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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.

During the late 19th century in France, entertainment for the general public developed and grew, influencing popular culture. Among the new forms of entertainment was the cabaret, where people could drink, eat, and see live shows in a loose, high-spirited setting. In the 1880s, cabarets began opening all over Paris, eventually spreading to other European cities and the United States. Artists, writers, and other members of the creative set were in the mix of the crowds who enthusiastically patronized the Parisian cabarets.

The singers and dancers who performed in the cabarets enjoyed growing acclaim for their talents. Artists furthered their rising celebrity by producing images of them and their audiences. Innovations in printmaking enabled artists to make and disseminate numerous copies of their work. They designed posters promoting cabarets, as well as the art salons, concerts, and readings on offer to the public—ushering in graphic design and advertising.

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

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

The context or environment in which a situation occurs.

A visual representation or design on a surface.

Questions & Activities

  1. The Cult of Celebrity in Promoting Culture

    Think of the ways in which popular culture is disseminated in your environment. Find a few images of a celebrity selling either a product or an idea. How does this celebrity help endorse the product or idea more than a non-celebrity would?

    Write a short essay about the role of celebrity in promoting popular culture. Think about the various outlets through which celebrities can cultivate their image and promote their ideas. What is the role of media (television, newspapers and magazines, the internet, social media platforms) in creating the idea of celebrity? Share your essay with a friend.

  2. Analyze an Advertisement and Create Your Own

    Find three advertisements that appeal to you. Try to answer the following questions for each one:

    Who is represented in the advertisement?
    Who is the target audience?

    Which of the following persuasive techniques does each advertisement rely on?
    Visual metaphors
    Catchy phrases

    Create an advertisement for something in your own life, keeping in mind all of the persuasive techniques above. How did deconstructing these three advertisements help you better understand the methods of advertisers?