Modern Art Movements
History of Modernist Styles, from Impressionism to Post Painterly Abstraction.

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For information about the world's
costliest works of modern art, see:
Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings.


Important Art Works

Whaam! (1963) Roy Lichtenstein.
An iconic image of Pop-Art.

Les Demoiselles D'Avignon (1907)
Picasso's seminal Cubist work: one of
the greatest 20th-century paintings
which paved the way for abstraction.

Nude Descending Staircase No 2 (1912)
Philadelphia Museum of Art.
By Marcel Duchamp, one of the
great modern artists of the 20th C.

Modern Art Movements (1870-1970)
Chronological list of Modernist schools, groups and styles


Impressionist Movement (fl.1870s-1880s)
Neo-Impressionism (1880s)
Newlyn School ((fl.1884-1914))
Art Nouveau (Jugendstijl) (1890-1914)
Symbolist Art (1890s)
Post Impressionist Art (1880s/90s)
Les Fauves (1905-8)
Expressionist Movement (1905 onwards)
The Bridge (Germany 1905-13) (Die Brucke)
Blue Rider (Germany 1911-14) (Der Blaue Reiter)
Ashcan School (New York) (1900-1915)
Cubist Art (fl.1908-1914)
Orphic Cubism (Orphism, Simultanism) (1914-15)
Photographic Art
Collage (from 1912)
Futurist Art (1909-1914)
Rayonism (c.1912-14)
Suprematism (c.1913-1918)
Constructivism (1914-32)
Vorticism (c.1914-15)
Dada (Europe, 1916-1924)
De Stijl (1917-31)
Neo-Plasticism (fl.1918-26)
Bauhaus School (Germany, 1919-1933)
Purism (Early, mid-1920s)
Precisionism (Cubist-Realism) (fl.1920s)
Surrealist Movement (1924 onwards)
Art Deco (c.1925-40)
Ecole de Paris (Paris School)
New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) (Germany, 1925-35)
Magic Realism (1925-40)
Socialist Realism (1928-80)
Social Realism (America) (1930-45)
Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst) (1933-45)
Neo-Romanticism (1935-55)
Art Brut
Organic Abstraction (fl.1930-1950)
St Ives School (1939-75)
Existential Art (Late-1940s, 1950s)
Abstract Expressionist Movement (1947-65)
Art Informel (fl.1950s)
Tachisme (1950s)
Arte Nucleare (c.1951-60)
Assemblages (1953 onwards)
Neo-Dada (1953-65)
Kitchen Sink Art (c.1954-57)
Pop Art (c.1958-70)
Op-Art (Optical Art) (fl.1965-70)
New Realism (1960s)
Post-Painterly Abstraction (Clement Greenberg) (Early, mid-1960s)

For a brief guide to the main styles and schools,
please see: Art Movements, Periods, Schools.



"Modern art" is a broad term which refers to art produced during the years 1870-1970. Some historians prefer to limit "modern art" to the 20th century, but, it is more customary to take Impressionism as the starting point, while the 1960s are usually seen as the transition between "modern art" and its successor "postmodernist art".

"Modern art" witnessed many of the great international art movements, and also gave birth to entirely new forms of creative expression, including: skyscraper architecture (1880s); chromolithographic poster art (1880s/90s); animation art (from the first cartoon film in 1906); collage (from 1912); performance art (from Dada onwards); assemblages (from 1953); land art (fl.1960s). It also raised certain forms to new heights, like: caricature art and photography. During the final phase of the "modern" period several types of avant-garde art appeared, including conceptual art (pioneered by Robert Rauschenberg 1950s) and video art (pioneered by Wolf Vostell and Andy Warhol late-50s/60s), however, because these forms are more closely associated with contemporary art, we deal with them in our article on contemporary art movements (1970 onwards).


Impressionist Movement (fl.1870s-1880s)

Christened by the French art critic Louis Leroy after the title of Monet's painting Impression: Sunrise (1873), Impressionism was a spontaneous plein-air manner of landscape painting whose goal was the exact representation of light. The style was exemplified by the plein air painting of Monet, Sisley, Renoir and Camille Pissarro, although other painters were also part of the Impressionist group, including Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, Frederic Bazille, Gustave Caillebotte, as well as Mary Cassatt, one of the leading figures of the American Impressionism movement (c.1880-1900). Introduced to Britain by Whistler, it was taken up by his pupils Sickert and Steer and promoted by the New English Art Club. After giving birth to some of the greatest modern paintings of the 19th century, Impressionism was succeeded by Seurat's Neo-Impressionism and Cezanne's Post-Impressionism.

Neo-Impressionism (1880s)

The term given by the French art critic Felix Feneon (1861-1944) to work by Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and their followers like Camille and Lucien Pissarro. The style was based on the optical painting technique called Pointillism (an offshoot of Divisionism). Instead of mixing colours before applying them to the canvas, primary-colours were placed directly onto the picture - arranged in groups of tiny dabs or dots - to allow the viewer's eye to do the "mixing". The style was a later influence on Fauvism. For more details, please see: Neo-Impressionism. For developments in Italy, under Vittore Grubicy, please see: Italian Divisionism (1890-1907).

