Cats Week 4: Introduction to Modernism

What is Modernism?

Well, Modernism is the experience and expression of modern life. During the 19th centery (roughly 1880-1960), this was huge as people needed something different and with artists such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh expressing the modernism movement in a wide vierty of ways such as Impressionism, Cubism, Bauhaus, Surrealism, Futurism, Pop Art and Op Art. It broke away from traditional art and allowed us to experiment with art as previously art had always been ‘traditional’ and usually rather literal in terms of representing its subject.

During our session, we defined a series of key terms such as:

Modernity: The experience of modern life

Modernisation: The process of change that causes ‘Modernity’

Modernism: The reaction to the experience of modernity in the cultural sphere (Positive/Negative)

we also learned that modernism is debatable, negotable of what is new and modern, what is just simply not while also being driven by innovation.There are several factors that help define modernism such as;

  • Industrialisation
  • Social changes
  • New technologies and scientific advances
  • Political changes


Industrialisation began in the UK during the 18th century and by the 20th century East Asia has been the most recent to begin its industrialisation process. Industrialisation meant that bigger and better cities were being constructed, and as a knock on effect to this more jobs were being created which meant that lots more people had some form of work. Families now having work allowed us to see the rise in consumerism so to meet this demand new methods of mass production were introduced in order to meet the growing need. An example of this would be that it included a cheaper abundance of skilled labour and new materials. Industrialisation was also the transitioning period from where we began to step away from products created by a single individual to a range of people creating particular aspects of a product. Ideas such as fordism and taylorism were introduced during this period and drastically effected the ways that we consume. Fordism was described as ‘the eponymous manufacturing system designed to spew out standardized, low-cost goods and afford its workers decent enough wages to buy them’. As for Taylorism, it is known to be the idea of a process of management which would enhance workflow and productivity.

Social changes:

Some of the social changes included an increase in urbanism, leasure and allowed us to experience a wide range of different leasuire activities as some grew to be more popular then others such as cricket. Due to people having more money allowed people to really dive into consumerism and purchase forms of entertainment or leasuire.

New technologies and scientific advances:

If anything, one of the most notable factors of the 19th century was new technologies and scientific advances. This noted the beginning or major evolution of a huge range of things such as photography, transport, electricity, travel and speed, scientic theories and major advances in art materials. Photography has allowed us to capture an image in order to later reference from it, using it as a visual tool. Futurism is an artistic movement of expression of what our future may look like, which allowed modernism to express itself; especially in regards to displaying speed and movement.


This futurism art piece was created by Giacomo Balla and its entitled ‘Abstract speed + sound’ (1913-1914).

Political changes:

Challanges with traditional authority during the 20th century with major global scale wars like WW1 and WW2  effected art majorly as seen in paintings such as Christopher Nevinson’s – Paths of glory as it expressed how modernist artists were feeling at that time. During this period, there were strong nationalist feelings, fascism and communism which all had a part to play during the modernist movement as seen in works such as El Lissitzky, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, 1919-1920 which was a  propoganda poster that showed the bolsheviks defeating the white movement.


One thought on “Cats Week 4: Introduction to Modernism

  1. Pingback: CATS Log Book Entry 4 (25/10/13) | PHASEgaming

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s