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Modernism was an artistic and philosophical movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the early Renaissance, painting styles had progressed, from the control of the Church to the awakening of the Romantic self-awareness, and then to the "Impressionists" such as Monet, Picasso, Braque, and Matisse. The subjects and styles of painting changed completely, as well as the continuous exploration of shapes, colors, and spatial observation. The content of the painting shifted from religious painting to market life. The painting styles also shifted from the strict and delicate classical style to a more loose and expressive style. At the same time, the idea of "modernism" was deeply rooted in people's hearts and minds, changing their thinking and aesthetics.


The Rise of Modernism

Modernism is the artistic movement that developed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They have avant-garde features and various art schools and trends of thought that have parted ways with traditional literature and art. Its origin can be traced back to the French Impressionists. In the 1880s, the French Post-Impressionists, Neo-Impressionists, and Symbolists put forward many concepts, such as "the independent value of art language itself," "painting is not a servant of nature," "painting is free from dependence on literature and history" and "art for art's sake." These concepts were the theoretical basis of the modernist art system. In order to rebel against the stereotypes of the late 19th century, artists turned to what they considered to be more emotionally realistic ways to express people's true feelings and ideas. Modern art is not dedicated to the expression of beauty, harmony, balance, and completeness, nor is it an imitation of what is beautiful, but lies in the creation of what has never been done before.


Styles of Modernism

There are many styles of modernism, among which the more well-known ones are Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism, and Abstract art. These styles have alternated and changed throughout art history and were distinctive in their art forms and means of expression. They rejected the realistic tradition of Western art painting and emphasized the expression of the subjective spirit of the painter, using deformations or abstract symbols to reflect metaphor, imply the external world, and express pessimistic, distorted, lost thoughts or fanatical, irritable, and excited emotions. All of these are artistic portrayals of modern Western society. The development of modernism changed the way the public saw and accepted art. That is why we need to look at modernist art more comprehensively, not dismiss it easily, and not push it all the way. Modernist artworks have both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, they were brave to break through the tradition and actively innovate. On the negative side, they were too opposed to tradition and deliberately showed their own artistic individuality, even distorting emotions. In this regard, we have to look at and selectively analyze them. We should adhere to the pragmatic attitude of analyzing specific works.


Representative Painters

The invention of photography influenced modernism. People have an additional way to record reality images, but painting and photography do not show the same effect. Artists are free to express their individuality in their paintings, showing a rich visual presentation.


One of the essential artists in modernist painting is Paul Cézanne, a famous French painter and a representative of late impressionism. He has been known as the father of modernism art. He pursued the practice of color and light reflection and advocated that painters should use their own eyes to re-understand external things. He opened up many ideas for "Cubism," and its unique subjective color greatly differs from that of most painters who emphasize the objective color feeling.


Henri Matisse is one of the main representatives of the Modernism painting. He continued to explore Cézanne's painting philosophy, pursuing a more subjective and intense color expression. Matisse's "Fauvist" career was followed by an experimental phase. He abandoned the three-dimensional effect of painting and focused on simple colors, flat shapes, and striking patterns. He used colors freely, imitating natural colors, freeing them from the shackles of realism and thus achieving the goal of expressing feelings.


The works of Edvard Munch are known as "spiritual realism," such as The Scream, which is a representative work of the Symbolist and Expressionist movements. In contrast to the Renaissance's notions of beauty, serenity, and heroism, Munch's works show everyday life's fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. In The Scream, Munch's dreary, anxious and lonely emotions are expressed to an extreme.


In 1912, Giacomo Balla, an Italian futurist painter, created Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash. The painting expresses the dynamic of objects on static drawing paper and shows the relationship between time and movement. Futurism opposed static and advocated dynamic. They also opposed the right angle and advocated triangle and spiral. Opposed elegant, advocated noisy; opposed low tone, advocated strong and exciting color scheme. This opposition to everything ignores tradition, and ultimately it shall not last. In just 20 years, Futurism gradually died out.

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