What is modern art? – Definition, Meaning and Concepts

Modern Art represents an evolving set of ideas among a number of painters, sculptors, writers and artists who, both individually and collectively, were seeking new approaches to the work of art. Although modern art began in retrospect, around 1850 with the advent of realism, modern art approaches and styles were defined and redefined throughout the 20th century. Practitioners of each new style were determined to develop a visual language that was original and representative of the times. Then you can continue learning about this art.

What is modern art?

Modern art or art of modernism is called a current of artistic renewal developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, being the most prolific in the history of art. During those years, a multitude of more or less structured trends and movements were happening vertiginously, with an international character.

Called this period end of the century and belle époque, but According to the countries it received various names, such as Art Nouveau, in Belgium and in France, Jugendstil, in Germany and the Nordic countries and Austria, Modern Style, in the Anglo-Saxon countries, Nieuwe Kunst , in the Netherlands and Liberty or Floreale, in Italy.

Keywords : characteristics of modernism, the art of modernism, modernist painting, modernist paintings

With Modern Art or modernism, the aim was to create a new, young, free and avant-garde art that would break with the dominant styles of the time, both those with an academic tradition and those of rupture, and it sought to create an art inspired by nature. at the same time that new products derived from the industrial revolution were incorporated, of materials such as iron and glass.

Modern art can be confused with contemporary art, but they have nothing to do with each other.

What is the meaning of Modern Art?

Modern art or Modernism is a very unique concept since it has different fields in the art world, especially aesthetics, historiography, the theory of what art is and the market. And it is that this type of arts aims to make a distinction between the productive part of art that will be identified with certain definitions of modernity, that is, for you to understand it better, for example academic art makes a representation of all the traditional art, Meanwhile this style of art experiments to bring out innovative things. 

That is why this concept is a type of aesthetic and not chronological art since any time limitation is somewhat problematic for this type of art, so that they understand it better, let’s give an example: The art that was made in the modern Age (from the XV century to the end of the XVIII century) was not itself the concept of “modern art” that is known today, however the art that was made in the Contemporary Age does fit the definition of this concept. 

The concepts of contemporary art and modern art, as we have said previously, are frequently used in an interchangeable way, many times they are exchanged between institutional settings or in specialized biographies, there are even many occasions in which it has similar areas that are used in opposition. In other words, they reserve for modern art an indefinite time that may be between the different movements from the 19th to the 20th century. This happens because many times there is no conformity between contemporary art and modern art and that is why many people confuse them, something normal after all.

 However, in order to differentiate modern art from contemporary art, we only have to know that this concept is aesthetic and not chronological (as could be the case with contemporary art). For your better understanding, we will give as an example a painter who may be William Adolphe Bouguereau who did not make works of this style of art, but Vincent Van Gogh did. If you look at two works by these painters you will notice the difference between one and the other. In summary, to finish explaining this modality of art, we must say that modern art was an innovation of traditional art and that this type of art symbolizes a new way of understanding the function of art and theory.

History of Modern Art

Modernism is related to the position of innovation that artists of this time have, which opens a door to the freedom of the artistic field and for this reason the traits related to art are disappearing until then. The artists of this type of art made a declaration on the deformation of things, especially objects, which was carried out deliberately, the objective of which was to find satisfaction with a certain poetic concept that things possessed.

That is why with the techniques used in this art, the concept of modern art or modernism is born, which is defined as irrationalism in its broadest way. Although we also have to say that this is not a characteristic only of this type of art since in the past centuries there have been many types of art that have presented this same characteristic. Even so, we must bear in mind that this concept is the most “artistic” definition, that is, the simplest concept of modern art, and it is for them that this concept is the most unconditional and irrational, aesthetically speaking, that humanity has been able to know. For this reason Modern Art has had an unpopular and revolutionary character in its way of interpretation.

Characteristics of Modern Art

Modernist artists were inspired by nature and used elements of natural origin but with a preference for vegetables and organic rounded shapes intertwining with the central motif.

-The curved line and asymmetry were used, both in the floors and elevations of buildings and in decoration.

-There was a tendency to stylize the motifs and less in their realistic representation.

-Female images were used in delicate and graceful attitudes, with a clear emphasis on the waves of women’s hair and the folds of their dresses.

-The modernist paintings had a tendency to sensuality and sense gratification, even reaching eroticism.

-There was great freedom in the use of exotic motifs, a great example was the use of Japanese prints.

Most outstanding movements of Modern Art or Modernism

Cubism : It is considered an artistic movement inspired mainly by the art of the tribes of Africa and Oceania, which was manifested above all in painting. His main objective was to move away from the naturalistic representation and to simultaneously capture on the surface of the painting, an object seen from multiple angles, rejecting perspective and movement, and giving primacy to line and form.

The most important cubist painters were: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Roger de La Fresnaye and Juan Gris.

Dadaism : This movement was founded in 1916, by the German writer Hugo Ball, the Alsatian artist Jean Arp and other intellectuals living in Zurich and the Romanian Tristan Tzara who would become the emblem of Dadaism joined this movement. They covered all artistic genres, being the expression of a nihilistic protest against all aspects of Western culture, especially against the militarism that existed during and immediately after World War I.

Surrealism : Created in Paris after World War I, this movement of surrealism spread to Germany and many of the members of the Zurich group joined the French Dadaists in Paris.

Surrealism is an artistic and literary movement in the 1920s, around the personality of the poet André Bretón. The most renowned artists of this movement are: Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Paul Delvaux, Frida Kahlo, Jean Arp, Leonor Fini, Alberto Giacmetti, Vito Campanella, among others.

The first found works of the modernist concept affect the stages of romanticism and realism. Later, changes were made to the lights and spaces, which gave rise to impressionism and post-impressionism. A few years later in World War I, the movements of Cubism, Expressionism, Futurism and Fauvism were created. Later, surrealism also emerged. Likewise, in the 50s and 60s other forms of expression of this type of art appeared that were pop-art, minimalism and abstract expressionism.


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