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Styles & Periods
Modernism

Modern art is an often used, but seldom-defined term; it’s even more rarely understood. Many museums use the word “modern” in their titles, the most famous of all being the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The most obvious difficulty with defining Modern art lies in the inherent fact that any art made is, at that moment, modern. This aside, there are a handful of agreed upon geneses of Modern art, and therefore some defining characteristics. There is always, in modern art, a questioning of ideals, techniques and reasons for making art, when compared to its predecessors. The most accepted starting point of Modern art is precisely the year 1863, when members of the Parisian art community were refused at the Salon of the Academy, and therefore mounted the Salon des Refusés, the Salon of the Refused. It is important to understand the artists involved, namely Édouard Manet. He had painted pictures so radically different as to seem at the time to have no connection to the traditions of art. In his painting Manet demonstrated liberation from the subject so that the actual act of painting could be highlighted. A trademark of modern work is its constant questioning of what makes an object art. Defining movements of the 20th century, including Surrealism, Pop Art, and Abstract Expressionism, were forged from the basic tenets on which Modernism emerged. As long as artists continue to break from conventional aesthetics and redefine the standards by which art is valued, the spirit of Modernism lives.


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