What is Modern Art?


Michelle Ho, Staff Writer

There is more than one meaning to the word “art”: beauty, significance, leisure, skill, patience, virtue. Art has been around since the first humans created; every art style in history has played a role in how modern art is depicted today. Throughout time, many art movements have come and gone, with some of the most impactful and lasting styles being line art, impressionism and post-impressionism, and surrealism. These styles of art are some of the most important art movements that have helped shape and define what modern and contemporary art is today.

To begin, a few Arcadia High school (AHS) students gave their opinion on what they consider to be the definition of art:

“Anything made by the hand” is art, freshman Cadye Wang says.

When asked what her opinion of modern art is, Wang stated frankly, “it has no effort, but [depending on your perspective and imagination] it is still good.”

Art is “a reflection of the artist, whether it be the mental or physical state they are in,” describes Ellie Wu, a freshman taking the elective Art at AHS.

“Art is anything creative that is original to you,” says AHS freshman, Amelia Bowser.

One of the most influential and still ongoing movements is line art. From sketches, carvings, paintings, and prints, line art has been incorporated into essentially every art movement, including contemporary art. Dating all the way back to the times of cave drawings, the ancient history of line art has influenced every part of modern art. Today, line art is still in use, now taking on a more abstract and geometrical look as opposed to the simple ways it has been utilized in the past.

Another art form, impressionism and post-impressionism, originated from France, building on natural landscapes outdoors. The style began when a group of artists known as the “Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors,” Printmakers, etc. set up an exhibition in Paris. The traits of impressionism include unblended colors, bold brush strokes, and bright pigments to depict natural light and outdoor scenery.

“These days, light remains a key consideration and component across all types of contemporary art and design,” said writer Melanie Dimmitt in 10 of the Most Influential Art Movements and How They Are Still Used Today. 

The influence of artists like Vincent van Gogh from the impressionism and post-impressionism time period still have their effect today in contemporary art and design. Their bold move away from the naturalistic art styles that preceded them allowed a slightly more abstract and bright feel to flourish; this small step away from realism would evolve into much more.

In 1924, surrealism was established. Surrealism was contrasted with the popular rationalism beliefs of the time, and it focused on imagination and dreams. The intent of surrealism was to ‘jolt’ the viewer out of their comfort zone with its strange and often unusual depictions. Surrealism has influenced today’s contemporary art, adding surrealistic touches to its designs.

Today’s modern and contemporary art can be defined as “abstract” and “conceptual”. The idea of abstract art is to allow the viewer to understand and interpret the art piece in their own way. There is no factually “correct” way to describe abstract art. 

Eden Gallery writes, “it is nonobjective art that does not aim to represent an everyday external reality.” 

The conceptual art of this era can be largely attributed to the rise in impressionism, post-impressionism, and surrealism, stemming from previous rational and realistic styles of art. Historic art movements have evolved over time, and changed according to society. The impact of each art movement has its own unique influence and added to what artists today consider current and modern art. Rather than the artist’s emotions dictating the message of their project, modern art work is free for interpretation and allows viewers to express themselves within the work. After all, as Irish novelist Margaret Hungerford once wrote, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”