In the wonderful interview below (now in “Fractured Times“, Ch. 20: ‘The Avant-Garde fails’)
Eric Hobsbawm argues that
1) 20th century painters retreated into areas of conceptual art and distanced themselves from representation because cinema (and before that photography) conquered their traditional spaces; in doing so, they effectively lost the ability to bring their message across to a wider audience;
2) 20th century painters in particular did never adapt to W. Benjamin’s Reproducibility idea– whereas writers and musicians did so earlier. There are no museums of printed books, whilst painters maintained the aura of their work, thus failing to conquer the new possibilities offered by the modern world: they never advanced from a preindustrial, artisan, one-off production process, thus missing the point of the industrial society.
The picture may be more suffused. Hans Richter (in ‘Dada‘) explained that, granted cinema has true revolutionary power, the ‘mainstream cinema’ we are mostly accustomed by majors and Hollywood industrial complex is really the equivalent of 19th century ‘realist art’ whereas it is the experimental cinema the one realizing the subversion that 20th century art wanted to accomplish. In the words of Amos Vogel,in “Film as Subversive Art”,
“the literary origin and form of commercial cinema – tied to narrative structures and naturalistic sound tracks, to which the images are subsidiary – is discarded. If contemporary commercial cinema represents nineteenth century realist art, that of the counterculture is a desperate attempt to break through to our time”.