The Development of Modernism Essay

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The Development of Modernism Essay

=Modernism was a movement that was introduced to challenge the classic and traditional forms of art. Through a wide range of experimental and avant-garde trends people were able to create their own individual styles and pictures through their own techniques. It also gave people a freedom of expression. Modernism represented the feelings, emotion and change that were occurring during this time of industrial revolution and discovery. Through modernism, artists were able to paint what was happening at the time without the strict rules and eventually learnt to disregard the “right way” to paint at the time. Modernism was built up on the related movements being Romanticism, Realism, Neo-Classicism, Impressionism, and Post-impressionism, Symbolism, Fauvism, German expressionism and Cubism. Among this there was Futurism, Suprematism and Abstraction.

It is believed that Modernism began during the late 19th century and continued on through to the 20th century. Modernism, as said before, was influence through the events of the time such as Growing cities, population and globalisation

The French Revolution- Artists like Eugene Delacroix and Jacque-Louis David, both painting in the style of romanticism and neo-classism. The Industrial Revolution- The building of the Eiffel Tower had a great influence on artists and is said to have helped started the modernist movement This then lasted all the way up to WWI, which was then also documented by artist and, through modernism; they were able to portray their feelings towards WWI and these past events in their own way.

All of the movements were heavily influenced by The Industrial Revolution from 1750 to 1850. A great example of the use of industry in art was the Emile Levassor; Pioneering car inventor, racer, and victor of the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris 1895 monument. This monument was raised On November 26, 1907, square Parodi, boulevard de l’Amiral Buix in Paris XVI and reflected the great automobile feat of enduring 48 continuous hours of virtually nonstop driving by Emile Levassor. It is considered one of the greatest tributes ever erected to an automobile driver.


There are many great examples of artists that painted to this genre. Eugene Delacroix was famous for his painting during the French Revolution, in particular Liberty Leading the People (1834). Delacroix portrayed through his picture the emotions of the people of France felt during this great time of conflict and enlightenment, as well as integrating that same rigid and classic look that is Neo-classism, similarly to Jacque- Louis David’s’ painting Oath of Horatii. (1784) Other Romanticists at the time, also considered a realist, was the Spanish artist Goya, who painted the horrors that he saw in his day- Los Caprichos (1799-1800) and Caspar David Friedrich’s, who painted more about mans relationship with nature Cloister Cemetery in the Snow (1817-19). Friedrich said “A painter should not only paint what he sees before him, but what is inside him,”


Realism was an attempt of combining Romanticism and Neo-classism, by portraying the “real”, what was happening as it was happening all in a single painting. Realism reached its peak of popularity during the 1850’s, when the first camera was made. The use of camera gave realists the ability to actually capture the moment as it happened. Realism’s main focus was to bring about awareness of the lower class, the working class. Paintings such as Courbet’s The Stonebreakers (1847) and Millet’s The Gleaners (1857), struck controversy among the higher class, afraid that pictures like these ones would influence society and disturb their already fragile position. Courbet’s artwork Burial at Ornans (1849-50), a painting of his grandfather’s funeral, bothered the academy of art and was considered by them incorrect, and though it was allowed into the gallery in 1850 it was removed in 1855 due to the controversy.

Edouard Manet aided the goal of bringing prominent problems of society in his painting The Absinthe Drinker (1858). He then sparked much controversy on his painting Luncheon on the Grass (1863), which not only showed a naked lady but, going by the academy, also used too harsher lighting and incorrect perspective. A photographer and printer of the time Daumier several works that stand out. His most famous of these photographs was his Rue Transnonian, April 15, 1834, a photograph of the aftermath of an army massacre of innocents in an apartment building. Writing of this print, Charles Baudelaire, a French poet, said, “In this cold attic, all is silence and death…It is history, reality, both trivial and terrible.”


Impressionism was the interest in light and the way that humans saw it. Impressionists would bring there are to the public, trying to find different was through their own techniques that would portray their interpretation of nature, light, and contemporary society. A popular example of impressionism was Monet’s Impression: Sunrise (1872). Monet and Renoir were renowned impressionist of the time with Monet’s Rouen Cathedral under varying weather conditions, displaying Monet’s intense interest in light, so much so that it became the main focus of the painting, while Renoir focused mainly sculptures on how light effects the look of humans, with one of his well known paintings Le Moulin de la Galette (1879). The two prominent female impressionists, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassat, though fist rejected by the Academy, grew in popularity as they depicted the jobs and difficulties that woman had to face during this period of time.

Post- Impressionism

Post- Impressionism is seen as splitting from Impressionism in two ways, further into the study of light and the study of emotion. Georges Seurat in his A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-86) picture is an example of a post-impressionist artist that went in the direction of the further studying of light. He wanted to observe how humans perceived nature through its different colours and lights and then attempted to translate this to the easel creating the painting mentioned above. Van Gough on the other hand dealt with the emotional side of Impressionism. By applying thick coats of paint to create The Night Cafe (1888) he was able to express volumes of emotional content in a single painting. Not only did Van Gogh explore the different ways of colour, he also tried to portray through his paintings a state of mind, this being visible in his artwork The Starry Night (1889).


Symbolism explored religion and personal conflicts, such as the difficulties and pains of being human, and how humans torment themselves and their abilities to do terrible things; this was popular during the late 19th century, examples of this being Rodin’s The Gates of Hell (1880-1917) and The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch.


Fauvism, meaning “wild beasts,” was a style of painting inspired by Van Gough’s use of colour. The leader of this movement was Henri Matisse, who worked to free colour in his work. Matisse’s first work was Luxe, Calm, et volupte (1904), and from this is art evolved into one of his other famous works The Open Window at Colliure (1905). Matisse’s style was considered almost sketch like, with a combination of bright colours. His artworks were first thought to be somewhat primitive, but grew in popularity over the years.

German Expressionism

The German Expressionist movement consisted of mainly two groups The Bridge and The Blue Rider. Dir Brucke was made up of four German architect students that were inspired by some of Van Gough’s work and made their own The Squatting Woman (1910), by Heckel, and Nudes (1910) by Kirchner. Die Blaue Reiter, led by Kadinsky endorsed the idea of improvisation. Living in Germany at the time of the outbreak of war Kadinsky painted many pictures of WWI.


Cubism was considered to be more on the intellectual side than the emotional side. This movement was led by Picasso and Braque who worked together to create arts that would break down the forms of objects, and in later works would even discard colour and would produce nearly unrecognisable drawings of objects. The first cubist work was Picasso’s Damoiselles D’avignon (1907). This painting of the inside of a brothel was shocking for audiences. Braque’s The Portuguese and Picasso’s Ma Jolie (both 1911) were both significant artworks contributing to the history of cubism. Paul Cezanne, always asked the question “Is this I see?” when painting his pictures, during the cubist movement.

These stages and movements are what makes up modernism, and how art is what it is today, if it were not for the belief and constant strive towards being different and the need for these artists to act upon their individuality, the art of today would be a very different story.

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