European and American Culture of the 1920s and 1930s

Below please find a set of web questions on the cultural and intellectual upheavals of the 1920s and 1930s. These were written by your classmate, Dina Bychkova. Please answer at least one of these questions with a response of a paragraph or more.

Composition XI (1918) by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931), the founder of a modernist artistic movement known as De Stijl.

In Europe and North America during the 1920s, many scientists and artists embraced new ideas (relativity, abstraction in art, psychiatry, etc.) that challenged the traditional explanations of how the world worked. Did the Great Depression of the 1930s stop these new ways of thinking or encourage them even more? Did the Great Depression itself make people embrace new ideas or make them hold on to old ones even more tightly?

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11 Comments

  1. In my opinion the Great Depression may have encouraged the new ways of thinking as opposed to limiting it. 1930s was the time of suffer and chaos for many people. When everything seemed hopeless and all many people saw around was death and unemployment, they turned to things like art and music in an attempt to escape from reality. People seek help and positive atmosphere in abstract world. Negativity around them motivated people to express their ideas and feelings through music and art. They realized that the old ideas were not working anymore and embraced the new ones to escape from the cruel world they were in.

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  2. talal eid

     /  November 29, 2012

    The 1930s were a period of intense artistic experimentation, as new forms and methods were explored, transformative cultural institutions were founded, and artists self-consciously sought to reach broader layers of the public. During the Great Depression people started to be involved in art and music because they wanted to escape from that depression and they wanted to think in a positive way after seeing a lot of dead people.they used their feelings and ideas in art to flourish new art works rather than the primitive ones they used to do .their ideas became more extensive,In my point of view the Great Depression had a lot of benefits to the art because it had enhanced the art and made it great as much as it was before .

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  3. Shirley Exilus

     /  November 29, 2012

    As far as employment, I believe the Great Depression caused some governments to revert back to the old way of thinking. For instance, during this period unemployment was extremely high and it affected more men than women. As a result, governments decided to find a way to make men the working class and have women stay home and enjoy the domestic life. On the contrary, when it came down to improving the economy, the great depression help people embrace new and different policies. In the beginning they chose to do it the classical way hoping everything would work out on its own. But when that approach failed, Franklin D. Roosevelt apparently applied similar views from Keynes, in his New Deal program.

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  4. At the turn of the 20th century, artists and scientists began challenging old ideas and created their own. Artists began experimenting with art in ways, no one had ever seen. With the invention of photography, artists began moving away from the idea of realism. Scientists like Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg created new theories of special relativity and observation. An Austrian psychologist named, Sigmund Freud, explored the subconscious realm of the human mind. As the Depression went on, growing frustrations caused people to question those in charge. Often times, individuals would express their ideas or grief with others through literature. John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, questioned poor decisions made by the Government in the midst of turbulent times. French Physician, Charles Richet, believed that removing women from the workforce would solve the problem of unemployment and increase the national birthrate. John M. Keynes believed that the best way to improve the economy was to leave it alone and allow it to fix it’s self. With no help in sight, people began to embrace the new ideas. Upon that there were other problems at the time, millions were homeless, jobless, the rate of suicide increased, and an increase of social division.

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  5. Aroosa Altaf

     /  December 11, 2012

    I think the new ideas had challenged the traditional ways of how the world worked, for instance, the implications of the theory of special relativity and the uncertainty principle raised more questions because they were thought to be “beyond physics,” they could be seen through the philosophical perspective. Einstein’s theory, replaced the “commonsense universe by a radically new one in which reality or truth was merely a set of mental constructs” (Traditions, pp.794) and also the concept of space and time. Furthermore,the notions of truth came into question along with the violation of the fundamental law of cause and effect, along with objectivity being an invalid concept now, by Heisenberg’s theory. I think the main one that had brought in more broader ways in viewing things, and can say that also a bit challenging, is Sigmund Freud’s interpretation of human nature. With all these new concepts flowing in, I think people had to adopt them because otherwise they would have challenged the traditional ways of how they thought the world worked. The new ideas raised many questions and had gave new lens to view the world.

