Modernism is a philosophical movement that arose in the 19th century and 20th century, which heavily characterized art before World War II. Modernism is frequently defined as a way of thinking that believes human beings can create and reshape their own environment through conscious experimentation and scientific method. However, modernism in art was largely a reaction to the horrors of modern warfare, brutally on display during World War I.
Modernism, in some ways, emerged out of 19th century Romanticism, especially in France, where artists sought to break down conventions. Many thinkers across Europe began to question the notion that society would do nothing but progress, and that progress was always good. Two significant intellectuals of early modernism were Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, each of whom sparked revolutions in thinking. Other major contributors to the rise of modernism were Nietzsche and Freud.
In the visual arts world, the early 20th century saw the development of a revolutionary change, evidenced by the works of Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and Henri Matisse. These artists rejected traditional perspective. At the same time, musical composers such as Schoenberg, who wrote compositions without a tonal center. Modernism largely ended by World War II, but retained some influence on both the “Theater of the Absurd,” in works by Beckett or the paintings of Jackson Pollock.