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Modern art

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Modern art includes artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation. Modern artists experimented with new ways of seeing and with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art. A tendency away from the narrative, which was characteristic for the traditional arts, toward abstraction is characteristic of much modern art. More recent artistic production is often called contemporary art or postmodern art.


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Modern art begins with the heritage of painters like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec all of whom were essential for the development of modern art. At the beginning of the 20th century Henri Matisse and several other young artists including the pre-cubists Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, Jean Metzinger and Maurice de Vlaminck revolutionized the Paris art world with "wild", multi-colored, expressive landscapes and figure paintings that the critics called Fauvism. Matisse's two versions of The Dance signified a key point in his career and in the development of modern painting. It reflected Matisse's incipient fascination with primitive art: the intense warm color of the figures against the cool blue-green background and the rhythmical succession of the dancing nudes convey the feelings of emotional liberation and hedonism.

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Initially influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and other late 19th century innovators, Pablo Picasso made his first cubist paintings based on Cézanne's idea that all depiction of nature can be reduced to three solids: cube, sphere and cone. With the painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), Picasso dramatically created a new and radical picture depicting a raw and primitive brothel scene with five prostitutes, violently painted women, reminiscent of African tribal masks and his own new Cubist inventions. Analytic cubism was jointly developed by Picasso and Georges Braque, exemplified by Violin and Candlestick, Paris, from about 1908 through 1912. Analytic cubism, the first clear manifestation of cubism, was followed by Synthetic cubism, practiced by Braque, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Albert Gleizes, Marcel Duchamp and several other artists into the 1920s. Synthetic cubism is characterized by the introduction of different textures, surfaces, collage elements, papier collé and a large variety of merged subject matter.

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The notion of modern art is closely related to modernism.

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Roots in the 19th century

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Although modern sculpture and architecture are reckoned to have emerged at the end of the 19th century, the beginnings of modern painting can be located earlier. The date perhaps most commonly identified as marking the birth of modern art is 1863, the year that Édouard Manet showed his painting Le déjeuner sur l'herbe in the Salon des Refusés in Paris. Earlier dates have also been proposed, among them 1855 (the year Gustave Courbet exhibited The Artist's Studio) and 1784 (the year Jacques-Louis David completed his painting The Oath of the Horatii). In the words of art historian H. Harvard Arnason: "Each of these dates has significance for the development of modern art, but none categorically marks a completely new beginning .... A gradual metamorphosis took place in the course of a hundred years."

The strands of thought that eventually led to modern art can be traced back to the Enlightenment, and even to the 17th century. The important modern art critic Clement Greenberg, for instance, called Immanuel Kant "the first real Modernist" but also drew a distinction: "The Enlightenment criticized from the outside ... . Modernism criticizes from the inside." The French Revolution of 1789 uprooted assumptions and institutions that had for centuries been accepted with little question and accustomed the public to vigorous political and social debate. This gave rise to what art historian Ernst Gombrich called a "self-consciousness that made people select the style of their building as one selects the pattern of a wallpaper."

The pioneers of modern art were Romantics, Realists and Impressionists. By the late 19th century, additional movements which were to be influential in modern art had begun to emerge: post-Impressionism as well as Symbolism.

Influences upon these movements were varied: from exposure to Eastern decorative arts, particularly Japanese printmaking, to the coloristic innovations of Turner and Delacroix, to a search for more realism in the depiction of common life, as found in the work of painters such as Jean-François Millet. The advocates of realism stood against the idealism of the tradition-bound academic art that enjoyed public and official favor. The most successful painters of the day worked either through commissions or through large public exhibitions of their own work. There were official, government-sponsored painters' unions, while governments regularly held public exhibitions of new fine and decorative arts.

The Impressionists argued that people do not see objects but only the light which they reflect, and therefore painters should paint in natural light (en plein air) rather than in studios and should capture the effects of light in their work. Impressionist artists formed a group, Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs ("Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers") which, despite internal tensions, mounted a series of independent exhibitions. The style was adopted by artists in different nations, in preference to a "national" style. These factors established the view that it was a "movement". These traits—establishment of a working method integral to the art, establishment of a movement or visible active core of support, and international adoption—would be repeated by artistic movements in the Modern period in art.

Early 20th century

Among the movements which flowered in the first decade of the 20th century were Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, and Futurism.

