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Modern Art

Started: 1850

Ended: 1970

Modern Art Timeline

"Art cannot be modern. Art is primordially eternal."

Egon Schiele Signature

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.

Detail of <i>Marilyn Diptych</i> (1962) by Andy Warhol
Detail of Marilyn Diptych (1962) by Andy Warhol

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 Most Important Art in Modern Art Important Art and Analysis

The below artworks are the most important in Modern Art - that both overview the major ideas of Modern Art, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist. Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.

Claude Monet: Impression, Sunrise (1873)
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Impression, Sunrise (1873)

Artist: Claude Monet

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Oil on canvas - Musée Marmottan Monet

Paul Cézanne: The Large Bathers (1898-1906)
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The Large Bathers (1898-1906)

Artist: Paul Cézanne

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Oil on canvas - The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Pablo Picasso: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
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Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York City

More Modern Art Artwork and Analysis:

Marcel Duchamp: Fountain (1917) Salvador Dalí: The Persistence of Memory (1931) Jackson Pollock: Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) (1950) Jasper Johns: Flag (1954-55) Andy Warhol: Marilyn Diptych (1962) Richard Serra: One Ton Prop (House of Cards) (1969)
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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Definition Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
First published on 25 Jan 2015. Updated and modified regularly. Information
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