We all as a society tend to accept what resonates with our perception and simply reject
the rest. Knowingly or unknowingly, this prejudice did more harm than good. When it
comes to art, people always imagined beautiful paintings of landscapes, animals and
gods. Back in the day, art was more of a hobby and that too was only for the rich
Everyone had notions about what art can and can not be. Anything that was outside this
box of beliefs was usually not acceptable to the audience. They frowned upon art that
was unique, unusual and abstract. Modern art is the perfect example of how such
absurd notions got thrown away. Several judgments restricted artists from doing what
they really want but Modern Art changed the entire scenario.
Art, as we see it today, is a result of the evolution of centuries. This type of art is not
simple because art was never meant to be modest. Understanding the timelines,
movements and Modern Art as a whole can be tricky. However, we are here to help.
Keep reading to learn everything that you need to know about modern art.
What is Modern Art?
All art created between the 1860s and 1970s is Modern Art. Modern art and the modern
era coincide because this was the time when literature, music, photography, theatre and
other forms of art came to light. Here are some events that contribute to the rise of
•The very first movement was Impressionism. It took place in the mid-1800s and this
was officially the beginning of modern art. Impressionist painters started to paint their
thoughts into poetic and colourful images. This aspect was entirely new because, before
this, the artists had no freedom.
•Next, the French painters accepted a new style of painting which was Fauvism. After
the twentieth century, this was truly a forceful movement by the artists. With the use of
bold and colourful paints, artists decided to break the stereotypical notions about art.
Plus, they are anti-natural paintings to revolt and go against the traditional patterns.
•Dada is another movement that began in the early twentieth century. Artists and literary
societies in Europe, as well as the United States, initiated the movement during and
after World War I. This movement questioned all the beliefs about art and broke them
one by one. Artists put special priority on subjects that were illogical, not rational,
unusual and remarkable.
•Cubism began in the initial twentieth century and is an avant-garde style of art. One of
the best and most popular examples of cubism is the artwork of Pablo Picasso. It
challenged the realistic form of sculptures and the ideal perception of the audience.
•Now it is time for the abstract expressionism movement which took place in the mid-
twentieth century in New York City. As the name suggests itself, artists created abstract
paintings that were bold, colourful, and had a depth and abyss to them. Action paintings
and colour field paintings were the primary focus of this movement.
•Surrealism too was an avant-garde movement of the 1920s. Earlier, art was easily
understandable, rational and made complete sense. With this movement, artists created
paintings that had random images together in strange ways. The paintings were surreal,
that is, they were like dreams, hallucinations and far away from reality. Moreover, this
was the era when artists began to draw their imaginations without worrying about
•In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Minimalism became extremely popular. Less is more
became the highlight of this movement. The focus shifted from bold colours to simplicity
and basic elements of the painting like shapes and lines. Minimalism was a comeback
after abstract expressionism. Clean lines, basic patterns and minimal paintings were the
•Pop Art in the United States and Britain encouraged the artists to borrow images from
pop culture and give them a twist of their own. Optical art was the last movement of the
modern art era. This type of art had non-representational patterns and structures to
create an illusion of movement in the painting. Flashing and warping are some common
examples of op art.
Facts about Modern Art
Before you try to understand modern art, you should know some basics about it. There
are several preconceived notions about this type of art. However, you certainly do not
have to believe them because there are no rules when it comes to art. Remember these
points before exploring the world of modern art:
•Subjective or Objective?
When the era of modern art began, that is, in the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a
lot of chaos. Artists were afraid because more machines like cameras and printers were
making their way into the industry. This was clearly a threat to the artists and they did
whatever they could to survive this. While objectivity was the basic principle of artists
before modern art, this aspect changed entirely here. Artists now focused on subjectivity
and found attainment in their unique and intriguing artwork. No matter how many
movements there were during this time, the artwork of every artist was very different.
•Connecting with the art
Often, individuals find themselves trying to establish a connection with the painting. You
can stand in front of an artwork and try to find its meaning for hours and you will still get
nothing. Artists tried to capture their emotions and sentiments through the brush
strokes, textures and colours of the painting. In simple words, there may be no meaning
in the painting, to begin with. Modern Art broke the chains of creativity so artists could
paint their hearts out. Do not always force yourself to find the meaning of a painting.
Some of them are meant for only observing.
