Brief History of Modern Art

Modern Art

What is Modern Art and how does it differ from Contemporary Art?

This is an important question since in everyday living the terms “modern” and “contemporary” mean the
same thing so are inter-changeable. But in the Art World these terms mean two quite distinct things so it is important
when talking about art to know that Modern Art is different from Contemporary Art.

However it is worth pointing out that unless you are talking to an art expert, in everyday usage the terms
modern art“and “contemporary art” are often used to mean the same thing by all sorts of people.

A good guide to the technical difference is:

Modern Art
is art from the Impressionist period (about 1880) up until the 1970’s.

Contemporary Art
is art from the 1970’s up until now.

Some art experts may argue that Modern Art began at a variety of earlier dates as far back as the Romanticism of the
early 1800’s, but, regardless of the starting date, the crucial factor is that the Modern Art period began when artists


  • felt free to trust their inner visions
  • expressed those visions in their work
  • used Real Life (social issues and images from modern life) as a source of subject matter
  • experimented and innovated as often as possible

Although we use the term “Modern Art” on this website, in fact, all of our featured artists are
living and painting now so are Contemporary Artists producing Contemporary Art. Hopefully the above facts will
help avoid any confusion!