“History Has It’s Eyes On You” (Lin-Manual Miranda, Hamilton)

As we move through the aesthetic revolution that was the 19th century and fix our gaze into the Modern era of the 20th century, the cry of five words stands out: “the history of modern freedom”!

The Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Age of the Machine, and the Doctrine of Progress during the fin de siecle from 1890-1960, the constant cry for freedom could be heard. And it is still resonating in our ears and souls today!

Clive Bell, the revered English art critic and member of the Bloomsbury Group, recognized in 1912 something powerful was underway in the Arts! “The battle is won. We all agree now that any form in which an artist can express himself is legitimate, and the more sensitive perceive that there are things worth expressing that could never have been expressed in traditional forms.” (Clive Bell, in catalogue of the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition)

Only nine years later, the famed post impressionist French painter Paul Cezanne had the following statement published by : “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” (Paul Cezanne, quoted in Joachim Gasquet, Paul Cezanne, 1921).

What are you thoughts on the declaration “The battle is won” or Modernism is driven by a quest for “modern freedom”? What has changed from then compared to now?

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, 1872-77

Vassily Kandinsky, Composition 6, 1913

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

19 Comments

19 thoughts on ““History Has It’s Eyes On You” (Lin-Manual Miranda, Hamilton)”

  1. I think it is safer to say that “battles” were won, but not “The Battle”, if that makes any sense. I feel like, yes battles were won where we can now express ourselves through art and it will be more generally accepted than it used to be. However, I feel like: the “quest” for freedom is still being fought, it is still difficult for artists to be noticed, there are still many movements, and there are still some people who do not approve of certain types of art. I do agree that the world has come a long way since the 1800s and before, but I still feel like there is more to go therefore you cannot say “the battle was won” at least for all artist.

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    1. I really like your take on this! You are right, it is still difficult for artists to be noticed, but I wonder if given the internet there are more avenues to be noticed. In a way, I still think you’re right because, despite the convenience of the internet, there is a lot of noise out there one has to rise above either by being more frequent/consistent or ‘louder’ in their art than they are. I am very excited about the growth of new art through new technologies though

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  2. As stated previously, many battles were won but the overall battle is still being fought in a sense. I feel as if artists are still not being noticed as well as they should be. I believe this is because many individuals lack the overall education of what art means and how much effort one puts into it. Many people still don’t believe in certain types of art, but I feel as if that happens because people don’t educate themselves on what certain types of art means and how art is simply telling a story. We have come a long way from the early 1800s to even before then, however, we must understand that there still is a “battle” being fought for certain types of art and artists.

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  3. “The battle is won” is a powerful declaration about the progress of art and its acceptance; however, I do not feel that it is completely accurate. Although, in recent times, each generation appears to be more tolerant and accepting than the last, freedom of expression will never be fully accepted by everyone. Some people will always prefer traditional art forms over abstract pieces and many will fail to try to see the message the artist intends. Meaning can only be derived through intention, and some people will never try that hard, preferring to stick to what they know and like already. Throughout the past and still today, you will always find the separation of the conservatives and the progressives.

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  4. I agree with everyone else! The quest for freedom is still going on. As years go on, more and more generations become more accepting of things. and more open minded. People will become more accepting of forms of art as time goes one. We have come a long way and I believe we will continue to grow and become more accepting and have a better understanding of different forms of art.

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  5. I do agree with a quest for “modern freedom,” but I cannot agree on the declaration “The battle is won” because not all revolution requires a battle. If we were to emphasize the change that had been made from traditional to modern form was the result of a “battle,” in terms, I believe that it is an attempt to neglect all traditional forms that have contributed to art in history. Also, even if the battle exists to fight against obstacles for artists to express himself, I believe that there should be no such thing as a victory for all art should be respected.

