What is Modern Art.

In the late 19th century, Paul Cézanne, a French oil painter, (known as the father of modern art) became the first artist of his generation to deliberately and successfully break away from Impressionism. Cézanne was a forerunner to Cubism and his work became a catalyst for the abstract art of the 20th century.
cezanne Mont Sainte-Victoire
Paul Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire

1912. CUBISM.

From the Cubism manifest by Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger:
To understand Cézanne is to foresee cubism. Henceforth we are justified in saying that between this school and previous manifestations there is only a difference of intensity, and that in order to assure ourselves of this we have only to study the methods of this realism, which, departing from the superficial reality of Courbet, plunges with Cézanne into profound reality, growing luminous as it forces the unknowable to retreat.

Some maintain that such a tendency distorts the curve of tradition. Do they derive their arguments from the future or the past? The future does not belong to them, as far as we are aware, and one be singularly ingenuous to seek to measure that which exists by that which exists no longer.
Unless we are to condemn all modern painting, we must regard cubism as legitimate, for it continues modern methods, and we should see in it the only conception of pictorial art now possible. In other words, at this moment cubism is painting. Cubism began with Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.

Artists of “Cubism”: Adler, Jankel, Archipenko, Alexander, Braque, Georges, Delaunay, Robert, Duchamp-Villon, Raymond, Fauconnier, Henri le, Gris, Juan, Laurens, Henri, Leger, Fernand, Lipchitz, Jacques, Marcoussis, Louis, Metzinger, Jean, Picasso, Pablo, Rozanova, Olga, Udaltsova, Nadezhda Andreevna

Cubism paintings by George Braque and Pablo Picasso. What is Modern Art. Modern Art Explained.

1909. Futurism.

Early 20th-century artistic movement that centred in Italy and emphasized the dynamism, speed, energy, and power of the machine and the vitality, change, and restlessness of modern life in general. The most significant results of the movement were in the visual arts and poetry.

From The Futurist Manifesto by F. T. Marinetti.

  1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
  2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
  3. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and
    slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the
    double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.

  4. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new
    beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with
    great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which
    seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of

  5. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the
    earth, itself hurled along its orbit.

  6. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to
    increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.

  7. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an
    aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the
    unknown, to force them to bow before man.

  8. We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of
    looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the
    impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the
    absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.

  9. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism,
    patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas
    which kill, and contempt for woman.

  10. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and
    all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.

  11. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt;
    the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the
    nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent
    electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents;
    factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with
    the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers:
    adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing
    on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the
    gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a
    flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds.

Artists of “Futurism”: Acquaviva, Giovanni, Azari, Fedele, Baldessari, Iras, Baldessari, Luciano, Balla, Giacomo, Barbieri, Osvaldo, Boccioni, Umberto, Bragaglia, Carlo, Bragaglia, Anton, Burliuk, David, Cangiullo, Francesco, Cappa, Benedetta, Carra, Carlo, Depero, Fortunato, Dottori, Gerardo, Goncharova, Natalia, Khlebnikov, Velimir, Kruchenykh, Alexei, Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso, Matiushin, Mikhail, Mayakovski, Vladimir, Munari, Bruno, Popova, Liubov, Prampolini, Enrico, Russolo, Luigi, Sassu, Aligi, Severini, Gino, Sironi, Mario, Soffici, Ardengo, Wulz, Wanda

Boccioni, Carra, Balla. What is Modern Art. Modern Art Explained.

1905. Expressionism.

In 1905, a group of four German artists, led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, formed Die Brücke (the Bridge) in the city of Dresden. This was arguably the founding organization for the German Expressionist movement.
Its manifesto, a call to the youth of the future, was limited to two sentences, and its programme was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s work. The Brücke developed a unified painting style, which served as an expression of their communal way of life. It was characterised by a spontaneous and fluid style – applied in broad sweeps, and complementary colour contrasts. Their goal was to find new ways of artistic expression and to disengage from the traditional style of the academies.

Artists of “Die Brucke”: Amiet, Cuno, Heckel, Erich, Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig, Moilliet, Louis, Mueller, Otto, Munch, Edvard, Nolde, Emil, Pechstein, Max, Schmidt-Rottluff, Karl

die brucke art
Edvard Munch, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. What is Modern Art. Modern Art Explained.

1911. Der Blaue Reiter.

The artists of the Blue Riders movement believed that colors, shapes and forms had equivalence with sounds and music, and sought to create color harmonies which would be purifying to the soul.
the artists shared a common desire to express spiritual truths through their art. They believed in the promotion of modern art; the connection between visual art and music; the spiritual and symbolic associations of colour; and a spontaneous, intuitive approach to painting. It took its name from a painting by Kandinsky, Le cavalier bleu. Following the Brücke artists of the previous decade, this second wave of expressionism was led by Kandinsky, Klee, Marc, and Macke, in Munich. They sought to discover spiritual truths that they felt the impressionists had overlooked. Less united stylistically and as a group than the Brücke, their art ranged from the pure abstractions of Kandinsky to the romantic imagery of Marc.

