Becoming Modern Project By: Riley Schantz

During the 19th and 20th centuries the growth of capitalism, increased quality of living, urbanization overtaking agrarian lifestyle,growing middle class, the growth of secularism, and arts reflected the defining aspects of modernism. Capitalism grew as people had more money to spend on goods and goods became easily available. Art began to take a more individualized approach as society focused less on God, and took a more optimistic look on life. The middle class grew and began to spend more money on art, literature, and decorations into their homes like avant garde paintings that were purely aesthetic, not political or religious at all.


Romanticism shifted arts view from a view of God and religion, to one about the individual and their emotions. It focused more on childhood innocence and freedom from the world’s responsibilities, and creating martyrs out of artists. Literature also focused more on an individual's emotional journeys and the things society forced upon them.

Romantic Art

Francis de Goya’s painting, The Third of May, is a great example of romantic art. It focuses on the individual, a poor laborer, who isn’t God or wealthy, sacrificing himself to protect others. This painting romanticizes the killing of the Spanish by the French, showing the Spaniard in a Christ-like pose against the faceless enemy.

Romantic Composers

Peter Tchaikovsky was a composer from Russia who created famous melodies in the Nutcracker and the 1812 Overture, which inspired many musical composers in the 20th century. Fitting to romanticism, he was criticized by his peer and other musicians, but the public loved his work.. Due to his lack of musical knowledge, his music used emotional crescendos and melodies as crutches to support his songs.

Romantic Literature

Victor Hugo wrote “Les Miserables” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. During his time authors began to romanticize, and create more individual based art about everyday living. A good example of this shift is Hugo’s book “Les Miserables” which focuses on the struggle of the poor revolting against a corrupt government and social injustice.


Karl Marx helped create social science in his “Communist Manifesto” starting a more realist view on society and its people. He viewed classes and class struggle as the biggest conflict in human history, and would eventually end in a revolution. His views were also scene as materialist, not religious or idealist because they explained society through its material conditions.

Realist Writers

Charles Dickens was one of the most popular writers during his era. His writing usually focused on social issues between the upper class and the lower class, like in his story “A Tale of Two Cities” which shows the hatred each the two classes have towards each other. He also wrote "A Christmas Carol" about an upper class man who hoarded his wealth and never helped those below him.

Realist Art

The Gleaners by: Jean-Francois Millet

Jean Millet’s painting "The Gleaners" of poor French women gathering food to survive and support their families. This drew attention from the upper class of France who saw this painting, who feared the radicalization of the lower class to turn against them. The painting shows how divided the two classes are and the issues the poor face.


Sigmund Freud is one of the most popular psychologists due to his revolutionary work. He explored the subconscious mind and tried to understand what made people act the way they did. Many of his theories about behavior included childhood trauma and repressed memories, he believed by finding your repressed memories it would solve any mental issues you had, like depression.

Impressionist Art

The Bridge at Argenteuil by: Claude Monet

Claude Monet ventured away from the painting style of that time, and painted in patterns, using no defined lines, and drawing the beauty he saw, focusing on a random boat on a pond. Which is unlike earlier paintings that focused on people and religion, he focused on the beauty of nature.

Post-Impressionist Art

The Bedroom by: Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh’s painting “The Bedroom” showed the experimentation side of art as he attempted to use more emotional colors like red and blue to provoke a certain mood in the viewer. His painting captures the beauty of everyday life and how often it goes unnoticed by nearly everybody.

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