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No one is ahead of his time, it is only that the particular variety of creating his time is the one that his contemporaries who are also creating their own time refuse to accept…For a very long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost everybody accepts. In the history of the refused in the arts and literature the rapidity of the change is always startling.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)*

Artistic styles often change and evolve over time. Techniques rejected by the contemporaries of Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh came to be adored and admired by the next generation. Something labeled “modern” during an artist’s own life may be considered “classic” by the next generation.

By definition, modernism embraces that which is new and innovative; however, it may also represent a return to past, even primitive models. Consider what elements of Max Thalmann’s Last Supper and Bernard Sleigh’s The Crucifixion: A Triptych appear both simultaneously progressive and yet medieval?

Max Thalmann (1890–1944) Last Supper

Gift of Milton D. Heifetz


Bernard Sleigh (1872–1954) The Crucifixion: A Triptych

Purchased with funds provided by Verla Birrell and Campbell Foundation


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Max Thalmann deliberately employs thick, broad lines to create figures and movement in his Last Supper. The single outline around each apostle seated at the table takes the place of individualized detail. Instead, the compositional focus is on the stylized figure of Christ and the light emanating from him, which draws the viewer’s attention to the glory and power of the Lord.

Bernard Sleigh’s Crucifixion moves away from the academic tradition of intense detail and perfected anatomy in favor of more simplified forms and flattened backgrounds. Though created in 1906, Sleigh purposely rejects contemporary trends such as Cubism and Fauvism and embraces earlier traditions such as medieval stained glass. With an emphasis on outlines and overlapping forms, the figures appear flattened, like imagery from illuminated manuscripts.