How Ancient Art Influenced Modern Art | The Amazing Facts

So what does the term modern art really mean? I am guessing to most folks it means art that is popular right now, right? But as historians and others know modern art is a style that originated over a hundred and fifty years ago. Does not sound so modern now does it? But lets get a deep understanding and explore the beginnings of the modern art movement.

Ancient cultures influenced the modern art movement. It is true, inspiration from ancient cultures spawned the most revolutionary modern movements in art history. One could argue it is the most revolutionary movements in art history period. One may question did these artists profit from cultures that were more primitive than their own? Or are these artists merely redefining standards in art?

So is modern art ready to be overturned to a new set of standards? I like to think modern art is always changing, and what is modern today is soon replaced tomorrow, but it is still labeled as modern art. Modern art will always be modern art. Its definition changes as we encounter new trailblazers that draw inspiration from new sources.

The Beginning Of The Modern Art Movement

But I bet you have heard of the many artists that were apart of this style such as, Picasso, Matisse, Gogan, and others and know they were the beginning of the modern art movement. And bet you might not know the modern art movement they created at the time was scandalous, causing general public outrage by a perceived offense against art. Most conventional arts represented conventional adherence and representation to classical forms.

But in the late nineteenth century, that began to change and lead the way for significant developments in painting and sculpture into the twenty century. Then artists like Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and others led the way, thus creating an entirely new style of art called modern art.

Modern Art Inspiration

Many of these modern artist looked for inspiration beyond their own culture and way of life. For example, Gogan found inspiration in Tahiti, the largest island of the Windward group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, located in the central part of the Pacific Ocean. He was intrigued by their culture and landscape. You can see in many of the paintings he combined European themes with the Polynesian way of life. And others of the modern art era looked to the Islamic world. However, the biggest influence over modern art came from Africa. As antique artifacts made their way into museums and collectors such as the artist and collector Matisse. And so it goes Matisse then showed Picasso his artifacts.

This, of course, inspired Picasso, where he then promptly began visiting museums in 1907, looking for African artifacts. Museums boasted African art collections captured from colonial conquests. Looking at the simple masks and colors painted on wood turned out to be a revelation for Picasso. At the same time, Picasso what working on a painting called five nude women in which would be later become what we know of today as cubism.

So here is a perfect example of how important inspiration is and the ability to look beyond your own boundaries. Three of the ladies show facial features of known Iberian art, and the other two faces resemble African masks. Each figure is depicted in a disconcerting confrontational manner. The women look vaguely intimidating and are made with body forms that are rigid and disjointed.

At the time, in 1907, this was considered aggressive and abstract. It was distorted and primal at its core, which we know today as a new artistic language. His painting unleashed a totally original visual style with convincing and brutal energy. And of course, when the painting was first shown caused a sensation with critics who were quick to denounce the work of art. And as you know, today, more artists followed Picasso. They all drew on the African culture to inspire their work while others looked to different contents for their work.


Haddon, A. C. (1895). Evolution in art: As illustrated by the life-histories of designs. W. Scott, Limited.

Souleles, N. (2013). The evolution of art and design pedagogies in England: Influences of the past, challenges for the future. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 32(2), 243-255.

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How ancient art influenced modern art –

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