There are several types of modern art styles that have become an integral part of art history. These different periods of modern art began in the middle of the 19th century and progressed into the 1970s. Many of the modern artists who produced works during this time frame helped define one or more artistic styles that became part of the larger movement. The different types of modern artists include impressionists, cubists, pointillists, Dadaists and surrealists. Most of the types of modern art focused on expanding the genre by challenging previously held views of what visual art is.
Impressionism was one of the first painting methods that helped to usher in modern art. Modern artists who practiced impressionism deviated from traditional, realistic painting techniques and instead focused on recreating the feeling of a scene or subject. They substituted areas of color for strict forms and relied more on the perception and feeling of a painting than on realistic details.
In contrast with the sometimes ethereal lights, darks and colors of impressionism, cubism moved toward finding strong forms. Although the name suggests squares or cubes, modern artists who practiced cubism were actually more concerned with deconstructing a scene or subject into any type of primitive geometric shapes, not just squares. These final scenes explored composition as it related to the lines and the spatial relationships of the forms created.
The method of pointillism developed in the late 19th century as new types of paints and pigments came into existence. Pointillism is a method in which an artist uses small dots or daubs of paint to form a larger image. When viewed up close, the dots are clearly visible. If a viewer steps away from the painting, however, the dots merge together to reveal the full image. The light and shadow effects that can be achieved through pointillism are unique but can be very time consuming to create.
Dadaism was a unique form of art that emerged as a reaction to the events of World War I. The Dada movement intentionally sought to create pieces that were the direct opposite of previously accepted forms of visual art. Dadaists created works that were often absurd or that were seemingly random. The ultimate focus of Dadaism was to provide critical commentary about cultural establishments that the artists felt were detrimental.
Emerging from Dadaism, surrealism took art into a realm of decided unreality. Unlike artists who did portraiture or landscape paintings, surrealists painted images that existed only in the imagination. The subjects in surreal art vary greatly, but the genre itself is generally identified by disparate or seemingly unrealistic representations of objects and places. Many surrealists felt that their works were expressive of a philosophy, theory or ideology and did not always strictly focus on the aesthetics of the painting itself.
Abstract artists removed all boundaries from their form of visual expression. Unlike surrealism, which still often had some recognizable object in the painting, abstract art focused more on the expression of an unquantifiable feeling or thought. Although abstract art can be defined very broadly, many pieces attempt to explore an aspect such as movement or composition with unconventional painting methods, shapes or mediums that were decoupled from the rendering of real objects.
In the middle of the 20th century, a proliferation of graphics and images began to flood into average homes through advertising, magazines and product packaging design. Some modern artists found that this constituted a medium unto itself and began to create art from cultural references that were not, in general, intended to be art in the first place. This form of art became known as popular art, or pop art. Pop artists used standard products and images from popular culture to create artwork that blurred the lines between what was fine art and what was functional, commercial design.