Linda. Realism. New York: Penguin, 1971.

Bullen, J. B. The Pre-Raphaelite Body: Fear and Desire in Painting, Poetry, and Criticism. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998.

Prettejohn, Elizabeth. The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites. London: Tate, 2000.
Great for images.

Cowling, Mary. Victorian Figurative Painting: Domestic Life and the Contemporary Social Scene. London: Andreas Papadakis, 2000.

Tate Britain has the best collection of Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian paintings in the world, including important works by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddall, Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John William Waterhouse, and Richard Dadd. Their collection is available online, and many objects are accompanied by useful texts.

Individual Artists

Nochlin, Linda.  “Bonnard’s Bathers,” Art in America. Vol. 86, No. 7 (July 1998). 63-67, + endpages.

*Rubin, James. Courbet. London: Phaidon, 1997.
This is a clear, well-written and well-organized text about a defining figure of Modernism.  Highly recommended for every reader.

Leja, Michael. “Eakins and Icons,” Art Bulletin. Vol. 83, No. 3 (September 2001), 479-497.
One of my favorite articles. A good, brief, and engaging analysis of the work and analytic methods of American painter Thomas Eakins. [Available online via JSTOR.]

Becks-Malorny, Ulrike. Ensor. Köln: Taschen, 1999.
This slim and inexpensive volume is a good introduction to Ensor, his work, and his context. Images are mostly in color and many are large-scale.

Swinbourne, Anna, et al. James Ensor. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2009.
Although there is no substitute for seeing Ensor’s highly textured paintings and prints in person, MoMA’s catalogue is about as close as one can get through reproductions.  Particularly useful essays include Swinbourne’s “Meeting James Ensor” and Susan Canning’s “James Ensor: Carnival of the Modern.”

Solomon-Godeau, A. “Going Native,” Art in America (July 1989), 118-29.
This article addresses Gauguin’s self-created myth of primitivism and the social desires which continue to perpetuate this fantasy. Assumes some basic familiarity with Gauguin’s work, but is still broadly accessible.

Clark, T. J. The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers. Princeton: Princeton, 1984.

Levine, Steven. “Monet, Lumiere and Cinematic Time,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36 (Summer 1978), 441-447.

*Higonnet, Anne. Berthe Morisot. New York: Harper and Row, 1990.
This is an enjoyable read that centers on the life of an important Impressionist who is usually only dealt with in a very cursory way. It provides a personal glimpse into the world of the Impressionists and the Parisian art scene in and around the 1870s. Recommended for every reader.

Nochlin, Linda. “Morisot’s Wet Nurse: The Construction of Work and Leisure in Impressionist Painting,” in Women, Art, Power and Other Essays. New York: Harper and Row, 1988.

Stevens, Mary Anne. “The Urban Impressionist: Pissaro’s Cityscapes, Series and Serialism,” Apollo 11 (1992), 278-283.

Butler, Ruth E., ed. Rodin in Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1980.
The text, especially the introduction, is very useful in introducing Rodin and his reception. The images, however, are few and are better for context than for appreciating his sculpture.

Simpson, Marc. Uncanny Spectacle: The Public Career of the Young John Singer Sargent. New Haven: Yale, 1997.

Broude, N. Seurat in Perspective. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1978.
See especially the introduction. This text is very good for explaining Seurat’s work and context, but the images are small and in black and white.

Crary, J. “Seurat’s Modernity,” in Seurat at Gravelines: The Last Landscapes. Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1990.

Nochlin, Linda. “Seurat’s Grande Jatte: An Anti-Utopian Allegory,” in The Politics of Vision. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.

Paul Signac, 1863-1935. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001.

Sidlauskas, S. “Contesting Femininity: Vuillard’s Family Pictures,” Art Bulletin 79, 1 (March 1997), 85-111.

Essay collections

Clark, TJ. Farewell to an Idea. New Haven: Yale, 1999.
See especially “Freud’s Cezanne,”even though it deals with the last paintings of Cezanne’s career which he made in the first years of the 20th century.This is a dense but rewarding group of essays. A must for serious students, but casual readers may find it too demanding for their needs.

Krauss, Rosalind E. Passages in Modern Sculpture. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1977.
Another classic and influential collection. Most of the essays deal with the 20th century, but there is a good piece on Rodin at the beginning.

Contextual primary sources: contemporary novels, criticism, and influential texts

Baudelaire, Charles. “On the Heroism of Modern Life” (1846) and “The Painter of Modern Life” (1863) in Frascina, Francis and Charles Harrison, eds. Modern art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology. New York: Harper and Row, 1982.

Benjamin, Walter. “Paris, Capital of the 19th Century” and “On the Mimetic Faculty,” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings. New York: Schocken, 2007. 146-153, 333-336.

Gauguin, Paul. Noa Noa: The Tahitian Journal.
Gauguin’s semi-fictional account of his first trip to Tahiti.

Huysmans, Joris-Karl. Against Nature (A Rebours). London: Penguin, 2003.
Originally written in 1903, this essentially plotless novel captures the essence of fin de siècle “decadence.” In art, the Decadents included Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon, and Huysmans dedicates Chapter 5 of the book to a description of their work.