Newlyn School (fl.1884-1914)

Led by Stanhope Forbes, Frank Bramley and Norman Garstin the Newlyn School was inspired by the naturalist plein-air painting tradition of the French Barbizon School and aimed to reproduce the realities of country life.

Art Nouveau (1890-1914)

Derived from a Parisian shop called "La Maison de l'Art Nouveau", owned by the avant-garde art-collector Siegfried Bing (1838-1905), the Art Nouveau style originated in the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain (notably the designs of William Morris) - being also influenced by Celtic and Japanese designs - and was popularized by the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris before spreading across Europe and the United States. A highly decorative style of design art (called Jugendstil in Germany, Sezessionstil in Austria, Stile Liberty in Italy, Modernista in Spain), Art Nouveau was characterized by intricate flowing patterns of sinuous asymetrical lines, based on plant-forms. Leaf and tendril motifs are popular Art Nouveau designs, as are female silhouettes and forms. The style appeared in interior design, metalwork, glassware, jewellery, poster-design and illustration, as well as painting, sculpture and poster art. It was exemplified by the paintings and illustrations of Gustav Klimt, first President of the Vienna Secession, as well as poster designs by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), Arthur Rackham and Aubrey Beardsley, and serpentine architectural motifs by Victor Horta of the Les Vingt artists group in Brussels. It also had a strong influence on the Munich Secession (1892) and Berlin Secession (1898) in Germany. It was succeeded by Art Deco.

Symbolist Art (Late 19th Century)

Mythology-inspired and characterized by a mystical and magnified sensitivity with occasional erotic content, Symbolism was a refinement of the Romantic tradition. Pioneers included Caspar David Friedrich and Henry Fuseli, while modern exponents included Gustave Moreau, the mural painter Puvis de Chavannes, and Odilon Redon. Influenced the Art Nouveau movement and Les Nabis, as well as the Expressionists Edvard Munch and Franz von Stuck.

Post-Impressionism (1880s, 1890s)

Post-Impressionism is an umbrella term incorporating numerous groups and styles of Post-Impressionist painting, as exemplified by the work of painters like Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Henri Rousseau. Cezanne adopted a rigorous classical approach to plein-air painting; Gauguin used rich colours but preferred indoor studio painting; Van Gogh painted outdoors but more to express his inner emotions than capture nature; while Toulouse-Lautrec specialized in indoor genre scenes.

Following in the footsteps of Synthetism (developed by Gauguin) and Cloisonnism (invented by Emile Bernard and Louis Anquetin) came the fin de siecle art group called Les Nabis, composed of young painters drawn to the decorative and spiritual content of painting. The leader, Paul Serusier (1864-1927) and the group's leading theorist Mauris Denis (1870-1943) were joined by Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), Paul Ranson (1862-1909), Ker-Xavier Roussel (1867-1944), Henri Ibels (1867-1936) and Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940). Out of the Nabis came another style of post-Impressionist painting, known as Intimism, exemplified in the tranquil domestic genre scenes of Edouard Vuillard, his close friend Pierre Bonnard, and Gwen John. Taken up by Nordic painters, like Hammershoi and PS Kroyer. In Britain, Post-Impressionism was practised by the Camden Town Group, founded in 1911 by Walter Richard Sickert, who became known for his nudes and interiors.

Les Fauves (1905-1908)

Influenced by Paul Gauguin, Fauvism was an important movement in the history of expressionist painting, which advocated brilliant colours and wild brushwork - hence their nickname Les Fauves (wild beasts), given them by the critic Louis Vauxcelles after their first showing at the Salon d'Automne in Paris in 1905. Fauvist painters included Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck Albert Marquet and Georges Braque. In Britain, Fauvism was practised by a group of artists from Scotland known as the Scottish Colourists. They included JD Fergusson, Samuel John Peploe, Francis Cadell and Leslie Hunter. For more, see Fauvism.

Expressionist Movement (1905 onwards)

Personnified by Vincent Van Gogh - whose hectic brushwork and intense colours reflected his inner state rather than the scenes he painted - Expressionism is a style whose aim is to portray an interpretation of a scene rather than simply replicate its true-life features. One of the first examples of the style is German Expressionism, which was developed in and around Munich by Der Blaue Reiter [The Blue Rider], and in Dresden by Die Brucke [The Bridge]. After this the movement spread worldwide, giving birth to variants - including Abstract Expressionism - in America during the 1940s and 1950s. Influenced by Romanticism, Symbolism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism, the expressionist movement encompassed all genres, including landscape, portraiture, genre painting and still life. Famous Expressionist painters included Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Edvard Munch, Modigliani, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Dix, as well as Pablo Picasso, and Francis Bacon. For specific works, please see: Expressionist Paintings (1880-1950).

The Bridge (Die Brucke) (1905-13)

The Bridge was a German Expressionist group based in Dresden in 1905. Combined elements of traditional German art with African, Post-Impressionist and Fauvist styles. Its leading members were Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, and Emil Nolde. Short-lived but influential.

Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) (1911-14)

Based in Munich, the members of Blue Rider included Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Alexei von Jawlensky, August Macke, Gabriele Munter and Paul Klee. A loose association rather than a tight group, it was named after a Kandinsky painting used on the cover of their 1912 Almanac or Manifesto. Cut short by the First World War during which both Macke and Marc were killed.

