The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

European Art After World War II

What is Existentialist art?

After World War II, European artists, writers, and thinkers struggled to come to terms with not only the physical destruction wrought by war, but with its psychological toll. Existentialism was a philosophical response popularized by French thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980), whose treatise Being and Nothingness (1943) described the anxiety and meaningless of existence, as well as the pursuit of authenticity in life. Existentialism was a powerful influence on post-war art in Europe and its themes were explored by artists such as Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Dubuffet.


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