Summary of Modern Art
Modern art represents an evolving set of ideas among a number of painters, sculptors, photographers, performers, and writers who - both individually and collectively - sought new approaches to art making. Although modern art began, in retrospect, around 1850 with the arrival of Realism, approaches and styles of art were defined and redefined throughout the 20th century. Practitioners of each new style were determined to develop a visual language that was both original and representative of the times.
Overview of Modern Art
The rapid growth of industry and the progress of technology propelled artists to represent the world in new and innovative ways. The result was an art that took on new colors, alternative forms, emotional expressions, and experiments in abstraction.
The Important Artists and Works of Modern Art
In this seminal work of modern art, Monet's loose handling of paint and his focus on light and atmosphere within the landscape scene are all key characteristics of Impressionism, which is widely considered the first fully modern movement. Monet's use of abstraction evokes what the artist sensed or experienced while painting the scene, which was a highly unusual approach for a painter to adopt at the time. The title of the work, Impression, Sunrise not only provided critics with the name that the movement would later receive, but also conveys the transitory, fleeting and subjective nature of the painting. It is Monet's visual impression of what he observed during that sunrise.
The Large Bathers is one of the finest examples of Cézanne's exploration of the theme of the modern, heroic nude within a natural setting. The series of nudes are arranged into a variety of positions, like objects in a still life, under the pointed arch formed by the intersection of trees and the sky. Cézanne was attempting a departure from the Impressionist motifs of light and natural effect and instead composed this scene as a series of carefully constructed figures, as if creating sculpture with his paintbrush. He was more concerned with the way the forms occupied space than with recording his visual observations. This destruction of regular illusionism and the radical foray into increased abstraction is considered an important precursor to Cubism.
For Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Picasso gathered inspiration from a variety of sources, including African tribal art, Expressionism, and the Post-Impressionist paintings of Paul Cézanne. Assimilating these seemingly disparate sources in one piece was a new approach to art making and conveys just how much artists' perspectives expanded with the rise of modernism. The painting originally raised significant controversy for its depiction of a brothel scene and for the jagged, protruding, and abstract forms used to depict the women. It is also widely considered the artwork that launched the Cubism movement. The multiplicity of styles incorporated within this work - from Iberian sculpture referenced in the women's' bodies to the sculptural deconstruction of space derived from Cézanne - not only represent a clear turning point in Picasso's career, but make the painting an incredibly distinct achievement of the modern era.
Useful Resources on Modern Art
- 185k viewsShock of the New (1980)Our Pick8 episodes series by legendary critic Robert Hughes
- 344k viewsThis Is Modern Art (1999)Our Pick6 part TV series by English art critic Matthew Collings. Compares Modern art of the past and connecting to contemporary art practices
- 50k viewsThe Power of Art (2006)Our PickEpisodes on Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rothko by art historian Simon Schama
- 1k viewsLeo Castelli: The First Global GalleristProfessor and historian Annie Cohen-Solal overviews the life and brilliance of Leo Castelli, the gallerist that brought many Pop artists to fame from Rauschenberg to Rosenquist
- 427k viewsThe Museum of Modern Art - New YorkLook inside the history and highlights of the best biggest collection of modern art
- 61k viewsThe Simpsons on Modern ArtOur PickHomer and Marget visit a modern art museum
- 132k viewsComedian Adam Hills on Surrealism
- Modern Art MovementsAll major modern art movements, as well as a number of related styles and tendencies
- Modern Art ArtistsComprehensive guide to the most important modern and contemporary artists
- The Progression of Modern ArtThis timeline displays the major trends and movements in modern art
- Top Modern Art WorksThis timeline is a guide to the 50 most important and groundbreaking works of art from the modern era
- The Shock of the NewBy Robert Hughes
- Art Since 1900Our PickBy Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh
- Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and CriticsBy Herschel B. Chipp, Peter Selz, Joshua C. Taylor
- Art in Theory, 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing IdeasOur PickBy Charles Harrison and Dr. Paul J. Wood, eds.
- Defining Modern Art: Selected Writings of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.By Alfred Hamilton Barr, Irving Sandler, Amy Newman
- The Tradition of the NewBy Harold Rosenberg
- The Theory of the Avant-GardeBy Renato Poggioli, Gerald Fitzgerald
- The Meanings of Modern ArtBy John Russell
- Museum of Modern Art's Library and ArchivesMoMA's physical and online archives provide among the world's most comprehensive surveys of modern and contemporary art
- The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art CollectionThe SFMoMA collection features 30,000 works, with interactive educational resources for special topics in modern art
- Modern Art NotesModern art and Contemporary art blog by Tyler Green