How Was Modern Art Shaped by Other Trends?

Posted by Robert Lange on

Though modern artists showed a penchant for pivoting away from well-established traditions, they still sought inspiration from their predecessors and past art movements. Art never exists in a vacuum, and the contexts, lives, and daily experiences of artists are what mostly shape their perspective and how they share it with the world. For an in-depth dive into what other trends inspired modern artists as the period developed, keep reading!

Revisiting the Distant Past – How Ancient Art Influenced Modern Art

The enchanting beauty that ancient Romans and Greeks captured in their works inspires many to this day. Any person who, for example, looks at a statue of the minotaur from ancient Greece and contemplates its elegance today would be no different from Pablo Picasso.

It may feel bewildering to say at first, but Picasso was indeed one of the leading figures in modern art who took great inspiration from those who lived and created thousands of years before his time. The Spanish master took the balance, proportion, and symmetry from ancient art, deconstructed it, and warped perspective while utilizing geometric shapes to create his own breathtaking work. Picasso was steadily influenced by ancient Greek art, without which Cubism – or modern art in general – may have taken a wholly different course.

Renaissance and Modern Art – Beauty Inspiring Contemplation

The Renaissance period heavily focused on simplicity, humanism, and beauty in its natural state. This approach differed significantly from modern artists’ more abstract approaches to beauty, art, shapes, and even reality.

However, in its early days, namely in the era of Romanticism, great painters such as J.M.W. Turner or Caspar David Friedrich pondered over the works of Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci and the themes of nature and emotion. This focus certainly feels quite peculiar, especially given how modern art would evolve in a much less conventional direction in its later stages.

Looking Eastward – Asian Influences on Modern Art

A decidedly underappreciated influence on European modern artists came far from their own home turf. In the nineteenth century, major strides were made in terms of art democratization and increasing access to more than just the aristocracy. Interestingly enough, by the time this happened in Europe, in a way it had already taken place in Japanese society.

Ukiyo-e, or woodblock prints, was a Japanese form of art that emerged as a countermovement in response to art elitism and the rigidity of the Japanese social structure. Ukiyo-e depicted ordinary experiences from everyday life and utilized bold outlines and colorful imagery. It heavily appealed to Impressionist titans like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet, so much so that Japanese art eventually exploded in popularity. The term “Japonisme” was coined, referring to an obsession with Japanese art and culture among Western European art enthusiasts, particularly in France.

how ancient art influenced modern art

Drawn to Light 24" x 36" oil on panel

Shaping the Way Forward – Impressionists and Later Genres of Modern Art

The school of impressionism undoubtedly remains one of the most influential and recognizable to this day. At the start, though, it wasn’t exactly like this. Early Impressionist works were not at all appreciated for their innovative approach to painting. Only later would their unique and genius implementation of bold colors, sparse brush stroke techniques, and natural light painting hailed as a period-redefining approach.

So, how did impressionism influence modern art? Famous impressionist works, as well as the techniques used to create them would later influence a number of other schools, including Post-impressionism, Expressionism, and Fauvism. Thus, the contributions of Impressionists not just to modern art but art overall cannot be understated. You could even argue that Impressionism was the cornerstone school of the period, underpinning its development and shaping the remainder of how the period evolved.

An Abstract Revolution – How Cubism Influenced Modern Art

Another major school that comprised modern art was Cubism, with the aforementioned name of Pablo Picasso at its forefront. Picasso, alongside Georges Braque, spearheaded the revolutionary movement. Their unconventional approach equipped artists with brand-new means of presenting their subject matter.

The multitude and non-linearity of perspectives – a hallmark of Cubism alongside geometrical lines and shapes – took modern art in a completely different direction. With time, standard compositions almost fell to the wayside as artists clearly inspired by Cubism delved deeper into abstraction. This greatly influenced an immense number of schools, including Absurdism, Surrealism, Constructivism, and Abstract Expressionism.

The Takeaway

The subversiveness of modern art spawned an incredibly diverse pool of work. Artists from the period sought inspiration from an equally diverse number of sources, including ancient Greece, the Renaissance, and even other prolific modern artists who lived at the same time. We hope this article provided you with insightful information about the major influences behind modern art.

For further reading, we recommend taking a look at this article: What Is Contemporary Art? Definition and Examples

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