The Art Story.org - Your Guide to Modern Art

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This elite group of artists represents the true giants who changed the course of modern and contemporary art. Whether they were recognized during their lives or ahead of their time, their legacies can be traced through countless followers, emulators, and admirers.
Claude Monet
Vincent Van Gogh
Pablo Picasso
Marcel Duchamp
Salvador Dalí
Jackson Pollock
Andy Warhol
Claude Monet 1840-1926
Achievement
Monet was a radical in his time, an artist who aimed to depict life exactly as he saw it. His paintings emphasized both the natural world and the exciting innovations of modern, urban Paris. Born from his interest in painting in the open air, he sought to capture an impression of a scene as it was occurring, creating a personal visual record that did not purport to capture an objective, universal truth or ideal. Documenting the subjective and transient, his work was a cornerstone of the Impressionist movement and transformed the creative process permanently.
Influence
Monet’s devotion to capturing authenticity of experience was a catalyst for 20th century artistic experiments in evocative color and expressive brushstrokes. Furthermore, his choice of subjects rejected classical sources and historical painting in favor of landscapes and urban panoramas without narrative. This legitimized new subjects as worthy of artistic attention, particularly when filtered through the artist’s personal style and intentions. The near-abstract quality of Monet’s late Waterlilies canvases inspired even more daring breaks with representative painting, paving the way for the many abstract artists of Modernism.


> Claude Monet Full Artist Page
The pinnacle of Impressionist images, on the brink of abstraction
Water Lilies (1915-1926)
Impression, Sunrise (1873)
The painting that gave the Impressionism movement its name
Rouen Cathedral: The Façade at Sunset (1894)
Monet’s series paintings, often studies of light and atmosphere, inspired many modernists to consider subjects in series – presenting multiple viewpoints
Gare St. Lazare (1877)
Impressionists painted modern subjects such as trains, and their impact on the world
Vincent Van Gogh 1853-1890
Achievement
Van Gogh’s conveyance of intense emotional and spiritual messages was built on the Impressionist’s use of abstract color, sketchy paint application, and unconventional perspective. His visible and emphasized brushstrokes in thick swathes of impasto exploited colors and textures to make powerfully expressive interpretations of landscapes, portraits, and still lifes.
Influence
Van Gogh’s passionately evocative style has influenced a wide range of modernist painters and encouraged others to paint with a sense of drama and individual personality. Although unappreciated and left to struggle in obscurity during his lifetime, Van Gogh would become highly celebrated and influential to artists of the 20th century.


> Vincent Van Gogh Full Artist Page
Individual brushstrokes combine to make the canvas pulsate, conjuring the motion of nature and/or the divine
Starry Night (1889)
Bedroom in Arles (1889)
Van Gogh’s warped perspectives and scattered compositions reflect the fiercely individual, and some say mentally ill, way he saw the world
Self-Portrait (1889)
His many self-portraits lend glimpses into the troubled genius
Sunflowers (1888)
Van Gogh’s still life – a powerful, vibrant and gold contemplation
Pablo Picasso 1881-1973
Achievement
Along with Georges Braque, Picasso boldly broke down the boundaries of visual space and single-point perspective, inventing the style known as Cubism. This movement was the first significant break from the traditional Renaissance conception of painting as a literal extension of our physical world. Although his Cubist works approached abstraction, Picasso never stopped using objects of the real world for his subject matter, articulating playful exploration into meaning and form. His style evolved prolifically over the seventy years of his career, continually breaking new ground and making him (perhaps) the most famous artist of the 20th century.
Influence
Picasso’s experiments in Cubism sparked a revolution that inspired countless artists to reconsider the relationship between abstraction and representation. His fractured images inspired styles such as Futurism and Orphism, while his more colorful and Surrealist works were important to the development of Abstract Expressionism. Due to his exhaustive curiosity and interest in creating work within multiple mediums, there are few areas of 20th-century modernism uninfluenced by Picasso’s vast hand.


