Giacomo Balla (1871-1958), Dinamismo di un Cane al Guinzaglio (Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash). Albright Knox Art Gallery/Art Resource, NY/Scala, Florence. © DACS, London 2015
Paintings often gave the illusion of movement before electricity provided steady after-dark illumination. Around this time artists became preoccupied by conveying the tempo of modern life in static images. Impressionists, Cubists and Futurists all evolved visual tricks for representing time.
Fernand Léger, La Ballet mécanique. Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais. © ADAGP, Paris / DACS, London 2015
Cinema was greeted as both product of modernity and perfect medium for seizing its spirit. Fernand Léger called his 1924 Ballet mécanique the ‘first film without a scenario’. Artist-made films of this period demonstrate an extraordinary range of effects.
Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou, 1929. Image: Album/Scala, Florence. © Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2015. © Luis Bunuel
In Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s 1928 Un Chien andalou, film is the Surrealist medium par excellence: a waking dream. Andy Warhol’s 1963 movie Sleep shows real time action with minimal editing, the formula for much art (rather than commercial) film and video.
Bill Viola, The Reflecting Pool, 1977-79. Videotape, color, mono sound; 7 minutes. Image Courtesy of the Artist and Blain|Southern. Photo: Kira Perov
In the 1970s video emerged as a primary art medium, either for documenting performances, as by Bruce Nauman, or in the lyrical manner of Bill Viola.
Explore the full series, The History of Art in 20 Media. For more features, interviews and videos, see our Christie’s Daily homepage