Artists of “Blaue Reiter”: Beckmann, Max, Bloch, Albert, Campendonck, Heinrich, Jawlensky, Alexej von, Kandinsky, Wassily, Klee, Paul, Macke, August, Marc, Franz, Werefkin, Marianne von

blaue reiter
Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Max Beckman. What is Modern Art. Modern Art Explained.

1916. Dada.

An excerpt from “Dada Manifesto 1918” by Tristan Tzara.
Philosophy is the question: from which side shall we look at life, God, the idea, or other phenomena. Everything one looks at is false. I do not consider the relative result more important than the choice between cake and cherries after dinner. The system of quickly looking at the other side of a thing in order to impose your opinion indirectly is called dialectics, in other words, haggling over the spirit of fried potatoes while dancing method around it.
If I cry out:
Ideal, ideal, ideal,
Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge,
Boomboom, boomboom, boomboom.

DADA Manifesto 1918 by Richard Huelsenbeck.
What did Expressionism want?
It ” wanted” something, that much remains characteristic of it. Dada wants nothing, Dada grows. Expressionism wanted inwardness, it conceived of itself as a reaction against the times, while Dadaism is nothing but an expression of the times. Dada is one with the times, it is a child of the present epoch which one may curse, but cannot deny. Dada has taken the mechanisation, the sterility, the rigidity and the tempo of these times into its broad lap, and in the last analysis it is nothing else and in no way different from them. Expressionism is not spontaneous action. It is the gesture of tired people who wish to escape themselves and forget the present, the war and the misery. To this end they invented “humanity,” and walked versifying and psalmodysing along streets on which the escalators rise and descend and the telephones ring shrilly. The Expressionists are tired people who have turned their backs on nature and do not dare look the cruelty of the epoch in the face. They have forgotten how to be daring. Dada is daring per se, Dada exposes itself to the risk of its own death. Dada puts itself at the heart of things. Expressionism wanted to forget itself, Dada wants to affirm itself. Expressionism was harmonious, mystic, angelic, Baaderish-Superdadaist — Dada is the scream of brakes and the bellowing of the brokers at the Chicago Stock Exchange. Vive Dada!
The execution and direction of art depends on the times in which it lives, and artists are creatures of their epoch. The highest art will be that whose mental content represents the thousandfold problems of the day, which has manifestly allowed itself to be torn apart by the explosions of last week, and which is forever trying to gather up its limbs after the impact of yesterday. The best and most unprecedented artists will be those who continuously snatch the tatters of their bodies out of the chaos of life’s cataracts, clutching the intellectual zeitgeist and bleeding from hands and hearts.
Has Expressionism fulfilled our expectations of such an art, one which represents our most vital concerns?
No! No! No!
Have the Expressionists fulfilled our expectations of an art that brands the essence of life into our flesh?
No! No! No!

Artists of “Dada”: Aragon, Louis, Arp, Jean, Baader, Johannes, Baargeld, Johannes Theodor, Ball, Hugo, Blumenfeld, Erwin, Breton, Andre, Charchoune, Serge, Crotti, Jean, Doesburg, Theo van, Doesburg, Nelly van, Duchamp, Marcel, Duchamp – Crotti, Suzanne, Eggeling, Viking, Eluard, Paul, Ernst, Max, Freytag-Loringhoven , Elsa von, Grosz, George, Hausmann, Raoul, Heartfield, John, Hennings, Emmy, Herzfelde, Wieland, Hoch, Hannah, Huelsenbeck, Richard, Hugnet, Georges, Janco, Marcel, Johnson, Ray, Picabia, Francis, Ray, Man, Richter, Hans, Rinsema, Thijs, Schad, Christian, Schamberg, Morton, Soupault, Philippe, Taeuber-Arp, Sophie, Tzara, Tristan


Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Theo van Doesburg. What is Modern Art. Modern Art Explained.

1924. Surrealism.

From Le Manifeste du Surréalisme by Andre Breton:
Within the limits to which its performance is restricted (or what passes for performance), the dream, according to all outward appearances, is continuous and bears traces of organization. Only memory claims the right to edit it, to suppress transitions and present us with a series of dreams rather than the dream. Similarly, at no given instant do we have more than a distinct representation of realities whose co-ordination is a matter of will.(1) It is important to note that nothing leads to a greater dissipation of the constituent elements of the dream. I regret discussing this according to a formula which in principle ex- cludes the dream. For how long, sleeping logicians, philosophers? I would like to sleep in order to enable myself to surrender to sleepers, as I surrender to those who read me with their eyes open, in order to stop the conscious rhythm of my thought from prevailing over this material. Perhaps my dream of last night was a continuation of the preceding night’s, and will be continued tonight with an admirable precision. It could be, as they say. And as it is in no way proven that, in such a case, the ‘reality’ with which I am concerned even exists in the dream state, or that it does not sink into the immemorial, then why should I not concede to the dream what I sometimes refuse to reality – that weight of self-assurance which by its own terms is not exposed to my denial? Why should I not expect more of the dream sign than I do of a daily increasing degree of consciousness? Could not the dreams as well be applied to the solution of life’s fundamental problems? Are these problems the same in one case as in the other, and do they already exist in the dream? Is the dream less oppressed by sanctions than the rest? I am growing old and, perhaps more than this reality to which I believe myself confined, it is the dream, and the detachment that I owe to it, which is ageing me.