During the years between 1910 and the end of World War I and after the heyday of cubism, several movements emerged in Paris. Giorgio de Chirico moved to Paris in July 1911, where he joined his brother Andrea (the poet and painter known as Alberto Savinio). Through his brother he met Pierre Laprade, a member of the jury at the Salon d'Automne where he exhibited three of his dreamlike works: Enigma of the Oracle, Enigma of an Afternoon and Self-Portrait. During 1913 he exhibited his work at the Salon des Indépendants and Salon d’Automne, and his work was noticed by Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, and several others. His compelling and mysterious paintings are considered instrumental to the early beginnings of Surrealism. Song of Love (1914) is one of the most famous works by de Chirico and is an early example of the surrealist style, though it was painted ten years before the movement was "founded" by André Breton in 1924.

World War I brought an end to this phase but indicated the beginning of a number of anti-art movements, such as Dada, including the work of Marcel Duchamp, and of Surrealism. Artist groups like de Stijl and Bauhaus developed new ideas about the interrelation of the arts, architecture, design, and art education.

Modern art was introduced to the United States with the Armory Show in 1913 and through European artists who moved to the U.S. during World War I.

After World War II

It was only after World War II, however, that the U.S. became the focal point of new artistic movements. The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of Abstract Expressionism, Color field painting, Pop art, Op art, Hard-edge painting, Minimal art, Lyrical Abstraction, Fluxus, Happening, Video art, Postminimalism, Photorealism and various other movements. In the late 1960s and the 1970s, Land art, Performance art, Conceptual art, and other new art forms had attracted the attention of curators and critics, at the expense of more traditional media. Larger installations and performances became widespread.

By the end of the 1970s, when cultural critics began speaking of "the end of painting" (the title of a provocative essay written in 1981 by Douglas Crimp), new media art had become a category in itself, with a growing number of artists experimenting with technological means such as video art. Painting assumed renewed importance in the 1980s and 1990s, as evidenced by the rise of neo-expressionism and the revival of figurative painting.

Towards the end of the 20th century, a number of artists and architects started questioning the idea of "the modern" and created typically Postmodern works.

Art movements and artist groups

(Roughly chronological with representative artists listed.)

19th century

  • Romanticism and the Romantic movement – Francisco de Goya, J. M. W. Turner, Eugène Delacroix
  • RealismGustave Courbet, Camille Corot, Jean-François Millet, Rosa Bonheur
  • Macchiaioli - Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Telemaco Signorini
  • ImpressionismFrédéric Bazille, Gustave Caillebotte, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Armand Guillaumin, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley
  • Post-impressionism – Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau, Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin, Albert Lebourg, Robert Antoine Pinchon
  • SymbolismGustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, Edvard Munch, James Whistler, James Ensor
  • Les NabisPierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton, Maurice Denis, Paul Serusier
  • Art Nouveau and variants – Jugendstil, Modern Style, ModernismeAubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt,
  • Art Nouveau architecture and design – Antoni Gaudí, Otto Wagner, Wiener Werkstätte, Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, Koloman Moser
  • Pointillism - Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Maximilien Luce, Henri-Edmond Cross
  • DivisionismGaetano Previati, Giovanni Segantini, Pellizza da Volpedo
  • Early Modernist sculptors – Aristide Maillol, Auguste Rodin
  • Early 20th century (before World War I)

  • Abstract artFrancis Picabia, Wassily Kandinsky, František Kupka, Robert Delaunay, Léopold Survage, Piet Mondrian
  • Fauvism – André Derain, Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Kees van Dongen
  • Expressionism and related – Die Brücke, Der Blaue Reiter - Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Emil Nolde, Axel Törneman, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Pechstein
  • Futurism – Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov
  • Cubism – Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, Henri Le Fauconnier, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon, Francis Picabia, Juan Gris
  • SculptureConstantin Brâncuși, Joseph Csaky, Alexander Archipenko, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Jacques Lipchitz, Ossip Zadkine, Henri Laurens, Elie Nadelman, Chaim Gross, Chana Orloff, Jacob Epstein, Gustave Miklos
  • Orphism – Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, František Kupka
  • PhotographyPictorialism, Straight photography
  • SuprematismKazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky
  • Synchromism – Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Morgan Russell
  • VorticismWyndham Lewis
  • DadaJean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters
  • World War I to World War II

  • Pittura Metafisica – Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Carrà, Giorgio Morandi
  • De StijlTheo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian
  • Expressionism – Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine
  • New ObjectivityMax Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz
  • Figurative painting – Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard
  • American Modernism – Stuart Davis, Arthur G. Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O'Keeffe
  • ConstructivismNaum Gabo, Gustav Klutsis, László Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malevich, Vadim Meller, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin
  • Surrealism – Marc Chagall, René Magritte, Jean Arp, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, André Masson, Joan Miró
  • Bauhaus – Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Josef Albers
  • Sculpture – Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Gaston Lachaise, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Julio Gonzalez
  • Scottish ColouristsFrancis Cadell, Samuel Peploe, Leslie Hunter, John Duncan Fergusson
  • Suprematism – Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandra Ekster, Olga Rozanova, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Ivan Kliun, Lyubov Popova, Nikolai Suetin, Nina Genke-Meller, Ivan Puni, Ksenia Boguslavskaya
  • PrecisionismCharles Sheeler, Charles Demuth
  • After World War II

