William Adolphe Bouguereau
A Little Coaxing, 1890
The epitome of a romantic painter, Bouguereau told a story that the viewer can interpret: Perhaps: two sisters, one orange. The narrative is cute; the girls are sweet; the picture evokes many sentiments.
Sentimentalism is the use of art to evoke those kinds of emotions: cute, sweet, nostalgic, protective, heartwarming, etc. The modernists often defined themselves as anti-Bouguereau.
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe ("The Luncheon on the Grass")
There is no story. It is Art for the Sake of Art--- an important modern slogan. Stop looking for a narrative or an emotion.
Le déjeuner, 1921
Two paintings by Helen Frankenthaler
Until the standard became color and shape for the sake of color and shape.
Modernists believed that true art should reject art's traditional obligation to uplift patriotic spirits, inspire religious faith and glorify the government.
"Art should be independent of all claptrap —should stand alone ...and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it, as devotion, pity, love, patriotism and the like."
James McNeill Whistler
Margaret Keane painted many emotionally-manipulative paintings in
the 1960s that were attributed to her husband Walter.
So what is the opposite of sentimentalism?
Homage to the Square: La Tehuana by Josef Albers, 1951
Another modernist slogan was "Épater la bourgeoisie." (Shock the middle classes.)
LHOOQ by Marcel Duchamp, 1919
Or is Dada the opposite of sentimentalism? Dada is
a meaningless word for art without meaning.
Art for the sake of art.
And here we have one of the great conflicts in modernism.
The majority of the audience likes to read a sentimental story into art. A minority, the avant-garde, considers sentimentality trite, manipulative and just uncool.
You know who you are.