The previous examples were
optimistic in tone as if their artists were looking forward to societal
progress. Daumier’s Massacre, Rue Transnonian and Gericault’s Raft
of the Medusa reflect concerns over governmental corruption and
the need for social reform. Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon depicts the
leisure activities of the growing urban middle class. The evolution and
popularity of photography, evidenced by Robinson’s Fading Away,
implies a middle class market. Rodin’s The Age of Bronze represents a
common man without aristocratic or Neoplatonic idealism. And Gauguin’s Day
of the Gods documents the intellectual curiosity in peoples around the
However, was this cultural evolution heading in the right
direction? By the beginning of the 20th century, many had become
disillusioned with “modernism.” The urbanization of the workforce separated
laborers from their family heritage. City life was impersonal and fast paced.
Capitalism resulted in a great disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots.”
Colonialization of the third world compromised many nations’ integrity. And
the increase in technology, while beneficially applied to fields such as
health care, also contributed to the largest militarization in human history.
By 1914, W.W.I would destroy the last vestige of optimism in Europe.