The Periodic Table of Modern Art

Click here to see the image with zoom

Get a free poster of our Periodic Table!


A movement that emerged from nineteenth century France, inspired by the painting Impression: Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet. The Impressionists rejected the artistic conventions of the time and were motivated by the influence of light and movement on the perception of a landscape. Adopting loose brushstrokes, the works aligned with this movement emphasise natural themes, particularly landscapes, valuing the impact of natural light and avoiding sharp outlines around figures. Leading artists of Impressionism include: Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro.

Post Impressionism

Also called Neo Impressionism, it was an artistic movement that came in between impressionism and cubism, developed mainly in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century and start of the twentieth century. It arose as an objection to the limitation imposed by the impressionist technique that were considered superficial, only able to portray landscapes without giving great importance to emotions or political and social events. Leading artists of Post Impressionism include: Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Georges-Pierre Seurat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.


An artistic movement extending to plastic arts, literature and theatre that appeared in France at the end of the ninetieth century. Opposing the progress of science, technology and realism, Symbolism was based on romance and mysticism. The Symbolists took a greater interest in the individual rather than the generalist view creating focussing on perception, understanding and imagination instead of observation and realistic physical descriptions. Leading artists of Symbolism include: Aubrey Beardsley, Puvis de Chavannes, Paul Gauguin, James Ensor, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch and Henri Rousseau.


An art movement that borrowed references from foreign cultures particularly those that were pre-industrial and tribal. Primitivism is inspired by art made by the general population and primitive tribes. It was characterised by being produced by self-taught artists with little or no technical or theoretical knowledge usually about a fashionable theme. By exploring ethnographic museum collections almost all avant-garde artists were influenced by primitive art from the beginning of XX century and surrealism. Leading artists of Primitivism include: Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Paul Gauguin, Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso.


Coming from the Impressionist movement Pointillism is an artistic technic using the juxtaposition of small spots or dots of colour to cause an optical illusion. Created in France in the mid-nineteenth century with the major artists including Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Pointillism emphasises the composition of colours and light as a form to create dimension and depth.


Born at the beginning of the XX century, Fauvism was strongly driven by Henri Matisse, commonly understood to be the natural evolution of Impressionism. Having changed the perception of colour this new aesthetic was expressed through a playful chromatic, feelings and sensations of the artist, and a more faithful reproduction of the observed. Fauvism comes across as an ode to freedom, rebellion and imagination. Where the joy of living through use of bright colours and contrasts which are often imaginary and cannot be enslaved by the visual aspects of reality.


The Bridge

Founded by German architecture students this branch of Expressionists aimed at establishing a bridge between contemporary art and the art of the future. The human figure is the prominent element usually as nudes in natural settings although urban life (streets, people in cafés, etc.) also feature. Shaped by the subjective vision of the artist this is a dramatic painting style bring human feelings to the forefront. The groups’ goal was to have freedom of movement and life.

Blue Knight

Created in Munich and inspired by Expressionism the group was formed in 1911 by Russian and German artists. They wanted to see life from the perspective of experiences, sensations and individual feelings. However, with a universal seeking to overcome territorial boundaries and barriers and to unite the vanguard of European art. Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Paul Klee and August Macke are the great leaders of this expression based on lyricism and emotiveness.

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism appeared in New York (1940) and was the first artistic move to reverse the traditional geographic path. Born in America and later having a global influence the movement put a new city on the map of the art world. In the previous decade there were many European artists who settled in New York largely influencing the creation of young American painters. From here the movement emerged by combining the emotional intensity of German Expressionism with anti figurative aesthetics of the Abstract School in Europe, such as Futurism, the Bauhaus and Synthetic Cubism. With a rebellious attitude towards traditional painting being planned rather than spontaneous, the leading artist of Abstract Expressionism are: Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still and Wassily Kandinsky.

Neo expressionism

Rescued from the 80’s as a result of dissatisfaction from Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Happening and heavily influenced by Expressionism, Symbolism and Surrealism. New Expressionism sought to bring back the painting as a means of communication of both emotional and subjective critical representations. The expression in the neo-expressionist art was as a struggle for identity, a need for art in itself, addressing issues related to cultural background and identity. The work often used materials such as straw, lines, iron, and broken crockery.


Geometrical Cubism as well as an appreciation of colours in Fauvism and Expressionism were preparing the way for one of the greatest revolutions of the twentieth century European art: Abstractionism. Being a complete abandonment of the representation of identifiable objects. Emerging in 1910 with the Russian precursor Kandinsky, Abstractionism broke from Traditionalists who were looking to realistically represent life and considered Abstractionism as being too strange and bad taste. Abstractionism is divided into two trends: lyrical abstractionism (inspired by instinct and intuition linked to an “inner necessity”) and geometric abstractionism (focused on streamlining, intellectual and scientific analysis).


Appearing in the twentieth century with pioneers including Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque although Cezanne had already used multiple perspectives in a single painting previously. Cubist art broke realistic representation of nature and were unfaithful to actual forms although without distorting beyond recognition. The main feature of Cubism is the representation of different angles of a particular object in a single plane.


This artistic and literary movement emerged in 1909 with the publication of the Futurist Manifesto published in the French newspaper Le Figaro by the poet Filippo Marinetti. Characterised essentially by the rejection of art and culture of the past, preferring to celebrate progress, urban life, modern technology, speed and, in extreme cases, violence and weapons. Often, futuristic paintings had vibrant colours, geometric shapes, image overlay and so-called “power lines” in order to give an illusion of action to the object represented.


