modern art

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

modern art

modern art, art created from the 19th cent. to the mid-20th cent. by artists who veered away from the traditional concepts and techniques of painting, sculpture, and other fine arts that had been practiced since the Renaissance (see Renaissance art and architecture). Nearly every phase of modern art was initially greeted by the public with ridicule, but as the shock wore off, the various movements settled into history, influencing and inspiring new generations of artists.

See also photography, still.

Origins of Modern Art

In the second half of the 19th cent. painters began to revolt against the classic codes of composition, careful execution, harmonious coloring, and heroic subject matter. Patronage by the church and state sharply declined at the same time that artists' views became more independent and subjective. Such artists as Courbet, Corot and others of the Barbizon School, Manet, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec chose to paint scenes of ordinary daily and nocturnal life that often offended the sense of decorum of their contemporaries.

Impressionism

Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro, the great masters of impressionism, painted café and city life, as well as landscapes, working most often directly from nature and using new modes of representation. While art had always been to a certain extent abstract in that formal considerations had frequently been of primary importance, painters, beginning with the impressionists in the 1870s, took new delight in freedom of brushwork. They made random spots of color and encrusted the canvas with strokes that did not always correspond to the object that they were depicting but that formed coherent internal relationships. Thus began a definite separation of the image and the subject. The impressionists exploited the range of the color spectrum, directly applying strokes of pure pigment to the canvas rather than mixing colors on the palette. In sculpture, dynamic forms and variations of impressionism were created by Rodin, Renoir, Degas, and the Italian Medardo Rosso.

Nineteenth-Century Painting after Impressionism

In the 1880s, Seurat and Signac developed the more detailed and systematic approach of neoimpressionism, while Van Gogh and Gauguin, using bold masses, gave to color an unprecedented excitement and emotional intensity (see postimpressionism). At the same time, Cézanne painted subtler nuances of tone and sought to achieve greater structural clarity. Flouting the laws of perspective, he extracted geometrical forms from nature and created radically new spatial patterns in his landscapes and still lifes. Other important innovations of the late 19th cent. can be seen in the starkly expressionistic paintings of the Norwegian Edvard Munch and the vivid fantasies of the Belgian James Ensor. In the 1890s the Nabis developed pictorial ideas from Gauguin, while sinuous linear decorations were produced throughout Europe by the designers of art nouveau.

The Isms of Early Twentieth-Century Art

From the early 20th cent. color reigned supreme and invaded the contours of recognizable objects with the brilliant patterns of fauvism (1905–8), dominated by Matisse and Rouault in France, the orphism of Robert Delaunay and Frank Kupka, and the explosive hues of the German group Die Brücke, which included such practitioners of expressionism as Kirchner and Nolde. Kandinsky transformed (c.1910) color into a completely abstract art absolutely divorced from subject matter. The fauvists and expressionists shared an appreciation of the pure and simplified shapes of various examples of primitive art, an enthusiasm that was generated by Gauguin and extended to Picasso, Brancusi, Modigliani, Derain, and others.

Cubism

About 1909 the implications of Cézanne's highly organized yet revolutionary spatial structures were expanded by Picasso and Braque, who invented an abstract art of still lifes converted into shifting volumes and planes. Cubism, developed by the artists of the school of Paris, went through several stages and had an enormous influence on European and American painting and sculpture. In sculpture its notable exponents included Picasso, Duchamp-Villon, Lipchitz, González, and Archipenko, who began to realize the possibilities of convex and concave volumes. Cubism was absorbed in Italy by the exponents of futurism (c.1909–c.1915) and in Germany by the Blaue Reiter group (1911–14); both these movements were cut short by the advent of World War I. Fauvism and cubism were introduced by members of the Eight to a generally shocked American audience in the Armory Show of 1913, and from then on Americans began to participate significantly in the development of modern art (see American art).

Geometric Abstraction

At roughly the same time as cubism was developing, Russia made extraordinary contributions to the current of nonfigurative art. The sculptors Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner joined the movement known as constructivism (c.1913–c.1921), and the painter Casimir Malevich founded suprematism (1913). In Holland members of the Stijl group (1917–31), including Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg, created a disciplined, nonobjective art. These Russian and Dutch developments in the second decade of the 20th cent. were applicable to many varieties of art and industrial design, and their principles converged in the teachings of the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Kandinsky, the highly imaginative Paul Klee, and the American Lyonel Feininger were among the celebrated exponents of the Bauhaus.

Other Modes of Modern Art

A more fanciful sort of modern art was created by Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and Kurt Schwitters in the irreverent manifestations of the Dada movement. Dada artists devised "ready-mades" and collage objects from diverse bits of material. The movement was linked with Freudianism in the 1920s, producing the wild imagery of surrealism and verism, as seen in the paintings of Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró. The 1920s also saw the beginning of an art of social protest by exponents of new objectivity, among them George Grosz, Otto Dix, and Max Beckmann. With the rise of fascism and the Great Depression of the 1930s, the protest increased in intensity. The Mexicans Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros painted murals in which the human figure was made monumental and heroic (see Mexican art and architecture).

Postwar Modern Art and the Rejection of Modernism

The development of a new American art movement was held in abeyance until after World War II, when the United States took the lead in the formation of a vigorous new art known as abstract expressionism with the impetus of such artists as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning. Action painting, as the movement was also known, made its impact felt throughout the world in the 1950s. A number of notable developments were led by artists associated with these and other New York school artists. As the influence of abstract expressionism waned in the 1960s, artists came to question the very philosophy underlying modernism. A vast variety of new movements and styles came to dominate the art world that, in the aggregate, can now be seen to mark the beginnings of artistic postmodernism and the post-midcentury shift from modern to contemporary art.

Modern Sculpture

In sculpture the explorations of Julio González led to abstract configurations of welded metal that can be seen in the works of Americans such as David Smith, Theodore Roszack, Seymour Lipton, and Herbert Ferber. This tradition has been a lasting one, and contemporary examples of large abstract compositions of welded metal can be found in the work of many later sculptors, including Mark di Suvero and Beverly Pepper.

Alexander Calder largely stood apart from other modernist sculptors with his brightly colored mobiles and stabiles, which have since been widely influential, as in the large, brightly colored sculpture of Albert Paley. Meanwhile, the early-20th-century tradition of Brancusi's organic abstract forms was inventively exploited in midcentury by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth in England and by Jean Arp in France, while the Swiss Alberto Giacometti and the Italians Giacomo Manzù and Marino Marini each achieved a distinctive sculptural style. Later 20th-century sculpture has followed the patterns of the various postmodern art movements and is described in the article on contemporary art.

Bibliography

See A. H. Barr, Jr., ed., Masters of Modern Art (1954); R. Rosenblum, Cubism and Twentieth-Century Art (1967); H. H. Arnason, History of Modern Art (1968); W. Haftmann et al., Art Since Mid-Century (2 vol., tr. 1972); D. Hall and P. Wykes, Anecdotes of Modern Art (1989).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

modern art
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.