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The Buddha

The Apparition

American Gothic


Art of the late 19th century anticipated many of the characteristics of modern art. These include the idea of art for art's sake, the focus on originality, the celebration of modern technology, the fascination with the "primitive," and the engagement with popular culture.

Cultural historians have related the fragmentation of form in late-19th- and early-20th-century art to the fragmentation of society at the time. Many painters of the late-19th-century symbolist movement, including Odilon Redon and Gustave Moreau, tried to emulate music's power of direct suggestion. By including abstract forms and depicting an imaginary, rather than an observable, reality in their paintings, Redon and the symbolists paved the way for abstract art.

Although Europe had been the acknowledged center of modern art in the first half of the 20th century, most critics now agree that after 1945, the center tended to shift to the United States. In the 1930s some American artists staged a strong rebellion against European influences in American art. American Gothic, by Grant Wood, was typical of a movement called regionalism, whose agenda was to celebrate what was typically American, and to do it in a style that avoided any references to European modernism. But for other American artists the regionalists' embrace of nationalism could only hinder the arts.

Artists related to Modernism
Gustave Moreau
Odilon Redon
Grant Wood


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