Ashcan School, New York (active 1900-15)

The so-called Ashcan School consisted of a progressive group of early twentieth-century American painters and illustrators (sometimes called the New York Realists) who portrayed the urban reality of New York City life, in a gritty spontaneous unpolished style. The Ashcan movement included Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn and John Sloan. Others whose work is considered to reflect the Ashcan school include: George Wesley Bellows, Guy Pène Du Bois, the celebrated Edward Hopper, and Alfred Maurer.

Cubist Art (Europe, 1908-1914)

Cubism was invented and formulated between about 1908 and 1912 in a partnership between Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, who were strongly influenced by the grid-like landscapes of Paul Cezanne and (in Picasso's case by African imagery: witness his stunning Les Demoiselles D'Avignon). In part a reaction against the pretty pictures of Impressionism, a style which held no intellectual interest for Picasso, Cubism refocused attention on the essential 2-D nature of the flat canvas, overturning conventional systems of perspective and ways of perceiving form, in the process. The movement developed in three stages: Proto-Cubism (Picasso's & Braque's early phase, containing the only 'cubes' to be seen); Analytical Cubism, an austere style which disassembled 3-D views into a series of overlapping planes; finally, Synthetic Cubism, a lighter more colourful style which 'built-up' images sometimes using various 'found' materials. Picasso's late Cubism - a more representational idiom than his earlier Cubist styles - is exemplified in works like Weeping Woman (1937, Tate Collection), and Guernica (1937, Reina Sofia, Madrid). Other important Cubist artists included Juan Gris and Fernand Leger. Although relatively short-lived, the movement revolutionized painting in the 20th century, and instigated a new tradition of abstract art. Cubism benefited from significant promotional support by its spokesman, the German-born art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979). For an important Cubist splinter group, see: Section d'Or, an offshoot of the Parisian Puteaux group.


Orphic Cubism (Orphism) (1914-15)

Paris-based abstract art movement most often referred to as Orphism, whose style featured loosely painted patches of rainbow colours. The name (Orpheus was a mythological poet and musician of ancient Greece) was coined by French art critic Guillaume Apollinaire when describing the 'musical' effect of the abstract paintings by the Cubist Robert Delaunay (which comprised overlapping planes of contrasting or complementary colours) in order to distinguish them from Cubism generally. Delaunay himself used the term Simultanism to characterize his work. Another exponent of Orphism was the French-Czech painter and anarchist Frank Kupka, one of the first to create genuine abstract art, characterized by solid geometric blocks of colour. The style was very similar to Synchromism, a method of painting launched in Paris in 1913 by two American painters, Morgan Russell (1886-1953) and Stanton MacDonald- Wright (1890-1973).

Photographic Art

Photography became more important as the era developed. In America, this was largely due to the influential activities of Alfred Stieglitz, who founded the Photo-Secession at his "291" gallery in New York. Edward Steichen was another pioneer. Both men were noted for their pictorialism (fl.1885-1915). Other photographic genres which were developed during the era of modern art include: street photography (1900-present), exemplified by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson; documentary photography, as in the series of photos by Hans Namuth on the action-painting of Jackson Pollock; fashion photography (from 1880), exemplified by the shots of Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn.

Collage (1912 onwards)

Also known as papier collés or découpage, collage art was first introduced by Georges Braque in 1912, when he attached three pieces of wallpaper to his Synthetic Cubist drawing Fruit Dish and Glass. Collage involves the use of objets trouvés, like bits of paper, photographs, newspaper cuttings, fabric and other 'found' items, even 3-D objects, which are fixed to the canvas to create a mixed-media effect. Other artists noted for their works of collage include Picasso, Aleksandr Rodchenko and the extraordinary loner Kurt Schwitters, noted for his small-scale Merzbilder collages. The techniques of collage were a strong influence on later forms of Assemblage.

Futurism (1909-1914)

Launched in 1909 by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in a manifesto which appeared on the front page of the Paris newspaper Le Figaro, Futurism rejected all traditional art, celebrating instead the modern world of industry with works combining elements of Neo-Impressionism and Cubism. Other leading members included Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà, and Gino Severini.

Rayonism (c.1912-14)

Rayonism was a Russian avant-garde quasi-Cubist-style art movement led by Mikhail Larionov and his partner Natalia Goncharova, both of whom later settled in Paris. The subject of Rayonism (aka Rayism), was abstract landscape comprising light or rays of light depicted by patterns of linear forms.

Suprematism (c.1913-1918)

Founded on Utopian ideals, by the nihilist Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935), Suprematism expressed limitless confidence in the ability of engineers to create a new Soviet world. The first Suprematist exhibition (Zero-Ten) took place in St Petersburg, in December 1915, and featured thirty-five abstract works by Malevich, including his famous Black Square hung like an icon high up across a corner, as well as a host of other rectangles, triangles and circles, many in vivid colours. The show later toured to Moscow and Vitebsk. In 1918, Malevich was appointed to the Commissariat of Enlightenment and taught at the Vitebsk art academy set up by Marc Chagall. Suprematism was a key art movement in Russia, being closely linked with the Revolution. Other famous Suprematist artists included Lazar Lissitsky, Ivan Vasilievich Kliun and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Disillusioned in later life, by 1935 he was painting realist pictures.

