Sample Art Essay Paper on History of Modernism in Art – Assignment Help

History of Modernism in Art

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During the 19th century, artists believed that they were entering a new and unique modern era. The period was characterized by industrial revolution that brought forward development in the field of agriculture, transport and technology among others. Notably, Sigmund Freud was coining theories to understand the human mind. Experts reveal that these developments coupled with popular culture encouraged artists to come up with visual arts and themes that would address the changing landscape brought about by modernity.[1]  There was need to expand ideas. Art composition was the best way to achieve the mission. In France, the practice of art was effectively controlled by the French Academy that placed emphasis on the composition of art whose themes revolved around ancient history and mythology. However, artists tried to create and define a free world and sought for freedom to compose art using their own styles.[2] This brought about the modernism movement and style of art composition. For that, different artists were responsible for own composition that pursued specific aspects of modernism.

Modernism Artists in France during the 19th Century

Edouard Manet is described as the father of modern art. He was influential to many other artists and encouraged them to become painters of modern life. His modernity was rendered through art where he was eager to compose painting that altered conventional elements. For that, he is best remembered on his sensitivity in depiction of historical tradition and contemporary reality. He pursued different elements of modernity including the popular technique of alla prima painting. He diverted from the traditional arrangement of colors in layer and implemented a modern aspect of laying down the hue to closely match the colors in respect to the effects he sought. It is revealed that the technique was later implemented by other modern artists who found that it fully suited their pressures of capturing effects of light and color concurrently.[3] He also pursued loose handling of paint to render flat certain sections of his composition. The flatness aspect was common in most of his posters. Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe composed in 1863 is one of the arts that depicted his new methods of composition. This piece of artwork even shocked the Emperor based on how he depicted a nude female casually engaged with two fashionable men. He consistently depicted how artists could use unnatural light sources to come up with splendid artworks. Despite the art causing public outrage, Manet was able to challenge ethical and aesthetic boundaries that surrounded nudity in the modern world.

Camille Pissarro was known for his assertion that everything was beautiful, and what mattered was how one could interpret art. His artworks diverted from Impressionist who vehemently depicted urban life, streets and leisure. He depicted ordinary French peasants in the countryside and rural areas of France. However, modernity prompted him to connect his fascinations with rural subject matter and themes. His artworks were carefully and delicately composed under different intensities of light and to give different effects on color of nature. Perceptively, he pursued themes on rural life and politics. His style concentrated on a different aspect of modernism in regards to the use of color harmonies. For instance, in most of his canvases, his secondary colors were broken and evidence of dashed brushstrokes could be seen to weave with other elements and objects in his composition. His peasant figures harmoniously blend with landscapes that they occupied to communicate and symbolize a link to terrain that was previously missing in previous movement and styles. Hoar Frost, the Old Road to Ennery, Pointoise artwork composed in 1873 best depicts one of his modern exhibitions. In this artwork, Pissarro depicts a peasant worker working through a town in Pissarro’s hometown. The composition effectively emphasize on color harmony and how it is brought into focus in the canvas. The use of color is fundamental in attracting the attention of the audience towards the wandering figure in the composition. Emphasis is on color and how it blends with the landscape and terrain.

Berthe Morisot is another artist who believed that modernity provided opportunities for people to express themselves. For that, she believed on providing real feeling taken from own experience. Despite gender discrimination, Morisot went ahead to become a leading figure and one of successful artists of the modern era. She was barred from pursuing themes of urban life including scenes in cabarets, bars and brothels because of her gender. However, she was able to depict subjects and themes touching on landscapes, streets and urban life. Uniquely, Morisot pursued different aspects of modernism when she was able to develop exclusive models especially of Julie, her own daughter. Most of her artworks were exhibited in respect to public taste that won her accolades, an achievement that was not common during the modernity era. View of Paris from the Trocadero an oil on canvas artwork composed between 1871 and 1872 best depicts her styles. The art depicts a view of Paris as a city of peace. The painting appears to emanate from a hill and then stretches down to depict the calm and cool landscape characteristic of Paris. The blue sky that slowly opens at the top of the canvas hints at the events of wars that France had been involved. The three figures on the foreground are perhaps her sisters and daughter to one of them. They are effectively separated from the city landscapes beyond signifying how women were excluded from the modern day city life.


Modernism art was critical in opening the spheres of art composition to all. Women were able to engage in composition just like their male counterpart. In short, modernism eliminated barriers and discriminations that were characteristic of previous styles and movements. Most of these artists began depicting the modern aspects of life. In France, the artists were involved in depiction of the urban city life that often glorified Paris as a city of peace.


Gay, Peter. 2007. Modernism. London: William Heinemann.

Green, Christopher. 2003. Art in France, 1900-1940. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.

Schapiro, Meyer. 1978. Modern art, 19th & 20th centuries. New York: G. Braziller.


Image result for Camille Pissarro Hoar Frost, the Old Road to Ennery, Pointoise (1873)

Figure 1: Camille Pissarro, Hoar Frost, the Old Road to Ennery, 1873. Adapted from The Art Story.

Image result for View of Paris from the Trocadero (1871-72) picture

Figure 2: View of Paris from the Trocadero (1871-72). Adapted from The Art Story.

Image result for Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe picture

Figure 3: Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe (1863). Adapted from The Art Story.

[1] Gay, Peter. 2007. Modernism. London: William Heinemann.

[2] Schapiro, Meyer. 1978. Modern art, 19th & 20th centuries. New York: G. Braziller.

[3] Green, Christopher. 2003. Art in France, 1900-1940. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.

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