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What Is Modern Art?

Late-19th-century artists broke with tradition to create art for the modern age.

Painting Modern Life

Explore how early modern artists forged new directions in painting.

Rise of the Modern City

Discover the ways in which artists and architects engaged with the landscape of modern cities.

Modern Landscapes

Discover groundbreaking techniques in early modern landscape paintings.

Modern Portraits

Explore how early modern painters pushed the boundaries of traditional portraiture.

Popular Culture

Learn about how popular culture influenced modern art.

Artists living in the rapidly modernizing world of late-19th-century Europe sought not only to depict modern life, but also to convey the emotional and psychological effects of navigating a world in rapid flux. Though artists like Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne continued to paint traditional subject matter—like landscapes, portraits and still lifes—they explored these subjects in ways that shocked their contemporaries.

To explore more, click on each artwork thumbnail, then click again on the larger image that appears in the box above.

An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera.

A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.

The visual or narrative focus of a work of art.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

A representation of inanimate objects, as a painting of a bowl of fruit.

A representation of a particular individual, usually intended to capture their likeness or personality.

Technique used to depict volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface, as in a painted scene that appears to extend into the distance.

Modern can mean related to current times, but it can also indicate a relationship to a particular set of ideas that, at the time of their development, were new or even experimental.

The natural landforms of a region; also, an image that has natural scenery as its primary focus.

Derived from the French verb coller, meaning “to glue,” collage refers to both the technique and the resulting work of art in which fragments of paper and other materials are arranged and glued or otherwise affixed to a supporting surface.

Questions & Activities

  1. Host a Salon

    Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso would have been invited to author Gertrude Stein’s Parisian home for salons, social gatherings to share ideas and works of art.

    Create either a real or mock salon by inviting three to five friends to share a poem, a work of art, a song/piece of music, or a dance. At the salon, share your pieces with one another and discuss them.

  2. Exploring Perspectives through Photography

    Perspective is an important concept in art and in life. Now it is your turn to explore a perspective of an artistic subject of your choice. Arrange a still life of either your most or least favorite objects. Take photographs of the objects from various angles and perspectives. Print out your images. Cut up the images and paste them onto a separate sheet of paper, creating a two-dimensional collage that depicts the subject from multiple viewpoints.

    Once you have a final collage, title your piece. Write a short caption that explains your artistic intention. Share with a friend and discuss your intention.