Modern art is broadly defined to be art works that were produced from the 1860s right up to the 1970s. The term “modern” is specifically used as the works of this period is a breakaway from the more ancient and traditional forms of art and ushered in a period of experimentation. Modern artists brought a fresh perspective to the art world by embedding new and bright ideas not only in the style of art but also in the methods and materials used in their works.
Abstraction is a characteristic of modern art where conventional and intricate details are replaced by interpretation and outlook of the artist’s thought processes in a broad and theoretical or conceptual manner. Comparatively recent works of art are also called postmodern or contemporary art.
A parallel to modern art can be drawn with furniture too and will help explain things better. Modern furniture timber in Melbourne or anywhere else for that matter has evolved over time as in art. Today’s design and styles are a far cry from the antique styles of heavy furniture still found in royal castles and establishments. Modern furniture is sleek with fine lines as distinct from the more traditional furniture of yesteryears. Similarly, modern art is a sea change over what is known as ancient or traditional art.
Modern art can be broadly categorised into three time periods.
Origins in the 19th century
Modern paintings are commonly identified to have emerged from 1863 when Edouard Manet exhibited his painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe in the Salon des Refusés in Paris. This is just a conjecture and art historians have not been able to put a finger on the actual year of emergence of modern art. Some even go back to 1784 and say that the beginning of modern art was with the completion of Jacques-Louis David painting The Oath of the Horatii.
Early 20th century
The movements that came to be characterised as modern art in the early 20th century included Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism and Futurism. Between 1910 and the end of World War I, all these movements emerged in Paris which soon became the hotbed of modern art. Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Pierre Laprade and Alberto Savinio were the artists during this period who took the concept of modern art further.
Post World War II
After World War II, the focus shifted from Paris to the USA. This was the period that saw various art movements emerging such as Abstract Expressionism, Color field painting, Pop art, Hard-edge painting, Minimal art, Lyrical Abstraction, Happening, Video art, Post-minimalism and Photorealism. In the late 1960s and the 1970s, other forms of art like Land art, Conceptual art and Performance art took centre stage.
This essay is just an overview of modern art in a nutshell and there are lots more to it than this only.