•Developing good taste
Firstly, there is no such thing as good taste or a bad taste in art. It is all about the
connection and emotions that you experience after observing a painting. Every
individual has their own connection because of their inner feelings or past experiences
which makes the painting even special. Therefore, it is not necessary that you must like
a painting by a renowned artist that costs hundreds of dollars. If you witness a painting
by an emerging artist and you feel something instantly, it simply means that the artwork
has caught your heart.
•Solving the paintings
Always remember that an artwork is not a puzzle and you do not have to run behind its
meaning. If a painting looks complicated, it may simply mean that the artist had complex
emotions while creating the artwork. Not everything has to be a mystery. Do not believe
everything that you read or see about artists and paintings. More often than not, there
are no mysteries behind paintings and it is all about finding that special contact with
Characteristics of Modern Art
Modern Art was a widespread trend that consists of numerous artists, movements as
well as nations. Moreover, modern art is not just about cubism or abstract
expressionism, rather it is the unification of all the characteristics that make this type of
art so popular. Let’s look at some significant aspects of modern art.
With the beginning of realist movements, abstract art was all over the place. Every artist
opted for abstract paintings and they celebrated their newfound freedom. From
geometric deconstruction to lyrical abstraction, even the most popular artists of the
world opted emphasized abstraction during that time.
Back in the day, art was all about creating mythological figures, and paintings of animals
and landscapes. However, the modern era made artists realise how their painting is a
statement in themselves. From contemporary issues to important topics in society,
artists conveyed messages through their paintings.
Modern art was the period when artists came out of their floral and romantic paintings
phase. Simple, geometrical and abstract paintings became the highlight like before.
Even if the painting was complex, its foundation was simple and two dimensional.
Modern artists inclined toward minimalist paintings, simple shapes and prominent
The canvas and the artist both had no limits in this era. Expansive art, a type of art that
goes beyond the canvas gained momentum among the artists. When a painting is
expansive, you can feel it and see it in front of you even though there is nothing.
Before the modern era, no one was sure if the paintings had any real value or not. The
scenario changed during the movements and artists made some rules for themselves.
Art had real value now and artists started charging for what they truly deserve. Not only
did they create what they wanted but also recognised the worth of their artwork.
How to understand modern art?
Modern art explores new ways of the world and mirrors the daily life of people. To
appreciate art, you need to understand it first. Art has a straight connection with your
feelings and you just have to discover this relationship.
•Learn about art
Before jumping into this topic, you surely need a little knowledge of the art world. If you
are a beginner, read more about the evolution of art, techniques and colours. Brush up
your facts so you can recognize an art form when you see it. We are not asking you to
become an art geek to understand the paintings. However, you should have a basic
awareness of all these things. This step will make it easier for you to spot the paintings
that you love the most.
•Time and Patience
An artist spends hours, weeks or even years to finish a painting. Respect the artist’s
work by giving it some time. Whether you are looking at a painting in the museum or on
your phone, stare at it carefully. The painting will start to reveal itself to you. Notice how
many layers of colours are present on the painting and if you can see some brush
strokes on it. Texture, colours, lines and shapes, everything plays a significant role in
the painting. Since every artwork deserves time and attention, do stop for a while rather
than quickly browsing through the paintings.
•Reading about the artwork
Before looking at the painting, read about it first. Most artists leave a description for the
viewers so they know the context of the painting. Listening to others and their
explanation of the painting is not a good idea. Let yourself immerse in the experience of
the artwork and see what you feel about it. Also, do not try too hard to know its
meaning. The main purpose of a painting is that you can enjoy it, just like music. Clear
your head and don’t put pressure on yourself to find the purpose of art.
•Know about the artist
Once you are aware of the art movements and basic understanding of the art world,
you should know about the artist as well. Have a look at the previous works of the artist
to see if there are any distinguished brush strokes or techniques that they employ.
Know about their background to understand where the emotions behind the painting
come from. Also, it is important to see the things that they believe in. This will help you
in uncovering the layers and complexity of the painting easily.
•Trust your instincts
Art is personal and it should be free of judgements. If you like something or feel that you
get the meaning of the painting, it is probably true. Everyone has different experiences
with the artwork. While one can see positivity and hope, the other may see suffering in
the same painting. Always trust your instincts in matters of the art.
Modern Art allowed the artists to break open the cage of restrictions and finally do what
they really wish to do. The evolution of art impacts society on a greater level. Redefining
art was only possible because of movements like Modern art. Change and growth are
pillars of our progress.