Abstract Expressionism

1943 - 1963

Color Field Painting

1947 - 1965

British Pop Art

1947 - 1969

The CoBrA Group

1948 - 1951

Adorno co-authors The Authoritarian Personality


Based on the results of a sociological study at the University of California, Berkeley, that sets out to define personality traits according to an F-scale (where F stands for fascist)

Vietnam War

1950 - 1975

Prolonged conflict between Communist forces of North Vietnam, backed by China and the USSR, and non-Communist forces of South Vietnam, backed by the United States. President Truman authorizes $15 million in economic and military aid to the French, who are fighting to retain control of French Indochina, including Vietnam. As part of the aid package, Truman also sends 35 military advisers (May 1950). North Vietnamese torpedo boats allegedly attack U.S. destroyer in Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam (Aug. 2, 1964). Congress approves Gulf of Tonkin resolution, authorizing President Johnson to take any measures necessary to defend U.S. forces and prevent further aggression (Aug. 7). U.S. planes begin bombing raids of North Vietnam (Feb. 1965). First U.S. combat troops arrive in South Vietnam (March 8–9). North Vietnamese army and Viet Cong launch Tet Offensive, attacking Saigon and other key cities in South Vietnam (Jan.–Feb. 1968). American soldiers kill 300 Vietnamese villagers in My Lai massacre (March 16). U.S. troops invade Cambodia (May 1, 1970). Representatives of North and South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and the U.S. sign a cease-fire agreement in Paris (Jan. 27, 1973). Last U.S. troops leave Vietnam (March 29). South Vietnamese government surrenders to North Vietnam; U.S. embassy Marine guards and last U.S. civilians are evacuated (April 30, 1975).

Grossman dies in Leipzig


Korean War

1950 - 1953

Cold war conflict between Communist and non-Communist forces on Korean Peninsula. North Korean communists invade South Korea (June 25, 1950). Armistice agreement is signed (July 27, 1953).

Adorno publishes Minima Moralia: Notes from Damaged Life


Twenty-Second Amendment ratified


Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, limiting the president to two terms (Feb. 27)

President Truman speaks in first coast-to-coast live television broadcast


First hydrogen bomb is detonated by the U.S. on Eniwetok


Puerto Rico becomes a U.S. commonwealth



1952 - 1970

Dwight Eisenhower is inaugurated as the 34th president


Gutai Group

1954 - 1972

Brown v. Board of Education


Topeka, Kans.: Landmark Supreme Court decision declares that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional

Kinetic Art

1954 - Present

Pop Art

1954 - 1975

Adorno publishes Prisms


Where he writes: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

Post-Painterly Abstraction

1955 - 1975

The Vietnam War begins


Begins with North Vietnam supported by the Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam by the USA and the Philippines. Marcuse publishes Eros and Civilisation: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud, imaging a society no longer in thrall to work thanks to the subversive potential of sexual desire. In that book, Marcuse attacks Fromm for his Freudian revisionism, prompting a public spat in the pages of Dissent magazine from which their relationship never recovers.

Washington Color School

1958 - 1980

In the latter half of the 1950s, Washington D.C. saw a flourishing of abstract art that emphasized the form-making capabilities of pure color. Known as The Washington Color School, the loosely affiliated group of abstract painters knew each other through various teaching experiences. The moniker has an uncertain origin but likely originated with the title of a 1965 exhibition at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, "Washington Color Painters," curated by Gerald Nordland. The show exhibited the works of Kenneth Noland, Paul Reed, Morris Louis, Howard Mehring, Thomas Downing, and Gene Davis. Additionally, Leon Berkowitz and Sam Gilliam along with V.V. Rankine, Alma Thomas, Hilda Thorpe and Anne Truitt were also associated with The School.

Using innovative techniques that expanded on Abstract Expressionist experiments with color and paint application, the Washington Color School created deceptively simple compositions that evoked dynamism and tension. Championed by the art critic Clement Greenberg as part of the larger trend of Post-Painterly Abstraction, the work of the group was seen as the culmination of modernist painting, with its emphasis on the two-dimensional surface of the picture plane and its lack of reference to any subject matter. The Washington Color School embraced the larger trend of Color Field painting, and some of its practitioners experimented with Hard Edge painting as well. In many ways, these D.C. artists anticipated the style of Minimalism and then evolved alongside it, and the teaching legacy of the Washington Color School left its mark on a generation of artists in Washington. While many saw these experiments as a way of moving out of and beyond Abstract Expressionism, others saw them as a formal dead end and divorced from the tumultuous atmosphere of the 1960s.

