For centuries artists enjoyed their place serving the Church, the aristocracy and current public conventions or tradition.
Their handiwork decorated castles, stately homes and Churches with allegorical, mythological and religious subject matter.
But towards the end of the 18th century things began to change. It was in fact the French Revolution of 1789 which caused the shift. The Modern era unfolded in its shadow. Under the mantra of liberty, equality and fraternity, society was irrevocably transformed.
Art had become a subject like philosophy and was open to be discussed.
Artists became self conscious and self reliant. They were no longer constrained by a preconceived style, subject matter or technique. They critically examined existing conventions and created new possibilities for art.
From the late 18th century many artists and art movements arose which challenged traditional thinking about painting, It is widely believed that Modern Art began with the work of the Frenchman, Paul Cezanne. (1839 - 1906)
He built upon the new techniques developed by his predeccesors (like the Impressionists), and together with this tried to recapture a sense of order and clarity. His efforts opened the way for Cubism which reformed painting even more. Many more movements followed, all challenging and transforming the act of painting in their own way.
By the late 1960's,and early 1970's artists began to experiment with new media, such as video and performance and moved away from painting. It is here then, where Modernism is said to have ended and a new era begun.
What is Contemporary Art?
Contemporary art is simply the art created in our lifetime.
The subject matter explored is considered to be the most socially conscious,of any previous era. And the techniques employed reflect everyday life. Artists use video, multimedia, nature, music and more, to express their ideas.