Various historical periods can offer different interpretations of modernity. For instance, one can speak about the cultural movement led by academic institutions. In this case, modernity can be described as the emphasis on rationality, skepticism, and logic (Harrison, 1994, p. 209). Moreover, this concept implies the rejection of mysticism and dogmatism. In turn, romanticism and realism are aimed at showing that modernity can be viewed as the search for new topics or questions that have not been examined by the representatives of the previous cultural movements. For instance, one can speak about emotional struggle of a person or social vices. In turn, impressionism can be depicted as the quest for new artistic forms or styles.
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To some degree, it involves the rejection of artistic cannons which were typical of the classical art. Finally, one should speak about the representatives of expressionism such as De Stijl movement. Their interpretation implies that modernity can be viewed as the search for utility and simplicity, rather than pure aestheticism (Golding, 1994, p. 129). These are the main details that can be distinguished.
The eighteenth century art can be represented by the painting The Death of Socrates by Jack-Louis David. This picture was created in 1787 and it represents the academic or classical art. Modernity is represented through the theme of this painting, namely the last moments of a Greek philosopher Socrates, who symbolizes such aspects of modernity skepticism and rationality.
In turn, the early nineteenth century can exemplified with Joseph Turner’s picture Eruption of Vesuvius painted in 1817. It should be noted that Romantic artists often focused on natural disasters as a method of reflecting the emotional state of a person (Facos, 2011, p. 81). Thus, in this case, the subject matter and its connotations are important for illustrating the main aspects of modernity. In particular, one should speak about the search for new themes or motifs.
In turn, one can look at Camille Pissarro’s painting Boulevard Montmartre which was created in 1897. While examining this work of art, one should speak about the innovative techniques used by the author. For instance, it is possible to mention the use of paste paints which enable the artist to create a unique palette (Dorra, 1994). In turn, one should keep in mind that the emphasis on the new artistic techniques is an important element of modernity. This issue was particularly relevant for artists like Camille Pissarro.
In turn, one can also speak about the picture Composition VII created by Theo van Doesburg in 1917. While analyzing this work of art, one should focus on the prevalence of straight lines, rectangular forms, and the use of very few colors. It should be noted that the representatives of De Stijl movement laid stress on utility and simplicity as the main components of modernity. Thus, one can argue that modernity manifests itself in the techniques used by the author. Overall, this approach to modernity was particularly prominent in the early twentieth century.
On the whole, this discussion indicate that the notion of modernity has several dimensions such as the rejection of dogmatism, the search of new themes and techniques, and even radical rejection of the previous artistic or cultural canons. In turn, the artistic works discussed in this paper show how the concept of modernity evolved during the span of several centuries. Moreover, they throw light on the main values of people who represented different cultural movements.
Dorra, H. (1994). Symbolist Art Theories: A Critical Anthology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Web.
Facos, M. (2011). An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. Web.
Golding, J. (1994). Visions of the Modern. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Web.
Harrison, P. (1994). The Disenchantment of Reason: The Problem of Socrates in Modernity. New York, NY: SUNY Press. Web.