> Pablo Picasso Full Artist Page
Multiple perspectives and a deconstruction of form, shape and space mark Cubism
Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907)
The Old Guitarist (1903)
From early in his career, Picasso’s Blue Period paintings are masterfully existential and symbolic
Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)
Beyond simply paint on the wall, Picasso led experiments with surface illusions
Guernica (1937)
The greatest painting of war also typifies the Cubist technique
Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968
Achievement
Duchamp strove to make art interesting for the mind rather than merely pleasing to the eye. With his “readymade” sculptures, he expanded what the world considered to be art by presenting everyday objects in their literal plainness absent of context and untouched by the artist’s hand. This also redefined society’s preconceived role of the artist. The idea, not the object, became important. Furthermore, in complicated installations such as his Large Glass or Etant Donnés, Duchamp brought together highly suggestive but hermetic symbols and emblems. This breaking with tradition along with his irreverent attitude toward canonical art contributed to the anti-establishment nature of Dada, especially in his use of humor, mockery, and puns.
Influence
Duchamp’s witty disdain for traditional modes of making and exhibiting art was seminal to the development of Conceptual art, which has been echoed by artists who continue to question the role and function of art. Although he sought to undermine the authority of fine art, his influence remains in many avenues of modern and contemporary art including Neo-Dada, Fluxus, Pop art, Minimalism and Performance art. His adoption of an alter ego, Rrose Selavy, inspired other artists to explore adopted personas, as well as questions of gender and identity.


> Marcel Duchamp Full Artist Page
If the artist says it is art, it is art, not a urinal
Fountain (1917)
L.H.O.O.Q. (1919)
High art was just fodder for the jokes of Duchamp and the Dadaists
Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (Large Glass) (1915-1923)
In the age of industrialization, man is just a grinding machine
Etant Donnés (1946-66)
Duchamp’s enigmatic final project that merged experiential and installation art
Salvador Dalí 1904-1989
Achievement
The most famous Surrealist, known for his iconic mustache and eccentric behavior, Dalí depicted arresting dream images and colorful insights brought forth from his own subconscious. He often utilized bizarre juxtapositions to make the familiar seem strange. These imaginative and illogical compositions were painted in illusionistic detail, suspending them between the real and the impossible.
Influence
Dalí’s Surrealism often included playful combinations of everyday objects, a technique that would appear in the work of Pop artists like James Rosenquist or postmodernists like David Salle. His interest in popular culture culminated in much collaboration with celebrities, work on experimental films and Hollywood blockbusters, and even endeavors into the world of fashion. His designs for dresses, jewelry, and advertisements brought elements of high art to consumer products and helped dissolve the perceived boundaries between fine art and commercialism.


> Salvador Dalí Full Artist Page
Time melts and the world decays in the most iconic Surrealist image
The Persistence of Memory (1931)
Un Chien Andalou (1927)
Cinema in the most absurd and graphic form launched the careers of Dali and Luis Buñuel
Lobster Phone (1936)
The most famous juxtaposition of the everyday and the absurd
Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951)
Renaissance-inspired, religious canvases are Dali’s late career gems
Jackson Pollock 1912-1956
Achievement
Jackson Pollock built on Surrealism’s exploration of the subconscious to create a revolutionary style of abstraction. Marking the canvas through a highly physical process of gestural drips, splatters, and strokes, his paintings traced the movements evoked from his raw emotional state. Rather than depicting an object, his paintings captured this process. His drip paintings also rejected traditional composition to create an all-over field that covered the entire canvas without providing a central focus or subject.
Influence
In the wake of WWII, Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists created the first notable American avant-garde movement. The gestural style of Pollock, along with Willem de Kooning and Clyfford Still, influenced American and European artists who were looking for new techniques to express postwar uncertainty and anxiety. With his paint-splattered boots, monumental canvases and disdain for art world elitism, Pollock became a heroic figure of modern expressionism — a 20th-century American cowboy.


