Back to Overview

What Is Modern Art?

Late-19th-century artists broke with tradition to create art for the modern age.

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.

The end of the 19th century in France is known as La Belle Époque (“the beautiful age”), in part because of the high cultural development that occurred at that time. Entertainment for the general public was a fairly new phenomenon. Artists, writers and patrons frequented Parisian cabarets, where singers and dancers enjoyed growing acclaim for their talents. Meanwhile, artists created images in a variety of mediums and techniques of celebrities and of audiences enjoying popular culture. Innovations in printing allowed artists the ability to replicate an image over and over again, encouraging them to design posters advertising cabarets, art salons, musical concerts, and readings. The beginning of graphic design and advertising was born.

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

French for “beautiful era,” a term that describes the period in French history beginning in 1890 and ending at the start of World War I in1914, which was characterized by optimism, relative peace across Europe, and new discoveries in technology and science.

The method with which an artist, writer, performer, athlete, or other producer employs technical skills or materials to achieve a finished product or endeavor.

A copy or reproduction.

A term describing a wide variety of techniques used to produce multiple copies of an original design. Also, the resulting text or image made by applying inked characters, plates, blocks, or stamps to a support such as paper or fabric.

The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).

A visual representation or design on a surface.

Questions & Activities

  1. The Cult of Celebrity in Promoting Culture

    Think of ways in which popular culture is disseminated or distributed in your world. Go online and find a few images of a celebrity selling either a product or an idea. How does this celebrity help endorse the product/idea more than a non-celebrity would?

    Write a short essay about the role of celebrity in promoting popular culture. Think about the various outlets for celebrities to be cultivated. What is the role of media (television, newspapers, the Internet) in creating the idea of celebrity? Share your essay with a friend.

  2. Analyze an Advertisement and Create Your Own

    Go to Google Images and find three advertisements that appeal to you. Try to determine the following elements for each ad:

    Who is the target audience?
    Who is represented in the advertisement?
    Who is the ad intended for? (age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc.)

    Which of the following persuasive techniques are used?
    Visual metaphors
    Catchy phrases

    Create an ad for something in your own life. Think about all of the persuasive techniques above when you create. How did deconstructing these three advertisements help you better understand advertisers’ methods?