Amy P.

asked • 01/23/13

What are the key differences between Modernism and Postmodernism as art movements?

What are the key differences between Modernism and Postmodernism as art movements?

Nicole O.

Thank you for your answer!
I have a 'stupid question' is Modernism the same as Modern Art? If not, what is the difference?


Alan G.

Hello Nicole,
I don't think that's a stupid question. Actually, it's a great question. There is a difference between "Modernism" and "Modern Art." I'll try to explain as best I can.  "Modernism" refers to the view that cultures, societies, and individuals should seek ways to "improve" or "update" society by getting rid of old conventions and replacing them with new ones, and hopefully, improved ones. This goes for just about anything in society. An example of a culture that rejects "Modernism" is the Amish. They ride in horse-drawn carriages and attempt to maintain other "traditional" ways of living. The idea that an automobile is an improvement over a carriage is just an idea. For religious and/or cultural reasons, a society or subculture may decide that modernism is dangerous while most societies consider modernism an asset. In religion, there are factions that try to keep traditional ways intact, while others in the same religion might approve of modernism. Another example is a ruling, when the Catholic Church decreed that it was all right to hold a service in English (or any other vernacular language) as opposed to Latin. A modernist would say there's no point in having a Mass conducted in Latin if no one can understand it; a traditionalist might say that because of tradition, the Latin Mass captures the spirit of Catholicism, and so people should learn Latin.
"Modern Art" is one aspect of "Modernism." It is not an entire way of looking at the world. It is a way of thinking about what is worth creating in terms of art. So, you could apply all the ideas of modernism to "Modern Art," the difference being that modern art is more circumscribed, i.e., it involves one's view of what artists should be attempting in their art, which is to make things new.


3 Answers By Expert Tutors


James H.

I appreciate the beauty and eloquence of your explanation.  Thank you. James Halifko


Alan G.

Glad that I could be of some help.


Ayleiah A.

I am a nursing student and I was having extreme difficulties understanding the definitions of postmodernism and modernism. It's terrible when you have to look up the definition of the words to understand the definition of another word. Thank you for clarifying this. 


Amy S. answered • 02/22/13

New to Wyzant

Amy (Art and Design, Computers, Sports)

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