Constructivism (c.1919-32)

Constructivism was an austere but important Russian abstract art and design movement established by Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953), who was joined later by Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956) and brothers Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962) and Naum Gabo (1890-1977). Concerned with abstraction, space, new materials and 3-D form, Constructivist artists developed architectural art in a direct attempt to reflect the modern industrial world. Vladimir Tatlin himself was strongly influenced by Picasso's 3-D constructions, some of which he saw first-hand in Picasso's Parisian studio in 1913. In 1923 the movement outlined its ideas in a manifesto, expressing the view that artists should focus on organizing materials and constructing works, as if they were manufacturing a car. Later suppressed by Stalin, the ideas of Constructivism reached the West through Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner, and were a strong influence on modern sculptors like Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. In Britain, around 1950, the movement was recast as Constructionism, in the geometrical paintings of Victor Pasmore and others.

Vorticism (c.1914-15)

The British counterpart to Italian Futurism, Vorticism was an avant-garde art movement, influenced by Cubism and Futurism, founded in London by the painter, illustrator and war artist Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). The only Vorticist exhibition was held in London in 1915. Claiming to produce "a New Living Abstraction", Vorticist works combine Cubist fragmentation with hard-edged iconography reflecting technology and the urban environment. Other members included Cuthbert Hamilton, William Roberts, Lawrence Atkinson, Jessica Dismorr, Helen Saunders, Edward Wadsworth, as well as the sculptors Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. The group foundered after the exhibition, although Wyndham Lewis essayed a brief revival of its ideas with Group X, in 1920.

Dada (Europe, 1916-1924)

Founded in Zurich during the First World War, Dada was the first of the modern anti-art movements, whose members were revolted by the butchery of the 1914 World War and devoted themselves to an artistic style that set out to deliberately challenge all the traditional values of a society that could have allowed such barbarity to occur. Dada-ists employed shock-tactics and absurdity to produce totally irrational or meaningless artworks and "performances", including sculpture and early installations which they often constructed using various objets trouvés (found objects) of which Marcel Duchamp's "readymades" were a sub-category. Dada developed into an international movement and its themes eventually formed an important part of Surrealism in Paris after the war. Leading members of Dada included Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, John Heartfield and Schwitters. Dada inspired many later styles and groups, including Fluxus, Neo-Dada, Nouveau Realisme and Pop-Art.


De Stijl (1917-31)

De Stijl (Dutch for "the style,") was the name of a group of artists (and the art, design and aesthetics journal they published, which was one of the most influential avant-garde magazines of the 1920s). Founded in the Netherlands during World War I, by Theo van Doesburg, the older Piet Mondrian, architect Gerrit Rietveld, and Bart Van der Leck, it advocated a geometrical type of abstract art, (later called concrete art, by Van Doesburg), based on universal laws of harmony that would be equally applicable to life and art. The movement had its greatest impact on architecture. Although Piet Mondrian seceded from the group in 1923, he remained faithful to its themes until the end of his life by which time he had become one of the most famous of all abstract painters. By comparison, the more restless Van Doesburg abandoned one of the basic tenets of De Stijl in 1924 when he substituted diagonals for verticals and horizontals in search of greater dynamism.

Neo-Plasticism (fl.1918-26)

Term used to describe the style of painting invented by Piet Mondrian. It comes from the Dutch words "Nieuwe Beelding", used by Mondrian in his articles in De Stijl magazine (1917-19), and in his book "Neo-Plasticisme" from 1921 onwards to describe his own type of abstract art. Essentially it means "new art", since sculpture and certain types of painting are considered 'plastic arts'. However the German version "Neue Gestaltung" (new forming) captures Mondrian's meaning best. He used the name to advocate a 'new forming' in the widest sense, as well as his own ideas and images. In his long essay "Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art", Mondrian wrote: "The new plastic idea ... should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour". Thus in a sense Neo-Plasticism was an ideal form of painting, which used only pure colour, line and form. In addition to insisting only on primary colours (or non-colours), it advocated solely squares, rectangles, and straight horizontal or vertical lines. Despite his disagreement with Van Doesburg over the latter's launch of Elementarism, in 1924, Mondrian's theories exercised had a huge impact on later painting, and he is now regarded as one of the greatest of all modern artists.

Bauhaus School (Germany, 1919-1933)

Founded in 1919 by the innovative modern architect Walter Gropius at Weimar in Germany, the Bauhaus Design School was a revolutionary school of art upon which so many others have been modelled. Its name, derived from the two German words "bau" for building and "haus" for house, together with its artist-community system, hints at the the idea of a fraternity working on the construction of a new society. Highly influential in both architecture and design, its teachers included Josef Albers, Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Anni Albers and Johannes Itten. Its stated goal was to bring art into contact with everyday life, hence design was accorded as much weight as fine art. Among the leading principles taught at The Bauhaus were the virtues of simple, clean design; abstraction; massproduction; the ethical and practical advantages of a well-designed environment, as well as democracy and worker participation. In 1925, The Bauhaus moved into a new building in Dessau in 1925-6, and in 1932 relocated to Berlin where it was eventually closed by the Nazis in 1933. Its teachers then dispersed, with several moving to America: Moholy-Nagy went to Chicago where he established the New Bauhaus in 1937, while Albers took Bauhaus methods with him to Black Mountain College in North Carolina and later to Yale University.

