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What Actually is Modern Art?

There’s not a person in the art scene who wouldn’t recognize one of the great names: Edouard Vuillard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Ceazanne, Salvador Dali, Vasily Kandinsky or Henri Matisse. Each of them brought something unique and new into their art; some might even say they were modern to their contemporaries.

Everybody has actually heard of modern art, but as a term it is quite general. Modern art came with the birth of modernism and the Industrial Revolution. This all came about around the middle of the 19th Century and there was terrific change in technology at the time which allowed for better transportation and more mechanized manufacturing. This period in world history brought many changes to North America and Western Europe and affected people’s lives on an economic level and a social one too. It was the time of the steam locomotive and the subway or underground in the big cities.

This all affected art that we knew at the time; before the Industrial Revolution, art was mostly commissioned by rich patrons that had a specific purpose to depict something. But now at the start of the 19th Century artists were producing work on things based on what they wanted.

The Interpretation of Dreams

Freud’s publication of his theory of the subconscious mind opened up the idea of symbolism to artists, and they realized they could create art that was not replicating an actual person or scene. Artists were now producing material that was drawn from their own personal experiences, real or imaginary. The whole point of this art was to challenge what had gone on before, and to make a statement that art does not have to realistically depict anything at all.

Time to Experiment

The new breed of modern artists found that they had a new freedom to express themselves. The old and rather strict parameters of what constituted art were ripped up and discarded. It was a time that experimentation was encouraged, and the artists tried new materials, mediums, colors and techniques. One such medium was photography, and ever since its invention in 1839, it was immediately accepted into the art world as it offered radical possibilities for depicting the world.

Types of Modern Art

Modern Art is the generic name for a whole series of art movements, each vastly different from one another. Greater distinction should be placed on:

  • Design
  • Fauvism
  • Film
  • Dada
  • Surrealism
  • Photography
  • Cubism
  • Abstract Expressionism
  • Expressionism

Some of the artists that we featured at the start of our blog were active in more than one medium. This was not common, most artists favored just one medium and stuck to it. What modern art was most successful at doing was shaking up the creative world and throwing away convention. And by doing this it brought art to the attention of the common man, even though some of the ideas were really radical. Without modern art we would never have had some of the most beautiful contemporary art that we enjoy today.