"Modern," both adjective and noun, is a comparative rather than an absolute term. It is applied by definition to the just-conceived or the newly developed thing. Thus the applicability of the adjective, equally with the meaning of the noun, is forever changing fluidly as the times themselves change and as human viewpoints change with them.
Yet there is nothing equivocal or essentially vague in the term "modern" as applied to the art of the last fifty years, although in that time the concept of what art is--as well as of what is art--has been vastly broadened. By "modern" art in the visual fields, we understand today painting, sculpture, and allied plastic expressions that began in 1903-4 in France and soon departed basically in method and aim from all similar art as it had been known--to put it most broadly--in Europe from the beginning of the Renaissance in the fourteenth century.
Since 1904 there have been many developments, many changes, and many different schools in this modern art: Fauvism, cubism of several sorts, futurism, expressionism, neo- plasticism, Dada, surrealism, and so on. They seemed startlingly new and different as they came along, and so they were. But we now can see them all as parts of the same thing: a new kind of art which expresses our times and which changes, as we do, with them.
Equally clearly, we recognize as the forerunners of modern art in the third quarter of the nineteenth century Gustave Courbet's anti-romantic realism and then that of U+0 0C9douard Manet; Edgar Degas's camera viewpoint, and the light-color theorems of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and the other impressionists. Each of these was, to a degree, revolutionary in its time. None, however, broke with the Renaissance idea of