History of Modern Art

It's fashionable to view the evolution of modern art as a line unrolling toward greater abstraction, culminating in Minimalism. Here are the main schools of modern art, which are mostly after-the-fact groupings based on artists' similar aims and styles.

1. Post-Impressionism (1880-1905): Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat. Provided the starting point for 20th-century art. Emphasized distorting reality for expressive purposes rather than accuracy. Pioneered new spirit of subjective response.

2. Fauvism (1904-8): Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck. Art of ''Fauves,'' which means ''wild beasts,'' linked to unnatural use of color as a personal approach to a scene, such as tomato-red trees and lemon-yellow sky.

3. Expressionism (1905-30): (Inspired by Munch) Kirchner, Kokoschka, Schiele, Nolde. Insisted art should express artist's feelings, used distorted, angular forms and garish colors for emotional impact.

4. Cubism (1908-16): Picasso, Braque, Leger, Gris. Established principle expressed by Leger: ''Art consists of inventing and not copying.'' Analyzed form by breaking objects into faceted planes; later introduced ''real'' world into art by creating collages with wallpaper, newsprint.

5. Futurism (1909-18): Boccioni, Severini, Balla. Glorified machine age of speed, violence, war. Tried to express propulsion through overlapping images of object traveling through space, as in time-lapse photo.

6. Dada (1916-22) and Surrealism (1924-41): Duchamp, Arp, Schwitters, Miro, Ernst, Dali, Magritte. Rebelled against reason and traditional values, which had led to horror of war. Based art on the unconscious, cultivated through nonrational improvisation, dream, fantasy.

7. Abstract Expressionism (mid-1940s through '50s): Pollock, De Kooning, Kline, Motherwell, Still, Rothko, Newman. Abstract image was unpremeditated product of creative process. Art came from within rather than without. Joan Mitchell: ''The painting tells me what to do.''

8. Pop (1960 to early '70s): (Inspired by Rauschenberg, Johns) Lichtenstein, Warhol, Rosenquist, Oldenburg. Sendup of popular culture. Reacted against intensity of Abstract Expressionists by portraying ordinary objects like soup cans and comic-book figures in style borrowed from mass reproduction.

Having arrived at a pinnacle of self-effacement, art had nowhere to go but backwards. The Post-Modern era was born in the late 1970s when faith in progress faltered. The ecology movement ushered in an attitude that ''new'' is not always ''improved.'' Exploration of tradition, irony, and the reintroduction of subject matter followed. Artists became entrepreneurs rather than visionaries, and the modernist era ended not with a bang but a buck.


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