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  6. “The battle is won,” what a victorious statement! And I feel like yes, the battle has been won because I get to live during a time where I can make create any art that my heart desires. I might make a lot of people mad or uncomfortable, but that is the whole point. Art is actually taken seriously and I get the opportunity to go to school and make a living out of it. Is it hard to make a living being an artist? Yes, but I’m pretty sure that it’s always been that way and it always will be. However, I still also like the quest for “modern freedom” because I think that there will always be a battle going on. The world will never be pleased because it is impossible to create content that everyone will like or agree with.

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  7. Modernism is such a fascinating period especially given the rise of new technologies, ideas, and thought leaders that preceded the era, such as Darwin, Nietzche, Freud, Manet, and many others. What I find interesting is that during the modern era, the idea of the ‘individual’ seems to have been born anew.

    During the Renaissance, there was also an emphasis on individualism. However, the ‘modernist’ sense of an individual seems to be more colloquially referred to as one’s role apart from the state. To compare and contrast, the Renaissance period of individualism focused on potential and achievement. On the other hand, modern individualism is focused on independent goals and desires.

    It may seem like semantics but to me, the Renaissance valued fulfillment of potential (which still had a designated ideal pertaining to science and philosophy), whereas modern individualism is much more dynamic and does not carry any uniform ideal. I believe that this sense of ‘modern individualism’ is somewhat synonymous with ‘modern freedom’.

    To answer the question, yes, I do believe we have won ‘the battle’ and that ‘We all agree now that any form in which an artist can express himself is legitimate’. Think of all the platforms in which we can express ourselves today: Youtube, Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter, Twitch, Discord. This is extremely controversial, but nowadays even sex work has been considered an art form by some people and they may argue that Pornhub is just as viable a ‘creative’ platform.

    I will say, however, that what’s changed from then to now is the level of power and technology we have. We have so much power and technology (and money) accessible to each and every one of us compared to 100 years ago! The new arising issue is now that we have all this ‘freedom’, it’s what do we do with such freedoms. It is not to say that there is no inequality, because there definitely is A LOT of inequality in our country and the world. However, when juxtaposing our possibilities today with our great grandparents leaves us a greater responsibility. Quoting Stan Lee here, but ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Now the next battle is how do we all get along with our new freedoms

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  8. I do agree to an extent with the idea that a battle was won because obviously as a society we have come a long way in how we perceive art and how it is somewhat more accepted for someone to choose that as a career path. However, I do believe that there was always be battles when it comes to any type of art because art is always evolving and there will always be push back on the new. I feel like every movement had those people who hated it simply because they were clinging on to what they already know and of course because art is subjective it leaves room for there to always be a certain amount of back and forth because there will never be a time when every single person can agree on a particular style of art to be good. Which I am personally okay with as it allows for diversity and it allows for those conversations to be had. You never know just what will spark out of those types of debates, possibly an entirely new style of art.

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  9. My thoughts on the declaration, “The battle is won,” are that it is pretty accurate. In my opinion, I believe it is “won” to the extent that artists of today will feel less inclined to stick to the status quo which allows room for more growth and ingenuity. I consider this expedited growth a win in the art world. One could argue that such loose guidelines could lead to many self proclaimed artists wrongfully claiming their work as art and stealing attention away, but, if what they produce isn’t good, it won’t get any attention in the first place.

    The quest for “modern freedom” is great because it will cause new sub-genres of art to form and pave the way for the future of art.

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  10. There have been so many art battles that have been won! In speaking about modernism the battle that was won was that of artists breaking free from the same old classical and religious subjects, and just being able to express themselves, and beginning to be taken seriously at that! Study of the individual gained traction during the Italian Renaissance, but it seems artists couldn’t be practicing their unique styles and truly branching out until the beginnings of modernism which was hundreds of years later

    In America one huge battle remains. Every year we defund the arts more and more. What is the point of even going to school if there are no art classes? We are so behind the rest of the world because as a collective we don’t value making or studying art! People are afraid of becoming artists because of competition, or they say there is no money in it, or that you only become valuable after you die. Which isn’t true! There are so many famous, well paid, living artists! I had a French drawing teacher and he told me art is a required subject from kindergarten until you graduate high school. I wish we had that here. We need an art revolution!