Suprematism originated in Russia at the beginning of the XX century and focussed on basic geometric shapes like squares and circles. It was the start of the adstractification in modernism. The first work of the Movement was Black Square on a white background, Cazimir Malevich, on which the artist said “I felt only night within me, and it was then that I conceived the new art which I called Suprematism.”. It was defined as the supremacy of pure feeling and focused on breaking away from any imitation of the real world.


Neoplasticism is an avant-garde art movement proposed by Piet Mondrian in the early twentieth century based on the ideals of Cubism and Naturalism. It tries to reach its essence using analytical concepts of painting using plastics and objective expression. Neoplastics only use primary colours, black and white with maximum saturation to create shades that are not found naturally to emphasise the artificial component of the style.

Lyrical Abstractionism

Lyrical Abstractionism finds inspiration from instinct and intuition to produce an imaginary art that links to “inner needs”. It arose as a reaction to the great landmarks of the XX century such as the First World War. Organic forms, vibrant colours and contour lines characterise this style. Lyrical Abstractionism looked to use painting to simulate the effect music has to turn sound into artistic language.


Bauhaus diffuses the idea that there is correlation and complementarity between art, design and architecture. Bauhaus originated from the appropriation of a German school of design, art and avant-garde architecture operating between 1919 and 1933. It was built to create a multi-purpose art space. The school had a profound influence on developments later in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design and typography.


Malevich used Constructivism for the first time when describing the work of Rodchenko. Constructivism is an artistic and political avant-garde movement that started in Russia in the XX century. It wanted to break artistic convention and denied the purity of art looking to Futurism, modernity and art inspired by artists from the New Workers’ State. Constructivism admired the serving of social objectives and building of a socialist World.


Dadaism emerged from Zurich in 1916 as a modern avant-garde art movement. Is arose as a reaction to World War I and was rooted in a feeling of dislike towards men and used symbols of decay. They ignored existing culture especially the bourgeoisie opting for chaos, total freedom of the individual unshackled from rules. It was the movement that claimed no history, tradition or method.


Realism was born in Europe, specifically France, in the last decades of the ninetieth century. It was a rejection of the artificiality of Neoclassicism and Romanticism that tried to portray real life customs, mundane everyday hardship without referencing to models of the past. Realism appears in a moment in time when there was a simultaneous growing respect for both empirical investigation, experimental science, technical progress as well as imaginative creations. Importantly, Realism is opposed to the idealisation of classical and romantic schools, and should not be confused with technics that try and reproduce reality.


Founded in Paris in 1924, Surrealism was born from Dadism with the avant-garde context of the early twentieth century. André Breton released first major Surrealist Manifesto in 1924. Touched by the strong influence from Freudian psychoanalysis, Surrealism shows the unconscious role in the creative process. Dreams, fantasies, daydreams and illogical reasoning thus formed the basis for artistic development.

Pop Art

Emerging from England in the 1950s to reach maturity by the 1960 in the United States. Pop Art is understood as the transition from modernity to postmodernity in Western culture. It returned to figurative art as opposed to German expressionism that dominated the creative environment. Pop Art simultaneously glorified and brought out the irony of the materialistic consumerist everyday societies that dominated that era also in the television imagery, cinema and advertising.

New Realism

Yves Klein, Arman, Raymond Hains and Jean Tinguely clarified the definition between of New Realism as separate to Pop Art. The art critic, Pierre Restany, published a small manifesto that united the contrasting artistic medium styles. The manifesto was published at a presentation of the exhibition New Realists in Milan a few months after the founding of New Realism but was only made official in 1960. New Realists saw the world like an image that they could take parts from and incorporate into their work with the ambition to unite art and life as much as possible.


In the 50s Minimalism started to arise as both an artistic and cultural movement from the United States. However, it only really reached a momentum in the 60s and 70s after the peak of Abstract Expressionism. Minimalists opposed complexity and intensity striving from simplicity in both colour and shape until all components are essential. The result is pure and free from mixtures and similarities, with a search for essential expressiveness of shape and form of materials.

Arte Povera

Arte Povera was born in large Italian cities such as Turin, Milan, Rome, Venice, Naples and Bologna in the 1960s but gaining traction in the 1970s. The artists sought impoverish the works by exploring a number of unconventional materials. This gave emphasis to the values imposed from industry, government and culture. Throughout the 1970s the artists focused on nature and were heavily critical of industrial processes that they believed impoverished a caring society with material enrichment.

Conceptual art

Conceptual Art emerged in the 60s then peaked in both Europe and the United States during the 1970s. The scope is fairly broad making it difficult to delineate what is considered conceptual art. Core to the art movement is that the product should challenge people to interpret an idea or criticism making them reflect. Conceptual are uses innovative mediums sometimes simultaneously, for example, performances, art installations, videos, new media, photographs, and texts.

Post Modernism

Post modernism encompassed all the socio-cultural, aesthetic, scientific, artistic and social changes singe the 50s, which is when they considered the end of modernism. The time is characterised by the spread of media and technological development, and largely influenced by the digital world and capitalist society. The postmodern artist is rendered to a simulation filled with signs and icons that replaces reality. This is a movement that still lacks a historical distance for better interpretation.

Performance Art

Performance Art uses the human body as a medium for the artwork. Antonin Artaud working within the organisation The Situationists and the Fluxus movement was the founding father, although Performance Art is still not universally accepted. It came about in the late 60s, early 70s, as an antithesis to the theatre, challenging artistic forms and cultural norms. The aim is to create fleeting authentic movements that cannot be repeated, captured or purchased. It is usually connected to Conceptual Art and although involves presentation to the audience tries to escape conventional narrative. Occasionally interacting with the audience, other times completely ignoring expectations, with an ever-present impromptu basis.