What Is The Difference Between Modern And Contemporary Art?

Sometimes it can be not very clear when people use the word modern art and contemporary art. To some, they seem to be the same thing, yet they are not the same art movements.

Modern Art is defined as art created between 1880 and the 1970s. Contemporary Art is the art created from the 1970s until today. These art movements are defined by the year the art was created and not the style or type of art.

Modern Art Vs. Contemporary Art

Modern art and contemporary art are actually two distinct art movements. This can seem unclear because, in some ways, the art can seem similar In each of these movements.

The main difference that defines if the art and artist are considered part of the modern art movement or contemporary art movement is not the art style but the year the art was created.

Modern Art Movement

Modern art refers to art produced in the 1880s until the 1970s.

Like many things in the art world, there is still some argument as to exactly when Modern Art started. Some scholars say it started in the 1860s; most people agree that it started in the 1880s.

Modern art is a term used to signify the style and the philosophy of art being produced during that hundred-year period of art. The main characteristic of modern art is that it will throw away the old ideas and traditions of the past and experiment with new ways of seeing things through art.

Modern artists created new and fresh ideas from the materials they used and how the art itself would function or be produced. Modern art and the modern artist played and experimented with bold and abstract ideas.

Modern art is the term that is used to define modernism. This can get a bit confusing because modernism includes many -isms in the art movements as Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Pop Art, to name some of the more relevant Modern Art movements.

Each of these different art movements under the Modern Art movement was actually influenced by various factors such as light Asian art, African art, etc. This is why the Modern Art period is as varied as the art the movement produced.

Modern Art can be confusing because the period of Modern Art has so many types of art within this movement.

Included in the Modern Art movement are artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Andre Derain, Raoul Dufy, Maurice de Vlaminck, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Piet Mondrain, Wassily Kandinsky and Edouard Manet.

Many of these artists are well-known artists as Impressionism, Post- Impressionism, or Cubism. They would be defined as in the Modern Art Movement and an Impressionist artist or the Modern Art Movement and a Cubism artist, etc.

This shows to define an artist in the Modern Art movements is about the time the art was produced and not the style of the art itself.

Contemporary Art Movement

On the other hand, the Contemporary Art Movement began in the 1970s and is continuing today. Some museums categorize the Contemporary Art Movement starting in 1945 or after World War II, but most people agree that the Contemporary Art Movement started in the 1970s.

Any artist from the 1970s onwards is considered to be a Contemporary artist. The Modern Art Movement and the Contemporary Art Movement it is defined by the time period the actual art was created.

The Contemporary Art Movement is as varied in its art style and art type. This is because the artist will make their art according to their own individual styles; there is no one exact contemporary art style.

The Contemporary artist creates with all kinds of mediums, including computers, technology, three-dimensional, live elements, performances, and other types of art materials and styles. There is no limit to the materials, technology, or style that contemporary artists can use in their artwork.

Contemporary artists have faced a lot of harsh criticism from both art critics and the public at large. As the main aim for some artists is to shock people, artists use all forms of art, including live human nudity; some critics feel some contemporary artists do not share their cultural values.

My favorite contemporary artists include Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Keith Haring, Anish Kapoor, David Hockney, Ai Wei Wei, Yoshitomo Nara, Jenny Saville, Cecily Brown, Anselm Keifer, Kara Walker, and Jean-Michel Othoniel. This is not meant to be a complete list as so many contemporary artists can be listed as doing some amazing contemporary artwork.

Modern Art and Contemporary Art Movements Compared

When defining the differences between the Modern Art Movement and the Contemporary Art Movement, the main difference separating these art movements is the era or time of the art creation. In simple terms, any art created after the 1970s is considered to be Contemporary Art; any art produced between the 1880s and 1970s is Modern Art.

Below is a chart that clarifies the differences between the Modern Art Movement and the Contemporary Art Movement:

Modern Art MovementContemporary Art Movement
The 1880s (1860s) to 1970 The 1970s to Today (Some Say 1945 Onward)
The Year The Art Was Produced Defines Modern ArtAny Artist from 1970s onward is a Contemporary Artists
Modern Art term denotes style and philosophy of the artContemporary Art defines all artists from the 1970s until today.
Toss away traditions of the past for new art. Artists do their own works according to their own styles of art.
Materials and function of the art Uses computers, technology, three-dimensional, live elements, and performance, and all other materials.
Bold and abstract Ideas Shocked people by turning to new art forms. Sometimes the art is at odds with the public.
Defined Modernism, including Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Pop Art. Contemporary Art
Inspired by light, Asian art, African art, and many types of art. Inspiration is unlimited—all kinds of inspiration and creativity.
Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Andre Derain, Raoul Dufy, Maurice de Vlaminck, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Piet Mondrain, Wassily Kandinsky and Edouard ManetJeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Keith Haring, Anish Kapoor, David Hockney, Ai Wei Wei, Yoshitomo Nara, Jenny Saville, Cecily Brown, Anselm Keifer, Kara Walker, Jean-Michel Othoniel
Modern Art Vs. Contemporary Art Defined

The Contemporary Art Movement and the Modern Art Movement as two distinct movements of art. Though the art styles, techniques, or even subject matter can overlap, the movements are defined by the era or period the art was produced.

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Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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