What is Modern Art?

Unless you're an art history major, you may find all the different styles of modern art daunting. To help, we've put together a little cheat sheet. So next time when you see a Rubik's Cube, you won't think of Cubism, but Pop Art.


Cubism was a 20th century new and unusual art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. In cubist artworks, objects are broken-up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form—instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context.


Le guitariste by Pablo Picasso


Expressionism was a cultural movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the start of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world under an utterly subjective perspective, violently distorting it to get an emotional effect and vividly send personal moods and ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of "being alive" and emotional experience than physical reality.


The Scream by Edvard Munch


Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first, with the works being an artifact.


The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí

Abstract Expressionism

Technically, an important predecessor is surrealism, with its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic or subconscious creation. Jackson Pollock's dripping paint onto a canvas laid on the floor is a technique that has its roots in the work of André Masson, Max Ernst and David Alfaro Siqueiros.


No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

Pop Art

Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art. Pop removes the material from its context and isolates the object, or combines it with other objects, for contemplation. The concept of pop art refers not as much to the art itself as to the attitudes that led to it.

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Campbell's Tomato Juice Box by Andy Warhol