What is the difference between modern and contemporary art ?

Published on : 01 November 20213 min reading time
Many people still think that modern and contemporary art are similar. However, this is not the case. In reality, the two movements weren’t even created at the same time. To understand their difference, we need to know which one came first.

Modern art precedes contemporary art

When we look at history, modern art appeared before what we consider contemporary art. The first signs of this trend appeared at the end of the 19th century when painters began to break away from convention and traditions. They tried to deconstruct the concepts imposed by the fine arts and the academic system by opting for more controversial subjects. Moreover, even the techniques of painting have evolved considerably.

Artists such as Manet and Courbet relied on their imagination. Cubists, such as Picasso and Braque, dissected representation, while the Fauves, such as Derain, exploited new, more daring colours. In the 1920s, it was the Surrealist movement that announced the apology of modern art. All these trends took place before the Second World War. Moreover, it is generally considered that the so-called modern movement gradually declined from the 1950s onwards.

When does the advent of contemporary art begin?

As a rule, modernity is a movement that applies to a much broader field than the world of art. In fact, it is a trend that occurs in every era, as people must constantly modernise in order to evolve. Contemporary art has come into play in this way, not least because it has revolutionised the practice of artists.

This artistic trend, which began to spread from the 1980s, was built on the experiments of modern art. Moreover, it was favoured by the breaking down of disciplinary boundaries and the appearance of new media. During the 20th century, artists sought to break away from traditional and institutional paths. Artistic individualism as well as social and media issues are often the most present in the works.

Are all works created after 1950 considered contemporary art?

Although the 1950s is used to delineate modern and contemporary art, chronology is not sufficient to make a real distinction. Indeed, an artist whose career began with modern art can work in this period, which is considered contemporary, without being a contemporary artist.

The abstract painter Pierre Soulages is a case in point. Having started in 1940, he is currently working in the contemporary art era, but his paintings have remained in a modern trend. In short, it’s important to analyse the artistic process and chronology of a work to determine its current.

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