Purism (Early, mid-1920s)

Fashionable 1920s Parisian Movement founded by Edouard Jeanneret (better known as Le Corbusier) and Amedee Ozenfant, based on theories outlined in their 1918 book Après le Cubisme (After Cubism). Disagreeing with Cubist fragmentation, they produced figurative art (mostly still lifes) basic forms stripped of detail and supposedly pure in colour, form and design. Other artists loosely associated with the movement which peaked at the International Exposition of Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925, were Fernand Leger, Juan Gris and the Russian-Lithuanian sculptor Jacques Lipchitz.

Precisionism (Cubist-Realism) (fl.1920s)

An important influence on modern art painting in the United States, Precisionism was an American movement (also referred to as Cubist Realism) whose focus was modern industry and urban landscapes, characterized by the realistic depiction of objects but in a manner which also highlighted their geometric form. An idealized, almost Romantic style, it was exemplified in works by Charles Demuth and Charles Sheeler, while the urban pictures of Georgia O'Keeffe also fall into the Precisionist genre. See also Charles Sheeler's photographs of Ford's River Rouge Car Factory.

Surrealist Movement (1924 onwards)

Rooted in the Metaphysical Painting of Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), the revolutionary painterly ideas of Cubism, the subversive art of Dada and the psychoanalysis ideas of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Surrealism was the most influential avant-garde art movement of the inter-war years. Its goal, according to its founding father, the French writer Andre Breton - in his 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism - was to fuse the unconscious (the part of the human mind where memories and instincts are stored) with the conscious, to create a new "super-reality" - a surréalisme. A broad intellectual movement, Surrealism encompassed a diverse range of styles from abstraction to expressionism and full-blown realism, characteristically punctuated with weird, hallucinatory or fundamentally 'unreal' imagery. Leading surrealist artists included Salvador Dali (1904-89), Max Ernst (1891-1976), Rene Magritte (1898-1967), Andre Masson (1896-1987), Yves Tanguy (1900-55), Joan Miro (1893-1983), Jean Arp (1886-1966), and Man Ray (1890-1976). Their immediate impact was seen in Germany in the Magic Realism of Franz Roh, and later in Britain, where British Surrealism was founded in 1936 by the writer Herbert Read, together with the artists David Gascoyne, Paul Nash, and Roland Penrose. The First International Surrealist Exhibition opened in London in 1936 and sparked enormous interest, not least because of the talk given by the flamboyant self-publicist Salvador Dali from inside a deep-sea diving suit. Surrealism had a huge influence on Europe, and few European artists of the 1930s were unaffected by the movement. It continues to have a significant influence on art, literature and cinematography.

Art Deco (c.1925-40)

A popular and fashionable style of decorative design and architecture in the inter-war years (much beloved by cinema and hotel architects), Art Deco designs also extended to furniture, ceramics, textile fabrics, jewellery, and glass. Showcased in 1925 at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris, Art Deco was essentially a reaction against Art Nouveau: replacing the latter's flowing curvilinear shapes with Cubist and Precisionist-inspired geometric forms. Classic examples of Art Deco design include the New York Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. Art Deco also drew inspiration from the modern architectural designs of The Bauhaus. Famous artists associated with Art Deco include the Polish-Russian society portraitist Tamara de Lempicka, glass artist Rene Lalique and graphic designer Adolphe Mouron.

Ecole de Paris (Paris School)

For half a century (1890-1940) Paris remained the centre of world art, culminating in the dazzling works of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dada and Surrealism. The Paris School is a term used by art historians to denote the community of artists, both French and foreign, working in the city during the first half of the 20th century, rather than a strictly defined style, school or movement. For many reasons, Paris was exceptionally attractive to artists. It was free of political repression, it was home to a number of influential 20th century painters (eg. Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault, Henri Matisse, Fernand Leger, Amedeo Modigliani, Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Chaïm Soutine, Mikhail Larionov, Wassily Kandinsky, Constantin Brancusi, to name but a few), and it boasted a booming art world with galleries, collectors and critics to support artists with talent. The twin leaders (chefs d'école) were Picasso and Matisse.

Neue Sachlichkeit (Germany, c.1925-35)

Die Neue Sachlichkeit - a German term, meaning "New Objectivity" - was the name given to a group of Expressionist artists in Germany during the 1920s, derived from their 1925 Neue Sachlichkeit show in Mannheim. It was the third phase of the Expressionist movement in Germany, after Die Brucke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Key members included Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad and to a lesser extent Georg Schrimpf and Max Beckmann. Although the exhibition curator, GF Hartlaub, described its paintings as "new realism bearing a socialist flavour", the style was vividly expressionist in its satirical portrayal of corruption and decadence in post-war Weimar Germany.

Magic Realism (1925-40)

Although influenced by Surrealism, Magic Realism was actually part of the 'return to order' trend which occured in post-World War I Europe in the 1920s. The name derives from a 1925 book by German art historian and critic Franz Roh called "Nach Expressionismus: Magischer Realismus" (After Expressionism: Magic Realism). Members included Giorgio de Chirico, Alberto Savinio, Alexander Kanoldt and Adolf Ziegler.

