The Roots of Modernism• In the history of art, however, the term ‘modern’ is used to refer to a period dating from roughly the 1860s through the 1970s and describes the style and ideology of art produced during that era. It is this more specific use of modern that is intended when people speak of modern art. The term ‘modernism’ is also used to refer to the art of the modern period. More specifically, ‘modernism’ can be thought of as referring to the philosophy of modern art.• Art historians tend to speak of modern painting, for example, as concerned primarily with qualities of colour, shape, and line applied systematically or expressively, and marked over time by an increasing concern with flatness and a declining interest in subject matter. It is generally agreed that modernism in art originated in the 1860s and that the French painter Édouard Manet is the first modernist painter. Paintings such as his Le Déjeuner sur lherbe(‘Luncheon on the Grass’) and Olympia are seen to have ushered in the era of modernism.• When Le Déjeuner sur lherbe was exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863, many people were scandalized not only by the subject matter, which shows two men dressed in contemporary clothes seated casually on the grass in the woods with a nude woman, but also by the unconventional way it was painted. Two years later the public were even more shocked by his painting of Olympia which showed a nude woman, obviously a demi-mondaine, gazing out morally unperturbed at the viewer, and painted in a quick, broad manner contrary to the accepted academic style.
The Roots of Modernisms ofModernism• The roots of modernism lie much deeper in history than the middle of the 19th century. For historians the modern period actually begins in the sixteenth century, initiating what is called the Early Modern Period, which extends up to the 18th century. The intellectual underpinnings of modernism emerge during the Renaissance period when, through the study of the art, poetry, philosophy, and science of ancient Greece and Rome, humanists revived the notion that man, rather than God, is the measure of all things, and promoted through education ideas of citizenship. The period also gave rise to ‘utopian’ visions of a more perfect society, beginning with Sir Thomas Mores Utopia, written in 1516, in which is described a fictional island community with seemingly perfect social, political, legal customs.• The modernist thinking which emerged in the Renaissance began to take shape as a larger pattern of thought in the 18th century. Mention may be made first of the so-called ‘Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns’, a literary and artistic dispute that dominated European intellectual life at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century. The crux was the issue of whether Moderns were now morally and artistically superior to the Ancients (writers and artists of ancient Greece and Rome). Introduced first in France in 1687 by Charles Perrault, who supported the Moderns, the discussion was taken up in England where it was satirized as The Battle of the Books by Jonathan Swift.
• It was also satirized by William Hogarth in a print called The Battle of the Pictures, which shows paintings mostly by Renaissance and Baroque masters attacking Hogarth’s own works of equivalent but more contemporary subject matter.
Art for Arts Sake• By the early 20th century, progressive modernism came to dominate the art scene in Europe. It is well to remember that for most of the 20th century, we have fostered a narrow view of the modernist period, one in which progressive modernism has received almost exclusive attention while conservative modernism has been largely ignored.• Conservative modernists, though, the so-called academic painters of the 19th and early 20th centuries, believed they were doing their part to improve the world. In contrast to the progressive modernists, conservative modernists presented images that contained or reflected good conservative moral values, or served as examples of virtuous behaviour, or offered inspiring Christian sentiment. Generally, conservative modernists selected subject matter that showed examples of righteous conduct and noble sacrifice that was intended to serve as a model which all good citizens should aspire to emulate.
Jean-paul laurens‟s painting, last MoMents of MaxiMilian,Emperor of Mexico , for example, shows the puppet emperor before his execution by firing squad.
Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky who, in his Composition VII, painted in1913, reduced his compositions to arrangements of colours, lines, and shapes. He believed colours, lines, and shapes could exist autonomously in a painting without any connection to recognizable objects.
A radical approach was to reduce the non-recognizable to the mostbasic colours, lines, and shapes. This was the approach of the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian in his Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red, painted in 1921, in which three colours plus black and white are arranged as rectangular shapes in a grid.
other well-known painters of modernism and their paintingshans hofManns painting “the gate” picasso‟s „portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler‟
Pablo Picasso,Robert Rauschenberg, Les Demoiselles dAvignonUntitled Combine