It’s tempting to go by the dictionary when differentiating modern art and contemporary art. The terms, “modern” and “contemporary” are defined very similarly as to anything that pertains or is related to the present time. When it comes to art, however, these two words are hardly congruent.
The modern art movement arose in the 1860s, backdropped by the height of the Industrial Revolution. This was a time when photography became so popular it almost completely eliminated the concept of art as a reflection of reality. Instead, artists boldly experimented with colors, forms, mediums and techniques, and modern art, leading to the creation of several new trends and movements, such as abstract expressionism, futurism, pop art and more.
One of the biggest names in modern art is Al Held, who specialized in abstract expressionism but especially loved working with geometric shapes, illusion, and layers as manifested in his work, Stoneridge. Another influential force in artistic modernism is Roy Lichtenstein, who rose to fame as the passionate leader of the pop art movement. Lichtenstein liked to interpret comic book images in huge shapes and vibrant colors, but in the early 1970s, he started venturing into more abstract work, such as one of his most famous works, Mirror #5.
Contemporary art is generally described as any art produced by living artists and that which alludes to post-World War II work of expressions. No different from modern art, contemporary art has started to use new mediums in keeping with developments in resources and technology, such as video art, installation art and the like, but it mainly focuses on social, financial and political subjects.
Lisa Adams is among the most prominent names behind contemporary art today, working mainly with painting and gouaches that depict nature, especially with the use of wood as the medium itself. Ellina Kevorkian is another significant name in the contemporary art era. Kevorkian is an artist who fuses painting, video, photography and performance through humor, metaphors, and the visual art and pop culture.
The line that separates modern and contemporary art is not instantly palpable, but upon close inspection, there are quite definitive differences between the two. In several ways, modern art has set the stage for contemporary art, which both appear to have been a direct result of technological developments and are intended to depict social issues or popular culture relevant at the time of the art’s creation.
Finally, when distinguishing between modern and contemporary art, it is important to mention the French painter, Gustave Courbet, who led the Realist movement in the 1900s. Standing firm on his belief that painting should only go as far as the reach of the eye, Courbet defied the Romanticism concept that prevailed at that time. His influence was massive enough to give rise to several artist groups such as the Cubists and the Impressionists, who all followed in his footsteps as independent thinkers. This paved the way for the birth of two major eras in the world of art.