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  11. I definitely think that the battle was won because we can look at art now and it is so much more free-spirited then what it was back then. People like Jackson Pollock are prime examples of being able to make what they feel and stepping out of the status quo, he made inkblots that were seen by some by masterpieces but if they were made way back before the “battle was won” he might have stopped making art and the artist Jackson Pollock might have not ever been. This was a crucial moment in time for art because it sent us to a new realm of art that still is with us today.

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  12. I think this period of art you can definitely see that the art is painted more “loosely” as in not so serious and shows more expression of what the artist was feeling and their personality. I think that if any of this was presented in the other periods that we studied, it would not have been taken seriously. I personally believe that no battle is ever “won” but that there is always something to keep fighting for. Artists have definitely gained artistic freedom but I always think there can be more to fight for 🙂

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  13. The fight for freedom especially in art is almost like saying you want freedom of speech. I loved the quote about the carrot because an artist could really have a huge influence on people and can do whatever he wants with a painting of a carrot that could really spark inspiration or anger among people in order to express their thoughts or feelings. I have noticed many of the artists that we have looked at throughout this session have been put into this little box of things they could paint. The more adventurous painters such as Caravaggio is a good example of whats happens to those who paint with a more personal and out of the box point of view. I cannot recall very much changing. In either scenario you are free to modernize, however that does not mean it will not come with a cost with the views and beliefs of the ones around you and they’re opinions about the artist. Freedom then and now comes with consequences.

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  14. I think that the phrase, “the battle is won” does not mean that it is definitive. All is not won, but we have won in a sense that we are progressing and keeping an open mind for modern art. We continue to grow, learn, and accept what we see and experience, but we will always have room to progress and change as the world around us does the same. The idea that Modernism is driven by a quest for “modern freedom” seems to ring true. While previous generations had to battle for what they believed in, we still fight for our freedoms to be our true selves and to express ourselves how we see fit. This includes art and our personal lives as well. I feel like art will always be changing and evolving. Some things may come back into popularity, but I feel that as technology progresses, art will have to do the same.

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  15. I agree with the quote, “The battle is won” for it resonates deeply with me, the reason being that I believe that many artists such as Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; Peter Max, Blushing Beauty; Vango, Courtesan (after Eisen); Martiros, Sophisticated Glance; and Dali, The Hallucinogenic Toreador, were capable of expressing themselves in the classical form of art, and yet they chose to find and excel as artists by expressing themselves in nontraditional ways. If not for the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the Age of the Machine, and the Doctrine of Progress during the fine de siecle from 1890-1960 we would not have the masterpieces we have now.

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  16. I do agree with the “the battle had won” quote. I feel like everyone has different thoughts on what an ‘art’ is. Everyone has different preferences on what is approved to be an artist or not. But now with modern art, everyone accepts anything that looks like ‘art’ or declared as a masterpiece by an artist. Every artist that I see do art because they are passionate about their work and knows everyone will be accepting or more relax on what they create.

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  17. What are you thoughts on the declaration “The battle is won” or Modernism is driven by a quest for “modern freedom”? What has changed from then compared to now?
    I agree with “the battle is won” saying. It is open minded. Every art gives different thoughts on the meaning and out look of it. However with modern freedom, everyone looks to accept and “love” anything that looks like art or is hype by the artist.

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  18. The notion of a better political climate, gives landscape to better battles yielded through victory. 
Battles used as a metaphor for that specific time, in that place, for those sets of people, an individualized event, where things aligned enough to create victory for a battle that might be replicated in many other instances with few variable changes, but lost through a completely different sense.

    In our day in age, we as Americans find victory through the aid of our own political climate, but others don’t have the same luxury of battle. Some have to face war to find expression.

    With more wins, as a global world, the better and positive our average becomes. But that does not go unheard, where there are multiple instances where battles aren’t won; the revolution hasn’t started, and we are all spectating a non-synchronized world.

    There is relief in victory; but victory is not the whole. The political climate is, as shown through examples shown above.

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