Socialism, Communism, Atheism: Their Effects on the Path of Modern Art

Feast of Rose Garlands by German Painter Albrecht Duerer. Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini, and Leonardo da Vinci. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Feast of Rose Garlands by German Painter Albrecht Duerer. Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini, and Leonardo da Vinci. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
“An Angel” by Bartolomeo Passarotti, ). Pen and brown ink, over traces of black chalk, on beige paper.

‘An Angel,’ by Bartolomeo Passarotti (1529-1592). Pen and brown ink, over traces of black chalk, on beige paper. Rogers Fund, 1964. (Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Socialism’s link to the modern art movement

It’s everywhere and all-pervasive — the nonsensical, usually obnoxious and obscene, rarely aesthetically pleasing modern art. It is celebrated by higher institutions and museums around the world, confusing and irreverent to most of us, yet still emulated in every aspect of our modern lives, wittingly or unwittingly. Modern art has defined our culture since its emergence during the 1850s in France. It has played a definitive role in how we think, act, view the world, and shape our most fundamental notions to the depths of our souls. How we view our place in the universe and the purpose of human life have been molded and crafted by the narratives modern art has constructed.

The early modern artists who founded the Realist and Impressionist movements in the mid-18th century set to turn the centuries-old art establishment in France and French culture, with its Judeo-Christian values, on its head.

The early modern artists had an agenda directly tied to promoting Socialism, Atheism, Hedonism, and Materialism through their arts that has since become so pervasive in our society today that we would scarcely be able to fathom what people and society may have been like before the modern movements in art swept through that so effectively dismantled Western culture and thought.

Originally taught in churches and classical academies in art, painters and sculptors adhered to the principles of truth, goodness, and beauty, the Socratic roots of Western civilization that described the universal order and shaped its aesthetic language. The arts reflected and revealed the truth of creation, beauty transported us there, and goodness was the temperament and characteristic of the universe to which one would try to assimilate. This wisdom developed the Classical and Greco-Roman styles that sought to harmonize themselves with the universal order. They had been an integral part of Western culture passed down from pre-Hellenic Greece.

Fused with classical aesthetics, the renderings of stories from Greek antiquity and all the panoply of Christianity, with angels, cherubs, saints, and heavenly scenes, were the dominant source material for the old masters. They, in turn, created and shaped a culture that placed revering and respecting the Divine as the pinnacle of human endeavors that steered humanity and its visual inclinations toward goodness.

Enter the Enlightenment — French society’s understanding of beauty began to shift dramatically. Several key figures emerged in the 1800s who would radically shift humanity away from its sacred roots and begin a methodical and carefully orchestrated campaign to plummet humanity toward atheism, hedonism, nihilism, materialism, utilitarianism, scientific rationalism, moral relativism, and Socialism.

The degrading aesthetics used by the Communists were all by design, meant to culturally and spiritually alienate people from their roots.

The radical Left’s most proud achievement in the West was severing this lifeline. The entirety of Western civilization afterward has been tainted by their radical, modern ideologies that arguably fueled two catastrophic world wars and wrecked mankind’s morality.

Almost forgotten vestiges

At the height of the Baroque era in the late 1600s, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s charming paintings of ethereal, sacred images of icons helped create the vehicle toward the divine. His Rubenesque paintings, crafted with unparalleled skill, were coveted by royalty throughout Europe. He was one of the premier artists in his day. The modest and charitable Murillo, however, had spent a great deal of time invested in his hometown of Seville, which had been ravaged by the plague and starvation, trying to help those in need. His paintings of orphaned children tried to awaken sympathy for the less fortunate.

