Modernism In Art

Modernism. A term that is applied in reference to different movements, especially the current of artistic renewal that developed between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century in Europe and Latin America . This movement was known in Spanish as modernism, but in other languages ​​it was called Art Nouveau , modern style and jugendstil, for example. In each country, on the other hand, modernism had its own characteristics.

The basis of Modernism was in a break with the prevailing styles of the time. The search for a new aesthetic , inspired by nature and with elements of the Industrial Revolution , marked the change of Paradigm . Odernism tried to bring artistic beauty closer to everyday objects, so that art is accessible to all social classes . He did not, however, appeal to mass production techniques.


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  • 1 Modernism
  • 2 Moments in its development
  • 3 Stages of development
  • 4 Features
  • 5 Significance
  • 6 Importance
  • 7 Characteristics of modernism in Martí
  • 8 Poetic work
  • 9 The girl from Guatemala
  • 10 Rubén Darío and Modernism
  • 11 Brief analysis of the works of Rubén Darío
  • 12 Symphony in Greater Gray
  • 13 Crisis of the modernist project
  • 14 Sources


  • It develops between the years 1880- 1914
  • Literary of great aestheticrenewal .
  • The singing of the modernist poets constitutes the first expression of literary autonomy in the Latin American countries.
  • This school seeks to separate itself from the bourgeoisie and its materialism, by means of a refined and aesthetic art.
  • Regarding language, it reacts against twisting, the formal neglect of Romanticism and the “vulgarity” of Realism and Naturalism
  • It is basically nourished by two lyrical movements that emerged in Francein the second half of the 19th century : Parnassianism and Symbolism.

Moments in its development

Initiation : The first modernist generation 1882 – 1896 . José Martí and Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera begin a work of updating the language, mainly in prose, but also in verse, very fixed on the Spanish model. Culmination: In 1888 Rubén Darío publishes his book Azul. By this time great innovations had already been made in the poetic word. Through his work in Chile, Argentina and Spain , Darío performs an exceptional task, which consolidates Modernism as a continental movement and becomes its most brilliant synthesis, both in Americaas in Spain In 1896 Prosas Profanas publishes the book of Darío that makes Modernism in Latin America official

Continued . The second modernist generation. Consecrated Rubén Darío as head of the Modernism school, when the initiators had already died prematurely, the writers of this second generation would continue the work with their personal contributions. They are, among others, Leopoldo Lugones Ricardo Jaimes Freyre Amado Nervo and Julio Herrera and Reissig

Stages of development

According to its theme and, through it, and the way the artist “looks” at the world, two stages in the development of Modernism are differentiated

Precious Stage Exotic themes and symbols of antiquity predominate. Art does not exercise a commitment to reality but is related to an aesthetic of evasion, Versailles landscapes and innovations of French poetry are chosen. It is represented by Prosas Profanas.

World-stage: The Hispanic roots of America are valued and interest in social and political issues of the time appears. It is represented by the Darío de Cantos de vida y esperanza, by Santos Chocano and the secular Lugones de Odas.


The following features of Modernism can be established:

  • Wide creative freedom.
  • Aristocratic sense of art.
  • Rejection of vulgarity.
  • Formal perfection.
  • Cosmopolitanism: the poet is a citizen of the world, he is above everyday reality
  • Open attitude towards everything new.
  • Correspondence of the arts (approximation of literature to painting, music, sculpture).
  • Taste for exquisite, picturesque, decorative and exotic themes.
  • Are constituted as subjects mythology, ancient Greece the Eastthe Middle Ages
  • Practice of descriptive impressionism (description of the impressions that things cause and not the things themselves).
  • Renewal of expressive resources: suppression of words used for use; inclusion of musical and infrequently used words; syntax simplification; taking advantage of visual images; etc.
  • Renewal of versification: the sonnet was given flexibility. Irregular versification, free verse and strophic freedom that gave the forest unknown varieties were preferred.


“Modernism” is the word taken from the symbolists and chosen by Darío to designate the fruitful trend.

Modernism has been said to represent the concern of an era: the end of the 19th century, the historical change that is reflected in art, religion. But literary Modernism, beyond that certain context, will bring a definitive change in the expressive handling of the language.

It has been pointed out that it fulfills the dream of romantic writers: to design a typically Latin American language, recognized by the Spanish themselves. Sometimes defended and others fought, Modernism is the basis on which the 19th century Hispanic American literature will develop.


