Becoming Modern

Historical Context

Throughout the 1800s, Europe stepped into a modern era due to the many artistic, scientific, and literary movements that occurred. Religious authority decreased during this time as there was a shift to thinking more about one's own emotions and intuitions, rather than primarily the Bible's teachings. Although there was a value for the use of personal thoughts and emotions, people began to experiment and desired to have reason. The people during this time were excited about the new changes occurring, which continued Europe's growth. New techniques and discoveries were made and Europe flourished.


Romanticism emerged in the early 19th century as a response to the Enlightenment. This new movement inspired writers, artists, and composers to use their feelings and intuitions in their work. Romanticism allowed people to research new ways of thinking and express themselves.

Romantic Artists

Francisco de Goya's The Third of May exhibits the brutal attack of the French on the Spanish in 1808. This painting expresses emotion by displaying a worried, innocent-looking Spaniard being attacked by numerous french soldiers. The painting also gives historical content, which was an emphasis in romantic art, by showing Spaniards dead from the attack of Napoleon's soldiers.

Romantic Composers

Fryderyk Chopin was a Polish composer who was known for composing music specifically for the piano. Chopin's music affected others due to his way of composing his music in a personal and emotional way. Chopin is known for being inspired by nature and having the skill to express that inspiration into his work.

Romantic Writers

Similarly to composers and artists, writers became inspired by the romantic movement. For example, Victor Hugo is known for being one of the most influential romantic writers in France. One of his main works,"The Hunchback of Notre Dame", was successful as it told a love story between a physically impaired man and a gypsy woman. Hugo's writing spread due to its cultural popularity.


After the many revolutions during the 1800s in Europe, realism emerged bringing a new way of thinking. Rather than using one's own intuition and emotions, realism also valued experimentation and reason. Charles Darwin, for example, used realism as he provided evidence to the development of all living things and studied natural selection and survival of the fittest.

Realism in Literature

Along with scientists, writers were also influenced by realism as they mainly focused on people's everyday Leo Tolstoy was a writer who believed that one's writing should relate to the everyday lives of people and connect to society. Tolstoy's writings were meant to influence people to be kinder to one another and help social issues.

Realism in Art

In Jean-Fran├žois Millet's specific work of art, "The Gleaners", the painting shows three women working in the field. There is a great focus on the three women because they are represented as beggars due to the fact that they are working after the harvest to gather food. The background shows a large amount of harvest, yet the three lower-class women have gathered very little food. The background is very soft, but the three women are painted as strong women.


Science also began to develop as philosophy grew. Philosophy made a great transition from believing in rational interpretations to impulsivity. One famous philosopher, Nietzsche, believed that the most important part of teaching philosophy was for people to be there true selves. He also believed that people should recognize their negative traits, not hide them, in order to improve themselves.

Modern Art

Modern impressionistic art was represented by expressing beauty and patriotism. In Claude Monet's, "The Argenteuil Bridge", the artist used specific techniques that varied from old, abstract art. Monet's technique of using little dabs of color allowed people to see shadows and colors in the painting that they normally would not see. Monet wanted his painting to be a new experience for the viewers.

Post-Impressionist Art

Vincent van Gogh's, "The Bedroom", caused people to connect to art through the colors he used in all different ways. Van Gogh focused on causing people to feel different emotions when they viewed his art work, and in this specific painting, he wanted people to feel peaceful. Post-Impressionist art allowed artists to explore their skills to try to connect to others.



Created with images by Mike Licht, - "DC Emerges from Frankenstorm, after John Constable"

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