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Modern Art vs. Postmodern Art: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 4, 2023
Modern Art emphasizes originality and self-expression; Postmodern Art challenges established norms and embraces relativism.

Key Differences

Modern Art emerged during the late 19th to mid-20th century as a reaction to traditional art forms, emphasizing innovation, originality, and a break from classical themes. On the other hand, Postmodern Art, which started in the mid-20th century, can be viewed as a response to Modern Art, offering a critique of its authority and often mocking or deconstructing its principles.
Modern Art was about seeking truth, exploring new techniques, and presenting a unique perspective of the world. In contrast, Postmodern Art often questions the very concept of "truth," suggesting multiple interpretations and perspectives. It's more about questioning than presenting.
While Modern Art strove for purity and simplicity, often focusing on a specific medium or technique, Postmodern Art frequently mixes media and styles, resulting in hybrid works. Modern Art values authenticity and originality, whereas Postmodern Art might openly borrow, quote, or even parody other works.
In Modern Art, there's a clear distinction between the "art" and the "audience," with the artist often holding a distinct authority. However, in Postmodern Art, this line blurs. The audience becomes an integral part of the artwork, and the notion of "artist as an authority" is often challenged or dismissed.

Comparison Chart


Late 19th to mid-20th century
Mid-20th century onwards


Expressing originality and breaking from tradition
Questioning norms and challenging Modern Art's principles


Seeks a universal truth
Believes in relative truths


Focused on purity of medium
Mixes media and styles


Clear distinction between artist and audience
Audience is an integral part, challenging the artist's role

Modern Art and Postmodern Art Definitions

Modern Art

Modern Art sought to portray the world in a new and unique perspective.
Her sculptures reflect the Modern Art movement's inclination to see the world differently.

Postmodern Art

Postmodern Art questions established norms and conventions in art.
The gallery's latest exhibition showcases Postmodern Art's tendency to challenge the mainstream.

Modern Art

Modern Art is the innovative break from tradition in the late 19th and mid-20th century.
The Museum of Modern Art showcases pivotal moments in art history.

Postmodern Art

Postmodern Art often engages in parody, irony, and playful mockery.
His satirical piece is a nod to Postmodern Art's love for irony.

Modern Art

Modern Art emphasizes self-expression and individuality.
His painting, though abstract, is deeply rooted in Modern Art's quest for self-expression.

Postmodern Art

Postmodern Art often mixes various media and styles, creating hybrid pieces.
Her installation, a blend of video and sculpture, is a testament to Postmodern Art's fluidity.

Modern Art

Modern Art is characterized by its experimental techniques and forms.
Using splatter techniques, he draws inspiration from Modern Art's freedom.

Postmodern Art

Postmodern Art emphasizes relativism, suggesting multiple interpretations.
This artwork embodies Postmodern Art's embrace of varied perspectives.

Modern Art

Modern Art was driven by a desire to represent emotions and subjective interpretations.
The bold colors and strokes in this piece are quintessential of Modern Art's emotional rawness.

Postmodern Art

Postmodern Art blurs the lines between high and low culture.
The incorporation of comic strips in his painting highlights Postmodern Art's disregard for traditional hierarchies.


Is Modern Art about abstraction?

While Modern Art includes abstract forms, it encompasses various styles, not just abstraction.

Why is Modern Art considered groundbreaking?

Modern Art broke away from traditional techniques and themes, introducing innovative perspectives.

What mediums are common in Modern Art?

Modern Art uses various mediums, from painting to sculpture, often emphasizing the purity of the medium.

When did Postmodern Art begin?

Postmodern Art began around the mid-20th century, as a reaction against Modern Art's principles.

Who are some renowned Postmodern Art artists?

Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, and Jenny Holzer are among the influential Postmodern Art figures.

How does Modern Art relate to Impressionism?

Impressionism is a subset of Modern Art, focusing on capturing fleeting moments and light effects.

What's a significant difference between Modern and Postmodern Art?

While Modern Art emphasizes originality and self-expression, Postmodern Art challenges these concepts, embracing relativism and questioning norms.

Does Postmodern Art have a specific style?

Postmodern Art is diverse and can mix various styles, often challenging or parodying traditional norms.

Was Modern Art always well-received?

No, Modern Art was often controversial and faced criticism for its departure from tradition.

Does Postmodern Art mix media?

Yes, Postmodern Art frequently blends different media, resulting in hybrid artworks.

Can Modern Art be figurative?

Yes, Modern Art includes both abstract and figurative forms, though it often presents them in new ways.

Is parody common in Postmodern Art?

Yes, parody, along with irony and mockery, is a prevalent theme in Postmodern Art.

What is Modern Art?

Modern Art is an art movement that emerged in the late 19th to mid-20th century, emphasizing originality and a break from classical forms.

How does Postmodern Art view truth?

Postmodern Art often questions the notion of a singular truth, suggesting multiple interpretations.

Is borrowing from other works accepted in Postmodern Art?

Yes, Postmodern Art often borrows, quotes, or parodies other works, challenging notions of originality.

Who are some famous Modern Art artists?

Notable Modern Art artists include Picasso, Matisse, and Dali.

How does Postmodern Art view the role of the artist?

Postmodern Art often challenges or dismisses the traditional authoritative role of the artist.

Is Modern Art the same as contemporary art?

No, Modern Art refers to a specific period, while contemporary art pertains to artworks created in the present era.

What's a key element of Postmodern Art?

One key element is its tendency to question or critique established norms and conventions.

How did Modern Art change the art world?

Modern Art introduced new techniques, perspectives, and a focus on self-expression, transforming the art scene.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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