The Prehistory of Modern Painting

‘Modern Painting,’ a creative deviation from the conventional art, is all about exploring new, innovative ideas. Abstraction roots to this contemporary art form only, with the strong offshoots of ‘Impressionism,’ ‘Fauvism,’ and ‘Expressionism.’

Though, the prehistory of ‘Modern Painting’ dates back to 1860s through 1970s, the French Revolution (1789-99) was its founding phase. During the Revolution, the traditional cultural & the political fabric of the society metamorphosed to a forward looking and peintre 94 a balanced one. These tide of changes affected everyone, including artists, as they resorted to the latest art techniques, leading to the advent of ‘Modern Painting.’ The famous art historian, Ernst Gombrich, quoted the changes as, “self-consciousness made people select the style of their building as one selects the pattern of wallpaper.”

It was in the late nineteenth century that ‘Modern Art’ finally gained some shape and led to the growth of art movements, such as ‘Impressionism’ and especially ‘Symbolism,’ a contemporary response to ‘Naturalism.’ ‘Symbolism’ portrayed reality in all its adverse emotions, in an attempt to depict the harsh truth. The exhibition of the painting, “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (1862-63)” by Édouard Manet, at Salon des Refusés, Paris, was the first intercept of ‘Modern Painting.’ This work created quite a controversy because of its bold and avant-garde portrayal. The work shows a female nude having lunch with fully clothed men.

Several art groups existed before the First World War and prior to the actual advent of ‘Modern Painting.’ Notable among them were ‘Futurism – Balla,’ ‘Abstract Art – Der Blaue Reiter, Bauhaus,’ ‘Orphism – Robert Delaunay, Frantisek Kupka,’ ‘Synchronism – Morgan Russell,’ and ‘Surrealism – De Chirico, André Breton, Miró, Magritte, Dalí, Ernst.’ In the early twentieth century, a new group of painters, ‘Impressionists,’ came up with the idea of painting in natural light, rather than in studios, as practiced by the earlier groups. In the wake of this, these artists also formed a group called ‘Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, & Graveurs (Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers),’ through which they started displaying their works. ‘Fauvism,’ ‘Expressionism,’ ‘Cubism,’ and ‘Abstraction’ also dawned as some of the foundational forms of ‘Modern Painting.’ The artists, apart from experimenting with their unbound, innovative ideas, also tried correlating different art forms for optimally appealing results.

After the Second World War, several of these ‘Modern Art’ movements continued, such as ‘Expressionism.’ The new styles, like ‘Pop Art,’ ‘Color Field Painting,’ ‘Hard-Edge Painting,’ ‘Minimal Art,’ ‘Lyrical Abstraction,’ ‘Post-Minimalism,’ and ‘Photorealism,’ later supplemented in. Therefore, ‘Modern Painting’ brought in a new lease of life to creativity, with its increasing following catalyzing its continuous evolution and progression.

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