Zola, Emile. “Edouard Manet,” in Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology.  New York: Harper and Row, 1982. 29-38.

Non-Western Modernism in the 19th-century: examples from Japan and Native America
There are a number of problems in attempting to create a “global” bibliography of Modernism. Modernism, after all, meant different things in different cultures, and the changes that took place came about in different ways, for different reasons, at different times, with different implications. Not having a background in the history of each—or having a much stronger background in one—tends to mean the privileging of one culture over the others and inevitably skews our understanding of Modernism as a global phenomenon. The difference in timelines (and academic traditions) also brings up very practical problems of where to start and cut-off bibliographies. All of that being said, I tend to think the results are worse when we treat Modernism only from the perspective of Europe and the European-derived cultures of the Americas.

My own background is in Western/non-Western trans-cultural art, meaning that the circumstances with which I am most familiar are either Europeans or Euro-Americans utilizing or attempting to understand traditions from other parts of the world (mostly Japan, Native America, and Africa), or artists from Japan, Native America, and Africa dealing with, confronting, and using traditions from Western cultures. Therefore, the absence of a country or culture from this list should be understood as a result of the limits of my own background.

Native American/First Nations

Berlo, Janet and Ruth Phillips. Native North American Art. Oxford: Oxford University, 1998.
This is a chronologically, geographically, and culturally broad survey book about Native American art, covering the material culture of Native peoples before and after colonization, through the 20th century. There is a lot of information packed into each section, particularly if you are not already familiar with Native names and terminology.

Brown, Steven. Native Visions: Evolution in Northwest Coast Art from the Eighteenth through the Twentieth Century. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1998.
Along with clear essays and images, this catalogue includes a map outlining the territories of individual NWC culture groups, in some cases providing both their current and outdated (but still common) names.

Holm, Bill. Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form. Seattle: University of Washington, 1965.
Holm was the first person to systematically analyze and explain in writing the vocabulary and grammar of Northwest Coast design. His Analysis of Form is still the primary guide to understanding the elements of NWC style. I include it here because the objects he studied are mostly from the 19th century.

Seattle Art Museum. The Spirit Within: Northwest Coast Art from the John H. Hauberg Collection. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1995.
This is a catalogue of objects from the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to excellent images with individual descriptions, the longer essays provide important historical, cultural, and formal (stylistic) information. Robin Wright’s text on Haida argillite carvings is particularly illuminating in the context of the 19th century.

The birth of Modernism in Japan is somewhat contested. One popular date is 1868, the start of the Meiji period. Another is 1854, when Japan was forced to sign a trade agreement with the United States, thereby marking the end of Japanese seclusion. In addition to making it possible for Japanese prints and goods to travel to Europe where they had a significant impact on artistic styles, the treaty also opened Japan to Western influence, including European-style Industrialization (a process that in Japan was particularly rapid and brutal). Other historians place the beginnings of Modernism even further back in the Edo period (1603-1868), due to the rise of a merchant class and the period’s thriving economy, increased urbanism, and artistic development.

Addiss, Stephen. Japanese Ghosts and Demons. New York: George Braziller, 1985.
Produced in conjunction with the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, this is a great book for those interested in mythology and folklore. It covers a broad timeframe, but the largest group of objects are from the 19th century.

Bouquillard and Christophe Marquet. Hokusai: First Manga Master. Liz Nash, ed. New York: Abrams, 2007.
Hokusai is best known for prints, particularly his One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (1835) series. In contrast, this book focuses on his manga (drawings). The pictures are arranged by theme (such as “Plates of Animals” or “Variations in Climate and Vegetation”).

Clark, Timothy. Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2009.
This large volume is the catalogue from an impressive exhibition of prints by one of the Edo period’s great print artists, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). Like the exhibition, the catalogue is arranged by themes (Warriors, Beautiful Women, Landscapes, Theater, and Humor), and each image is well reproduced. However, the text can be a bit dry.

Clark, Timothy. Demon of Painting: The Art of Kawanabe Kyōsai. London: British Museum, 1993.
Another monographic exhibition catalogue, this time for the painter and woodblock artist, Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-89).

Conant, Ellen. Nihonga: Transcending the Past. St. Louis: Saint Louis Art Museum, 1995.
Nihonga (Japanese-style painting) was a post-isolation movement and style that self-consciously rejected overtly Western traditions in favor of “traditional” Japanese materials and techniques. This exhibition catalogue covers works produced in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Earle, Joe. Netsuke: Fantasy and Reality in Japanese Miniature Sculpture. Boston: MFA, 2001.
Netsuke are a fairly marginalized subject in academic studies of Japanese art, and are primarily within the purview of collectors. This publication is a rare scholarly introduction to the topic, dealing mostly with objects from the Edo and Meiji periods.

Figal, Gerald. Civilization and Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan. Durham: Duke, 1999.
As a book about folklore in modern Japan, Civilization and Monsters provides a useful link between the content of much of the work in the catalogues featured in this section and the concept of modernity as it applies to Japan in the 19th century.