Socialist Realism (1928-80)

Socialist Realism was a form of heroic political propaganda employed by dictator Joseph Stalin in Russia, from 1929 onwards, to buttress his program of accelerated industrial development. Formally announced by his artistic stooge Maxim Gorky, at the Soviet Writers Congress of 1934, the style or direction involved the creation of bold optimistic imagery to evangelize the achievements of the Soviet State and inspire workers to Stakhanovite feats of labour. The most ubiquitous media used by Socialist Realist artists was the poster, although painting and sculpture was also produced, typically on a monumental scale, showing fearless individuals and groups in idealistic and heroic poses.

Social Realism (America) (1930-45)

A general category describing works of art which focus on relatively low-brow subjects to do with eveyday life, as opposed to the 'ideal' or romantic settings employed by artists up until the 19th century. It embraces American Scene Painting and Regionalism.

Social Realism denotes the socially-aware painters of the Depression era, such as Ben Shahn, Reginald Marsh, Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, William Gropper, Jack Levine, Jacob Lawrence and Isabel Bishop. They took their inspiration from the traditions of the earlier New York Ashcan School. Photographers like Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) and Walker Evans (1903-75) also contributed to the movement with their portraits of migrant workers from the Depression.

Mexican Murals/Muralism describes the national wall painting campaign, conceived by the education minister Jose Vasconcelos Calderon (1882-1959). The Mexican painters involved included Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, as well as Alfredo Martinez (1871-1946), Roberto Nervo (1885-1968), Amado de la Cueva (1891-1926), Ramon Alva de la Canal (1892-1985), Pedro Nel Gomez (1899–1984), Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), Fermin Revueltas Sanchez (1901-1935), Federico Heraclio Cantu Garza (1907-89), Jorge Gonzalez Camarena (1908-80), and Alfredo Zalce Torres (1908-2003), to name but a few.

American Scene Painting was a sort of patriotic reaction to avant-garde European abstract art. Artists turned their back on European hypermodernism and looked for truth in specifically American imagery. Regionalism was the midwest variant of American Scene Painting, which relied on the realistic nostalgic setting of rural and small-town America.

Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst) (1933-45, Germany)

Coined by Adolf Hitler, the term "Entartete Kunst" meaning degenerate art, expresses the Nazi idea that any art which did not conform to the ideal of well-crafted figurative images depicting heroic acts or comfortable day-to-day living, was the product of degenerate people. Not surprisingly most modern art was labelled degenerate, which meant that most modern artists in Germany (from 1933 onwards) could not show or sell their works. In 1937, the Nazis removed all modern works from German art museums. A selection was then exhibited in Munich to demonstrate how repulsive they were, but the plan backfired and the show attracted huge crowds. See also Nazi art (1933-45).


Neo-Romanticism (1935-55)

Term denoting the intense, poetic, figurative and semi-abstract British landscape paintings of Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and others in the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, that gave a modern interpretation to the romantic, visionary works of the 18th century William Blake and the 19th century Samuel Palmer. Early works were generally sombre, reflecting the anxieties of approaching war. Other British Neo-Romantics included Michael Ayrton, John Craxton, Ivon Hitchens, John Minton, John Piper, Keith Vaughan and the wartime drawings of Henry Moore. A lesser known group, also sometimes referred to as Neo-Romantics, were the Paris-based artists Eugène Berman, Leonid Berman and Pavel Tchelitchew: all noted for their brooding, nostalgic works.

Art Brut

Art Brut is a phrase coined by Jean Dubuffet (1901-85), to denote artworks produced by people outside the established art world, such as solitary artists, the maladjusted, patients in psychiatric institutions, and fringe-dwellers of all kinds - typically not for display or profit. In English, the term "Outsider Art" (a phrase coined by Roger Cardinal in 1972) is sometimes used to describe this kind of work. In Dubuffet's view, this type of culturally detached art possessed a unique originality, unstifled by education. Dubuffet's collection of Art Brut, eventually numbering over 5,000 items, was presented to the city of Lausanne in 1972 and in 1976 was opened to the public.

Biomorphic/Organic Abstraction (fl.1930s, 1940s)

Biomorphic/Organic Abstraction describes a style of art which employs rounded abstract forms derived from nature. It did not constitute a movement as such, but rather a style of art which appeared in the work of many different artists, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp, Joan Miro and Yves Tanguy, as well as the British sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. See also: Modern British Sculpture 1930-70. The appeal of Organic Abstraction extended the Abstract Expressionists, as well as legions of American and European furniture designers, including Charles Eames (1907-78), his wife Ray Eames (1912-88), Isamu Noguchi (1904-88) and the Finn Eero Saarinen (1910-61). The style has endured beyond the 1950s, being visible in the work of modern 3-D artists such as the designers Ron Arad, Verner Panton and Oscar Tusquets, as well as the sculptors Linda Benglis, Richard Deacon, Anish Kapoor, Ursula von Rydingsvard and Bill Woodrow.

