The Basic Rundown
We as a modern society throw around the term modern a lot…wait what?
Yes. We do. And in most cases, we understand why. Into our minds pop a building piercing the sky with it’s angular façade or an apartment clad in stainless steel and white. But, what of art? What does modern really mean?
True “modern art” refers to much of the artwork created between the 1860s and 1970s. But, it’s important to note that the technically modern era of art, full of exploration and risk-taking, sets the stage for what many people today consider and refer to as “modern.” Thanks to the daring artists like Pablo Picasso and paint-splattering Jackson Pollock, art was thrown into a messy, colorful, and shocking direction. It veered off a path of representation and what you and I call “real-looking stuff”, and into a flatter plane of abstraction, geometry, expression, and exploration. Modern art encompasses multiple genres – cubism, expressionism, surrealism, etc. You’ll notice a mix of bold splashes of paint, abstract figures, minimal subjects, and definitely nothing resembling a realistic, stoic bowl of fruit.
A Basic History
Modern art generally refers to artistic work created from the 1860s to the 1970s. The style and philosophy broadly categorizes art where traditional techniques were replaced with experimentation. Whereas throughout art history where classically trained painters were revered as Masters (think, Rembrandt + co), a new breed of painter emerged in the modern era, one who turned his back on the principles and elements of classically-based artwork. Themes including industrialization, war, globalization, and technology all heavily influenced trends, content, and concepts in modern art.
While modern art undoubtedly found its footing in World War I Europe, a crucial and poignant shift occurred following the second world war. In the Post-War era, the United States became the focal point of new artistic movements, perhaps for the first time in history. The New York School and the advent of Abstract Expressionism played a major roll in highlighting the U.S. and more specifically New York City as the new home of modern art in the mid-20th century.
Notable Artists: Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, and Maurice de Vlaminck, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning