Becoming Modern By: Nikolas Sumnik

Historical Context

The start of the 1800's marked many world-changing events. The urbanization due to industrialization brought many to cities, a brand new world to them. Capitalism allowed for a free market unseen before. Religious authority continued to lessen. These major changes changed the very way people looked at life and the world around it, sparking the age of modernism.


Romanticism was a response to the ideas of the enlightenment and industrialization. Instead of focusing on rationalism and logic, romanticists focused on emotional response and a connection with nature, the simple life.
This J.M.W. Turner painting depicts the distaste romanticists have with progress. This picture shows a glorious, bright frigate being tugged into shore by a dark and depressing steamboat, bringing the great ship towards the darkness of the industrial city.
Tchaikovsky was a romanticist composer who was criticized for his works. Much of the classic composers of Russia criticized Tchaikovsky's romanticist style, however his compositions found many fans in the general public for the emotional presence found within the works.
Mary Shelley also showed Romanticist ideals through her novel Frankenstein, where a heavily emotional protagonist was troubled by his own work of progress, which was depicted by a monster.


Charles Darwin challenged the widely held belief of creationism through his theory of evolution. His skepticism and experimentation on the Galapagos Islands in search of rational explanation embodied the idea of Realism.
Emile Zola focused his writing on natural observation, highlighting the realist views of experimentation and skepticism.
Leo Tolstoy's writing was very anti-romantic, steering away from religion and focusing on psychology and human interactions. This non-romantic writing was also a characteristic of Realism.


Nietzsche's science opposed many of the widely held beliefs. His ideas of embracing shame directly opposed religion and characterized much of new science in that sense, and in it's focus on reality.


Monet's Argenteuil Bridge highlight's the Impressionist Movement as it focuses on the individual perception of the image. Many criticized impressionist paintings at the time for being unable to see what the painter sees as well as the bold steps it took, but that's what composed the movement.


Quite different from Monet's painting, Van Gogh's bedroom embodies the post-impressionist movement. The lack of abstractness in strokes in the picture allows a portrayal of perception through how the painter sow the reality around them, as seen in these defined yet smooth, calm strokes.

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