Spirituality in Modern Art
Despite the fact that clearly identifiable religious imagery began to disappear in the course of the modern era, many if not precisely most of the major artists and architects of the nineteenth and twentieth century have been involved in creating a fundamentally spiritual art. The work of an architect such as Frank Lloyd Wright, and of artists such as Mary Cassatt and Judy Chicago, despite the very real intrinsic and extrinsic differences between their genres and styles, contains a fundamentally spiritual dimension that speaks to the persistence of the human spirit and the linkage of that spirit to nature and to society. This brief essay will examine this new spirituality in the works of these and other modern creators.
Wright, as the premier American architect of the modern era, has been characterized by art historian Laurie S. Adams (1997) as working to achieve an ôorganicö architecture that links man directly to his environment. In residential structures such as ôFalling Watersö and ôRobie House,ö and in home-work complexes such as the two Taliesins where Wright and his students lived and worked, Wright achieved a synergy between man and nature, structure and environment, which is essentially spiritual. Janson (1989) argued that this synergy reflects WrightÆs personal and creative commitment to drawing directly upon the natural environment to create physical structures that are appropriate and emblematic not of manÆs dominance over the landscape, but rather his participation in that landscape. The strong spirituality of such a strategy is readily apparent.
Mary Cassatt, an American Impressionist working in the late 19th century, employed images of married couples, mothers and their children, and sisters in many of her canvasses (Hamilton, 1966). Underpinning CassattÆs vision of human relationships was an understanding of the bonds that form between individuals with in...