Why New Art Mattered

Adam Gopnik, Critic at Large, The New Yorker

Sebastian Smee, Pulitzer Prize–winning art critic,Boston Globe

In 1913 modernist painters were fascinated with childhood innocence in an effort to more clearly see the world that surrounded them, allowing youthful enthusiasm to guide them in their artistic choices and expression. But did this preoccupation with child-like sensibilities, so fundamental to avant-garde art, in some ways contribute to the naïveté that led to war? Smee explores the powerful work of Henri Matisse against the backdrop of such a complex and volatile time in history.

Europe was on the verge of committing suicide; Africa burst into Western consciousness; technology was on a dizzying trajectory; music was losing its grip on tonality, slipping loudly into entropy. Two monumental works were premiered within eight months of each other: Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

To put this striking period into context—and perhaps find parallels with our own time—Met Museum Presents offers a series of conversations and concerts.

Part of the series "1913: The World Implodes."

Recorded October 9, 2013

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