Explorer I, first American satellite, is launched


Marcuse publishes Soviet Marxism


Includes a critique of the Soviet Union

Fromm publishes The Art of Loving


Arguing that love is a skill that can be taught and developed.


1958 - 1971

Hard-edge Painting

1959 - 1971


1959 - 1978

Alaska becomes the 49th state, Hawaii becomes the 50th


Contemporary Realism

1960 - 1970

Earth Art

1960 - Present


1960 - 1969

Conceptual Art

1960 - Present

Feminist Art

1960 - Present

Nouveau Réalisme

1960 - 1970


1960 - Present

Performance Art

1960 - Present

Body Art

1961 - 1980

Berlin Wall Built


Built by East Germany ringing West Berlin and making it all but impossible for East Germans to flee to the west.

Viennese Actionism

1961 - 1971

U.S. severs diplomatic relations with Cuba


Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba fails (April 17–20)

Arte Povera

1962 - 1972

Lt. Col. John Glenn becomes first U.S. astronaut to orbit Earth


Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech


Before a crowd of 200,000 during the civil rights march on Washington, DC

US president John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas


Succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson who escalates US military action in Vietnam. In November, he says: “The battle against communism [...] must be joined [...] with strength and determination.” While most of American troops were volunteers (and from poor and/or working class backgrounds), a third were selected through drafts - prompting so-called draft dodgers to flee to neutral countries as the US’s military campaign in Vietnam escalates.

Marcuse publishes One-Dimensional Man


Becomes a voguish thinker, known as the father of the New Left, despite his misgivings about that honorific. In it, he argues the “totally administered” nature of advanced industrial society, with its consumerism, militarism and sexual repression masquerading as erotic free-for-all was parallel, to the proverbial grimness of life under Stalin and his henchmen.

Op Art

1964 - Present

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964


Video Art

1965 - Present

Video became an excitingly immediate medium for artists after its introduction in the early 1960s. The expensive technology, which had been available prior only within the corporate broadcasting arena, experienced an advent when Sony first created an economical consumer piece of equipment that allowed everyday people access to vast new possibilities in documentation. Understandably, this produced huge interest for the more experimental artists of the time, especially those involved with concurrent movements in Conceptual art, Performance and experimental film. It provided a cheap way of recording and representation through a dynamic new avenue, shattering an art world where forms such as painting, photography, and sculpture had been the long-held norm. This expanded the potential of individual creative voice and challenged artists to stretch toward new plateaus in their careers. It has also birthed an unmistakable population of artists who may never have entered the fine art field if stifled by the constraints of utilizing traditional mediums. With warp speed over the last half century, video has become accessible by the populous, spawning a continual evolution of its use; we live in an age where even your everyday smartphone has the ability to create high caliber works of art through the use of an ever increasing assortment of applications.

Digital Art

1965 - Present

State troopers attack peaceful demonstrators led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Selma, Ala

Adorno publishes Negative Dialectics


A philosophical treatise that is an anti-systemic, anti-utopian and devoid of hope. “There can be few works of philosophy that give such an overpowering sense of sterility,” argues Leszek Kołakowski in his Main Currents of Marxism.

Miranda v. Arizona


Landmark Supreme Court decision further defines due process clause of Fourteenth Amendment and establishes Miranda rights


1966 - Present

Black Panthers


Founded in 1966 in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale

Student revolt escalates in Paris and protests in Berkeley


At that year’s Frankfurt book fair, Adorno is condemned during a speech by his former student for refusing to join a sit-in. “I do not know,” Adorno retorts, “if an elderly gentlemen with a paunch are the right people to take part in a demonstration.”

