UBUWeb Film & Video – Robert Hughes (1938-2012): The Shock of the New (1982)

This video is for educational purposes only.

The Shock of the New (1): The Mechanical Paradise

Traces how developments in technology inspired art between 1880 and the end of WWI, leading to movements like cubism and futurism.


The Shock of the New (2): The Powers that Be

Hughes explores the interplay between art and politics, seeing how artists were affected by the development of mechanised warfare and ideologies like fascism and communism.


The Shock of the New (3): The Landscape of Pleasure

The French artists who attempted to reconcile man with nature, from the determination of the impressionists to paint outside to Matisse’s vibrant use of colour.


The Shock of the New (4): Trouble in Utopia

How modern architects in the wake of the Bauhaus aspired to change societies with their designs, a move represented both by Le Corbusier and the plans for the city Brasilia.


The Shock of the New (5): The Threshold of Liberty

The art movement that gripped its exponents with the fervour of a religion: surrealism. Artists like Di Chirico, Ernst, Miro and Dali; brought the subconscious to the fore and attempted to tap into innocent and irrationality.


The Shock of the New (6):The View From the Edge

Expressionism sprung out of the harsh, secular atmosphere of the 20th Century and evolved, through the strong colors and often sombre moods of artists like Munch, to the non figurative work of Pollock and De Kooning.


The Shock of the New (7): Culture as Nature

Artists began to take man made images as their inspiration, leading to the pop art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as well as Stuart Davis’ collages inspired by jazz.


The Shock of the New (8): The Future That Was

The final episode in the series explores the decline of modernism and how various artists have reacted to the consequent commercialization of their art.


A classic eight part documentary that offers a comprehensive view on the development of modernist art in its cultural context. It focusses mainly on painting and sculpting but pays some attention to architecture as well. The documentary is presented and narrated by the art critic Robert Hughes, whose views on modernism have left an unmistakable stamp on the film. It was originally aired by the BBC.

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