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[<<] 1940s [>>]

Context: 1900s - WWII

June 6, 1944: the allies invade France to defy the Germans and win the war.

Discotheques originated in occupied Paris during the Second World War. The Nazis banned jazz and closed many of the dance clubs, breaking up jazz groups and driving fans into illicit cellars to listen to recorded music. One of these venues - on the rue Huchette - called itself La Discothèque. -- David Haslam

Media: birth of 'popular culture' - radio (height of popularity) - vinyl records (introduction)

Music: bebop - rock and roll (birth) - swing (music)

Literature: existentialism - early period of the 'beat' generation - Hell is other people (1944) - Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

Films: Citizen Kane - (1941) - Casablanca - (1942) - Mom and Dad (1945) - Open City - (1945) - Beauty and The Beast (1946) - Bitter Rice - (1949) - The Blood of the Beasts (1949)

by year: 1940 - 1941 - 1942 - 1943 - 1944 - 1945 - 1946 - 1947 - 1948 - 1949

Subculture of the 1940s

Avant Garde artists like Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Marc Chagall had to flee Europe following the outbreak of World War II. They arrived in the United States and began to make contact with each other. Modern art's new home was in New York City. A subculture of American-based surrealism and avant garde experimentation became the new centre of the art world.

In the 1940s American fashion was still gangster oriented. Gangs gravitated largely around immigrant and racial cultures. In California hispanic youths developed a fashion recognised by their distinctive zoot suits. The girls dressed all in black and were called Black widows. The zoot suiters use of language used a lot of rhyming and trick words like so-called pig latin (also known as backslang). The whole thing, including Afro-American, Cuban, Mexican and South American elements and bits introduced by Slim Gaillard like McVouty oreeney was collectively known as Swing or Jive talk. See external link: Dictionary of Swing (http://www.savoyballroom.com/exp/context/savtalk.htm)

The entry of America into World War II was heralded by a new legislation which made zoot suits illegal becuse of the extra cloth which they used up. This led to the Zoot Suit Riots.

In Europe black-marketeers prospered under the rationing. Clothing styles depended on what could be begged or acquired by some means, not necessarily legal. There were restrictions everywhere. When the Americans arrived in Britain, black-marketeers did deals with GIs for stockings, chocolate, etc. Inevitably, subculture continued to have an image of criminality and the brave, the daring, the milieu, the resistance, etc. The black market in drugs thrived just about anywhere.

British black-marketeers were sometimes called Wide boys.

After the second war the zoot suit craze spread to France in the form of the Zazou youths. Meanwhile the intellectuals in France were forming an existentialist subculture around Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus in Paris cafe culture.

In post-war America folk songs and cowboy songs (also known, in those days, as hillbilly music) were beginning to be more popular with a wider audience. A subculture of rural jazz and blues fans had blended elements of jazz and blues into traditional cowboy and folk song styles to produce a crossover called western swing. This type of music was able to spread across America in the 40s thanks to the prevalence of radio. Radio was the first almost instantaneous mass media and had the power to create large subcultures by spreading the ideas of a small subculture across a wider area.

A new jazz subculture formed from the rebellion of some musicians against the melodic stylings of swing. Their rebellion produced Bebop and the early players of it included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The subculture which formed around this kind of jazz was the beginning of Hipsters and the Beat generation.

In 1947, the same year that Jack Kerouac made his epic journey across America which he would later describe in On the Road and the same year as the occurance at Roswell, New Mexico which was claimed as a UFO crash, there was an incident involving a motorcycle gang at Hollister, California. A story about the incident was published that year in Harper's Magazine and would be developed (6 years later in 1953) as the Marlon Brando film The Wild One. A year after the incident the Hells Angels (without the apostrophe), formed in 1948 in Fontana, California. The name Hells Angels had been used as a movie title by Howard Hughes ten years before. The Hells Angels began as a motorcycle club looking for excitement in the dull times after the end of the war. They became far more notorious as time went on. Motorcycle gangs in general began to hit the headlines. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_subcultures_in_the_20th_century#The_1940s [Dec 2004]


  • 1940 Start of WWII
  • 1941 Jews throughout Western Europe are forced into ghettos
  • 1942 Cinq Femmes 1942 - Francis Picabia
  • 1943 Our Lady of the Flowers (1943) - Jean Genet
  • 1944 The Hollywood Hallucination (1944) - Parker Tyler
  • 1945 End of WWII
  • 1946 Paysage Fautif/Wayward Landscape (1946) - Marcel Duchamp
  • 1947 From Caligari to Hitler (1947) - Siegfried Kracauer
  • 1948 Beat Generation
  • 1949 The Blood of the Beasts/Le sang des betes (1949) - Georges Franju

    Decorative Arts 1930s & 1940s

    1. Decorative Arts 1930s & 1940s - Charlotte Fiell, Peter Fiell [Amazon.com]
      TASCHEN's Decorative Art series spans the 20th century through the 1970s and carefully reproduces the best of Studio Magazine's Decorative Art yearbooks. Published annually from 1906 until 1980, the yearbook was dedicated to the latest currents in architecture, interiors, furniture, lighting, glassware, textiles, metalware, and ceramics, and remained on the cutting edge throughout its nearly eight-decade run. Since going out of print, the now hard-to-find yearbooks have been highly prized by collectors and dealers. Preserving the yearbooks' original page layouts, TASCHEN's Decorative Art books bring you an authentic experience of each decade's design trends and styles. The now complete ["00s and 10s", 20s, "30s and 40s",50s, 60s, and the 70s] six-volume set is an essential addition to the comprehensive design library and the devoted collector will want them all.
      Decorative Art 1930s ~ 1940s - Decorative art in the 1930s and 40s experienced a great shift from the opulent Art Deco style to pared-down, pragmatic Modernism championed most notably by Le Corbusier and Richard Neutra. Modernism's economy and simplicity became more accepted as a rational response to a time of great economic hardship. From the end of the 1930s through the postwar period, cool Modernism was gradually replaced by the warmer and more human characteristics in, for example, the design work of Charles Eames and Alvar Aalto. natalierinkenbach for amazon.com [...]
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