How to recognize a modern work?

Modern art encapsulates many important artistic movements. It has crossed a wide range of styles. In order to follow the remarkable evolution of modern art, it is necessary to recognise and understand the many artistic movements that comprise it. To do this, it is useful to first agree on a definition of modern art.

What is modern art?

Not to be confused with contemporary art, the term "modern art" refers to art from the late 19th, early and mid-20th centuries. The works created during this period show the interest of artists in reorienting, reinterpreting and even rejecting the traditional values of earlier styles. From light and airy Impressionism to energetic Abstract Expressionism, the genre of modern art is composed of several major movements. Impressionism, widely regarded as the starting point of modern art, challenged the rigid rules and realistic representations of academic painting. Until the turn of the century, this style dominated French painting, with artists such as Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The art of expressionism

Shortly before the First World War, German and Austrian painters began to approach their practice in an experimental manner. Eventually known as Expressionists, these artists adopted and adapted the previously unknown characteristics of other modern art movements. Expressionist works convey a fascination with bright colours and individual iconography. The artist wants to give the viewer an impression that goes beyond a simple naturalistic representation. Unlike the Impressionists, the emphasis was not on conveying an impression. The emphasis is on the clarification of an inner movement of the artist that reveals itself to the viewer. Expressionism can be understood as the first step towards the abstraction of art.

Cubism and Surrealism

Characterised by deconstructed and broken forms, Cubism marks the turn of modern art towards abstraction. Founded in 1907, the movement manifested itself in tangled paintings, multi-dimensional sculptures and ultramodern collages. Like other modern art movements, Cubism also emphasised a subjective approach to creation. Picasso said that when they discovered Cubism for themselves, they did not want to discover it. They just wanted to express what they felt and what was inside them. In the 1920s, a few visual artists joined forces to found Surrealism, a style rooted in the unconscious. Unchecked by reason, free from aesthetic or moral interests, the genre resulted in a diverse collection of dreamlike representations.

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