Later Europe and Americas: 1750-1980 C.E.

From the mid-1700s to 1980 C.E., Europe and the Americas experienced rapid change and innovation. Art existed in the context of dramatic events such as industrialization, urbanization, economic upheaval, migrations, and wars. Countries and governments were re-formed; women’s and civil rights’ movements catalyzed social change. Artists assumed new roles in society. Styles of art proliferated and often gave rise to artistic movements. Art and architecture exhibited a diversity of styles, forming an array of “isms.” Works of art took on new roles and functions in society and were experienced by audiences in new ways. Art of this era often proved challenging for audiences and patrons to immediately understand.

The Enlightenment set the stage for this era. Scientific inquiry and empirical evidence were promoted in order to reveal and understand the physical world. Belief in knowledge and progress led to revolutions and a new emphasis on human rights. Subsequently, Romanticism offered a critique of Enlightenment principles and industrialization. Philosophies of Marx and Darwin impacted worldviews, followed by the work of Freud and Einstein. Later, postmodern theory influenced art making and the study of art. In addition, artists were affected by exposure to diverse cultures, largely as a result of colonialism. The advent of mass production supplied artists with ready images, which they were quick to appropriate. By permission, © 2013 The College Board

Diverse artists with a common dedication to innovation came to be discussed as the avant-garde. Subdivisions include Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Symbolism, Expressionism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, performance art, and earth and environmental art. Many of these categories fall under the general heading of modernism. © 2013 The College Board