What makes the difference between modern and contemporary art?


Studying art and understanding its concepts is not that easy as anyone would assume, especially since there are countless forms art can have. If we look around us, everything can be cataloged as art – buildings with their architecture, our homes with our interior decorations, paintings, the music we listen, and even the food we eat while watching a movie.

However, as volatile as it may seem, art does have some strict grounds, especially regarding its type. And, in order to try to talk about it, you first need to know exactly the type of art you are looking at. The different styles of art are mainly dictated by the times in which they appeared, as well as the types of techniques and materials used to create them.

But, while classic art and ancient art can be easily told apart in terms of materials and techniques used, spotting the difference between modern and contemporary art requires a certain level of subtleness. So how do you tell these two apart?


Modern art

According to most critics, modern art appeared anywhere between the 1860s and the 1880s and it was heavily influenced by the technological revolutions in Europe. Most of the manual processes were replaced with mechanical ones and the world seemed to learn the perks of technology for the first time.

We consider a piece of art being modern if it was designed or created between the 1860s and the 1950s. The main reason why art was called “modern” back then is because it didn’t rely on something that came before it or techniques that were already discovered.

One of the pioneers of modern art is considered to be the painter Edouard Manet because he was the first one to depict scenes of modern life in his paintings, instead of replicating real life. In fact, Manet had no reason to mimic real life in his paintings, and this inspired other painters to experiment more with their techniques and even create new styles.

As a result, throughout modernism, there were developed a series of other movements, all as famous as modernism itself. From Impressionism to Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Expressionism, and Surrealism, these all heavily influenced the way we see art nowadays.

Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky, Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh or Pablo Picasso are just some of the most famous modern painters the world gave to us in less than one century.


Contemporary art

Contemporary art refers to a specific timetable, mainly after the 1950s. Every piece of art that was created after the 1950s, including all its movements (minimalism, postmodernism, feminism) is considered to be contemporary.

According to other definitions, contemporary art is created by artists who are still amongst us.