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  6. Elizabeth Adler

     /  December 16, 2012

    In times of chaos, creative thinkers use their art to make sense of the world around them. In the hardest of times, the most revolutionary ideas breakthrough to help others. Even in times of wealth of a nation, the most successful artists are usually the ones who are still in the dark. While the thirties was an awful time for the world in terms of the great depression, we thrived as people in terms of culture. Whether looking at abstract art or looking at Einsteins theories, there were new ways of thinking emerging. Depression is a time for people to question and serve new ideas and that’s exactly what happened at that time.

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  7. Eta Oyarijivbie

     /  December 19, 2012

    Popular culture roared to life as the economy boomed at the beginning of 20th century. New technologies, increasing business profits, and higher wages allowed more Americans to purchase a wide range of consumer goods. Culturally, the Roaring Twenties were a rich period full of change, artistic revolution, and high-society frolics and it continue into the 30’s, The Great Depression. The 1930s were a period of extreme artistic experiment, as new practices and approaches were discovered, cultural institutions were established, and artists wanted to reach wider aspects of the public. The New Deal programs gave artists both federal recognition and the funding and space to work out new cultural forms. But technical changes, like the commercialization of the radio, made art accessible to more people, and a veering from formalism and modernism also popularize art.

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  8. Tamar Walkenfeld

     /  December 19, 2012

    In the years leading up to the Great Depression, there were many great advancements in areas such as physics, psychology and art. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity changed the way that people looked at the world. Matisse led the “Les Fauves” movement in art which moved away from literal interpretations to a more abstract art form. When the Great Depression came in 1929, society shifted. The high rate of unemployment and starving people on the street put a damper on the country. There was a retraction in society and there was once again a strong sense of social division and strong class hatred. One French physician, Charles Richet, suggested kicking the women out of the workplace to give more men jobs. While things seemed to be going backwards, there were still advancements at the time of the Depression. Though the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s brought about drought and a lack of food in parts of the country, it also spurred a major literary work. John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” is still on every American’s bookshelf today. FDR’s New Deal also brought about opportunities for artists to showcase their work and express themselves. While the boom of advancements may of halted at the time of the Depression, there are always advancements, even in dire times.

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  9. Alana Horowitz

     /  December 19, 2012

    After World War One there were many revelations in science, mind, and art. Einstein and his theory of special relativity revolutionized physics. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which stated that observation effects the observed, had great scientific and social effects. Sigmund Freud changed psychology and explored the subconscious. This was also a time of increasing art and creativity. Art became a creation and not just a reproduction of a scene. Groups like Les Fauves, led by Henri Matisse and Andre Deram, painted in abstractions, favoring wild colors and unrealistic paintings. Architecture also changed with the beginning of the Bauhaus, the first school for modern design. Then, the Great Depression hit. There was a huge economic claps and personal suffering. People struggled for food, clothing, and shelter. The Depression intensified social divisions and class hatred. Some, like the French physician Charles Richet, said that removing women from the workplace would solve the problem of male unemployment. The Depression seemed to cause, in some ways, a regression in the way people thought about classes and women. However, at the same time, personal struggle tends to lead to creativity, like Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath. FDR’s New Deal policies even encouraged and commissioned artist to paint as their jobs.

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  10. Wing Yan Chu

     /  December 19, 2012

    The Great Depression didn’t stop people, but it prevents them from using it until the condition gotten better. During the Great Depression the people weren’t able to make much regardless of what jobs they have. These times they would focus on their current situation before they progress. It was also after WWI and many people didn’t heal from the war.

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  11. Davin M. Alexander

     /  December 19, 2012

    The Great Depression encouraged a new way of thinking for people in America. People were interested in trying new ideas because the old ideas is one of the reasons that they were placed there in the first place. This has happened before, after the European bubonic plague, the Europeans bounced back economically with new medicine and ways of thinking.

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