Modern Art Movements

In one of my Art therapy with painting courses, my students asked a very good question: What is modern art, is it the same as contemporary art? At that moment I became aware of that many people confuse modern with contemporary art because modern and contemporary are two very close words. In fact, they are not completely independent, but there are still significant differences.

What is Modern Art?

Known for its avant-garde aesthetic, modern art is famous for its wide range and forward-thinking artists who have developed over the past 100 years and incorporated many major art movements. On the other hand, in order to trace the development of this movement, it is necessary to recognize and understand its constituent genres.

Modern art, not to be confused with contemporary art Late 19th century and Early to mid-20th century art. The works produced during this period, which encompasses movements such as Impressionism, Fauvism and Expressionism, demonstrate the artists’ interest in reimagining, reinterpreting and even rejecting the traditional aesthetic values of previous styles. Fahrelnisa Zeid ranks among the most beautiful creators of this art movement in our country.

Modern Art Movements


This trend is the 19th century. It began in the late 19th century with Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, using blurred brushstrokes, focusing on light and using a vibrant color palette. Generally accepted as the catalyst of modern art, Impressionism is a 20th-century artistic movement in which Impressionist artists such as Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas were at the forefront. dominated French painting until the beginning of the century.


Inspired by the artistic freedom of the Impressionists, artists such as Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec began to create works in distinctive and unconventional styles. This colorful movement, known as Post-Impressionism, which began in the 1890s, focused on emotion and added subjective interpretation to painting instead of realistic depiction.

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Starry Night / Vincent Van Gogh


Founded by Les Fauves, a group of avant-garde artists including André Derain and Henri Matisse, Fauvism first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. Like the Post-Impressionists, the Fauvists embraced individual perception with drawings featuring abstract forms in unrealistic tones. Fikret Mualla is the first name I can think of among Turkish painters who belong to this movement. Reflecting his stormy life and inner world in his paintings, Mualla’s works are a mixture of Expressionism and Fauvism.

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Woman in a Hat / Henri Matisse


Shortly before the First World War, German and Austrian painters began to practice a new artistic movement. Known as Expressionists, these artists adopted and interpreted unprecedented features of other contemporary movements. Like the Post-Impressionist and Fauvist works, the expressionist works are notable for their bright, artificial colors and individual iconography. Among the best-known examples of this movement, which conveys the emotional world of the artist with distorted lines, shapes and exaggerated colors, is Edvard Munch’s famous Scream.

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Scream / Edvard Munch


Cubism, characterized by structureless and fragmented forms, shows modern art’s shift towards abstraction. The avant-garde movement, which began in 1907 under the leadership of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, was embodied in torn paintings, multi-dimensional sculptures and modern collages. Like other art movements, Cubism emphasized a subjective approach to creation. Picasso explained this movement by saying, “When we discovered Cubism, we didn’t want to discover Cubism. I just wanted to express what was inside me.”

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Girl with Mandolin / Pablo Picasso


In the 1920s, Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miró and Yves Tanguy came together to found Surrealism, a movement rooted in the subconscious. Described as “independent of any mental control, aesthetic or moral concerns”, we can also define this art movement as a dream-like depiction of various works that arise directly from the artist’s imagination.

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Perseverance of Memory / Salvador Dali

Post Expressionism

In the mid-20th century, a group of creative artists came up with figurative painting styles with original and abstract aesthetics. These painters, known as abstract expressionists, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondriaan and Mark Rothko, placed artistic emphasis not only on modernist characteristics such as color, composition and emotion, but also on the process of creation itself. Mondriaan’s Composition 2, which was sold for 51 million dollars at Sotheby’s auction house on November 15, 2022, is one of the most important works of post-expressionism.

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Composition 2 / Piet Mondriaan

About Contemporary Art

Due to the experimental nature and overlapping themes in both modern and contemporary art, these two genres are often confused. However, it is very easy to see the differences when the currents that make up these genres are examined. Contemporary art began with Pop Art, the first major art movement that took modernism as its backdrop, and has been appearing before art lovers in different forms until today. If you want to take a look at the best examples of both movements, don’t forget to check my article MODERN ART IN PARIS MUSEUMS.

Details about contemporary art, which is a very popular art movement today, including movements, artists and famous works are with you in my next blog post.

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