Modern art

Modern art includes artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the styles 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.

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.

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.

The notion of modern art is closely related to modernism.

History of modern art

Roots in the 19th century
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.

The rejection of modern art was very strong since the concept began to be coined, not only in the social and conservative environments that modern artists sought to disseminate, but among intellectuals who took their analysis very seriously, as they were, in Spain, by Eugenio d’Ors, author of the lapidary phrase: Everything that is not tradition, is plagiarism; or José Ortega y Gasset, who titled one of his works: The dehumanization of art.

The Soviet Communism and Italian fascism, which since its inception and during the 1920s were closely linked to the avant – garde (Constructivism, Futurism), tested from 1930 the need to channel their propagandistic manipulation in the field of aesthetics through an art much more easily digestible by the masses. They found almost identical solutions in what was known as socialist realism or fascist art. In the case of Nazism, he identified modern art with what he called the degenerate art of the demented and the inferior races, as opposed to the values of an intendedAryan aesthetics or Aryan art. However, the persecution of the Jews and the German occupation of Europe during the Second World War gave oppurtunity to the more or less disguised plundering of many pieces of modern art by the Nazi leaders (who did not destroy it, but who they appropriated).

Simultaneously, American capitalism, on the other hand, assumed modern art with great dynamism, involving it in the productive process and taking advantage of its great possibilities for the market.

Impressionism and avant-garde
The impressionism and post – impressionism and marked a decided to experiment with new modes of representation of light and space through color and painting art, and vibration of matter in sculpture (Rodin). In the years leading up to the First World War, an explosion of creativity took place with Phovism, Cubism, Expressionism and Futurism.

The First World War brought with it the end of this phase, but it indicated the beginning of a series of anti-artistic movements, such as the one given and the work of Marcel Duchamp and surrealism. Also groups like Stijl and Bauhaus had just begun to develop new ideas about the interrelation of arts, architecture, design and artistic education.

United States
The avant-garde concept of modern art was introduced in the United States in the Armory Show of 1913, and especially with the arrival of artists who fled Europe because of the First World War, such as Francis Picabia. Nevertheless, Paris continued being the capital of the art during all the interwar period, condition that did not reach New York until the Second World War. In the fifties, sixties and seventies appeared, for the first time in the history of art, styles emerged in the United States (abstract expressionism, op art, pop art,minimalism, happening, Fluxus, land art, performance art, conceptual art, photorealism, etc.)

The death of art and the end of the modern
The poststructuralist theory has coined the term ” postmodern ” to describe the impossibility of creating from the precepts of originality and novelty (own elements of modernity); instead, it points to elements such as reinterpretations and resignifications (the so-called ” linguistic turn “) 10 in order to broaden the concept of art and establish it as a communicative act.

The questioning of art as an institution was much older. Such was the position of Marcel Duchamp, exemplified in his work Fuente (1917), a daily object decontextualized and exhibited provocatively as a work of art (a urinal turned upside down). The aesthetic provocation, which came from the damnism, dandyism and decadentism of the nineteenth century (which was intended by épater le bourgeois – scandalize the bourgeois), 11 became a common place in the interwar period (dadaism and surrealism), and was extended in the mid-twentieth century with happenings, the theater of the absurd and other aesthetic provocations of the existentialist cultural environment, beatniks and later psychedelia and pop art. The impossibility of continuing to maintain a fictitious separation between art and the rest of the products was evidenced in the work of artists such as Robert Rauschemberg and Andy Warhol, who explicitly identified it with the other products of mass consumption; the theoretical expression occurred in the writings of Rosalind Kraussand the post-structuralist school, or critics such as Giulio Carlo Argan (who coined the concept of the death of art).

In the late twentieth century, in the intellectual context of “linguistic turn” and the debate between modernism and postmodernism, began to spread in the world of art labeled “postmodern” (Postmodern art, postmodern architecture, Postmodern painting, postmodern sculpture). The avant-garde crisis was proclaimed, and even the traditional genres or arts (painting, sculpture) ceased to be the main vehicle of artistic expression for those who sought more innovative means, for the benefit of “artistic installations”, “interventions”, multimedia “(video art, digital art, media art, etc.)

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.

Precedents of modern artistic ideas can already be seen in the work of the great baroque masters (Velázquez or Rembrandt); of authors of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries more or less close to romanticism (Goya, David, Delacroix, Gericault, Friedrich, Turner, William Blake); and authors of the mid-nineteenth century more or less close to realism (Corot, Millet, Courbet, school of Barbizon,William Morris). For these dates, the perception of the modern artist as a misunderstood social, alien to the institutions, begins to be usual; although paradoxically, it ends up creating its own alternative institutionality (Salon des Refusés, 1863 -alone of the rejected ones-). Crucial was the role of prestigious intellectuals who acted as art critics, such as Rimbaud.

