Difference Between Modern Art & Contemporary Art – Karabi Art
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Difference Between Modern Art & Contemporary Art

Difference Between Modern Art & Contemporary Art

Modern art and contemporary art are two very different and strongly defined art eras in the art movements. The difference between the two lies not in the style or visual appearance but in the age that a particular work was produced. Though there isn’t a stringent or clear timeline that separates the two eras, but the modern art refers broadly to the work of art produced between 1880s and 1970s. Contemporary art then followed modern art, as it began in the 1970s and still goes on.


Modern art refers to the style and philosophy that were followed or adapted by the works of art produced and the artists during that era. This era leaned heavily on doing away with the classical traditions of the past forms or styles of art and explore new ways of seeing. This was augmented by unconventional ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art. The traditional or classic arts dealt with and aimed to represent the reality or realism, whereas modern art playfully explored a lot more bold and experimental ideas.


Modern art is a term often used to refer to Modernism, a period which was signified by a number of isms including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism; Cubism; Expressionism; Dadaism, Surrealism, Pop Art and many more distinct movements coming together. The masters of the era such as Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Edward Munch, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Andre Derain, Raoul Dufy, Maurice de Vlaminck, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, and Edouard Manet drew their inspirations and were influenced by a variety of factors ranging from light to African art to Asian art and more.


The era of contemporary art is known to have followed the modern art era. It is considered to have begun in the 1970s and is still going on. Some of the art museums and collections have come to define contemporary art to include all the art that has ever been produced since after the end of World War II. This effectively indicates that all the artists out there who are producing any work of art today are essentially a part of the contemporary art movement. To belong to the contemporary art movement does not restrict the artists to only use techniques and be influenced by the current and contemporary times, the artists are free to and often do draw their inspirations from the art movements of the past. Contemporary artworks have broken much of the barriers of media or materials that were a part of the conventional art movements. They have gone on to explore techniques including new age technologies, three dimensional, live elements, performances, and so much more.


Most of the contemporary artists have grown up in and have been exposed to harsher realities than their past counterparts, including but not limited to the World War II, the cold war, globalization, feminism, and more. The ideals and surroundings that they were a part of, were a lot more different from those that the modern artists and theorists were exposed to. The contemporary artists hence classified the old methods as too conformist and of vague ideals, thus deciding to develop and evolve their own expression, works, and a unique style. It is mostly for this reason that contemporary art has found itself at odds with the public and critics alike. The argument against this movement is a general feeling that it does not share the cultural values as it aims to create a shock value by continually turning towards newer art forms. Some of the critics have gone to the extent of questioning their legitimacy as an artform and even rejecting it at times to qualify as art.

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