The importance of modernism is twofold: on the one hand it gave poets that resume the great historical tradition, broken or stopped at the end of the 17th century, and on the other, by opening doors and windows, it revived the language. He gave poets that resume the great historical tradition, broken or stopped at the end of the 17th century. After that experience, the Castilian was able to endure rougher tests and more dangerous adventures. Understood as what it really was – a movement whose foundation and primary goal was the movement itself – is not yet over, the avant-garde of 1925 and the attempts of contemporary poetry are intimately linked to that great beginning.

It was the language of the time, its historical style, and all the creators were condemned to breathe its atmosphere . The great modernist poets were the first to rebel and in their mature work they go beyond the language they themselves had created. Thus they prepare, each in his own way, the subversion of the vanguard.

His life was marked by the early and constant fight for the freedom of his homeland and moral values. He suffered punishments and exiles, for which he lived in Spain and traveled to Europe. He temporarily resided in Latin American countries and later settled in the USA where he continued his work for resistance.

To his generous and heroic life he adds the merit of being one of the continent’s greatest writers. He creates a new style and initiates, along with others, that will of renewal and verbal independence that is Modernism.

Characteristics of modernism in Martí

Its aesthetics is based on the belief in a beneficial art. The artist must be useful to men. Art is conceived as an instrument that can express human emotions and improve society.

José Martí writes because he believes that writing is the best dagger. That dagger that is his verse turns into flower: it possesses the strength to transmit the ineffable soul and the aspirations and feelings of the American man.

His simple style: His writing is fragmentary, because of its eventful existence. In life, he hardly published. His critical works appeared in newspapers (La Nación).

Martí was a very original writer, but without elaboration or eccentricity. In all his prose ideas have vigor and dynamism. An abundance of rhythms appears, reinforced by brilliant metaphors, a wealth of vocabulary, and a diversity of style resources.

Poetic work

His poetry books are: Ismaelillo (dedicated to his son, who presents revealing images of a new sensibility), Simple verses Free verses Flowers of exile and other poems that appeared in the magazine The Golden Age that he founded.

Martí’s poetry is full of grace and visual and sound harmony. In the prologue to Simple Verses he announces: “I love simplicity and I believe the need to put feeling in plain and simple ways.” Poetry that exemplifies all of the above is La Niña de Guatemala

The girl from Guatemala

I want, in the shade of a poplar, to tell this flower tale: the girl from Guatemala, the one who died of love. The branches were of lilies, And the borders of reseda and jasmine; we buried it in a silk box. She gave the forgetful one a scent pad; he returned, he returned married, she died of love. They were carrying it on bishops and ambassadors; Behind the town went in batches, all laden with flowers. She, to see him again, went out to see him at the viewpoint; he returned to his wife, she died of love. Like red hot bronze to the farewell kiss, it was his forehead: the forehead that I have loved the most in my life! She entered the river in the afternoon, the doctor took her dead; they say he died of cold; I know that he died of love. There, in the frozen vault, they put her on two benches; I kissed her sharp hand, I kissed her white shoes. Silent at dusk, the gravedigger called me; Never again have I seen the one who died of love José Martí in Simple Verses.

Rubén Darío and Modernism

He was born in Metapa Nicaragua in 1867. His real name was Félix Rubén García Sarmiento. He was a journalist and a diplomat. Until 1898 he lived, published and performed in Chile, Central America and Argentina. In 1898 he traveled to Spain and lived in France and other countries in Europe. He died in León, Nicaragua, in 1916.

He wrote prose and poetry Among all his production three works stand out that help to understand the evolution of Modernism: Blue Profane prose and Songs of life and hope. The rare, in prose, and El Canto Errante are other of his works.

Darío’s place is central. It is not a living influence but a term of reference: a starting or finishing point, a limit that must be reached or crossed: to be or not to be like him, in both ways Darío is present in the spirit of contemporary poets. He is the founder. He renewed everything: the subject, the vocabulary, the metrics, the peculiar magic of certain words, the sensitivity of the poet and his readers.

Brief analysis of the works of Rubén Darío

Blue 1888

It was his first important work. Published in Valparaíso, it consists of short stories and some poems. For its author it meant recognition in America and in Spain.

Its features are: sensuality, eroticism and musicality. In the sonnets that close the play, Darío reveals his preferences and his cosmopolitanism.

Profane prose: it was published in Buenos Aires in 1896 The thematic variations and the metric audacities are so many that they caused great controversy in America and in Spain. The erotic theme wrapped in a chromatic and perfect art predominates. The following poem exemplifies the above.