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated


Memphis, Tenn

Richard Nixon is inaugurated as the 37th president


SDS students occupy Adorno's seminar room at the Institute for Social Research


Adorno calls the police who arrest all those who refuse to leave. A later lecture by Adorno is interrupted when a student writes on the blackboard “If Adorno is left in peace, capitalism will never cease.” After two women protestors bare their breasts and try to present him with a teddy bear, he flees the lecture theatre. Months later, on holiday in the Alps, Adorno suffers a heart attack and later dies in hospital.

Installation Art

1970 - Present

Four students are shot to death by National Guardsmen during an antiwar protest at Kent State University


Habermas leaves Frankfurt


To become director of the Max Planck Institute for Research into the Conditions of Living in a Scientific and Technological World



Five men, all employees of Nixon's reelection campaign, are caught breaking into rival Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, DC

Roe v. Wade


Landmark Supreme Court decision legalizes abortion in first trimester of pregnancy

Horkheimer dies


Nuremberg, West Germany

The Pictures Generation

1974 - 1984

The Pictures Generation was a loose affiliation of artists, influenced by Conceptual and Pop art, who utilized appropriation and montage to reveal the constructed nature of images. Experimenting with a variety of media, including photography and film, their works exposed cultural tropes and stereotypes in popular imagery. By reworking well-known images, their art challenged notions of individuality and authorship, making the movement an important part of postmodernism. The artists created a more savvy and critical viewing culture, while also expanding notions of art to include social criticism for a new generation of viewers saturated by mass media.

Nixon impeached


Marcuse dies


Starmberg, West Germany


1978 - 1992

U.S. establishes diplomatic ties with mainland China


For the first time since Communist takeover in 1949

Malfunction at Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania causes near meltdown


Fromm dies


Muralto, Switzerland

Ronald Reagan is inaugurated


Habermas publishes his magnum opus, Theory of Communicative Action


It is in part retort to his dead teachers Adorno and Horkheimer, in which he argued the emancipatory power of communicative reason against instrumental reason. Against their gloomy diagnosis, he pitted a hopeful "ideal speech situation" in which citizens are able to raise moral and political concerns and defend them by rationality alone.

U.S. invades Caribbean island of Grenada after a coup by Marxist faction in the government


Start of the Historikerstreit


(Historians' quarrel) a four-year dispute in which Habermas is drawn into public conflict with right-wing historians over the meaning of the Holocaust. German historian Ernst Nolte had recently argued that the Gulag Archipelago was prior to Auschwitz and inferred from this that Germany "reasonably" turned to Nazism in the face of Bolshevik threat. Habermas furiously demurs.

Space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff


Killing all seven crew members

Young British Artists

1987 - Present

The Young British Artists (YBAs) are a loosely-affiliated group who met in London in the late 1980s and participated in two of the most shocking exhibits of the late twentieth century: Freeze (1988) and Sensation (1997). The group is known known for their entrepreneurial spirit, their use of shock tactics, and their wild partying - especially during their 1990s heyday. The most financially successful YBAs are now some of the richest artists in the world, and remain brash and incredibly media-savvy - their choice of subject matter and perceived lack of artistic skill makes their work postmodern, but has been widely criticized in the media.

Fall of the Berlin wall


Habermas fears German reunification was happening so quickly that East Germans citizens were to be quickly incorporated into the Federal Republic by West German bureaucrats without having any say in the kind of society they might want to live in.

George H. W. Bush inaugurated as President


Iraqi troops invade Kuwait, leading to the Persian Gulf War


Persian Gulf War: U.S. leads international coalition in military operation (code named “Desert Storm”) to drive Iraqis out of Kuwait

Francis Fukuyama publishes The End of History and the Last Man


Arguing that the great ideological battles between east and west are over, and that western liberal democracy has triumphed. In the same year, Frankfurt School thinker Axel Honneth publishes The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts sounds a less complacent note. Honneth worries in this book and others (notably his 2007 Reification: A New Look at An Old Idea) that under liberal democracy there can be a “forgetfulness of recognition”, caused caused either by reifying social practices which prompt individuals to perceive subjects merely as objects or by ideological belief systems that depict some human beings as non- or sub-human.

Bill Clinton inaugurated


Lawsuit against President Clinton for sexual harassment