Becoming Modern

Historical Context

Europe was facing a massive shift from the 18th century into the new 19th century with new ideas and more ideas being accepted from being denied because it had disagreed with religion. In the 1800’s, Europe saw several movements and revolutions through the Revolutions of 1848, and the Industrial Revolution. Artist valued emotions, and daily life and average people. Literature followed a similar trend showing more daily life of people and expressing grievances with society. Scientific research and understanding became more accepted as the times changed building Europe up into a modern age.

Henry Wallis, The Death of Chatterton


Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog

Romantics sought to express emotions and had desired to go back time a time where things were better. They also glorified nature and the individual. Through their art, they expressed differing opinions and values than that of Imperialism.

Romantic Artist

Francis de Goya El Tres de Mayo

Francis de Goya’s The Third of May, 1808, in Madrid, exemplifies the individual, depicting a man posing similar to Jesus as the faceless, soulless french soldiers massacre the Spanish civilians. This painting is considered to be the world’s first modern painting and is praised as one of the best paintings.

Romantic Musician

Frederic Chopin aided in kick-starting the romantic musical movement with his expressive, exclusive piano pieces. Chopin uses his music to express deep emotions through popular compositions such as Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 35 (Funeral March) further demonstrating the deep and intense emotion he created through his music.

Romantic Author

Mary Shelley most well-known literary work, Frankenstein, also contains romantic themes as well. Shelley shows deep and complex emotions through the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, along with the individual rising up in the situation, and the search for forbidden knowledge by the monster.


Realist Scientist

European peoples had advanced their understanding of politics through multiple revolutions where people pushed their values of Nationalism, Socialism, and other “isms”. Karl Marx had challenged the current societal view of factory work stating that it alienated people and prevented them from being human as he believed that being human meant being a creative worker and factories had prevented people from being creative workers.

Realist and Materialist Writers

Charles Dickens also demonstrates realist ideas through his work A Tale of Two Cities where he wrote “‘It is extraordinary to me,’ said he, ‘that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for ever in the way’”. Showing the issues of classes within society similar to the scientist of the time.

Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners

Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners depicts women in the fields picking up scraps to feed their families. Through putting the women in the foreground, enlarging them, putting them in the forefront of the painting showing their daily work and show the harsh living of the average person.


Sigmund Freud was in the forefront of psychological studies through his theories of Id, Ego, and Superego, and how these control a person’s mental faculties. He also studied the forces that drive the human mind and used them in his studies to further understand the human mind.

Modern Art


Claude Monet, The Argenteuil Bridge

Another artistic movement that started was the Impressionists where they promoted patriotism and beauty . Monet had struggled to gain an audience for his art as it had gone against the grain. Claude Monet’s The Argenteuil Bridge contains short brush strokes blended with dots to produce an aura of unearthliness.

Vincent van Gogh The Bedroom

Some artists went against the techniques of the impressionists and were titled post-impressionists. A prominent post-impressionist figure is Vincent van Gogh with his painting The Bedroom, with even color and the lines and the shapes used to express harmonies through these techniques.

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