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Movements Nvl / modernism and post-modernism Research

Modernism started in 1860, influenced by politics, scientific, technological innovation and the industrial revolution it tried to move away from traditional art values and instead strived for experimenting and developing new ways to express oneself. They felt that traditional art was too outdated for the changing social environment and growing industrial world. Modernism celebrated original thinking with each movement classified as modernism attempting to push boundaries, experimenting further, exploring new methods and generally trying things previous movements had not.

Hans hofmann

Mies van der Rohe

The gate, 1959-1960

Seagram building, new York

Modernism Explanation

Impressionists wanted to move away from the ‘historical themes and highly polished’ finish of French Academic Art. They instead sparked something considered as pioneering and radical by moving out of the studio and into the outside world so as to capture the impression of a passing moment and the intriguing effect of the light. Impressionists used bold, bright paint in broken brush-strokes to capture scenes of the everyday and what they saw. These varied from Parisian landscapes to people at work. Their work was deemed improper at the time and their work mocked by critics who considered them unfinished.



The Iris Garden, 1899 - 1900

A Path to Louveciennes, 1876

Impressionism 1860 - 1900

Art Nouveau was a decorative style of art that proved very popular in Europe, having originated in France. The movement took inspiration from Japanese prints and the Art & Craft movement developed by William Morris in Britain. Their work incorporated many elements of nature such as leaves, flowers, vines and even birds. It took advantage of pattern work and featured a lot of flowing designs inspired by human hair. Artists from the movement tried to abstain from including symbolic or expressive content in their work, instead exploring the ideas of a fantasy or spiritual world. Their intricate designs aimed to move away from Victorian ‘clutter’ artwork and soon branched out into other mediums - architecture, furniture, glass-work, jewellery and textiles.



Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, 1907

Peacock Skirt, 1892

Art nouveau 1890 - 1914

Fauvism emerged during a time of great social and technological change, inventions and electricity was widely available and began to greatly change the routines of everyday life. Fauvism artists such as Matisse and Derain took advantage of this change and developed a whole new style of art in tandem with it. The style was inspired by Van Gogh’s heavy, dominant brush-strokes and colour. ‘Fauves’ used paint straight from the tube and experimented with colour replacement to exaggerate their work and convey their personal feelings on what they saw around them. Like Impressionists Fauves didn’t concentrate on detail, feeling that the image shown was more important than the realism of the piece.



Luxe, Calme et Volupté, 1906

Portrait of Andreé Derain, 1905

Fauvism 1905 - 1910

Expressionism played on the themes of belonging and alienation through the distortion of colour, drawing, form, scale, space and intense subject matter. It was the artists’ way of exploring society’s genuine feelings - they felt it needed to be ‘cleansed’ and ‘purified’ after the destruction of World War I. Expressionists’ work depicted scenes of natural disasters, extreme weather conditions and biblical events such as the apocalypse. It took inspiration from the artists like Kandinsky and Jawlensky but used a more subtle and diverse palette of colours with which to paint their art.



Yellow Cow, 1911

Farbstudie Quadrate III, 1913

Expressionism 1905 - 1925

Cubism was an abstract approach to art that flattened, manipulated and multiplied geometric shapes across a canvas in order to give their pieces obscure perspectives. The movement was pioneered by Picasso and Braques who were interested in the work of PostImpressionist artist Cézanne whose flat, abstract work appealed to them. The artists took Cézanne’s vision of ‘Cubist’ art and developed it further using mainly earth tones and natural pigments in their work.



Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, 1907

Man with a Guitar, 1911-12

Cubism 1907 - 1915

Futurism emerged during the run-up to the First World War at a time when industries were building aeroplanes, vehicles and in the process of developing wireless communication systems. As technology and machinery was changing and adapting to fit the time so were Artists’ attitudes - Italian artists Carrà and Balla were only a few of those interested in the idea of movement, light and speed in art. Influenced by Cubist work they used repetition, pattern and shape painted in bold lines and colour.



The Red Horseman, 1913

Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913

Futurism 1909 - 1914

Dada was founded in 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland. It was here that a group of young artists and writers, inspired by the earlier movements of Futurism and Cubism, decided to retaliate against all that the war portrayed. Their knowledge of artists and earlier movements helped inspire their choice of work in the medium of collage; a method previously employed by Braque and Picasso. And their education allowed them to combine literary and visual elements, often in the form of found objects. Their work was seen as destructive, irreverent and nonsensical, however, it’s rejection of constraints inspired the Surrealist movement.



