Modern Art


1900'S - Present What is Modern Art? The definition of "modern" is " of the present or recent times." To apply the term modern to art work now is confusing. Did not artists of the Renaissance apply modern to their work as well? To label the current period of art as Modern Art we can look to the attitudes and characteristics of our modern world and what art means to artist and its viewers today. Modern Art can be viewed as a rapid and radical art style with many variations. Technology brought change to society along with a differing attitude towards art. In older times artists were commissioned by churches or wealthy families, but our times brought about a change that had artists doing "art for art's sake." With the ongoing wars and political upheaval artists found an escape with art. Artists wanted to provide a longer lasting escape from all the world's problems. American artists of this time period were finally recognized as competitive artists and brought the art world looking at art from America. Art now became a movement into a world of color and expression, a world where an apple is only a blotch of red pigment or a toilet is a work of art, leaving more than a few people wondering what can be considered art.


  • Expressionism: Any art that stresses the artist's emotional and psychological expression, often with bold colors and distortions of form. Specifically and art style of the early 20th century followed principally by certain German artists.

  • Impressionism: An art movement which took its name from one particular painting by Claude Monet, Impression: Sunrise of 1872. Arising out of the naturalism of the Realists, as well as an interest in the transitory experience of light and color on objects, Impressionism did two distinct things to painting: it elevated color to the status of subject matter, liberating the artist's marks from previous craft constraints, and it inadvertently asserted painting's relationship to the flat surface.

  • Formalism: The aesthetic arrangement of shapes, colors, and forms . (The formal elements of art)

  • Cubism: The first art movement of the 20th century systematically to reconsider the conventions of painting since the Renaissance. Such work is epitomized by the severe flattening of the space across the picture plane, a consistently inconsistentlight source, and an imploding of the traditional fore-, middle and background areas in painting composition.

  • Surrealism: A literary and visual art movement interested in unleashing and exploring the potential of the human psyche. Loosely based on both Freud's
    and Jung's investigations into the mind, it is also direct heir of earlier
    Dada strategies of unlocking of the unconscious by the use of chance.

  • Pop Art: (Popular Culture)- The elements of society that are recognized by the general public. Popular Culture has the associations of something cheap, fleeting and accessible to all.

  • Abstract Expressionism: A common appelation for the first generation American abstract painting after the Second World War, due to the primary of gesture and color while keeping consistent with the aims of formalism (the all-over application of paint and the dispersal of depth across the surface of the picture plane).

This information was created by Carrie Ann Elkins, April Hall, Genator Hawkins, Danny Hendrix, and Jennifer Payne, students at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.