Shopping Cart

Modern art can accommodate a variety of meanings, therefore, there is no precise explanation or definition of the term. It does not come as a surprise as art is a medium which is constantly moving forward; what we consider a modern painting today, will not be seen as one in decade. But for recording purposes, the years between 1870-1970 is considered the period for Modern Art and Contemporary art followed from 1970 onwards. The term - Modern Art, is commonly lined with art in which old traditions have been abandoned in favor of innovation. It is considered the creative world's response to the rationalist methods and viewpoints of new lives and ideas brought about by the industrial age's technological advancements which caused current society to manifest itself in new ways in comparison to the past. Modern art, also known Modernism, included a variety of different styles, techniques and media within the broad movement. Artists began to make use of new images to create artworks which they thought better reflected the realities and hope that existed in rapidly modernizing societies. Due to the fact that it was not considered a singular and cohesive movement, many different movements developed that fell into the bracket of Modernism.

The Origins of Modern Art

When trying to understand how this form of art began, a little historical background will become useful. It is important to recognize that art does not change overnight, rather, reflects the wider changes taking place in society. Art reflects the outlook of the artist as well. For example, a piece of art produced in the 1950's might be considered as a postmodernist, if the artist has an innovative outlook. The 19th century was a time of rapid development as a result of the industrial revolution. There were changes in the transport, manufacturing and technology sectors, this in-turn began to affect how people lived, worked and travelled throughout Europe and America. There was a growing demand for urban architecture, applied art and design, as a new class of wealthy entrepreneurs was building. It is said that many of the world's best museums were founded by 19th century business tycoons.

There are two other stark developments in the art industry, which had a direct effect on the development of art during this period. In 1841, the American painter John Rand invented the collapsible tin paint tube, secondly, advances was made in photography, allowing artists to photograph scenes which could later be painted. This paved the way for a new painting style known as Impressionism which would have a radical effect on how artists painted the world around them. Little did they know that it would become one of the major schools of Modern art. During this period, a new generation of artists was creating a range of modern paintings based on new themes, materials and bold methods.

Thus 20th century art displays more than stylistic diversity. It is in the modern period that artists have made paintings not only of traditional materials such as oil on canvas but of any material available to them. This innovation lets to developments that were even more radical, such as conceptual art and performance art; movements which expanded the definition of art to include not just physical objects but ideas and actions as well.

Characteristics of Modern Art

At present, what we call Modern Art lasted for almost a century and involved dozens of different art movements and lasted for almost a century. It embraced everything from abstract art to hyperrealism. Due to the movement's great diversity, it is difficult to consider any unifying characteristics which can be used to define this era. Through this section we explore some characteristics which sets it apart.

Use of new material

Modern art painters affixed objects to their canvases, for example, fragments of newspaper and other items. Sculptors used items from which they created works of Junk Art. Artists created beautiful pieces from the most ordinary items such as cars, clocks, suitcases and wooden boxes.

Expressive use of Color

Modern art movements such as Fauvism, Expressionism were the first experiment with color and use it in a major way. The artists practicing within these genres tended to exploit color in a variety of ways so as to emphasize the emotions they were attempting to convey.

Response to surroundings

This type of art commonly shows postmodern buildings in contrast to modern ones. Postmodern art that shows these buildings usually reflect the history of the landscape and its shape.


Symbolism can be found in style, theme or genre of art. Symbolism shows meaning in either the whole painting, or portion. There can be multiple meanings in one piece of art.

Value was created

The real value is the artists, self- value of their artwork. on the part, before modern art, artists just assumed their art had value. This was common as most paintings revolved around religions and they followed the rules. Modern artists challenged this and painted what made them happy and what they liked.

Criticism of Modern Art

As this form of art placed a greater emphasis on freedom of expression, experimentation and radicalism, there was a fair share of criticism and was met with disbelief and outrage at the beginning. Although existing as a new form of art at the time, Modernism eventually went on to be seen in all the institutions against which it initially rebelled. This led to the development of Post Modernism, which sought to break the established new rules about style and worked to introduce even more freedom into the creation of art.

Manesha Pieris (2022)