An Overview of Modernism in Art: Movements and Influences

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"Modernism" and "Post-modernism" are different in many ways. They both heavily impacted the art world and created movements around the world. "Modernism" was surrounded by scientific reasoning and understanding the human, while "Post-modern" was the reaction to "Modernism" in which it challenged all of its assumptions.

Running from the 1890s to 1970, modernism was born during the industrial revolution. This was because of the rapid growth and changes in Manufacturing, transportation, and technology. Lasting through the 19th century, it made a huge impact on the art world. With all the new conditions in the world, people were able to access new ideas with new forms of transportation, and it changed the way they lived and viewed the world. This affected urban areas due to workers flocking to cities for industrial jobs and increasing populations. This also led to the rise of the Bauhaus school, in which a new class of entrepreneurs became art collectors and patrons. Before all of this, the only way artists made commissions was through making artwork for wealthy patrons or churches.

Art before had been mostly religious depictions or mythological scenes. But during the modern stages of art, artists started to flock towards creating art based on their own life experiences and their day-to-day life and could choose their own topics to depict to the viewer. This led artists to use symbolism, experiment with color, and steer away from traditional materials and techniques. They also experimented with form and technique processes; instead of focusing on subjects, they created stuff to reflect the modern world. Some examples of what Modern artists first came up with were collage art, kinetic art, photography, and performance art.

Discovering new material to add to their canvases, like fragments of objects or newspaper clippings, made a huge impact on modern art. Some assemblages were created from commonly used items such as cars, clocks, tickets, and boxes. The ideas and items used were so creative they could be endless. Modern art was more artist-centered and individual. Not only did modern art focus on new material, but it also created a new way to express color. Fauvism, expressionism, and color field painting were the biggest ways to utilize color in modern art. There were a lot of movements that happened during the era of modern art before it was taken over by post-modernism in the 1960s. Some of the most powerful movements in the modern art era include impressionism, fauvism, cubism, futurism, expressionism, dada, surrealism, and abstract expressionism.

Impressionism was the focus on trying to capture color and lights fleeting moments. These artworks consisted of non-natural color schemes, and the brushwork in the painting consisted of highly texture strokes. Up close, these paintings were usually unrecognizable due to the loose brushwork. This non-naturalistic abstract art became quite popular with modern artists and became the world's most famous movement involving painting. This movement was followed by fauvism, which was the new fashion style during the 1900s. It was famous for vivid and non-naturalistic colors. This movement showed the independence and power of color in modern art.

Cubism was a new difficult, and challenging style of painting. Not only was it inspired by the renaissance with linear lines, but it was also an alternative with its flat splintered planes and shapes. This type of painting style was founded by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. This art style impacted the art world and was a popular and admirable appeal to artists. It offered a new substitute for the conventional perspective.
Futurism was a new way to adore scientific achievement. It was based on transportation like the automobile and the airplane, also focusing on speed and technology. It involved art techniques like cubism and was influenced by Neo-Impressionism and Italian Divisionism. This modern art movement gave way for art to express scientific advancement on the canvas for viewers to see.

Expressionism created new standards for the creation and discrimination of art. It was now meant for art to be created from within the artist rather than depicting something from the real world. Not focusing on the composition and using feelings to decide the quality and character of the artwork. This movement brought emotion to the modern art era. The artist was reacting to the modern world and putting it out there for the audience to feel one's emotions.

Dada was a huge art movement in the modern art era. It was a revolt against the nationalists who allowed the destruction of the first world war. Those affiliated with the group challenged nationalism, rationalism, materialism, or any type of "ism" they felt contributed to this senseless war. It created a type of war against art in a traditional sense. Embracing new types of imagination and materials led to the creation of performance art, readymade, and junk art. Surrealism was a movement that was neither anti-art nor non-political. These artists used methods that consisted of dreams, hallucinations, Automatic or random image generation, and imagination.

Abstract expressionism was a more broad style of painting. It consisted of two styles, a highly animated form of gestural painting and passive mood-oriented color field painting. This movement popularized abstraction and invented the new style referred to as "action painting," which demonstrates the impaction of large areas of color and their emotional connection.

Kurt Schwitters, who lived from 1887 to 1948, was a very important person during the modern era of art. Kurt was a Dadaist and was in the "de Stijl" group in the Netherlands. He fled Nazi Germany in 1940 after Hitler's persecution of "degenerate artists," and he spent the last years of his life in Cumbria. Even though Kurt was a part of the Dada movement, he was more focused on his artwork rather than political activism. Schwitters played a very important role in modern art due to his new findings. He was influenced by expressionism and cubism, which pushed him to leave the conservative figurative painting and try abstract collages. You can see this switch in Kurt Schwitters's assemblage titled "Revolving," which he created in 1919.

