Modern art movement is defined as art created between the 1860s and the 1970s. Art has always reflected the society and culture in which we live. It has a powerful emotional impact on people; it can educate them and break down cultural, social, and economic barriers. Each image tells a story and exemplifies the artist’s passion. With each wave of social change, the population’s overwhelming emotions were channeled into a visual form of art. Significant changes occurred at the turn of the twentieth century in both world affairs and art. The artists experimented with new and fresh ideas while putting aside traditions.

Introduction of Modern Art

Modern art is said to have emerged at the end of the nineteenth century. These origins, however, can be traced back further. The year 1863, when Édouard Manet exhibited his painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe in Paris’ Salon des Refusés, is perhaps most commonly identified as the birth of modern art. The Romantics, Realists, and Impressionists were the forefathers of modern art. By the late nineteenth century, two more influential movements in Modern art had emerged: post-Impressionism and Symbolism. The roots of Modern art lie with the pioneers of early Impressionists and Realists like Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet in the late 19th century. Artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Cezanne dominated the Rise of Modern Art in the twentieth century.

Art Movement: Modern art - Sheet1
Impressionist painting by Claude
Art Movement: Modern art - Sheet2
Realism by Gustave

French artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse – Lautrec emphasized the expression of emotions and sensations through light and color. Van Gogh’s paintings reflected his feelings about the subject matter, which he expressed through saturated colors, forms, and broad brushstrokes. The hunger to be different and unique in the post-impressionist era led to the development and emergence of future art movements like Fauvism and Cubism. The Fauvism movement lasted only three years (1905-1908), yet it had a lasting impression on the modern art movement led by artists Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. Fauvism, an avant-garde art movement of the 20th century, brought about a splash of vivid colors with a heightened sense of emotionalism while capturing the landscapes and still-life. 

Art Movement: Modern art - Sheet3
Starry night by Vincent Van
Art Movement: Modern art - Sheet4
Painting by Fauvist Henri

Development and Rise of Modern Art

Art movements like Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Futurism flourished in the era of Modern Art. Cubism, one of the most well-known Modern Art movements, is synonymous with Pablo Picasso. Cubism was one of the most challenging arts introduced as an alternative to classical perspective paintings. Cubists abandoned previous conventions in favor of emphasizing the canvas’s flat dimensionality. Song of Love (1914) is one of Giorgio de Chirico’s most famous works and an early example of the surrealist style, even though it was painted ten years before the movement was founded by André Breton in 1924. 

Art Movement: Modern art - Sheet5
The Song of Love by Giorgio de
Andre Breton
Andre Breton

World War I ended this period, but it also marked the beginning of several anti-art movements, including Dada which included the work of Marcel Duchamp, and Surrealism. The Dada movement’s art included collage, sound poetry, cut-up writing, and sculpture, as well as visual, literary, and sound media. Dadaist artists expressed their dissatisfaction with violence, war, and nationalism while remaining politically allied with radical left-wing and far-left politics. Artist collectives such as de Stijl and Bauhaus pioneered new ideas about the relationship between the arts, architecture, design, and art education.

Fall of Modern Art

Modernism was a reaction to the rapidly changing conditions of life brought about by industrialization and the outbreak of war, with artists seeking new working techniques and materials to better capture this change. Abstract Expressionism, Conceptual Artists of Art & Language, Pop Art, Minimal art, Lyrical Abstraction, Video Art, Postminimalism, Photorealism, and other movements emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. Land art, Performance art, Conceptual art, and other new art forms captured the attention of curators and critics in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As technology started to take over, the emerging population turned to video art and performance art, leading to the so-called end of the painting era. Toward the end of the twenty first century, several artists and architects began challenging the concept of “the modern,” producing typical Postmodern works.

Significant personalities

Many different artistic movements embraced the rejection of traditionalism and the introduction of modernity within the Modernism paintings created during the expansive period of Modern Art. Pablo Picasso was one of them. He is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, having co-founded the Cubist movement, invented constructed sculpture, co-invented collage, and helped develop and explore a wide range of styles. Even though his Cubist works approach abstraction, Picasso never abandoned real-world objects as subject matter. Guitars, violins, and bottles are prominent in his Cubist paintings. 

Girl with a mandolin by Pablo
Girl with a mandolin by Pablo

Another artist renowned for his brilliant technical skill in creating bizarre and jaw-dropping images of the century is Salvador Dali. From a young age, he was drawn to Cubism and avant-garde movements after being influenced by Impressionism and Renaissance masters. In the late 1920s, he became more interested in Surrealism and joined the Surrealist group in 1929, quickly becoming one of its leading exponents. He created his best-known Surrealist artwork, The Persistence of Memory, in 1931. Dali’s work featured food and animals, as well as science and technology. His soft watches have been interpreted as references to Albert Einstein’s time and space relativity theory.

References :

  1. Dieter Wanczura. (6/29/2001). Modern Art Movements.

Available at : 

  1. Mic Anderson. 10 Modernist Art Movements.

            Available at : 

  1. Wikipedia. (Last updated May 2022). Modern Art.

            Available at : 

  1. Artincontext. (March 7, 2022). Modern Art – An Exploration of the 20th-Century Modernist Movement

Available at : 


Poornima is an architect from the city of Pune. Being a heritage enthusiast, she loves to explore the various threads of architecture, culture, and ecology that tie a community. She hopes to bring about a change in the perception of development in India.