St Ives School (1939-75)

The St Ives School was a British art colony based in the Cornish fishing town of St Ives, it was associated with the abstract artist Ben Nicholson and his wife, the great sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who settled near the town in 1939, to be joined shortly afterwards (until 1946) by the Russian Constructivist sculptor Naum Gabo. Another major artist, who had been living in St Ives since 1923, when he founded a pottery studio with fellow ceramicist Shoji Hamada, was the British ceramics artist Bernard Howell Leach. After 1945, as other artists arrived, St Ives developed into a centre for modern and abstract art, much of it derived from the local landscape. The main members of the school included Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Paul Feiler, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Karl Weschke and Bryan Wynter. In 1993, Tate St Ives, a purpose built art gallery was opened on Porthmeor Beach to display the Tate collection of St Ives School art. Also, nearby, is the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, which was established in 1980.

Existential Art (late-1940s, 1950s)

Existentialism was a popular philosophy which grew up around the writings of Frenchmen Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, during the 1940s and 1950s. It had a significant effect on the visual arts, where its themes of alienation, as well as angst in the face of the human condition, can also be seen in works of American Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel as well as in works by the COBRA group, the French Homme-Temoin group, the British Kitchen Sink art group, and the American Beats group - all of whom from time to time are labelled Existential. So, too, are many individual painters and sculptors: like the French artists Jean Fautrier, Germaine Richier, and Francis Gruber; the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti; as well as Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud. For a later artist whose work is inextricably bound up with the existential "absurdity" of life, see the contemporary sculptor Eva Hesse (1936-70).

Abstract Expressionist Movement (c.1947-65)

Abstract Expressionism was a major umbrella movement of American art during the late-1940s and 1950s, which consisted of a series of differing styles. Largely based around artists in New York, it is sometimes referred to as the New York School. As its name implies, the general style was abstract, but, instead of following the Cubist geometrical idiom, it followed an expressive or emotional course. The main component styles included: the animated all-over Action-Painting (developed by Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner); Gestural Painting (developed by Willem de Kooning); Colour Field Painting (practised by Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still), and "Hard-Edge Painting" (invented by Frank Stella), most of which were executed on a monumental scale. Another major contribution was made by the ex-Bauhaus painter Josef Albers with his "Homage to the Square" series.

Art Informel (fl.1950s)

The French term Art Informel, meaning art without form, was the European equivalent of abstract expressionist painting, which dominated the art world from roughly 1946 until the late 1950s. Coined by the French sculptor and writer Michel Tapié in his 1952 book "Un Art Autre," it was one of several buzzwords used by critics (another being "Lyrical Abstraction") to define the formless abstract expressionist style which arose during this period, both in America and Europe. The subject works varied in style to a degree, but were typically characterized by the absence of compositional structure, which represented (at least in Tapié's mind) a fundamental break with artistic tradition. Leading Art Informel artists included Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Jean Fautrier, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), Nicolas de Stael, to name but a few.

Tachisme (1950s)

The term Tachisme - derived from the French word "tache" meaning "spot" - describes a type of abstract painting popular in the late 1940s and 1950s characterized by the use of irregular dabs or splotches of colour. Given wide currency in Michel Tapie's book "Un autre art", Tachisme initially developed independently of the American Abstract Expressionist movement, and continued to be essentially a French phenomenon, although it is commonly used as a generic label for European Abstract Expressionism. Practitioners included Karel Appel (1921-2006), Jean Fautrier, Georges Mathieu and the German-born but Paris-based artist Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, known as WOLS. In Australia, Tachisme was embraced by the Sydney School. For more details, see: Australian Modern Painting (1900-60).

Somewhat confusingly, the term Tachisme was used differently in the 1880s by the critic Felix Feneon to describe the painting technique of Impressionists, and again in the 1900s by the artist Maurice Denis referring to the Italian Macchiaioli artists and the Parisian Fauve painters.

Arte Nucleare (1951-60)

The Italian Movimento d'Arte Nucleare, launched in 1951 by the Italian artist Enrico Baj, was a politically conscious arts movement that produced paintings and collages 'for the nuclear era.' Avoided geometric abstract works in favour of more fluid forms, characteristic of the Art Informel style. Baj's works included images reminiscent of atomic mushroom clouds and devastated urbanscapes. Other members of the movement included the painters Sergio Dangelo, Gianni Bertini, and Gianni Dova. Several Arte Nucleare shows were held in venues across Italy, but the movement foundered by the end of the decade.


Assemblage (1953 onwards)

The term Assemblage art was first coined by Jean Dubuffet in 1953 to denote a type of work constructed from fragments of natural, preformed or 'found' objects such as household debris, urban detritus, stuffed animals - indeed any (usually recognizable) materials, large or small. Typically, the items are selected and combined for their visual (sculptural) properties, as well as their expressive attributes. Although popularly thought of as the three-dimensional counterpart of collage, Assemblage in fact encompasses both 2-D collages and photomontages, as well as 3-D sculpture and entire-room environments. The art form gained wide currency following an exhibition called "The Art of Assemblage" held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1961), where one of the most unusual works, by Cesar Baldaccini (1921-1998), was made from compressed automobiles. A master exponent of this genre was the New York artist Robert Rauschenberg, whose innovative assemblages of the 1950s and the 1960s contributed immensely to the genre.