Art movements and artist groups

19th century
Romanticism and the Romantic movement – Francisco de Goya, J. M. W. Turner, Eugène Delacroix
Realism – Gustave Courbet, Camille Corot, Jean-François Millet, Rosa Bonheur
Pre-Raphaelites – William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Macchiaioli – Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Telemaco Signorini
Impressionism – Frédéric 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
Pointillism – Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Maximilien Luce, Henri-Edmond Cross
Divisionism – Gaetano Previati, Giovanni Segantini, Pellizza da Volpedo
Symbolism – Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, Edvard Munch, James Whistler, James Ensor
Les Nabis – Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton, Maurice Denis, Paul Serusier
Art Nouveau and variants – Jugendstil, Secession, Modern Style, Modernisme – Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt,
Art Nouveau architecture and design – Antoni Gaudí, Otto Wagner, Wiener Werkstätte, Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, Koloman Moser
Early Modernist sculptors – Aristide Maillol, Auguste Rodin

Early 20th century (before World War I)
Abstract art – Francis 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
Cubism – Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, Henri Le Fauconnier, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon, Francis Picabia, Juan Gris
Futurism – Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov
Orphism – Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, František Kupka
Suprematism – Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky
Synchromism – Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Morgan Russell
Vorticism – Wyndham Lewis
Sculpture – Constantin Brâncuși, Joseph Csaky, Alexander Archipenko, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Jacques Lipchitz, Ossip Zadkine, Henri Laurens, Elie Nadelman, Chaim Gross, Chana Orloff, Jacob Epstein, Gustave Miklos
Photography – Pictorialism, Straight photography

World War I to World War II
Dada – Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters
Surrealism – Marc Chagall, René Magritte, Jean Arp, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, André Masson, Joan Miró
Pittura Metafisica – Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Carrà, Giorgio Morandi
De Stijl – Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian
New Objectivity – Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz
Figurative painting – Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard
American Modernism – Stuart Davis, Arthur G. Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe
Constructivism – Naum Gabo, Gustav Klutsis, László Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malevich, Vadim Meller, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin
Bauhaus – Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Josef Albers
Scottish Colourists – Francis Cadell, Samuel Peploe, Leslie Hunter, John Duncan Fergusson
Social realism – Grant Wood, Walker Evans, Diego Rivera
Precisionism – Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth
Sculpture – Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Gaston Lachaise, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Julio Gonzalez

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 expressionism – Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell
American Abstract Artists – Ilya Bolotowsky, Ibram Lassaw, Ad Reinhardt, Josef Albers, Burgoyne Diller
Art Brut – Adolf Wölfli, August Natterer, Ferdinand Cheval, Madge Gill, Paul Salvator Goldengreen
Arte Povera – Jannis 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
Tachisme – Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Soulages, Hans Hartung, Ludwig Merwart
COBRA – Pierre Alechinsky, Karel Appel, Asger Jorn
De-collage – Wolf Vostell, Mimmo Rotella
Neo-Dada – Robert 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
Fluxus – George Maciunas, Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell, Nam June Paik, Daniel Spoerri, Dieter Roth, Carolee Schneeman, Alison Knowles, Charlotte Moorman, Dick Higgins
Happening – Allan 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 painting – John McLaughlin, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Al Held, Ronald Davis
Kinetic art – George Rickey, Getulio Alviani
Land art – Christo, Richard Long, Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer
Les Automatistes – Claude 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
Postminimalism – Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman, Lynda Benglis
Lyrical abstraction – Ronnie Landfield, Sam Gilliam, Larry Zox, Dan Christensen, Natvar Bhavsar, Larry Poons
Neo-figurative art – Fernando Botero, Antonio Berni
Neo-expressionism – Georg 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 art – Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Jeffrey Steele
Outsider art – Howard Finster, Grandma Moses, Bob Justin
Photorealism – Audrey Flack, Chuck Close, Duane Hanson, Richard Estes, Malcolm Morley
Pop art – Richard 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 Painting – Luc Tuymans, Marlene Dumas, Neo Rauch, Bracha Ettinger, Michaël Borremans, Chris Ofili
Shaped canvas – Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Ron Davis, Robert Mangold.
Soviet art – Aleksandr Deyneka, Aleksandr Gerasimov, Ilya Kabakov, Komar & Melamid, Alexandr Zhdanov, Leonid Sokov
Spatialism – Lucio Fontana
Video art – Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, Joseph Beuys, Bill Viola
Visionary art – Ernst Fuchs, Paul Laffoley, Michael Bowen

Important modern art exhibitions and museums

SMAK, Ghent

MASP, São Paulo, SP
MAM/SP, São Paulo, SP
MAM/RJ, Rio de Janeiro, RJ
MAM/BA, Salvador, Bahia

MAMBO, Bogotá

Ivan Meštrović Gallery, Split
Modern Gallery, Zagreb
Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb

Museo Antropologico y de Arte Contemporaneo, Guayaquil
La Capilla del Hombre, Quito

EMMA, Espoo
Kiasma, Helsinki

Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, Villeneuve d’Ascq
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris
Musée Picasso, Paris
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Strasbourg
Musée d’art moderne de Troyes

documenta, Kassel (Germany), an exhibition of modern and contemporary art held every 5 years
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

National Gallery of Modern Art – New Delhi,
National Gallery of Modern Art – Mumbai,
National Gallery of Modern Art – Bangalore,

Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran

Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

Palazzo delle Esposizioni
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna
Venice Biennial, Venice
Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Museo de Arte Moderno, México D.F.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo
Henie-Onstad Art Centre, Oslo

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest

Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Pushkin Museum, Moscow
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencia
Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Asia Museum of Modern Art, Taichung
United Kingdom
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London
Saatchi Gallery, London
Tate Britain, London
Tate Liverpool
Tate Modern, London
Tate St Ives

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Guggenheim Museum, New York City, New York, and Venice, Italy; more recently in Berlin, Germany, Bilbao, Spain, and Las Vegas, Nevada
High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Menil Collection, Houston, Texas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
Museum of Modern Art, New York City, New York
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
The Baker Museum, Naples, Florida
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, New York

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