Many events led to the development of Modern Art - art of the late 1700s to the present day.
Historically speaking, the "Modern Era" begins with Neoclassicism (1750-1850) and moves through Romanticism (to 1900), Realism (1849-1870), the Pre-Raphaelites (1848-1853); Impressionism (1868-1910); Post-Impressionism (1886-1920); Fauvism (1903-1907); Cubism (1905-1939) and beyond...
Here - in no particular order, are five events/concepts that contributed to the development of Modern Art as we now know it.
Gustave Courbet's The Stone Breakers
|Gustave Courbet, The Stone Breakers, 1849 |
Destroyed in 1945
This painting shows two men, struggling to make their living, literally taking large stones and cracking them down into smaller stones. We can't see their faces - we only know that they are workers... real people, doing real honest to goodness work. This painting - created in 1849 - was one of the very first to actually show real people doing real things in the here and now. Prior to this, most painters followed in the footsteps of earlier artists - depicting historical occurrences from years before. They simply updated old themes. After this painting by Gustave Courbet, artists began to paint the here and now. This truly was the beginning of Modern Art as we know it today.
|Edgar Degas, Ecole de danse (Dance School), 1873|
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington
The word photography was first uttered by Sir John Herschel. The year was 1839 and it was then that the invention of the photographic process was made public. Photography was a major influence on artists because for the first time, a moment could be captured instantly and portraits could be created with a camera, rather than with a brush and paint. Artists like Edgar Degas were influenced greatly by photography. Degas painted "objects in motion" almost as though a snapshot had been taken of the scene. He painted sections or slices of life the way a camera captures a moment in time. Photography contributed to the development of Modern Art because artists now had a new reason for creating - they wanted to see if they could they duplicate what a camera could do.
Plein Air Painting
|Camille Pissarro, Les chataigniers a Osny (The Chestnut Trees at Osny), 1873|
Plein Air Painting was essentially the painting of an object, person or setting, in the outdoors. Artists would (for the first time) work outside and make many sketches of - among other things - how natural light affected the subject they happened to be painting. Often, these sketches would be taken back to the studio where the artist would work them into a larger piece. A common method of painting today. A revolutionary concept in the late 1800s. The Impressionists in particular studied the effects of light and color in natural, outdoor settings.
|Paul Gauguin, Vision After the Sermon, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 1888|
National Gallery of Scotland
Cloisonism was the art of outlining an object and then coloring it in using one, flat color - much as in a child's coloring book. The objects would then appear very much like flat paper cut-outs with little or no form. Paul Gauguin's paintings feature wonderful examples of cloisonism. In Gauguin's painting "The Vision After the Sermon" taken after Emile-Henri Bernard's painting "Breton Women in a Meadow", colors hold very definite meanings. The ground was red which in this case symbolized the shedding of blood. With cloisonism, solid forms were painted with "odd" colors so that one thing could actually mean another. This was important in the development of Modern Art because it allowed artists an opportunity to express "hidden" views within their work.
Art for Art's Sake
|Édouard Manet, Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe, 1863|
Musee d'Orsay, Paris
That's yours truly on the right. I was more impressed than I look. Really.
In the late 1800s, many artists (such as Manet and Whistler) were shouting "art for art's sake". What did it mean? Well, essentially, artists were starting to break free from society. The Church and Monarchy were not important patrons anymore so the artists were no longer needed to glorify them. Artists were now able to flaunt their own individual creativity without having to worry about what society thought. They were literally painting art for its own sake. This point was driven home in 1863 when Édouard Manet painted "Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe" - a painting that would later become an integral part of the Modern Art movement.