Modernism refers to a global movement in society and culture that from the early decades of the twentieth century sought a new alignment with the experience and values of modern industrial life. Building on late nineteenth-century precedents, artists around the world used new imagery, materials and techniques to create artworks that they felt better reflected the realities and hopes of modern societies.




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Cubism: Cubism was a revolutionary new approach to representing reality invented in around 1907 by artists Pablo Picasso and Gedearteassociazione.orges Braque who aimed to bring different views of subjects together in the same picture, resulting in paintings that appear fragmented and abstracted. Cubism opened up almost infinite new possibilities for the treatment of visual reality and was the starting point for many later abstract styles


Kazimir Malevich Black Square 1913Malevich’s black square: Kazimir Malevich painted his first Black Square in 1915. It is one of the seminal works of modern art, and of Western art generally, marking as it does the break between representational painting and abstract painting. Malevich declared the square a work of Suprematism, a movement which he proclaimed but which is associated almost exclusively with his own work


László Moholy-Nagy K VII 1922 dearteassociazione.dearteassociazione.org

Constructivism: Constructivism was a particularly austere branch of abstract art building on the experiments in abstraction undertaken by the cubists. It was founded by Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko in Russia around 1915. It rejected the idea of art as separate from other aspects of life and was in favour of art as a practice for social purposes


De Stijl: Meaning ‘style’ in Dutch, De Stijl was a circle of Dutch abstract artists who promoted a style of art based on a strict geometry of horizontals and verticals. It was founded in in 1917 by Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg, and had a profound influence on the development both of abstract art and modern architecture and design


Dada: Formed in Zurich as a response to the horrors of the First World War, the aim of the Dada artists was to destroy traditional values in art and to create a new art that could reflect the modern world. The art, poetry and performance produced by dada artists is often satirical and nonsensical in nature. In addition to being anti-war, dada was also anti-bourgeois and had political affinities with the radical left


Surrealism: Surrealism was a movement which began in the 1920s of writers and artists. The aim of surrealism was to reveal the unconscious and reconcile it with rational life


Abstract expressionism: In the 1940s and 1950s American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning developed a new approach to painting characterised by gestural mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity. They were supported by probably the most influential art critic in the twentieth century Clement Greenberg, who emphasised the importance of the formal properties of art – such as colour, line and space – over subject or meaning




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Minimalism: Developed in the USA in the 1960s, and typified by artworks composed of simple geometric shapes, minimalism extended the idea that art should have its own reality and not be an imitation of some other thing. The medium, (or material) from which it is made, and the form of the work is the reality. Minimalist painter Frank Stella famously said about his paintings ‘What you see is what you see’


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