Unfortunately for Esteban Murillo himself, after the emergence of the Modernist art movements that swept through Western Europe, his paintings and the subject matter he portrayed fell so far out of fashion that they were mocked and denigrated by art critics and the public. His legacy was buried and nearly forgotten, along with thousands of other artists and their exquisite works.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s charming paintings

‘Virgin and Child,’ Bartolomé Estebán Murillo, ca. 1670-72, Spanish, Oil on canvas, Rogers Fund, 1943. (Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The movement aimed at chasing God out of the picture

The foundations of the modern movements in art began with the musings of Baron d’Holbach and his influential book, The System of Nature, published in 1770. In the book, Holbach touted atheism, materialism, and scientific rationalism as the means and method of understanding the world. Holbach goes on to describes the creation of man and the universe as only machinations of motion, the soul as a physical impulse, morality only as a material concept to secure safety in a decidedly material world, and the five senses as being the only reliable methods for understanding the world we live in. Belief in God to Holbach was a human construct meant to attach greater significance to mortal, material life.

“When the human mind permits itself to be guided by authority without proof to be led forward by enthusiasm — when it renounces the evidence of its senses; what can it do more than sink into error? If man wishes to form to himself clear ideas of his soul, let him throw himself back on his experience; let him renounce his prejudices; let him avoid theological conjecture; let him tear the sacred bandage with which lie has been blindfolded only to confound his reason. Let the natural philosopher, let the anatomist, let the physician unite their experience and compare their observations, in order to show what ought to be thought of a substance so disguised under a heap of absurdities: Let their discoveries teach moralists the true motive-power that ought to influence the actions of man…,” from The System of Nature.

With God out of the picture, Henri de Saint-Simon delved further into Holbach’s rabbit hole and introduced political and philosophical theories and movements that centered around dechristianizing France and freeing people from the yoke of moral restraints.

Among them were the theories of Anarchy, Communism, Utopian Socialism, and Atheism. In the cafés and salons of France, these new radical ideas were a hot topic of discussion by the intellectuals, philosophers, and cultural elite. The new philosophies were seen as risqué and highbrow, a way to separate oneself from the uneducated. Several artists were among their ranks who would lead the charge in implanting the new “isms” into French society.

The advent of Socialist organizations in France

The first Socialist organizations and communes in France and Western Europe began to spring up, experimenting with and living out Holbach’s and other philosophers’ theories that focused on Atheism, Materialism, and Communism. Within the communes, liberation from traditional values and morality began to take root. Anatole France, a French poet at the time, described the communes as “a committee of assassins, a band of hooligans, a government of crime and madness.”

Hunting Dogs with Dead Hare,1857 Gustave Courbet French. Showing 2 hunting dogs, just after they caught a hare. The two dogs are in a position that dogs make just before they leat at something or seem alert. The hair, a big one, is lying life-less next to the two dogs. In the background we see bushes and Trees.

‘Hunting Dogs with Dead Hare,’ 1857, Gustave Courbet, French. (Image: Metmuseum Public Domain)

Édouard Manet and Gustave Courbet, the radical shock artists, as well as the early Impressionists, including Monet and Cézanne, antagonized human dignity and mocked the traditional academies with nearly every one of their paintings and found their inspirations within the communes surrounded by like-minded individuals.

“Impression,” Claude Monet,1872, Oil on canvas, shows a sunset/ sunrise scene. Washed out features of industry chimmenies emitting smoke and sail boat contours or shadow like features and before them, but still as a shadow but back lift by the setting or rising sun, are three paddle boats, seemingly paddling to shore or towards the viewer.

‘Impression,’ Claude Monet, 1872, Oil on canvas. The term impression had been used to deride the painting because of its lack of finish. It had been adopted by the rebellious painters, who saw traditional techniques and subject matter stifling. They adopted the term “impression” and called themselves the Impressionists. (Image: Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Modern art goes mainstream

Gustav Courbet was one of the most outspoken members of the new modernist trends in art. A staunch atheist and anarchist, Courbet was a leading figure in the Paris Commune uprising in 1871. He adhered to the Communist Manifesto, published by Karl Marx in 1848, who laid out stratagems in using the working-class to break and topple society’s social structure, “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and liberating citizens from the bourgeois, which was in reality a way to take down and remove influential segments in society and have Socialist elements take total control.