(Difficult), 1942-43

Bouquet of Eyes, 1930

Dada 1915 - 1922

Suprematism was created by Kazimir Malevich, a Russian artist who believed suprematist art would be superior to all other movements. Malevich wanted “supremacy of pure feeling or perception in the pictoral arts”. Suprematism was influenced by the avant-garde poets of the time - Malevich’s interest in the defiance of language, its links between words, signs and objects was where he saw an opening for his abstract creations.



Beat the Whites w/ Red Wedge, 1920

Suprematism, 1915

suprematism 1915 - 1925

De Stijl began in Holland in 1917 by architect and artist Theo Van Doesburg as a way of rejecting the War and the mess it created and instead develop a simple style that lacked individual expression so as to convey a sense of balance and harmony. In order to do this De Stijl used primary colours, rectangular forms and straight, horizontal and vertical lines. By following these ‘rules’ De Stijl and refusing to use religious icons or recognisable objects in their work they brought a sense of purity to art that can still be seen in contemporary culture, used as reference in fashion design, architecture, design and advertising.



Composition VII (The Three Graces), 1917

Composition C (no.iii) with R.Y.B, 1935

De stijl 1917 - 1931

Bauhaus was a school founded in Weimar, Germany by Walter Gropius, an architect with the vision of unifying the arts. Gropius wanted artists’ from every creative discipline to collaborate and embrace the new technological developments of the time in order to sustain traditional craftsmanship in a world of industrial mass-production. Students of Bauhaus received a basic training in art theory before being exposed to a series of practical training in a variety of creative disciplines. Bauhaus was influenced by the De Stijl style and it’s use of primary colours, rectangular forms and straight, horizontal and vertical lines. Bauhaus tried to convey it’s simplicity and functionalism. Famous Artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, amongst others, taught at the school.

joost schmidt

The Bauhaus Dessau

(bauhaus exhibition poster, 1923


Bauhaus 1919 - 1933

Surrealism was founded in Paris in 1924 by poet André Breton as a continuation of Dada’s irrational and subversive exploration into art. However, unlike Dada, Surrealism aimed to be an automatic response in art - to create something from that which originated in the unconscious that hadn’t been shaped by reason, morality or aesthetic judgements. Surrealists rejected realism and naturalism, arguing that they confused truth with objects, treating both life and art as if it were solid, dusty furniture.



The Elephants, 1948

Personal Values, 1952

Surrealism 1920 - 1935

Swiss Design or International Typographic Style/ International Style as it is known is a style of design that was developed in Switzerland in the 1940s and ‘50s and is considered to be the kick-starter of graphic design development in the mid 20th century. The style was led by designer Josef MĂźller-Brockmann at the Zurich School of Arts and Krafts and Armin Hofmann at the Basel School of Design. Posters were seen as the most effective means of visual communication as they combined typography and photography. Sans-serif typography, grids and asymmetrical layouts weremainfeaturesofthestylewhichfavouredsimplicity, legibility and objectivity. It was from these Swiss-style ideals that Neue Haas Grotesk was created. In 1957 Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger, with the help of Eduard Hoffmann, developed the typeface we all know today as Helvetica. Initially designed to compete with Akzidenz-Grotesk, a successful typeface in the Swiss market, Neue Haas Grotesk aimed to a neutral design that was legible, clear and applicable to a variety of signage.

Swiss design

neue haas grotesk / Helvetica

Swiss design 1950s

The grid system was first introduced in Swiss Design and is still used today in Graphic Design. Simply, the grid system is a structured guide made up of a series of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines that divide a page. Using a grid helps a designer organise graphic elements such as text copy and images in a logical manner. “The grid system is an aid, not a guarantee. It permits a number of possible uses and each designer can look for a solution appropriate to his personal style. But one must learn how to use the grid; it is an art that requires practice.” Josef Müller-Brockmann A 10 column grid with a gutter of 4.233mm was used to create these pages, leaving an empty column either side of the page and a gap of 2 between the image and text copy.

Examples of grids


Josef MullerBrockmann

Herbert bayer

Hans neuburg

ernst keller



max bill

armin hofmann

Examples Modernist graphic designers

Post-Modernism, although influenced by, was a rejection of Modernist values, it discarded ‘purity’ and technique in a bid to combine art with popular culture and the media. Post-Modernists’, like Modernists’, celebrated diversity between disciplines and encouraged collaboration, it aimed to mix ideas and media and convey humour and irony, often parodying previous work. They wanted to experiment with materials not traditionally considered ‘artistic’ and often adopted, borrowed, stole, recycled or sampled elements from previous movements to provoke a reaction from it’s audience.

