Source: Oxford University Press
Term used to characterize developments in architecture and the arts in the 1960s and after, when there was a clear challenge to the dominance of modernism; the term was applied predominantly from the 1970s to architecture and somewhat later to the decorative and visual arts. It was first used as early as 1934 by Spanish writer Federico de Onis, although it was not then used again until Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History in 1938 (published after World War II); Toynbee and others saw the ‘post-modern’ phenomenon in largely negative terms, as an irrational reaction to modernist rationalism. The term was used sporadically thereafter in the fields of literary criticism and music. In the 1970s, however, it came into wide use in connection with architecture to denote buildings that integrate modernism with a selective eclecticism, often of classical or Neo-classical origin. In painting the term took hold later, peaking in the mid-1980s in the USA to describe work that offered a more biting critique of current cultural values than that offered in architecture. If the attachment of the label itself is ignored, however, the developments may be perceived as continuous with the anti-modernism of the 1960s, which readily related to the growing pluralism in art and architecture that came to be associated with Post-modernism from the early 1980s.
From Grove Art Online