The Difference between Modern and Contemporary art

» Posted by on Apr 25, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

In popular usage, we often tend to make serious errors in classifying art appropriately as regarding the period. Someone may look at a Van Gogh, or a painting by Picasso and refer to it as the contemporary art of a particular period. While another person may take a look at Ida Applebroog’s works and refer to them as modern art, claiming that it is recent (compared to the popular Monets and Da Vincis).

Technically, as far as the periodic classification of art is concerned. The two fictional people discussed above are wrong. You may have made these same mistakes too at some point or the other. The layman wouldn’t notice anything wrong. However, any art experts or enthusiasts will automatically realize you’re not very knowledgeable as far as art is concerned. We’ve put this article together to help you have a basic understanding of what Modern art is and what contemporary art is; the movements that fall under these periods, and the notable artists during them.

Modern Art

The term Modern Art refers to art that was produced over a period of approximately one century (Give or take a decade) spanning between the 1860s and the 1970s. During this period, various artistic philosophies were exploited which were espoused majorly through the paintings and Sculptings. The Modern art period was one in which expressions of abstract forms were more rampant compared to the narrative nature of the traditional art of preceding periods. Some of the most notable names in the world of art emerged from and even kick started the modern art period. Remarkable artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Guaguin were heralds of the period. The popular and highly revered Pablo Picasso is also considered a modern artists. The country of France also played an important role in the Modern art movement because a lot of modern artists were French by origin, particularly producing and displaying their works in the capital city of Paris. Some of the today’s popular art styles originated from the Modern period. A remarkable example is Cubism, alongside its sub themes such as Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism.

Contemporary Art

Contemporary Art basically describes Current Art. The period of time covered by the term Contemporary art can be said to span the end of the Modern Art period or Modernism (Which is a few decades before the 1970s) up till the present moment; in other words, the 20th and 21st centuries. Contemporary art differs from art of the preceding period because it is quite eclectic in nature. Society itself has tended towards a global structure, and in order to appeal to this wide audience, contemporary artists need go beyond religion, cultural, or even ideological barrier to produce all-encompassing works.

Various themes explored in contemporary art include: Technology, Gender issues, migration, political issues, and even pop culture. Some notable names in Contemporary art include Riter Ackermann, Siah Armajani, Richard Artschwager, Janet Biggs, Michael Borremans among others.


This is in no way a totally complete and comprehensive piece, you may still need to do some further reading if interested, however, this should help the next time you’re tempted to refer to Picasso as a contemporary artist.

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