Painting Modern Life

Explore how early modern artists forged new directions in painting.

Rise of the Modern City

Discover the ways in which artists, photographers, and architects changed the landscape of modern cities.

Modern Landscapes

Discover groundbreaking techniques in early modern landscape paintings.

Modern Portraits

Explore how early modern painters pushed the boundaries of traditional portraiture.

Popular Culture

Learn about the influence of early forms of posters and advertising on art.

Artists living in the rapidly modernizing world of late 19th-century Europe wished not only to depict modern (for them, contemporary) everyday life, but also to reveal the emotional and psychological effects of living in a world in rapid flux. Artists like Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne continued to paint quite traditional subject matterlandscapes, portraits and still lifes—but they explored them in ways that shocked their contemporaries.

To explore more, click on each artwork thumbnail, then click again on the larger image that appears in the box above.

The visual or narrative focus of a work of art.

A representation of inanimate objects, as a painting of a bowl of fruit.

A representation of a particular individual.

In art, a technique used to depict volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface, as in a painted scene that appears to extend into the distance.

Modern can mean related to current times, but it can also indicate a relationship to a particular set of ideas that, at the time of their development, were new or even experimental.

The natural landforms of a region; also, an image that has natural scenery as its primary focus.

The technique and resulting work of art in which fragments of paper and other materials are arranged and glued to a supporting surface.

Questions & Activities

  1. Write an Inner Monologue

    Write down five words to describe the person in Cézanne’s The Bather. What is this person thinking or feeling? Choose one of your words as a starting point for a 100-word internal monologue.

  2. Host a Salon

    Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso would have been invited to author Gertrude Stein’s Parisian home for salons, or social gatherings to share ideas and works of art.

    Create either a real or mock salon by inviting five to 10 friends to share a poem, a work of art, a song/piece of music, or a dance. At the salon, share your pieces with one another and discuss them.

  3. Exploring Perspectives through Photography

    Perspective is an important concept in art and in life. Now it is your turn to explore a perspective of an artistic subject of your choice. Arrange a still life of either your most or least favorite objects. Take photos of the loved/despised objects from various angles and perspectives. Print out your images. Cut the images up and paste them onto a separate sheet of paper, creating a two-dimensional collage that depicts the subject from multiple viewpoints.

    Once you have a final collage, create a title for your piece. Write a short caption that explains your artistic intention. Share with a friend and discuss your artistic intention.