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Modern Art Oil Painting

What really is modern art oil painting?  Most dictionaries define "modern" as "of the present or recent times."  Application of the term modern to oil painting art work now is confusing and controversial.  One can legitimately argue that even the artists of the Renaissance period applied ‘modern’ to their work as well. To label the current period of oil painting as ‘modern art’ we can look to the attitudes and characteristics of our modern world and what art means to the artist and its viewers today. 

Modern art oil painting can be viewed as a rapid and radical art style with many variations.  Technology brought change to society along with a differing mindset towards art.  Previously, artists were contracted by the church or affluent families, but our times brought about a change that had artists painting for the joy of it.  During the American Civil War, World War 1 and 2, and during times of civil unrest, artists found a diversion in art. American artists of this time period were finally acclaimed as competent artists.

It has also been claimed that modern artists exhibit some form of rebellion by their continual desire to shock. The term avant-garde, which is often applied to modern art, comes from a French military term meaning “advance guard,” or vanguard meaning that what is modern refers to artists who are involved in the application of new, original, or cutting-edge techniques. It could be said that the artists are part of a uniquely innovative group never before witnessed in the world of art. Their techniques are 'in advance' of those generally accepted.

Another key characteristic of modern art oil painting is its enthrallment with modern technology and its acceptance of mechanical methods of reproduction, such as photography and the printing press.

Yet another view holds that the basic motivation of modern art is to engage in a dialogue with popular culture. Examples of these would be the way;

  • Picasso pasted bits of newspaper into his paintings.

  • Roy Lichtenstein, a prominent American Pop Artist, imitated both the style and subject of comic strips in his paintings
  • Andy Warhol made images of Campbell’s soup cans.

Though breaching the barrier between high art and popular culture is typical of artists like Picasso, Lichtenstein, and Warhol, it is not of other artists such as Mondrian, Pollock, or most other abstract artists.

The theories outlined above are convincing and go a long way in explaining what modern art oil painting is and the many techniques employed by modern artists. However, even this brief analysis reveals that 20th-century art is far too varied to be summarized within any one definition.


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