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Modern Art and the Compexities Involved


Modern art is typically thought to have started in the late 19th century and was a prominent form of art until the mid to late 20th century, typically understood to have ended around the 1970s. There are many different subgenres within the Modern art style, including Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Surrealism, Cubism and Pop art, which can make it challenging to create a specific definition of the larger genre. A working definition of the form should include the ideas of the then new approach to art, which focused on emphasizing and representing emotions, themes and various abstractions in more or less nonrealistic ways, as is evident in the various subgenres.

One of the first categories within Modern art is Impressionism, which began to be exhibited publicly in the 1860s and included, most notably, Claude Monet. Some of the most distinct factors within Impressionist paintings were, first, that the artists took their work outdoors, outside of the commonly used studios and into the actual world, finding that they could capture the fleeting and temporary effects of sunlight by painting outdoors. Most artists of that time used their studios not only for portraits and still lifes, but landscape paintings as well. Secondly, one of the main distinguishing aspects of Impressionist paintings from other art forms was what gave the genre its name, that is that artists, instead of physically mixing the paints, such as red and blue to make purple on a pallet. Instead, the artists would leave the paints unmixed and place the colors side by side on the canvas, thus creating the “impression” of purple as the colors blend in the eye of the viewer.

Post-Impressionism was both an extension and rejection of its predecessor in that the artists continued to use vibrant colors, thick applications of paint, distinctive brushstrokes and real-life subject matter, but also rejected some of the more stringent limitations the former genre included. Arguably, the most famous artist within Post-Impressionism is Vincent Van Gogh, who used vivid color and vibrant swirling brush strokes to express his feelings and state of mind. Both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism sought to create realistic paintings of modern life that emphasized vivid overall effects rather than specific, realistic details.

Likewise, the Surrealism, Cubism and Pop art genres within Modern art focus less on representing the actual details and more on the overarching feelings, emotions, subtleties and commonalities between the actual image, and that found in the art. For example, surrealism, which is closely related to the dada movement, relied heavily on Sigmund Freud’s ideas of free association and subsequently liberating the mind and imagination to create in a subconscious manner that abandoned strict form.

Similarly, Pablo Picasso, through Cubism, abandoned the strict realistic representation and broke images down into square blocks, representing the universal forms and commonality of everything. One of the fundamental ideas behind the cube was the ideological understanding of time as a cube. Whereas in most Western understandings of time are linear, with a past, a present event and a future, Cubists believed that an event was in the center of a cube. Two sides were the event's past and future; two more sides were one specific person's past and future as related to that event. The remaining sides connected all of these pasts and futures together, and these connections are what Cubist painters strove to capture in their paintings.

Submitted by:

Nathan Jelovich

Nathan Jelovich is a researcher for http://www.imagekind.com where he writes exstenivley on different art styles and genres.





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