> Jackson Pollock Full Artist Page
A unique painting created from a uniquely Pollock process
Autumn Rhythm: Number 30 (1950)
The She-Wolf (1943)
Pollock took the tools of Surrealism and combined them with ideas of the emerging New York School to find his own distinct voice
Mural (1943)
Pollock’s first, entirely covered and breathtaking, 20-foot painting
The Deep (1953)
Abstract expression in drips of white and black with subtle spots of yellow reflect the artist’s emotion
Andy Warhol 1928-1987
Achievement
Warhol elevated ordinary objects by turning them into works of fine art. Using processes borrowed from the advertising industry, like silkscreen printing, he infused highbrow culture with lowbrow images and materials. He also explored modern celebrity through the repetition of iconic images, which held a mirror up to society’s obsessions. He concocted a bridge between banality and opulence in a way that was easy to understand and poignant in its social commentary.
Influence
Warhol made art accessible to everyone by expanding the suitable topics of fine art and co-opting the tools of commerce to do so. Building on Marcel Duchamp’s theories, he incorporated everyday objects into art, but chose elements of popular culture that were familiar to a non-art audience. He sought to become a celebrity himself and cultivated a persona that influenced later celebrity-artists such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst.


> Andy Warhol Full Artist Page
Celebrity and death as new topics for high art
Marilyn Monroe (1962)
Brillo Boxes (1964)
Serial, sculptural forms straight out of the supermarket
Mao (1973)
The leader of state-regulated Communism is rendered in freedom-loving, expressionistic colors
Self-Portrait (1986)
Warhol accomplishes his greatest feat; he makes himself famous by fulfilling roles of both artist and subject

Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism
A movement in painting that first surfaced in France in the 1860s, it sought new ways to describe effects of light and movement, often using rich colors. The Impressionists were drawn to modern life and often painted the city, but they also captured landscapes and scenes of middle-class leisure-taking in the suburbs.
TheArtStory: Impressionism
Modernism and Modern Art
Modernism and Modern Art
Modernism and Modern Art
Modernism in Art is an approach to art making that promoted the new and industrial world, free from derivation and historical references. And for the new to be possible, old movements were often altogether abandoned, or deconstructed.
TheArtStory: Modernism and Modern Art
Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Georges Braque was a modern French painter who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed analytic Cubism and Cubist collage in the early twentieth century.
TheArtStory: Georges Braque
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism was the most influential Italian avant-garde movement of the twentieth century. Dedicated to the modern age, it celebrated speed, movement, machinery and violence. At first influenced by Neo-Impressionism, and later by Cubism, some of its members were also drawn to mass culture and nontraditional forms of art.
TheArtStory: Futurism
Orphism
Orphism
Orphism
Orphism - a term coined by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire - was a little known art movement during the time of Cubism that focused on pure abstraction and bright colors influenced by Fauvism and the dye chemist Eugène Chevreul. This movement was pioneered by the Delaunays, a couple who relaunched the use of color during the monochromatic Cubist movement.
Orphism
Surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism
Perhaps the most influential avant-garde movement of the century, Surrealism was founded in Paris in 1924 by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Much influenced by Freud, they believed that the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination. Influenced also by Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution.
TheArtStory: Surrealism
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
A tendency among New York painters of the late 1940s and '50s, all of whom were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes. The movement embraced the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the postwar mood of anxiety and trauma.
TheArtStory: Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
A tendency among New York painters of the late 1940s and '50s, all of whom were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes. The movement embraced the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the postwar mood of anxiety and trauma.
TheArtStory: Abstract Expressionism
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual art describes an influential movement that first emerged in the mid-1960s and prized ideas over the formal or visual components of traditional works of art. The artists often challenged old concepts such as beauty and quality; they also questioned the conventional means by which the public consumed art; and they rejected the conventional art object in favor of diverse mediums, ranging from maps and diagrams to texts and videos.
TheArtStory: Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual art describes an influential movement that first emerged in the mid-1960s and prized ideas over the formal or visual components of traditional works of art. The artists often challenged old concepts such as beauty and quality; they also questioned the conventional means by which the public consumed art; and they rejected the conventional art object in favor of diverse mediums, ranging from maps and diagrams to texts and videos.
TheArtStory: Conceptual Art
Fluxus
Fluxus
Fluxus
Fluxus was an international network of artists of the 1960s who worked in fields ranging from music to performance to the visual arts. Taking their name from the Latin 'to flow,' Fluxus artists adopted an often anarchic and satirical approach to conventional forms of art, and their ideas paved the way for Conceptual art.
TheArtStory: Fluxus
Pop Art
Pop Art
Pop Art
British artists of the 1950s were the first to make popular culture the dominant subject of their art, and this idea became an international phenomenon in the 1960s. But the Pop art movement is most associated with New York, and artists such as Andy Warhol, who broke with the private concerns of the Abstract Expressionists, and turned to themes which touched on public life and mass society.
TheArtStory: Pop Art
Minimalism
Minimalism
Minimalism
Minimalism emerged as a movement in New York in the 1960s, its leading figures creating objects which blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture, and were characterized by unitary, geometric forms and industrial materials. Emphasizing cool anonymity over the passionate expression of the previous generation of painters, the Minimalists attempted to avoid metaphorical associations, symbolism, and suggestions of spiritual transcendence.
TheArtStory: Minimalism
Performance Art
Performance Art
Performance Art
Performance is a genre in which art is presented "live," usually by the artist but sometimes with collaborators or performers. It has had a role in avant-garde art throughout the twentieth century, playing an important part in anarchic movements such as Futurism and Dada. It particularly flourished in the 1960s, when Performance artists became preoccupied with the body, but it continues to be an important aspect of art practice.
TheArtStory: Performance Art
James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist is an American Pop artist whose paintings feature fragments of faces, cars, consumer goods, and other items in bizarre juxtapositions. With their realist rendering and attention to surface textures, his works take up the visual language of advertising and entertainment.
TheArtStory: James Rosenquist
Postmodernism
Postmodernism
Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a broad period of artmaking that occured after the period known as modernism - a period that was driven by a radical and forward thinking approach, ideas of technological positivity, and grand narratives of Western domination and progress. Neo-Dada and later Pop artists are considered the first postmodern movements.
TheArtStory: Postmodernism
David Salle
David Salle
David Salle
David Salle is a contemporary American artist whose work uses imagery from the world of advertising and consumerism. He deals with voyeurism, sex, and the gaze in works that often allow for multiple interpretations.
TheArtStory: David Salle
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning, a Dutch immigrant to New York, was one of the foremost Abstract Expressionist painters. His abstract compositions drew on Surrealist and figurative traditions, and typified the expressionistic 'gestural' style of the New York School.
TheArtStory: Willem de Kooning
Clyfford Still
Clyfford Still
Clyfford Still
Clyfford Still was a leading first-generation Abstract Expressionist. His mature works are large-scale paintings with gaping chasms and stains of jagged color, often in dark earth tones.
TheArtStory: Clyfford Still
Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons is an American sculptor, painter and Neo-Pop artist, best known for mirror-finished stainless steel constructions of animals and everyday objects. Koons' works are often large public installations, in which viewers are invited to interact with his art.
TheArtStory: Jeff Koons
Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst is a British installation and conceptual artist, and in the 1980s was a founding member of the Young British Artists (YBAs). His best known work is Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), comprised of a dead tiger shark suspended in a vitrine of formaldehyde.
TheArtStory: Damien Hirst
Dada
Dada
Dada
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in 1916. It arose in reaction to World War I, and the nationalism and rationalism that many thought had led to the War. Influenced by several avant-gardes - Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism - its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting and collage. Emerging first in Zurich, it spread to cities including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York and Cologne.
TheArtStory: Dada
Neo-Dada
Neo-Dada
Neo-Dada
Neo-Dada refers to works of art from the 1950s that employ popular imagery and modern materials, often resulting in something absurd. Neo-Dada is both a continuation of the earlier Dada movement and an important precursor to Pop art. Some important Neo-Dada artists include Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Morris and Allan Kaprow.
TheArtStory: Neo-Dada
Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp
The French artist Marcel Duchamp was an instrumental figure in the avant-garde art worlds of Paris and New York. Moving through Dada, Surrealism, readymades, sculpture, and installation, his work involves conceptual play and an implicit attack on bourgeois art sensibilities.
TheArtStory: Marcel Duchamp