Created from the broken and discarded objects he found in the streets following the war, he started to arrange them into art. In revolving, these objects he found are placed in organized lines and shapes, and he adds hints of yellow and blue to create shading. Not only did he just attach small objects to his canvas, but he geometrically created a balance between the roughness of the materials and the shapes. These shapes and objects are associated with the crumbling society of Germany after the war. These assemblages he created were called "Merz." He had been known for these "Merz" because he was able to combine these ordinary objects to turn them into artistic elements. He claimed his "Merz" were "an attempt to achieve freedom from all social, political, and cultural fetters."

Another artist who heavily impacted the modern art era was Marcel Duchamp. Born July 28, 1887, and passed away October 7, 1968. He worked on art from the early 1900s to when he passed. He played a huge role in surrealism with his mechanisms of desire and human sexuality. Duchamp refused to follow a conventional art path and was considered the father of conceptual art. He changed the course of art history by changing what art even is, and his "readymades" shocked the art world. He took existing objects from real life and modified them to function as works of art. In 1917 Duchamp created a piece called the "Fountain," which was a urinal signed and dated R.Mutt 1917, which he submitted to the annual exhibition of the society of independent artists. This art piece was the most challenging art piece of the modern era and of the 20th century, which everyone talked about.

Post-modern art is described as the "reaction" against modernism. Starting in 1970 and ending in 2000, it was a big change from modern art. Modern art was created around idealism and beliefs of the utopian vision of life. Based on religion and science, this art was formed to explain reality to whoever was viewing it. However, post-modernism was born due to skepticism of the modern era. It is not such a cohesive movement, but rather a more attitude towards art and culture. Post-modern art mixes different popular artistic styles with earlier styles and conventions of modern art. This art was more audience-centered, and how they interpreted the art was very important and necessary. Because of this, post-modern art was more interactive with the audience and focused more on the process as opposed to the object itself. It also incorporates gender, cultural, and political identity. Some movements that impacted the post-modern era were Pop art, Conceptual art, Performance art, and Feminist art.

Pop art was a new wave of the art form. It challenged old traditions of fine art by using imagery and incorporating mass culture. These artworks imaged advertising, comic books, and culture with vibrant colors. Some pop artists would create pictures of products labels consumers would buy, photos of celebrities and animals.

Conceptual art was an art movement that gave artists a new way to express their ideas. Instead of focusing on using materials such as paint or clay for sculpting, they could use whatever they wanted. They could choose from whatever materials they thought would best express their ideas to the audience, such as performance art or even a written description. Performance art challenged the traditional forms of visual art. This kind of art usually was a live presentation to onlookers and can range from poetry, music, dance, acting, and painting. These artworks could also occur on video or in film. In the 1960s, performance art emerged in galleries, art studios, and museums.

Feminist art was a huge impact on post-modern art. It was surrounded by issues, specifically on females. These issues included having a baby, violence against women, employment for women, and many others. This movement was known as the first wave of feminist art and had been focused on by women artists.

A good example of an artist from the post-modern era is Suzanne Lacy. She is an American social practice artist. She does many different types of art, from visual art, film, and performance to installation and public practice. Her work is post-modern because of its viewpoint on art and culture and what's happening in the world around us. Her work is based on social themes and issues in the urban area. Some things she addresses are issues like rape, violence, feminism, aging, and incarceration.

One piece that really stands out is her In Mourning and In rage (1977), in which women 60 women came together to create a public ritual of rage and grief. They did this because of the "hillside" strangler who had brutally murdered ten women. This ritual consisted of 10 women who got out of a horse dressed in black cloaks and stood at the front steps of city hall. Then they each spoke on different violence that has been brought upon women. The chorus of women then would yell, "In memory of our sisters, we fight back! This feminist analysis of violence reached major coverage on local and statewide news.

Another well-known post-modern artist was Jackson Pollock, an abstract expressionist who was born in 1912 and passed away in 1956. His artwork and method were so unique they shocked the art world. He would fling and drip thinned enamel paint onto an unstretched canvas which he laid on the floor. His method incorporated gravity, velocity, and improvisation into his art process. His artworks were known as "drip paintings" and were very distinct from modern pieces.

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An Overview of Modernism in Art: Movements and Influences. (2023, Mar 24). Retrieved March 5, 2024 , from

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