Along with Marx, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a writer and philosopher, found an adoring fan in Courbet, who took to his musings, particularly on the role art plays in society. Proudhon’s views on art were that it was a tool of reforming society and making political statements. It radically shifted art’s role as it was, acting as a vehicle to understand the transcendental and creating dignified, beautiful works.

The foundations of modern art lay in this shift in the understanding of art and its purpose. Art would from then on be viewed based on a praxis-based approach to art. It means to study art through theory, which could mean studying it through a social, political, or philosophical lens. It was almost a prerequisite then for artists to attach deep philosophical and political statements in their artworks.

Art was evolving into a mode of pure self-expression in theme and technique, and for Courbet, it meant sharing his political and social opinions.

He created the “Realist” philosophy of art, to not dramatize life in any way, but to show how it is — (according to him) ugly, macabre, and nihilistic.

Painting how life “is” and “Realism” were foils to spread his beliefs. He was depicting scenes with some amount of accuracy in terms of his subject matter, having studied in traditional art academies himself, but the themes were demeaning, immoral, and relied on shock and outrage to attract attention. Many citizens in France were furious over Courbet’s insensitive and provocative paintings. The National Guard had to be called in when Manet’s prostitute painting Olympia made its hesitant debut at the Paris salon in 1865.

The art academies and salons refused many of his and his Impressionist friends works on account of the indecent subject matter and the confusing and rough techniques used in producing their compositions. The modernist artists didn’t take the rejection lightly. They launched a propaganda campaign against the traditional academies, using arguments that they were oppressive, old-fashioned, and stuck in irrelevant themes, that they were outmoded by the invention of the camera.

The “Realist” painter had many influential connections to help sway public opinion. Emperor Napoleon III was a friend of Courbet and fell for his raison d’être and took pity on him. The Monarch of France built the Salon des Refusés to exhibit Courbet and his friend’s works that were rejected by the traditional salons.

Over time, the smear campaigns waged on the old-fashioned, out of touch, stifling, and sentimental academies took their toll. Many traditional academies, the heart and soul of France, founded by King Louis XIV, had shuttered their doors. The French populace had been coerced into accepting the new, in-vogue works by the new “tastemakers” and under the tide of the Modernists arguments and attacks against their historic institutions.

Having paved the way and knocked out the competition, new, more modern and deviant styles in art had free reign, all completely influenced by Communist beliefs that ridiculed traditional morality. The many prostitute paintings from Courbet, the Absinthe Drinker of Manet, to the ear-mutilated self-portrait of Van Gogh upended traditional techniques and morality in favor of absolute self-indulgence in depravity. Their deleterious lifestyles and bizarre behaviors influenced by Communist ideologies gave rise to the modern concept we have of artists as being unhinged derelicts that visit brothels, do copious amounts of drugs, extol morose and nihilistic outlooks on life, and who dive into demonic states of mind. This behavior became the customary and expected way artists should live. Their lifestyles were soon viewed and risqué and fashionable.

Society in Western Europe deteriorated rapidly with the mainstream acceptance of these arts, philosophies, and lifestyles as normal. Traditional morality plummeted to a frightening degree.

Belief in God became a quaint superstition. People lived life without any duty to society or family, with the only goal of life being to live unhindered by responsibility toward others. Any hindrances toward pursuing hedonistic desires were now viewed as attacks on “freedom.”

Modern art evolved into ever deeper depravity in the time to come as the French populace, and soon after, all of Europe and the international community unwittingly was steered to disparage traditional morality. With no moral foundation, anything went; anything became acceptable. Any protests to the new styles of art were handled easily with accused attacks on freedom of expression.

After Realism and Impressionism came Abstractionism, Fauvism, Dada art, Cubism, Surrealism, along with Pop-Art, and so on. Modern ideologies affected architecture as equally as it did fine art. Now, people were encased quite literally in the modern aesthetic.

