Introduction to Modern Art

Modern Art Definition

Modern art refers to artworks that were created in the period between the late 19th century and the 1970s but it also encompasses art movements and styles that emerged during this period. Art produced after the 1970s is usually referred to as postmodern or contemporary art. Sometimes, however, modern art also includes paintings, graphic works and sculpture that were created after the 1970s.

Origins of Modern Art

There is no universally accepted beginning date for modern art. But there is a general agreement that its origins can be traced back to the mid-19th century France. Modern art is characterised by rejection of the traditional, academic painting and tendency to more natural representation of the visual world. Its roots are therefore traditionally traced to the works of impressionists and post-impressionists including artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec and Paul Cezanne, to mention only a few.

Influence of Photography and Tribal Arts

The invention of photography proved to be a major incentive for modern art by eliminating the need for accurate depiction of the visible world by an artist. This resulted in the rise of abstract art which uses little or no objects/forms from the physical world. Instead, it uses colour, form or/and line to represent the artist’s vision of the visible world.

Early modern art was also influenced greatly by tribal arts which were exhibited throughout the world in the late 19th and early 20th century, giving rise to the so-called Primitivism. But the art of non-Western and prehistoric cultures also had a major influence on Expressionists and Cubists including the renowned Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.

Modern Art Movements

Modern art is probably as diverse as all other art movements combined since it encompasses movements such as Neo-Impressionism, Fauvism, Symbolism, Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Suprematism, Constructivism, Surrealism, Social Realism, Conceptual art, Pop art, Opt art and many other art movements that flourished during the period from the later half of the 19th century to the 1970s.

Modern Architecture

Just like modern art, modern architecture evolved out of rejection of the past styles and revivals in the late 19th century. It too took the form of a number of movements which to a certain degree corresponded to those in visual arts. All, however, sought to create architectural forms that reflect modernisation of the society and utilise new building technologies.