Modern Art Humans have always expressed themselves through art. It has always been a form of communication even before handwriting. In modern times it has become as complex as life itself. From paintings in caves to the intricacy of the Sistine Chapel, art has always reflected what impacts life the most. As we know, since the birth of first civilizations, religious beliefs, governments, wars and even nature itself have shaped the world as we know it today. Along with the development of society, art has also evolved with capturing moments, feelings and emotions, historical events, ideas, objects and all of what the world was then. In modern times it has become as complex as life itself.
At the beginning of the 20th-century, art was always represented by images, yet it was in the 19th-century with the rise of technology and the impact it had, resulting in the blast of modernism. Modernism describes a drastic change in art, architecture, photography, music, literature, and the applied arts. As Modern Art intertwined with daily life, it was used to express the social and political issues through movements like Fauvism, Expressionism, and Cubism. The Modern Art movement emerged thanks to new ideologies of a new world influenced by technology.
Modern Art as we know it today, is a combination of several art forms that lasted for a whole century. Some of these art forms may include abstract art like fauvism, expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. After World War I, artists thought traditional art was dated and this was the birth of this new movement. According to Mark Getlein, art and modernity began during the 19th century and continued into the 20th, resulting in the “ism” art forms that exist ever since, such as: Realism, Impressionism, Pointillism, Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism- each with a unique perspective of life, topics, and representations (2016).
The modernist perspective of human life became more meaningful with multiple ways and forms to express it, not only in traditional ways. Fauvism was one of the key art forms that catapulted the rise of Modern Art. Artists did not hold back by using colors as in the natural world, they began experimenting and playing with other colors rather than what true life displayed. The message that artists tried to express through Fauvism was not quite clear because it was a message sent with color not necessarily shapes. Henri Matisse, who was a pioneer of this new trend, did not follow French principles of design in his paintings.
One of his most recognized works of art is The Joy of Life. His use of colors is unnatural, a pink sky can be seen in this painting, along with yellow earth, and blue and green tree trunks. People are portrayed in odd colors such as pink or blue. The lines are not clearly delineated and there are spatial. According to Getlein, in the Fauvist vision, color was freed from its supporting role in describing objects to become a fully independent expressive element (2016). This can be interpreted as the destruction of the conservative view of life and a gateway to modern era. In the end, what they may be saying is that the golden age of the classical past and utopian age of the future co-exist in the same space- the world of imagination, according to John Elderfield (1995). This became a new form of viewing life, as the artists wished to express.
Initiating in Germany in the early 20th century, Expressionism was linked to communicating spirituality. A Russian painter, Vasili Kandinsky, was among the most influential Expressionists of his time, being that he was the organizer of an Expressionist group called The Blue Rider. Getlein mentions that, Kandinsky never abandoned his idea that spirituality and art were linked, but he became increasingly convinced that art’s spiritual and communicative power lay in its own language of line, form, and color, and he was one of the first painters to take the decisive step of eliminating representation altogether in such works as Black Lines No. 189 (2016).
Kandinsky’s spiritual Expressionism was iconic for creating art that was no longer about anything rather than the painter. Color was considered an open window to the creator’s mind, with “creator” meaning both the artist and to a more spiritual form of creator. Herschel B. Chipp (1968) mentions that, in regards to color Kandinsky said “Generally speaking, color influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposively, to cause vibrations in the soul.” Artists began exploring their “subconscious mind” after Sigmund Freud’s publication of The Interpretation of Dreams (1989) leading them to express their subjective feelings and experiences through art.
Opposite to Expressionism, Cubism explored the reduction of color to concentrate on representing space instead. One of the main contributions of Cubism to Modern Art was to change perspective into a flat picture plane. Visual cues in geometric shapes such as triangles, circles, and lines unite the painting allowing the viewer to orient themselves. Getlein mentions that, the great beauty of Cubism was that, as with linear perspective, anyone could do it.
Cubism offered the most original and powerful system for rethinking the representation of form and space since the Reinassance (2016). This challenging style of painting developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque impacted abstract art for over 50 years. As cubism developed, the two artists added different elements to their paintings, such as newspaper, wall paper, merging the “real with the “not real”, and multiple perspectives of an object. One of Picasso’s most famous paintings is Guernica. After Germans bombed the Spanish town of Guernica, Picasso began the mural as a form of protest to war. The painting includes powerful images developed with newspapers, and the painted with black, white, and shades of gray.
According to Michael Zurakhinsky, Pablo said that “Cubism is not a reality you can take in your hand. It's more like a perfume, in front of you, behind you, to the sides, the scent is everywhere but you don't quite know where it comes from." Art does not change in a day or two, but instead slowly displays the changes that take place in society through the eyes of an artist. Fauvism, Expressionism, and Cubism are all modern forms of art which represent ways in which artists expressed their emotions at the time influenced by the context in which they found themselves. These forms of expression are represented by intense color and show how artists stirred away from conservative and traditionalist ways of depicting reality. Although all forms of Modern Art are very different from each other, one thing that unites them all is that the artists believed that art mattered and had real value. Artists were committed to radical change and liked experimenting through the process of creating.
In a rapidly changing world, artists could only express through their eyes the changes in society at the time. The socio-political context had a major impact on the artists, leading them to think about the unstable and turbulent society. From the loss of lives and destruction, to exploring the subconscious mind, this modern world led the artists to express their environment to an audience in the forms of art.