Synchromism

Founded by American artists in 1912, Synchromism is regarded as the first American avant-garde movement to receive international recognition. Artists Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell founded the abstract art movement known as Synchromism. While Synchromism did not enjoy a large following and did not remain popular for long, it is regarded as fundamentally important in the development of American abstract art. The governing premise of Synchromism is that color and sound are related and that color can be organized just at sound can be orchestrated. While many works of Synchromism are purely abstract in nature, others are representational.



Artists MacDonald-Wright and Russell asserted that color and sound share similarities. Just as sound could be organized by scales, some artists believed that color scales could be employed to create art. They also premised that their visual art creations could elicit similar reactions in onlookers as music could among an audience. Artists like Wassily Kandinsky asserted that color could be heard and that the synthesis of hearing and seeing was integral to his own compositions.

Artists influenced by Synchromism avoided reliance on the line in their works and used color and form to achieve their designs. Colors and hues were often arranged rhythmically or like a color scale ascending or descending. Often the colors would appear to be moving in a particular direction. Both MacDonald and Wright were unique, particularly for Pre-WWI era artists, because they believed that realism in art had run its course and was utterly exhausted. They believed that art should break its former ties to literary and other representational forms to move forward.

While many art historians have compared Synchromism to movements like Orphism and even Fauvist paintings, Synchromism did enjoy its own singularity and, while short-lived, was not revisited in terms of preoccupation with color for color’s sake until the 1960s. Synchromist artists were heavily influenced by Impressionists who relied on color more than form to achieve their compositions.

During their lifetimes, MacDonald-Wright and Russell did not reach the level of critical or commercial acclaim that they wished for. However, the movement, in retrospect, has been acknowledged for its importance to the evolution of art in America. Various other artists like Thomas Hart Benton, Patrick Henry Bruce, and Andrew Dasburg also experimented with the Synchromism style. Works that are viewed as characteristic of Synchromism include Cosmic Synchromy (1913-1914) by Morgan Russell, Airplane Synchromy in Yellow-Orange (1920) by Stanton MacDonald-Wright, and Synchromy No. 3 by Stanton MacDonald-Wright.