Modern art includes artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation. Modern artists experimented with new ways of seeing and with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art. A tendency away from the narrative, which was characteristic for the traditional arts, toward abstraction is characteristic of much modern art. More recent artistic production is often called contemporary art or postmodern art.
Modern art begins with the heritage of painters like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec all of whom were essential for the development of modern art. At the beginning of the 20th century Henri Matisse and several other young artists including the pre-cubists Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, Jean Metzinger and Maurice de Vlaminck revolutionized the Paris art world with "wild", multi-colored, expressive landscapes and figure paintings that the critics called Fauvism. Matisse's two versions of The Dance signified a key point in his career and in the development of modern painting. It reflected Matisse's incipient fascination with primitive art: the intense warm color of the figures against the cool blue-green background and the rhythmical succession of the dancing nudes convey the feelings of emotional liberation and hedonism.
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. The aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality". Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself.
Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was, above all, a revolutionary movement.
Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory.
German Expressionism was an artistic movement that started before World War I in Germany, and culminated in the 20s with Expressionist cinema. It was an extremely influential genre that demonstrated cinema could be an art form, and not just entertainment. These films were a major contributor to the Horror genre and important precursors of Film Noir.
While the movement thrived in Weimar Germany, the Nazis were virulently opposed to expressionism, and even had a huge touring art exhibit dedicated to making fun of expressionist art. Persecution led to the movement's decline, and many expressionist artists fled to the States or other friendly countries to escape oppression.
Expressionism tends to be characterized by showing the subconscious feelings of the characters and making them the surface of the work. The audience will be shown not what is strictly, naturally real (in fact, painters intentionally avoidedit), but an abstract view of what the characters feel is real. Artists preferred to use large shapes and thick outlines rather than natural shading and colors. Shapes are stretched and twisted, and the subjects are portrayed in grim, tense poses. Such art is generally portrayed as fairly dark.
Translating this art style into movies usually involved surreal set designs, dialog that dispenses with naturalism to let the characters' inner motivations and thoughts be stated with brutal honesty, and stark lighting effects. A strong, nightmarish atmosphere tends to prevail.
Much modern art, and modern film in particular, is heavily influenced by German Expressionism: films like Edward Scissorhands, Dark City, and Batman Returns are extremely expressionist, and almost any movie that have a nightmarish city, a machine-like bureaucratic government, or an evil AI owes a little to German Expressionism.
Fauvism was a style of painting developed in France during the beginning of the 20th century by Henri Matisse and André Derain. The Impressionists and Post Impressionists (Gauguin in particular) inspired the Fauves to explore colour use and symbolism.
The Fauves believed that color should be used to express the artist’s feelings about a subject, rather than simply to paint what they see. Matisse explains this perfectly by stating, “The aim of painting is not to reflect history, because this can be found in books. We have a higher conception. Through it, the artist expresses his inner vision.”
These works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realisticvalues retained by Impressionism. While Fauvism as a style began around 1900 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only a few years, 1904–1908, and had three exhibitions. The leaders of the movement were Henri Matisse and André Derain.
Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement
that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture. Cubism has been considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century. The term is broadly used in association with a wide variety of art produced in Paris (Montmartre, Montparnasse and Puteaux) during the 1910s and extending through the 1920s.
The movement was pioneered by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, joined by Andre Lhote, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay, Henri Le Fauconnier, Fernand Léger and Juan Gris. A primary influence that led to Cubism was the representation of three-dimensional form in the late works of Paul Cézanne. A retrospective of Cézanne's paintings had been held at the Salon d'Automne of 1904, current works were displayed at the 1905 and 1906 Salon d'Automne, followed by two commemorative retrospectives after his death in 1907.
In Cubist artwork, objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form—instead of depicting objects from a single viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context.
The impact of Cubism was far-reaching and wide-ranging. Cubism spread rapidly across the globe and in doing so evolved to a greater or lesser extent. In essence, Cubism was the origin of an evolutionary process that produced diversity; it was the antecedent of diverse art movements.
In France, offshoots of Cubism developed, including Orphism, Abstract art and later Purism. In other countries Futurism,
Suprematism, Dada, Constructivism, De Stijl and Art Deco
developed in response to Cubism. Early Futurist paintings hold in common with Cubism the fusing of the past and the present, the representation of different views of the subject pictured at the same time, also called multiple perspective, simultaneity or multiplicity, while Constructivism was influenced by Picasso's technique of constructing sculpture from separate elements. Other common threads between these disparate movements include the faceting or simplification of geometric forms, and the association of mechanization and modern life.
Abstract Expressionism, broad movement in American painting that began in the late 1940s and became a dominant trend in Western painting during the 1950s.
There are two major groups within Abstract Expressionism, which was influenced by Surrealism and Cubism:
Colour Field Painters: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still worked with simple, unified blocks of colour.
Gestural Painters: Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Hofmann used Surrealist techniques of automatic art.
Although it is the accepted designation, Abstract Expressionism is not an accurate description of the body of work created by these artists. Indeed, the movement comprised many different painterly styles varying in both technique and quality of expression. Despite this variety, Abstract Expressionist paintings share several broad characteristics. They are basically abstract—i.e., they depict forms not drawn from the visible world. They emphasize free, spontaneous, and personal emotional expression, and they exercise considerable freedom of technique and execution to attain this goal, with a particular emphasis laid on the exploitation of the variable physical character of paint to evoke expressive qualities (e.g., sensuousness, dynamism, violence, mystery, lyricism).
They show similar emphasis on the unstudied and intuitive application of that paint in a form of psychic improvisation akin to the automatism of the Surrealists, with a similar intent of expressing the force of the creative unconscious in art. They display the abandonment of conventionally structured composition built up out of discrete and segregable elements and their replacement with a single unified, undifferentiated field, network, or other image that exists in unstructured space. And finally, the paintings fill large canvases to give these aforementioned visual effects both monumentality and engrossing power.