Becoming Modern By: Alanah Herfi

Historical Context

Becoming Modern

The age of Modernism lasted from 1850-1960, it started with the Realist Movement and ended with Abstract Expressionism. This new age came about due to changes primarily in, Technology, Urban Culture, Religion, and the Avant Garde. With industrialization occurring in this era, the creation of technology like railroads, streetcars, factories, and gas lighting changed the previous agricultural lifestyle. The introduction of railroads and factories led to the increase in factory jobs and major migrations of people to industrialized cities. This change demonstrated the new Urban Culture in Europe that was characterized by the emergence of big populated cities rather than small farming towns. Religion changed in that this era there was an increase in secularism. Unlike before, there was significantly less authority being held by churches and heads of religion. The decrease of authority and standards of organized religion was illustrated by the art focusing ore on human emotion and not having any religious significance. This artists that demonstrated this idea along with radical new changes in art were called, Avant Garde. This term is used to describe artists involved in the Impressionism movement as well as the post impressionist movement. These movements presented new techniques in art such as a unpolished look, asymmetrical structure, and still-life subjects.


Wanderer Above the Fog

Romanism was a period in response to the Enlightenment. While the Enlightenment brought attention to reason and logic with scientific discoveries and the emphasis of experimentation, rheumatism focused on human emotion and intuition. The main concept of Romanticism as seen in Romantic works, was to spark human emotion. Romanticists disliked the industrial revolution and put importance on nostalgia and nature, looking at the days before industry took over.

Romantic Art

J.M.W Turner The Fighting Temeraire

The concept of J.M.W Turner’s, The Fighting Temeraire, is to convey the views of Romanticists on the industrial revolution. In this painting Temeraire depicts a grand large scale ship being pulled by a tiny dirty boat with a sunset in the background. This painting using a nostalgic perspective to show the concept of this painting is to show how Romanticists disliked the industrial revolution.

Romantic Music

Frederic Chopin

While music of the romanticism era is usually seen as strong, powerful, and emotional, like the works of Beethoven, Frederic Chopin compositions demonstrated romanticism in a starkly contrasting way. When Chopin composed he demonstrated romanticism by emphasizing simplistic beauty. Instead of composing for an entire orchestra, Chopin wrote exclusively for the piano, which intensifies demonstrating the concept of beauty of nature in the most simplistic way.

Romantic Writer

Romantic Writers: Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo was among one of the most influential romanticist writers. Hugo is most commonly know for writing, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and, “Les Miserable.” In particular, Hugo demonstrated the romanticists concept of emotion evoking emotion in his work, “Les Miserables.” In this story Hugo took a relatively small piece of history and amplified it so it was seen as a powerful battle. Through the love interests and bravery of the characters he creates, he celebrates the romantic concept of putting emphasis on human’s emotions.


Realism: Charles Darwin

The work of scientist Charles Darwin conveys the concepts found in realism of reason and logic. Charles Darwin introduced the ideas of natural selection and how it works with evolution. Darwin’s use of evolution to explain the formation of humans (Darwinism) challenged Christian ideologies of how man was made. This shift to logic and science over religion had many impacts on Europe and caused anger among many religious Europeans.


Realism: Emile Zola

Emile Zola thought that literature should convey an accurate depiction of reality. Zola used realist concepts to convey the struggles of the working class in his literature rather than the way romanticists showed them in a sort of utopian society. Zola’s goal was to be true to the subject matter and portray some basic truths of life with his work. He portrayed realism in his commitment to making sure the truth was shown in his works.

Realist Art

Realism: Jean-Francois Millet, The Gleaners

In Jean-Francois Millet’s painting, “The Gleaners,” he depicts three women bent down gathering wheat. In this painting, Millet contrasts a soft color scheme with the harsh work being done by the women. In the background there are large bundles and a man on a horse foreseeing the labor being done. This painting shows the concept of realism because it conveys the intense labor done by the middle class to earn a living and brings attention to the struggle rather than focusing on beauty like Romanticists.


Science: Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud was a revolutionary psychologist who changed the world of psychology with his concepts of psychoanalysis and studies on the unconscious state of humans. Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis basically means, “talking therapy,” where talking enough would uncover some repressed memory that caused the state of un-comfort. His exploration of the unconscious state of humans in thugs like dreams and tried to use this state to make discoveries about the mind. The important concept of this document about Freud was a main part into a new intellectual age of knowledge.

Modern Art: Impressionist

Impressionism: Edgar Degas, The Dance Class

“The Dance Class,” by Edgar Degas uses multiple techniques to express the ideas involved with impressionist art. In this painting, Degas depicts dancers scattered around in a messy format in a crowded dance room. The sort of messy and unpolished look of the dancers and their expressions conveys the concepts of imperfection found in impressionist art. Degas also uses asymmetrical placement by leaving the right corner empty which changes perspective and continues the idea purposeful flaws which makes the painting embody the concepts of impressionist artists of having their work look in a way, “unplanned.”

Modern Art: Post-Impressionist

Post-Impressionist: Paul Cézanne, The Basket of Apples

“The Basket of Apples,” by Paul Cezanne, is an example of post-impressionist art. This painting shows a basket of apples being spilled over on a table with bread and wine in the background. The importance of this painting is that still objects act as the focus of it which was new since before paintings were focused on people or nature, not essentially, “meaningless,” objects. The concept this painting illustrates is the new idea of making the subject of a piece be a lifeless objects rather than having a large scale meaning.

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