I return to the waking state. I am obliged to retain it as a phenomenon of interference. Not only does the mind show a strange tendency to disorientation under these conditions (this is the clue to slips of the tongue and lapses of all kinds whose secret is just beginning to be surrendered to us), but when function- ing normally the mind still seems to obey none other than those suggestions which rise from that deep night I am commending. Sound as it may be, its equilibrium is relative. The mind hardly dares express itself and, when it does, is limited to stating that this idea or that woman has an effect on it. What effect it cannot say; thus it gives the measure of its subjectivism and nothing more. The idea, the woman, disturbs it, disposes it to less severity. Their role is to isolate one second of its discappearance and remove it to the sky in that glorious acceleration that it can be, that it is. Then, as a last resort, the mind invokes chance – a more obscure divinity than the others – to whom it attributes all its aberrations. Who says that the angle from which that idea is presented which affects the mind, as well as what the mind loves in that woman’s eye, is not precisely the same thing that attracts the mind to its dream and reunites it with data lost through its own error? And if things were otherwise, of what might the mind not be capable? I should like to present it with the key to that passage.

The mind of the dreaming man is fully satisfied with whatever happens to it. The agonizing question of possibility does not arise. Kill, plunder more quickly, love as much as you wish. And if you die, are you not sure of being roused from the dead? Let yourself be led. Events will not tolerate deferment. You have no name. Everything Is inestimably easy. Artists of “Surrealism.surrealism
Hans Belmer, Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali. What is Modern Art. Modern Art Explained.

1946. Abstract Expressionism.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, around the outbreak of World War II, many Surrealists fled Europe and settled in New York. Their interest in unmediated expression to reach the absolute soon influenced a young generation of painters struggling to find a voice for American art. The new movement, which became known as Abstract Expressionism, was heavily indebted to the ideas of the European pioneers of abstraction, including Vasily Kandinsky, whose work was championed in influenced a young generation of painters struggling to find a voice for American art. The new movement, which became known as Abstract Expressionism, was heavily indebted to the ideas of the European pioneers of abstraction.

Gottlieb and Rothko in the Abstract Expressionist Manifesto: To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explained only by those willing to take risks. This world of the imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense. It is our function as artists to make the spectator see the world our way – not his way. We favour the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth. We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.

Artists of “Abstract Expressionism”: Kooning, Elaine de, Kooning, Willem de, Krasner, Lee, Mitchell, Joan, Motherwell, Robert, Newell, Roy, Passlof, Pat, Pollock, Jackson, Roos, Aart, Rothko, Mark, Slivka, David, Smith, David, Sterne, Hedda, Still, Clyfford, Tomlin, Bradley Walker, Tworkov, Jack

abstract expressionism
Willem de Kooning, Marc Rothko, Jackson Pollock. What is Modern Art. Modern Art Explained.

1948. CoBrA.

It was in the Paris café Notre Dame that Asger Jorn (from Copenhagen), Joseph Noiret and Christian Dotremont (from Brussels) and Constant, Corneille and Karel Appel (from Amsterdam) signed the manifesto ‘La Cause était entendue’ (The Case was Heard). This manifesto, drawn up by Dotremont, was a response to a statement by the French Surrealists entitled ‘La Cause est entendue’. Their aim was to have art made for and by everyone, irrespective of class, race, intellect and educational level. Jorn, Dotremont and Constant aspired to an art form that spontaneously evolved out of the artist’s fantasy.

Artists of “Cobra”: Alechinsky, Pierre, Alfelt, Else, Appel, Karel, Balle, Mogens, Bille, Ejler, Brands, Eugene, Bury, Pol, Corneille Guillaume, Cox, Jan, d’Haese, Reinhoud, Diederen, Jef, Dotremont, Christian, Gaag, Lotti van der, Gilbert, Stephen, Gudnason, Svavar, Heerup, Henry, Heusch, Luc de, Jacobsen, Robert, Jorn, Asger, Kouwenaar, Gerrit, >Lindstrom, Bengt, Lucebert, Nieuwenhuijs, Jan, Nieuwenhuys, Constant, Noiret, Joseph, Ortvad, Erik, Pedersen, Carl-Henning, Rooskens, Anton, Tajiri, Shinkichi, Thommesen, Erik, Vandercam, Serge, Wemaere, Pierre, Wolvecamp, Theo

cobra art
Karel Appel, Asger Jorn, Pierre Aechinsky. What is Modern Art. Modern Art Explained.