the first modern style

“From this point of view, mannerism is the first modern style, the first which is concerned with a cultural problem and which regards the relationship between tradition and innovation as a problem to be solved by rational means. Tradition is here nothing but a bulwark against the all too violently approaching storms of the unfamiliar, an element which is felt to be a principle of life but also of destruction. It is impossible to understand mannerism if one does not grasp the fact that its imitation of classical models is an escape from the threatening chaos, and that the subjective overstraining of its forms is the expression of the fear that form might fail in the struggle with life and art fade into soulless beauty.”

(Arnold Hauser, The Social History of Art, trans. Stanley Godman, vol. 2, pp. 100–1.)


“So it comes about that the effect of such a building is not merely not impaired when it is left uncompleted; its appeal and its power are actually increased. The inconclusiveness of the forms, which is characteristic of every dynamic style, gives emphasis to one’s impression of endless, restless movement for which any stationary equilibrium is merely provisional. The modern preference for the unfinished, the sketchy, and the fragmentary has its origin here. Since Gothic days all great art, with the exception of a few short-lived classicist movements, has something fragmentary about it, an inward or outward incompleteness, an unwillingness, whether conscious or unconscious, to utter the last word. There is always something left over for the spectator or the reader to complete. The modern artist shrinks from the last word, because he feels the inadequacy of all words – a feeling which we may say was never experienced by man before Gothic times.”

(Arnold Hauser, The Social History of Art, trans. Stanley Godman, vol. 1, pp. 242–3.)