Mannie Garcia

Shepard Fairey

Original photograph of Obama

HOPE, 2008

Post-modernism Explanation

Abstract Expressionism was developed in 1946 by Surrealists who had moved to New York in the decades that followed World War 2. They used Surrealist ideas about the unconscious to depict symbols, such as emotions, that would be universally recognised in the hopes of being able to restore art and society after the war. There are two types of Abstract Expressionism; Colour Field painting that used ‘luminous and brooding’ colours that filled the canvas in a still manner and Action Painting that tried to capture physical movement, texture and energy.

Jackson Pollock


Number 5, 1948


Abstract expressionism 1946 - 1956

Pop Art was started in the 1950s and 60s by British and American artists. It challenged fine art by using iconic images such as advertisements, movies and people in their work. It’s also said to have been influenced by the Dada movement because of the use of collage in their pieces, an example being ‘Just what is it that makes today’s society so different, so appealing?, 1956’ by Richard Hamilton. Thought to be the earliest piece of Pop Art. Hamilton used image cuttings from US magazines to create the piece. Hamilton was a member of The Independant Group, a collection of British critics, painters, architects, sculptors and academics who were fascinated with contemporary North American mass culture.

Richard Hamilton


Just what is it that makes today’s society so different, so appealing?, 1956

Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato, 1962

Pop art 1954 - 1976

Op Art was inspired by Constructivism, it used geometric shapes and colour theories to play tricks on theeye-makingitdifficulttolookatforlengthyperiods because of the intense and excessive stimulation to the eyes and brain. Although initially dismissed as mere ‘optical illusions’ it was later discovered that the artists actually used complex colour theories and line principles in their work. Thesecolourrelationshipsweresimultaneouscontrast, successive contrast and reverse contrast - using these they were able to create movement, gyration, hidden images and juxtaposition in their pieces.

Victor vasarely

Bridget Riley

vega-nor, 1969

Blaze 4, 1963

Op art 1960 - 1969

Minimalism was introduced in 1960 as a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. It used simple designs to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject hereby eliminating all non-essential forms and features.

Carl Andre 144 graphite silence, 2005

John McCracken Rhythm,

Minimalism 1960 - 1975

Conceptualism emerged in the 60s as a rebellion against material worth and those who bought art - they wanted to show art as a concept and not a material object. The actual finished piece is therefore not as important as what it represents.

Sol lewitt

Robert morris

Floor structure black, 1965

Untitled -felt tangle-, 1967

conceptualism 1960 - present day

Digital Art, Computer Art, Multimedia Art or New Media Art (as it is collectively known) is an artistic practice that uses digital technology as a medium. The computer first was developed in the ‘50s, twenty years before Digital Art was created and thirty years before the availability of computers, appropriate software, video equipment, sound mixers, and digital cameras in the home. It was in the ‘80s, when this technology had become available in the home that Digital Art really took off. Although initially challenged, digital technology soon developed the way we painted, drew, sculpted and created music. And even developed new practices such as net art, digital installation art and virtual reality. Some artists took it further and experimented with structure, chance and algorithms in visual and graphic arts, using computer programming, processing and coding to create visual pieces.

ben fry

casey reas

Digital art 1970s

Punk art emerged from the punk-subculture that developed in the mid-70s. It reflected the culture visually and aimed to made grand points using shock techniques , sarcasm and wit. Recognisable features of punk art are ransom note style lettering and images from magazines and newspapers collaged together. It was a case of de-constructing and reconstructing in an anarchic fashion. Artist Jamie Reid and Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood played a major role in the punk movement, designing the graphics and outfits for the Sex Pistols; a figure-head for the British Punk-scene.

Vivienne Westwood

Jamie Reid

Punk movement Graphic design in post-modernism

Wolfgang weingart


Art chantry

Paula scher

Jamie Reid

Neville brody

David Carson

Barbara Kruger

Examples Post-modernist graphic designers

Nvl / tfd1063 Research booklet

NVL / Modernism & Postmodernism Research (TFD1063)  

Hudgraphic, Modernism, Post-modernism, New Visual Language, Research - A look into art movements and graphic design throughout history. Part...

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