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Modern Paintings

Modern art is art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movements of modern art – Political Realism, Futurism, and Abstract Expressionism – were nearly always linked with a political view. In general, modern thinking sought to refine everything to its essence; modern painting sought to distinguish itself from sculpture. It came to celebrate line, color, geometry, and the two-dimensional plane.

Modern art is the artistic expression that correlates with the Industrial Revolution. Working in the suburbs of Paris, the French Impressionists, resembling the countryside, often show a smokestack in the background. Modern art is also an expression of humanity’s hope that the machine age would end war – and the subsequent disappointment of the two world wars.

The Italian Futurists incorporated motion and machinery into their art, which they intended to herald a radical new future, completely free of the ancient and Renaissance past. After the wars, people turned to Abstract Expressionism for a spiritual experience.

Quick Facts

  • Alfred Barr articulated much of modern art history, distinguishing the various movements within it as "-isms"
  • Barr was the first director of the Museum of Modern Art, which is accordingly a pivotal resource for discovering and understanding modern art history
  • Today, as paintings sell at auction for millions of dollars, areas such as photography, lithography, and ceramics allow young collectors access to affordable works by modern masters

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