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Modern Art (1860-1919) as the succession of art movements that critics and historians have identified since the Realism of French painting of the 1850’s, culminating in abstract art and its developments up to the 1960’s. We will, however, refer to Modern Art art works only those which were produced between 1860 and 1919.

Impressionism (1860-1895)

Born through the ordeals of avant-garde Parisian artists in the 1870’s and 1880’s, Impressionism was a rejection of academic painting and techniques, itself initially outcast as a movement by its contemporary art critics. A complete delineation in painting was seen; compositions were created from pure colour and captured a fleeting moment or moments, as was often seen in series such as Monet’s Haystacks or Poplars. The movement was named after Claude Monet’s painting, Impression, soleil levant (1872) of Le Havre harbour.

Impressionism was aided by the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent masses of new products available to artists. New colours in oils were mass produced, furthering an artist’s palette. The portable easel was created allowing, for the first time, artists to paint en plein air. Painting in this style allowed for greater study of light and colour; artists would often paint the same subject repeatedly capturing the changes throughout sunrise, sunset and the moving seasons, as in the aforementioned Monet series.

Rhythm and movement was encapsulated through dynamic brushstrokes and the thick application of paint, known as Impasto. Artists experimented with angles, used pure, intense colour and depicted ordinary scenes of everyday culture in an aim to capture transience.

Key Artists: Claude Monet (1840-1926); Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919); Edgar Degas (1834-1917); Edouard Manet (1832-1883); Paul Cézanne (1839-1906); Camille Pissarro (1830-1903); Alfred Sisley (1839-1899); Berthe Morisot (1841-1895).

Post-Impressionism (1882-1915)

The Post-Impressionist movement directly followed Impressionism—as a matter of fact, nearly all Post-Impressionist artists began as Impressionists, but then rejected its limitations: they continued using vivid colours, thick application of paint, distinctive brush strokes, and real-life subject matter, favoring the emphasis of geometric forms to distort form for expressive effect, and the use of unnatural or arbitrary colour. A further, almost parallel branch of Post-Impressionism is Neo-Impressionism, whose dominant style and technique is described in the following paragraph on Pointilism.

Key Artists: Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1897), Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).

Pointillism (1885-1903)

Branching from Impressionism, Pointillism is a technique of painting firstly developed by the French painter Georges Seurat in 1886 and is strongly related to the theory of Divisionism, i.e. the separation of colors into individual dots or patches which then interact optically. To realize this scientific technique Seurat juxtaposed small dots of pure colour together to maximize luminosity, thus operating in sharp contrast with the traditional methods of blending pigments on a palette. As a result, the dots appeared to intermingle and blend in the spectator's eye. The term Pointillism was first coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works of these artists, and is now used without its earlier mocking connotation.

Key Artists: Georges Seurat (1859-1891), Paul Signac (1863-1935), Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910), Georges Lemmen (1865-1916), Charles Angrand (1854-1926).

Cubism (1907-1920)

Cubism is a 20th century avant-garde art movement pioneered by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963). Cubist artworks are characterized by the breaking up, the analysis and the re-assemblage of objects in an abstracted form. As a consequence the artist represents the object from a multitude of viewpoints instead of one single viewpoint—the aim is the object’s representation in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles, removing a coherent sense of depth. The background and object planes interpenetrate one another to create the shallow ambiguous space, one of cubism's distinct characteristics. Art historians divided Cubism in two chronological phases—the first, Analytic Cubism, both radical and influential, it developed in France between 1907 and 1911. The second phase is Synthetic Cubism, which is characterized by the introduction of different textures, surfaces, collage elements, papier collé and a large variety of merged subject matter. It was the beginning of collage materials being introduced as an important ingredient of fine art work that spread and remained valid until 1919 with the arrival of Surrealism.

Key Artists: Juan Gris (1887-1927), Fernand Léger (1881-1955), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Georges Braque (1882-1963).

Surrealism (launched in 1924 in Paris)

Launched in Paris in 1924 by the French Poet André Breton with the publication of his Manifesto of Surrealism, this homonymous movement affected visual arts, fine arts, literature and music and aimed to represent the reconciliation of the unconscious with rational life. Breton was strongly influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, who identified a deeper layer of the human mind, i.e. the unconscious, where memories and our most basic instincts are stored. Surrealist works highlight the element of surprise and unexpected juxtapositions as also the non sequitur, a term taken from literature that entails apparent lack of meaning within a context, seeming absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing. Surrealism also aimed at social and political revolution, and was affiliated to the Communist Party for a time; accordingly, Surrealists thought that excessive rational thought and bourgeoisie values had led to the First World War conflict.

There is no single style of Surrealist art, but the movement can be classified under the automatism and the oneiric method—the first depicting dream-like subjects as in the works of Salvador Dali, early Max Ernst and Magritte, the latter originating from the free association process used by Freud to explore the unconscious mind of his patients, as for instance in the works of later Max Ernst or Miró.

Key Artists: Max Ernst (1891-1976), Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), Rene Magritte (1898-1967), Joan Miró (1893-1983), Man Ray (1890-1976), Salvador Dali (1904-1989), Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978).