  • Figuratifs – Bernard Buffet, Jean Carzou, Maurice Boitel, Daniel du Janerand, Claude-Max Lochu
  • Sculpture – Henry Moore, David Smith, Tony Smith, Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Alberto Giacometti, Sir Anthony Caro, Jean Dubuffet, Isaac Witkin, René Iché, Marino Marini, Louise Nevelson, Albert Vrana
  • Abstract expressionismWillem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell
  • American Abstract ArtistsIlya Bolotowsky, Ibram Lassaw, Ad Reinhardt, Josef Albers, Burgoyne Diller
  • Art Brut – Adolf Wölfli, August Natterer, Ferdinand Cheval, Madge Gill, Paul Salvator Goldengreen
  • Arte PoveraJannis Kounellis, Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz, Piero Manzoni, Alighiero Boetti
  • Color field painting – Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Sam Francis, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Helen Frankenthaler
  • TachismeJean Dubuffet, Pierre Soulages, Hans Hartung, Ludwig Merwart
  • COBRA – Pierre Alechinsky, Karel Appel, Asger Jorn
  • De-collage – Wolf Vostell, Mimmo Rotella
  • Neo-DadaRobert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, John Chamberlain, Joseph Beuys, Lee Bontecou, Edward Kienholz
  • Figurative Expressionism - Larry Rivers, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Robert De Niro, Sr., Lester Johnson, George McNeil, Earle M. Pilgrim, Jan Müller, Robert Beauchamp, Bob Thompson
  • FluxusGeorge Maciunas, Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell, Nam June Paik, Daniel Spoerri, Dieter Roth, Carolee Schneeman, Alison Knowles, Charlotte Moorman, Dick Higgins
  • HappeningAllan Kaprow, Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Nam June Paik, Charlotte Moorman, Robert Whitman, Yoko Ono
  • Dau-al-Set – founded in Barcelona by poet/artist Joan Brossa, – Antoni Tàpies
  • Grupo El Paso – founded in Madrid by artists Antonio Saura, Pablo Serrano
  • Geometric abstraction – Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Nadir Afonso, Manlio Rho, Mario Radice, Mino Argento
  • Hard-edge paintingJohn McLaughlin, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Al Held, Ronald Davis
  • Kinetic artGeorge Rickey, Getulio Alviani
  • Land art – Christo, Richard Long, Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer
  • Les AutomatistesClaude Gauvreau, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Pierre Gauvreau, Fernand Leduc, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Marcelle Ferron
  • Minimal art – Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, Agnes Martin
  • PostminimalismEva Hesse, Bruce Nauman, Lynda Benglis
  • Lyrical abstractionRonnie Landfield, Sam Gilliam, Larry Zox, Dan Christensen, Natvar Bhavsar, Larry Poons
  • Neo-figurative art – Fernando Botero, Antonio Berni
  • Neo-expressionismGeorg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Jörg Immendorff, Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Transavanguardia – Francesco Clemente, Mimmo Paladino, Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi
  • Figuration libre – Hervé Di Rosa, François Boisrond, Robert Combas
  • New realism – Yves Klein, Pierre Restany, Arman
  • Op artVictor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Jeffrey Steele
  • Outsider artHoward Finster, Grandma Moses, Bob Justin
  • PhotorealismAudrey Flack, Chuck Close, Duane Hanson, Richard Estes, Malcolm Morley
  • Pop artRichard Hamilton, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, David Hockney
  • Postwar European figurative painting – Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Gerhard Richter
  • New European PaintingLuc Tuymans, Marlene Dumas, Neo Rauch, Bracha Ettinger, Michaël Borremans, Chris Ofili
  • Shaped canvasFrank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Ron Davis, Robert Mangold.
  • Soviet artAleksandr Deyneka, Aleksandr Gerasimov, Ilya Kabakov, Komar & Melamid, Alexandr Zhdanov, Leonid Sokov
  • SpatialismLucio Fontana
  • Video art – Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, Joseph Beuys, Bill Viola
  • Visionary artErnst Fuchs, Paul Laffoley, Michael Bowen
  • References

    Modern art Wikipedia

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