Art work, pictures and photos: what is modern

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Bold, minimal art adds style without changing the mood of a room
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Art work, pictures and photos are all represented in modern visual media

Defining the term 'modern' in regards to art work, pictures and photography is somewhat confusing today. In the visual arts context, modern doesn’t refer to the present day even though the very definition of the word means “of or pertaining to the present”. Instead, the category of modern art refers to the spirit of letting go of the traditions and conventional techniques, and it informed the various styles that emerged during this time.

The modern art period began around 1860 and extended to the 1970s. Looking at an art history timeline, you can see that modern encompassed a steady stream of movements from Impressionism to Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract and Pop art. One thing art that was created in these styles has in common is that it engages the senses as well as the mind. Most modern artists express a point of view that's evident in the images they choose to create, and how they choose to depict them. 

Just as painters today can create impressionist work, there are plenty of contemporary artists producing modern art in painting and photography today. Modern images are visually striking, and compliment the popular interior design aesthetics of today. Many people want modern art in their homes, but they can’t afford the high prices of original work exhibited in galleries. Some online shops specialize in creating digital canvas prints that offer the look and feel of modern art.

Art work pictures make an elegant focal point for any room. Let’s look at some iconic modern pictures and photos. Perhaps these will inspire your selection, or help you identify modern the styles you prefer.


Expressionism emerged in the beginning of the 20th century. Now-famous painters like Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch popularized this style that presents a picture from a completely subjective perspective. Lines are typically distorted to reflect the emotional impact the scene has on the artist, or evoke a mood in the viewer. Since expressionist art work is so emotional, consider how you feel when looking at an image and if you want to feel that way every time you enter a room.


Abstract art work is a popular choice for corporate offices and other professional environments that want to add visual style without making an obvious statement. Similar to expressionism, abstract art doesn’t concern itself with accuracy; the representation ranges from slightly, to completely distorted. Images may feature geometric shapes or large blocks of color, and play on spatial relationships.

Well known abstract artists include Kandinsky, Mondrian, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Some abstract pictures focus entirely on form. From an interior design perspective, these bold images are ideal for a room.


Popular in the 1960s and 1970s, minimalism was one of the last popular modern art styles. In response to abstract expressionism, minimalist artists set out to replace distortions and subjectivity with an effort to capture the essence of an object or scene. You can recognize this style through its simplicity. The subject of minimalist art work has pure aesthetic value, and does not attempt to tell a story or engage the viewers' mind or mood. This approach is also evident in pop art.

When searching for the right art work pictures for your collection, listen to your gut response. Artistic styles are fascinating to read about on paper, but they’re not necessarily predictive of taste. Once it's hung in your home, a painting or photograph is something that you’ll see daily. It doesn’t matter if you like it for the colors, point of view or subject. It only matters that you like the art you live with.  

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