Concepts of Modern Art

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Concepts of Modern Art

<p>As public interest in modern art continues to grow, there is a need for a place that is engaging, offering not only information and ideas about modern art, but also explaining its contemporary


As public interest in modern art continues to grow, there is a need for a place that is engaging, offering not only information and ideas about modern art, but also explaining its contemporary relevance and history. We will navigate through time, discovering artistic styles that define Modern Art from Picasso and Matisse to Chagall, Pollock, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Mondrian and so much more.


  • 1880 – 1910 / Les Nabis, Post Impressionism, Art Nouveau – The Nabis felt that as artists they were creators of a subjective art that was deeply rooted in the soul of the artist. Post-Impressionism encompasses a wide range of distinct artistic styles that all share the common motivation of responding to the subjective vision of the artists. Art Nouveau was aimed at modernizing design, seeking to escape the eclectic historical styles that had previously been popular.
  • 1900 – 1915 / Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism – One of Fauvism’s major contributions to modern art was its radical goal of separating colour from its descriptive, representational purpose and allowing it to exist on the canvas as an independent element. Expressionism emerged across Germany as a response to a widespread anxiety about humanity’s increasingly discordant relationship with the world. Cubist artists preferred to demolish perspective, which had been used to depict space since the Renaissance, to reconstruct from various angles.
  • 1912 – 1920 / Section d’Or, Orphism, Futurism – Section d’or was an association of Cubist artists who developed an interest in the significance of mathematical proportions such as the ancient concept of the golden section. Orphism brought together contemporary theories of philosophy and colour to create works that immersed the viewer in dynamic expanses of rhythmic form and chromatic scales. Futurist artists managed to represent movement through the combination of Cubist faceted imageries and expressive contrasting colours.
  • 1915 – 1920 / Suprematism, Dada, De Stijl, Constructivism – While Constructivism called on artists to stop producing useless things and to use art for industry and social causes; in contrast, Suprematism focused on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colours. Dada’s aesthetic, marked by its mockery of materialistic and nationalistic attitudes will prove a powerful influence on future artists. De Stijl movement embraced an abstract, pared-down aesthetic centred in basic visual elements such as geometric forms and primary colours.
  • 1920 – 1930 / Bauhaus Surrealism and Social Realism – The Bauhaus brought all types of artists together and creating something new. They used like the Suprematist artists a lot of geometrical shapes throughout their work. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artefact. Social Realists created figurative and realistic images of the “masses,” a term that encompassed the lower and working classes, labour unionists, and the politically disenfranchised
  • 1943 – 1960 / Abstract Expressionism, Neo Dada – Abstract Expressionists were later welcomed as the first authentically American avant-garde. They value an art grounded in personal experience. Their art was championed for being emphatically American in spirit – monumental in scale, romantic in mood, and expressive of a rugged individual freedom. Neo-Dada artists are known for their usage of mass media and found objects, as well as a penchant for performance. These artists rebelled against the emotionally charged paintings of the Abstract Expressionists that dominated the art world in the 1950s.
  • 1954 – 1960 / Kinetic art, Op Art, Pop Art, Happenings – Op art and Kinetic art are founded upon experiments made at the Bauhaus. Kinetic Artists were interested in employing actual movement, while Op artists were interested in optical effects and the illusion of movement. Pop art reached beyond Surrealism to Dada; They drew on popular imagery and were actually part of an international phenomenon. Happenings involved more than the detached observation of the viewer; the artist engaged with Happenings required the viewer to actively participate in each piece.
  • 1960 – 1970 / Performance, Arte Povera, Minimalism and Conceptual Art – Performance art of this period was particularly focused on the body, and is often referred to as Body art. This reflects the period’s so-called “dematerialization of the art object,” and the flight from traditional media. Arte Povera - “poor art” or “impoverished art” - was the most significant and influential avant-garde movement to emerge in Europe in the 1960s. Painters and sculptors avoided overt symbolism and emotional content, but instead called attention to the materiality of the works. Conceptual art is a movement that prizes ideas over the formal or visual components of art works. Their chief claim – that the articulation of an artistic idea suffices as a work of art – implied that concerns such as aesthetics, expression, skill and marketability were all irrelevant standards by which art was usually judged.

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Explain the development of modern art in a simple, straightforward way, with over 100 photographs of major art works.
  2. Cover all the key movements in modern art, from the avant-garde of the 19th century to the sometimes-perplexing contemporary art of the 21st century.
  3. Know the time line of art movements, short biographies of major artists and a glossary of art terms.
  4. Discover internet links to recommended websites with online galleries, virtual tours and art games and activities.