The trajectory of Modern art in the 20th century from the inception to the end point that was around 1970s, was marked by unique individuals. Modern artists were not just famous in art world, but grew into true icons of the period, that attracted the interest of both art professionals but general public as well. Their approach to art differed, and included formalist explorations, abstraction, but also from the 1960s onwards an interest in popular culture and figuration. The fame of Modernists also attracted many filmmakers who wished to immortalize them on the big screen. Pollock, Edvard Munch, Andy Warhol, or Frida are not just the names of artists, but also the titles of films that depict lives and struggles of some of the best known artists of the previous century.
Although the time distance from the period of Modern art means that many of its protagonists are no longer with us, there is still a strong group of Modernists who are active and creative today. We are offering you the list where you can check out some of them.
Editors’ Tip: 50 Modern Artists You Should Know
A century and a half of masterpieces is covered in this chronologically arranged volume that beautifully captures the development of art in a new age. Starting with James Abbott McNeill Whistler and ending with Matthew Barney, nearly every prominent figure in Modern art is represented in vibrant double-page spreads that show how these artists continued to redefine norms and challenge tradition. Fascinating biographical and anecdotal information about each artist is provided alongside large reproductions of their most celebrated works, stunning details, and images of the artists themselves. A color-coded timeline spans the entire volume, showing overlapping careers and important historical dates. From the impressionists to the surrealists, the cubists to the pop-artists-readers will find a wealth of information as well as hours of enjoyment learning about this popular and prolific period in art history.
Featured image: Frank Stella, Damascus Gate, 1970. Image via Widewalls archive. All images used for illustrative purposes only.
Flag is one of the best known paintings of Jasper Johns on which he depicted American flag. Known for his work that covers several artistic styles such as Abstract Expressionism and Pop art, Johns is also considered a Neo-Dadaist, because of his deconstruction of familial motifs, but also for contradictions, ironies and parodies his art often displays.
Featured image:Jasper Johns - Three Flags. Image via Widewalls archive.
With his big retrospective exhibition opening this year at Tate Britain, David Hockney is among the Modernists who still attract huge public attention. Considered one of the most influential artists in Britain, Hockney is best known for his Pop art works which revived figurative painting in a style resembling the visual language of advertising.
Featured image: David Hockney - Garden, 2015. Collection of the artist, © David Hockney, Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt.
Born in 1937, Ed Ruscha is another famous modern artist who is linked with several styles and movements, including Pop art, but who is nonetheless recognizable for his paintings that incorporate words and phrases, and his photographic books. With one of his works installed even in the White House, Ruscha is a living legend of modern art that marked the 20th century. Bringing constant innovations, and experimenting with different techniques, Ruscha is following his own postulate that “art has to be something that makes you scratch your head.”
Featured image: Ed Ruscha - Hollywood, 1968. Image via Widewalls archive.
With big retrospective exhibitions in 2007 and 2011 in America, Richard Serra is among the creatives who belong to a canonical group of Modern artists. His is best known for his large scale minimalist sculptures, which often become an inseparable element of public environments. He is also active as video and performance artist, and has created several films about manufacture and use of steel, which is his favorite metal.
Featured image: Richard Serra - The Matter of Time. Image via Widewalls archive.
Prolific in his use of styles and techniques, German artist Gerhard Richter follows in the steps of Picasso and Jean Arp who also refused the idea that an author needs to adhere to a single style. His artworks are done in abstract, but also photorealistic styles, and he also uses photography as a medium for his expression. In 2007 a stained glass window the famous artist created was unveiled in the Cologne Cathedral.
Featured image: Gerhard-Richter - Abstraktes Bild, detail. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.
Working in the areas of post-painterly abstraction and minimalism, Frank Stella started his career in the early 1960s. Influenced by the Abstract Expressionists, he later moved to denounce the expressive use of color in their works and to focus on a 'flatter' use of paint that was becoming a trademark of Barnett Newman. As one of the most famous modern artists, Stella was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2009.
Featured image:Frank Stella - Doubble Grey Scramble, 1973. Image via Widewalls archive.
Lynda Benglis informed the Modern art with feminist perspective. Born in 1941, she is an American sculptor and visual artist that creates in a slightly uncommon materials such as wax and latex. Coming to art scene in the 1960s, she created the Fallen Painting in 1968 as a response to machismo of Pollock’s drippings. In 2011 and 2012 Benglis had major surveys of her work in US and UK.
Featured image: Lynda Benglis, Installation View at the Hepworth Wakefield. Image via cfileonline.org
Born in 1937 in Tokyo, Larry Poons is an abstract painter who today primarily resides in New York City. His first intent was to become a musician, but he later enrolled at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and later on at the Art Students League of New York. Although his early works can be considered a form of Op art, as he depicted ovals and circles on flat surfaces of paint, he developed in his later years a style that is more linked with hard-edge and color field painting.
Featured image: Painting by Larry Poons, detail. Image via pintrest.com
Bruce Nauman studied mathematics and physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before turning to art. Over the years he worked in a wide array of media, including printmaking, performance, neon and video art, photography, printmaking and drawing. In 1980s he was focusing on sculpture and video art filled with disturbing images of animal and human body parts. A cast version of his Animal Pyramid from 1989 showing a stack of seventeen taxidermy molds was commissioned by the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation in 1990, and was later installed at the grounds of the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa.
Featured image: Bruce Nauman - Double Poke in the Eye II, 1985. Image via Widewalls archive.
A variety of abstract styles ranging from geometric abstraction, lyrical abstraction, hard-edge painting and color field painting are linked with the work of Ronald Davis. With over seventy solo and over hundreds of group exhibitions, he is a veteran on the art scene. His Dodecagons Series from 1968–69 is considered “the most visually stunning, audacious, and intellectually interesting” artworks made by in the second half of the 20th century by an abstract painter.
Featured image: Ronald Davis - Vector, 1968. Image via irondavis.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.