Neo-Dada (1953-65)

Neo-Dada art was a term almost synonymous with early American Pop-Art, especially the collage and assemblage work of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns in New York in the late 1950s. Pop-Art also shared Dada's subversive approach, by deliberately inflating the aesthetic significance of low-brow objects and imagery, much to the consternation of many "serious" critics and curators. The production-line methods of Andy Warhol's Factory, together with his iconoclastic showmanship and notoriety echoed the antics and shock tactics of Dada artist Marcel Duchamp, 40 years previously. Another movement, closely related to Dadaism is Fluxus, founded by George Maciunas, which emerged in the early 1960s in Germany and New York.

Kitchen Sink Art (1954-57)

A term coined by the critic David Sylvester, which first appeared in the December 1954 issue of the journal Encounter, in a description of the work of four British artists (John Bratby, Derrick Greaves, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith) known as the Beaux Arts Quartet. It pointed to the everyday subject matter (furniture, babies nappies, kitchen utensils, toilets) of the foursome, whose celebration of the banal in the lives of ordinary people was their attempt to make art more relevant and accessible, while making a clear social comment. The Kitchen Sink 'movement' reached a highpoint in 1956, when the members of the Beaux Arts Quartet were selected to be the British representatives at the Venice Biennale.

Pop Art (1958-70)

The term Pop-Art describes a style of art - emerging simultaneously in both America and Britain - that derived its inspiration, creative techniques and philosophy from popular and commercial culture. These populist or consumerist sources encompassed film, advertising, product-packaging, pop music and comic strips. The British movement differed from its American counterpart by being less brash, more romantic and more nostalgic. A Continental version of Pop, Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism), also appeared, although this had stronger links to the anti-art Dada movement. Pop art started in the mid-1950s and peaked in the mid-1960s under the influence of Andy Warhol and others. Inspired in America by the pioneering work of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, Pop also had affinities with early 20th century movements like Surrealism. In part, it was a revolt against the closed artistic purism of Abstract Expressionism, from which Pop artists sought to distance themselves by using simple, easily recognized imagery, as well as modern printmaking technology like screen printing. Famous Pop artists in the USA included: Jim Dine (b.1935), Robert Indiana (aka John Clark) (b.1928), Jasper Johns (b.1930), Alex Katz (b.1927), Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97), Claes Oldenburg (b.1929), Edward Ruscha (b.1937), Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), James Rosenquist (b.1933), Andy Warhol (1928-87) and Tom Wesselmann (b.1931). Famous British Pop artists included: Sir Peter Blake (b.1932), Patrick Caulfield (1936-2006), Richard Hamilton (b.1922), David Hockney (b.1937), Allen Jones (b.1937), RB Kitaj (b.1932), Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005). See also our guide to Andy Warhol's Pop Art of the sixties and seventies.

Op-Art (Optical Art) (fl.1965-70)

A refinement of Hard Edge Painting, Op-Art was a type of non-objective art which employed black and white geometric patterns to create a variety of optical effects on the viewer's physiology and psychology of perception. Insofar as it created the illusion of movement, the style is best seen as part of the wider Kinetic art movement. For example, by bombarding the eyes in this manner, the paintings cause them to "see" colours or shapes that are not actually there, or to confuse background with foreground and so on. Despite its strange, sometimes disturbing, effects, Optical Art was fully in line with traditional canons of fine art. Remember, all traditional painting is based upon the "illusion" of depth and perspective. Op-Art simply extended the illusionary nature of art by interfering with the rules governing optical perception. Famous abstract Op-artists included Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Richard Anuszkiewicz, François Morellet and Jesús-Rafael Soto. Josef Albers' Homage to the Square series was also a type of Optical art, as were the illusionary drawings of M.C. Escher. See also British Contemporary Painting (1960-2000).

New Realism (1960s)

Fluxus meets Dada meets Conceptualism, Nouveau Realisme (New Realism) was a highly avant-garde French movement launched in 1960 by Yves Klein, whose manifesto, "Constitutive Declaration of New Realism," stated its aim to be "creating new ways of perceiving the real." Founding members included Pierre Restany, Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely, Francois Dufrene, Raymond Hains, and Jacques de la Villegle. Later members were Mimmo Rotella, Niki de Saint Phalle and Gerard Deschamps. The group lost momentum after the death of Yves Klein in 1962, who personally favoured the name "today's realism" (realisme d'aujourd'hui). For more about Nouveau Realisme and its founder, see also: Yves Klein's Postmodernist art (1956-62).

Nouveau Realiste works were often characterized by collage, decollage and assemblage, using real-life objects. In this manner, New Realism reveals its links with Dada in general and the readymades of Marcel Duchamp in particular. Another important influence was American Pop-Art, as exemplified by the movement's use of mass-produced commercial objects and iconography. In general, one can say that Nouveau Realistes turned their backs on abstraction and emotionalism in favour of a cooler approach and a return of the figure.

Post-Painterly Abstraction (Early, mid-1960s)

Post-Painterly Abstraction is a term coined by art critic Clement Greenberg (his title for an exhibition he curated for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1964) to describe a calmer, more restrained type of 1960s Abstract Expressionism. Essentially, the term describes the replacement of gestural brushwork with a new idiom based on broad areas of unmodulated colour. Prominent exponents of 1960s Post Painterly Abstraction include: Helen Frankenthaler, Al Held, Ellsworth Kelly, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski and Frank Stella. The term (and style) were gradually overtaken and replaced by the new school of Minimalism.



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