7 Modern Art Movements You Should Know
Modern art has been characterized by throwing aside traditions of the past in favor of experimentation. Unlike the period of Romanticism that came before it, and the focus on intellect and the beauty of nature, modern art gave way to the abstract.
Modern art ranges from the 1860s to the 1970s. In covering such a wide time period and so many societal transformations, the modern art movements are understandably varied. These movements both reflected an ever-changing world and the desire of the artists to make sense of their surroundings.
Let’s explore some of the defining movements within modern art and their characteristics.
- Post-Impressionism Movement
Post-Impressionism birthed many well-known artists. Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, and Vincent van Gogh are some of the greats. Originating in France, the movement lasted from roughly 1886 to 1905.
Post-Impressionists felt that Impressionism (think Claude Monet) lacked structure. At the same time, post-impressionists continued to use vivid colors and real-life subjects. The result was sometimes exaggerated or distorted forms.
Post-Impressionists had unity in moving away from the style of Impressionism. However, they were not cohesive in how art should move forward. Therefore, the works of Post-Impressionists lack similarity to each other and are instead grouped more by the time period.
- Fauvism Movement
Fauvism followed Post-Impressionism and began around 1904. The movement was inspired by Gustave Moreau in France in the 1890s. Other notable artists include Henri Matisse and André Derain.
Fauvist works contain simplified subjects with wild colors and strong brush strokes. The term “fauves” comes from the French word “wild beasts.” Some Fauves collected and studied African and Oceanic art, which led to the development of Cubism.
- Cubism Movement
The early 20th-century movement of Cubism extended beyond art and also influenced sculpture, literature, music, and architecture. The three-dimensional forms in the later works of post-impressionist Paul Cézanne influenced Cubism. The movement lasted into the 1920s.
Cubism attempts to show all angles of an object at once. Much of the artwork contains cubes or other geometrical shapes.
One of the most famous from the movement is Pablo Picasso. His avant-garde paintings became world-renowned and made him wealthy. Today, he is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
- Escapism Movement
During the Great Depression, escapism became a trend. People looked to “escape” the hardships following the stock market crash of 1929. Everything from art to magazines to movies depicted a life that in no way resembled the experiences of everyday people.
Escapism served as a distraction from anger and sadness. Works of the escapist movement often focused on leisure activities and a higher standard of living than what people were experiencing. Escapist art looked to elevate its viewers to a better place.
In escapist art, the artist looks to take the viewer out of the current world and into another place. The viewer suspends reality, and the end result can be therapeutic for the artist and the viewer alike. In the present-day, John Palmer has created the Escapist Mentorship program for artists to gather and talk.
- Futurism Movement
In the early 20th century, Futurism rose as an artistic and social movement. In a post-Industrial Revolution world, Futurism focused on speed, technology, youth, and violence. While the movement was predominantly located in Italy, there were similarities in Russian art at the time.
Futurists were not confined to paintings. They also used sculpture, ceramics, and graphic design. Futurism also influenced film, fashion, literature, music, architecture, and cooking.
In 1909, Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti sparked the movement with his Manifesto del Futurismo (Manifest of Futurism). In it, Marinetti called for a rejection of the past and the modernization of Italy.
- Constructivism Movement
Constructivism influenced both art and architecture. Originating in Russia in 1915, constructivists favored art for propaganda and social purposes. Artists created designs for public festivals for the post-revolution Russian Bolshevik government.
Designs of constructivism included bright colors, bold lettering, and geometric shapes. The eye-catching designs would draw in a viewer, often accessible on the street.
Constructivism is considered to be one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century. It was inspired by change and revolution. “Constructing” came from the idea of using mass production and exploring new materials.
Constructivist architecture took on a very different form. Architects of the time used geometric shapes and experimental structures. Traditional aspects of art and design were reimagined to focus on consumerist society.
- Surrealism Movement
After World War I, artists moved toward painting scenes that were illogical, separated from reality, and strange. The lines between dream and reality were blurred in a “super-reality” or surreality. Some of the major artists were Salvador Dalí of Spain and René Magritte of Belgium.
From the 1920s forward, the movement spread from its origins in Europe to around the globe. In 1924, French-German poet Yvan Goll published the Manifeste du surréalisme, two weeks before another Manifeste du surréalisme was published by André Breton. Goll and Brenton were leading rival groups of the surrealist movement.
Surrealism went on to influence literature, film, photography, theatre, and music. It influenced later movements, including post-modernism and abstract expressionism.
Surrealism, as an ideology, also found its way into politics. Surrealists wanted to change the world, particularly through anarchy and socialism. The movement lasted until the 1950s.
The End of Modern Art Movements
Of course, all art movements eventually evolve into something different. What we know today as contemporary art eventually replaced modern art movements with new global and cultural influences. Contemporary art is influenced by technology, new methods, and challenging the very boundaries that define art.
From the well-known to the lesser-known art movements, influential art and artists have stood the test of time and can be appreciated for their place in art history.
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