The Bauhaus movement under Walter Gropius turned our cityscapes into lifeless, utilitarian hives for people to “live” in under their mantra “form follows function.” To clarify, they believed that architecture should resemble the absolute function it served. A house was only to live in, no extraneous fun or decor allowed! Cities and businesses were to only be places people “existed in” to fulfill tasks in an orderly manner. Humans, as depicted by our pervasive, modern architecture have been designed under the ideology that sees humanity as nothing more than the sum of its parts. Look around and you’ll see their utilitarian utopia realized in full.

Museum artworks display the decay of the human spirit over time

In art museums, the disintegration of the human spirit can easily be seen. Usually divided into eras, museums display ancient and medieval artworks, nearly entirely consisting of Gods and sacred images, to the Renaissance and Baroque eras, to the Impressionists, and on to modern Abstract art.

It is a journey from the sacred to the profane. The artworks give a clear snapshot in time to the values, ways of life, and beliefs of those who made them.

The artworks displayed guide society. Society also creates the artworks. It can be an upward or downward spiral.

Three angles appearing to Abraham by oaks of Memre, Pen and dark brown ink, brush and wash. Three angles appearing on a hill top, sitting on a cloud while A man with beard kneels down before the image looking upward towards with a questioning hand gesture.

‘The Three Angels Appearing to Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre,’ Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Italian, Pen and dark brown ink, brush and brown wash, over black chalk, Rogers Fund, 1937. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) (Image: The Met Museum, Public Domain)

Rekindling the past

Most art classes in our public school systems and universities put Van Gogh and Picasso, both lunatics, as the pinnacle of artistic expression and achievement. The old Masters, like the charitable Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, the serene early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico, the charismatic Guido Reni, along with thousands of others, have been nearly forgotten and erased from history. What remains of the old master’s works and legacies has been brought down to the level of a Hallmark postcard. A vast majority of the entirety of Western art’s most glorious artworks have been intentionally buried. All that is mentioned in society now of the old masters are cheap and tacky lessons on Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Dysfunction in society is everywhere now. We’ve been penned in by modernist propaganda to view the past as old-fashioned, irrelevant, and full of naivety.

As our culture indulges in the behaviors and ethos flaunted by the Impressionists and their successors, we delve further into their narrow ways of thinking focused purely on the material world and our losses and gains within it.

Throughout the West’s history, art played a critical role in disseminating transcendental wisdom and maintaining a moral and upright society. Art can still have that effect. If we can understand the effect art plays in our society, we can use it to create a healthy, respectful society that cherishes life and the Sacred.

MORE IMAGES

Photo of Rue de Rivoli in ruins 1871

According to Karl Marx, the stepping stone to communism is Socialism. If social unrests are well orchestrated and the division of society into envying classes is a success, little but a violent uprising is needed to instill the system of communism. Unfortunately, in every nation so far where communism has succeeded in becoming an established power by force or otherwise, the price has been the destruction of countless historical artifacts, statues, and architectural structures. Thus, the only gain for any nation so far, which entertained the communist ruling system, was the loss of unmeasurable historical vestiges and milestones of human culture and the heritage of universal values and traditional culture.

On May 16, 1871, a group of Communards led by the painter Gustave Courbet pulled down the Vendôme Column. In Franck’s photograph, its shattered remains litter the Place Vendôme.

Colonne Vendôme, France,1871

Colonne Vendôme, Franck, 1871, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1953 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) (Image: Franck [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

“Aftermath of the Paris Commune uprising in 1871. Along with the French Revolution and the first Communist uprising in 1792, many architectural splendors in Paris had been reduced to rubble by the Communards, who saw the elaborate structures as part of Bourgeoisie oppression.”

rue de Rivoli after the fights and the fires of the Paris Commune

The rue de Rivoli after the fights and the fires of the Paris Commune, Paris 4th arr. In the background, the Hôtel de Ville de Paris. (Image: Tangopaso [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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