Symphony in Greater Gray

The sea, like a vast glass, is reflected, It reflects the sheet of a zinc sky; Distant flocks of birds stain The burnished background of pale gray. The sun like a round and opaque glass, With a sick step walks to the zenith; The sea wind rests in the shade Taking his black bugle as a pillow. The ripples that move her lead belly, Beneath the pier seem to moan. Sitting on a wire, smoking his pipe, is a sailor thinking about the beaches Of a lazy, distant, misty country. That wolf is old. They toasted her face fire rays the sun of Brazil ; The strong typhoons of the China Sea They have seen him drinking his bottle of gin. The foam impregnated with iodine and nitrate, He has long known his red nose, His frizzy hair, his athlete’s biceps, His canvas cap, his denim blouse. In the midst of the smoke that tobacco forms , The old man sees the distant, misty country, Where one hot and golden afternoon, With the sails out, the brig departed. The nap of the tropics. The wolf falls asleep. Everything is covered by the gray range. It seems that a smooth and enormous blur of the curved horizon will erase the border. The nap of the tropics. The old cicada rehearses her hoarse senile guitar, And the cricket preludes a monotonous solo On the only string that is on her violin.

Rubén Darío (in profane Prose) Songs of life and hope 1903 The themes of the book are, among others: the passage of time, the poet’s mission, the search for faith, concern for the future of America. The book ends with an expression of fear and doubt about the mystery of life. Of different content, this volume presents the same formal care and the remarkable variety of meters and richness of language that characterize the great poet.

Crisis of the modernist project

Main article: Crisis of Catholic modernism .

Since the end of the 20th century, the philosophical emblem has been the crisis of reason and the death of man (the emblem of the 19th century was the death of God). The 21st century continues to advance under the threat of scientism, heir to the most despotic illustration. Since the 19th century, the positivist attitude that extends the development of the natural sciences has been generalized worldwide, reducing all knowledge to its empirical criteria. This attitude penetrates all cultures and manifests itself in the claim of privileges on the part of technological rationality, in the disaggregation of knowledge in atomized spheres, in the irreconcilable opposition of supposed values ​​and in the materialization of life in its entirety.

These symptoms make it possible to diagnose the agony of ideology, however, what is dying is utopia, in the sense of a possible common project that feeds the hope of improving society and offers real proposals for change for humanity. The noble enlightened project of autonomy for man in the discovery of the universal logos, which encouraged modernist utopias (finally transformed into fierce totalitarianisms of unusual destructive capacity), has given way to the fragmentation of current thought into a series of features that They inevitably traverse the globalized mindset of our time.These features are:

1.- Demythologization: all reality is interpreted in terms of natural causes and effects: biological, physical and psychic.

2.- De-sacralization: meaning is a transcendental question that does not go beyond subjective consciousness. Human transcendence is dispensed with.

3.- Secularization: individual reason is the only criterion that governs the actions and feelings of the human (neither religion, nor state).

4.- Ideologization: the ideological norm is unquestionable.

5.- Subjectivity: the human is the measure of the interpretation of reality. It is he who decides, collectively, what is valuable.

6.- Relativism: the universal and objective perspective of values ​​is denied. Anything goes, even anti-value.

7.- Emancipation: autonomy, graciously granted, of all authority, spiritual, legal, social or political. Emancipation is achieved using reason publicly or it is conquered with the violent revolution.

8.- Social reductionism: man can only have worldly relationships. These relationships are limited to the spatio-temporal context and the sphere of pleasure and power, where the most violent, the most corrupt, the most manipulative, the most seductive…. achieves privileges and privileges.

All these features of current thought contain tragic contradictions:

1.- Everything is explained by causes and effects (demythologization) and, nevertheless, the first causes and the last effects of the universe and man are given to chance, to nothingness or to the cyclical repetition of the whole (desacralization).

2.- It is argued that individual reason is the supreme criterion of man (secularization) and yet ideology is absolutized as unquestionable, although his claims go against scientific rationality and the most elementary moral criterion (ideologization).

3.- The community is who decides what is valuable (subjectivity) but everything goes according to the interests of ideology (relativism), which is what shapes the thinking of the community.

4.- Autonomy is aspired to (emancipation) but that autonomy is used in a sphere of relationship in which it is intended to be more than the other (reductionism), which is the cause and effect of servitude, dependency, submission, slavery …

Undoubtedly, reproductive education today is training people in the aforementioned contradictions, this supposes that education today does not question anything rational (the rational is shown in coherent thinking), it does not allow us to become aware of anything real (the real is identifies in coherent action) and shows nothing valuable (value is captured in coherent action-thought-affect). In short, education today is a mass media that spreads the slogans of ideology, applying advertising strategies. Education today has forgotten its function of developing free critical judgment in the human being.


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