Modern Art Movements

According to The Art Story, there are more than a hundred modern art movements. [1] For that reason, it would be rather redundant to talk about each of them. Therefore, we shall discuss several modern art movements which were the most prominent and popular ones. 

According to Anderson, these are the following ten movements: Post-impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Vorticism, Constructivism, Suprematism, De Stijl, Dada, and Surrealism. [2] 

Post-impressionism was a movement which was a certain continuation to its precursor – impressionism. It begun in the late 19th century and its artistic goal was to investigate painting techniques which would result in purer forms of expression. It is known for the usage of bright and vivid colors. Its most famous proponent was Vincent van Gogh.

Fauvism could be defined as a kind of emotional Post-impressionism, in the sense that it also used vivid and basic colors in painting, but with an emotional note, characterized by blatant brushstrokes and raw, basic painting techniques. 

Fauvist painters were therefore called fauves (“wild beasts”). As future would show it, Fauvism was a step towards artistic freedom and abstraction, because Cubism is considered as Fauvism’s direct descendant. 

Cubism is the perhaps the best-known modern art movement. Its main proponent was the famous Pablo Picasso, although Georges Braque did paintings so similar to Picasso’s that one could hardly tell the difference between their paintings. 

Cubism is known for the abandonment of traditionalist painting directions and a turn towards abstraction – using 2D flat geometrical figures (cubes) to make works of art. 

Futurism was definitely one of the most controversial movements of modern art. It was based on the idea of inseparability of humans and machines, in accordance with the speed, change and innovations of society of the early 20th century. It was embraced not only by painters, but also by sculptors, writers and architects.

Vorticism was a short-lasting movement during the 1910s and 1920s. It was a movement which was present only in England. Vorticism came as a reaction to WWI. It was a certain critique towards the deadly machines used in this war.

Constructivism was a movement in Russia based on the idea of making art through construction. That was done via using materials such as plastic, glass or steel. The main proponent of this movement was Vladimir Tatlin.

Suprematism was also a Russian modern art movement. It was founded by Kazimir Malevich. It was the first movement to entirely adopt geometrical abstract painting. It used exclusively shapes, such as circles, triangles and squares, as well as primary colors.

Surrealism was a movement which started out in France in the 1920s and its main proponent was the famous painter Salvador Dalí. This movement can be described as an idea of creating photorealistic paintings showing unusual creatures and realities.

In his Manifesto of Surrealism, André Breton described Surrealism as the aim to: “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality”. [3]

De Stijl was a Dutch movement which can be translated from Dutch as The Style. It was an approach which went even further into abstraction. Influenced by Cubism, De Stijl also used geometrical shapes (mainly straight lines) and primal colors in creating paintings. The goal was to dig deeper into abstract painting by creating a balanced chaos on the canvas.

Dada was a specific modern art movement. It was not characterized by techniques or styles of artists, but by their beliefs and ideas. Namely, the goal of Dadaists was to question art itself – to mock traditional artistic conventions and make the observer question whether something is art or not. Here, we can therefore witness photomontages of e.g. a urinal like in Marcel Duchamp’s famous work called Fountain (1917).

 [1] “Modern Movements and Styles – Full List“, The Art Story. Internet: [Accessed 31-12-2018]

[2] M. Anderson, “10 Modernist Art Movements”, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018. Internet: [Accessed 31-12-2018]

[3] A. Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism. 1924.