Art is defined as the human effort to imitate, alter, or supplement the work of nature. It is also known as the expression of man’s creative skill, feelings, emotions, and imagination in the formation of aesthetic visual forms, such as structures, sculptures, paintings or drawings. Social changes have over the years been the platform upon which art work revolves. They are and will continue to be the reasons that influenced most artists and the work they produce. Art has always acted as the perfect vessel that interprets the progress of these changes. I have come to realize that most of the emotions, feelings, and expression that humans put into talks, actions and schemes are all influenced by art. In this paper, I have explained the rationale behind the view that many art historians see the beginnings of modern art in French realism and impressionists.
The term Modern Art to some extent may be confusing, because modern is a relative term that describes the social civilization and technological state of any given society at any given time. Historians who are studying the evolution of art have observed that the early artists also distinguished themselves as modern artist, producing modern art (ArtHistory.net, 2009). In the true sense, realism and impressionism are the foundation of modern art. This is because most art historians believe that modern art started in the 1860s stretching to the 1990s. This was the exact era in which the two movements began. The emergence of the present day governments and civilization, increased technological knowhow, new scientific discoveries and political changes are some of the changes that the present art works reflect (Arnason. 1998). This does not make them modern arts but only an improvement from the earlier works. Modern art is said to have begun with the legacy of painters such as Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat Henri de Toulouse Lautrec and Paul Cézanne. They are all known for their zeal for the development and improvement of early art works.
It is true that the concept of modern art goes hand in hand with modernism. However, it should not be forgotten that it has its roots from realism and impressionism movements. These two movements bare the platform from which other movements such as fauvism, futurism, pop art, cubism, fluxus, synchromism, and many other mushroomed to form part of the modern art. Some of this modern artists and artworks include “The Open Window, Collioure” (1905) by Henri Matise, “The Red Tower at Halle” (1915) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and “The Composition with White and Yellow” (1942) by Piet Mondrian. The development in art works led to considerable improvements in all spheres of the society. The 1888 Eiffel tower by Maurice Koechlin and the 1902 Elisseeff Emporium by Gabriel Baranovskii are some of the outstanding structures, which define the modern art (Artfactory.org., 2011). The 1931 sculpture “Unique Form of Continuity in Space” by Umberto Boccioni (Requadt) also shows the advancements in the art that was termed as modern.
The French realism was known as the artistic movement that appeared in France after the revolution of 1848. It was the visual arts that expressed the taste for democracy. It attempted to portray followers in accordance with non-spiritual, empirical rules, as they are thought to have existed in the third person empirical reality (HuntFor.org, 2007). This was done without any exaggeration or interpretation. The term thus refers to works of art, which reveals the truth and emphasizes the ugly. The approach implied that such reality was independent of human's intangible intrigues, etymological beliefs, traits and practices, and thus were known to the artist, who then realistically represented them in various art forms.
The art of realism had a strong believe in the philosophy of objective reality. This led to their revolt against the romantic movement of embellished emotionalism. The 1854 painting “Bonjour Monsieur Courbet” by Gustave Courbet is one of the best illustrations of a realist painting. The goal of many realist artists was to portray the truth as accurate as possible (Baron and Engel, 2010). Most of their paintings and art works attempted to depict the problems, lives, customs, and appearance of the lower and middle classes, as they underscored the changes brought by the Commercial and Industrial revolutions (Wolf, 2011). In spite realism’s objective, real presentations and social predispositions, it failed to produce any new design and style in architecture and sculptures. This sounded the alarm for the introduction of new styles and technologies.
Impressionism, also known as optical realism, is the art style that took over from realism. It also appeared as a movement in the 19th century. It had almost a scientific interest in its actual visual expressions that showcased movement and effect of light on objects. Impressionist characteristics included open composition and the use of comparatively thin, small, visible brush strokes (HuntFor.org, 2007). Its emphasis was to portray light in its changing shades and qualities accurately to present correctly common and ordinary subject matter and movement as a vital element of human insight and encounter. It also emphasized on the correct and accurate depiction of unusual visual angles. “Sunrise”, the 1867 painting by Claude Monet and the 1872 “Bridge at Villeneuvela-Garenne” by Alfred Sisley are typical examples of an impressionism art work (HuntFor.org, 2007).
In collusion, I would likeh to point out and concur with the art historians that everything that exists in the present world has its history in the past years. Were it not for the French realism and impressionism movements, none in the present world would have come to know of art. It is thus vivid and true that the modern art began with the dawn of these two movements.