Essay by tracey10University, Bachelor's June 2010

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Modernism, as a term is defined by the perspective of the observer. In the perspective of the historian, Modernism began with the Renaissance, when a flurry of new philosophical theory and societal changes brought about a way of thinking that varied greatly from the previous Greco-Roman standards of being, thinking and living.

In the perspective of the art historian however, Modernism is a term which describes a particular movement in the arts which began in the 1860's and extended through the 1970's, in which artists strove for a better understanding and progression from a humanist standpoint through various new artistic strategies.

To observe the results of this new Modernist approach on art in a chronological order is to be able to identify a sort of symbolic dateline of events. Since art is the extract of life and life the extract of art, one can see a similar worldwide artistic movement unlike any seen in any previous generation.

As technology and economics began to take the shape of what they represent today, life began to get considerably more and more complex and confusing. Cities grew, and with them grew the gradual dislocation of society.


Edouard Manet, the French painter, was the first nineteenth century artist to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from realism to Impressionism.

(Olympia is an oil on canvas painting in the Realism style. Painted in 1863, it measures 130.5 x 190 cm)

A painting of a nude woman, a maid and a cat changed the way of art, class and modernity in 1865. It was a time of order moral, a time when bourgeoisie and primness dominated high brow culture. Edouard Manet rebelled against this by rattling the world with his painting of Olympia. Since its unveiling, at...