Modern (French moderne from latine modernus – new, modern) is the period of European art development in the XIX-XX centuries, the main feature of which was the desire of artists to oppose their creativity to historicism and eclecticism of the second half of the XIX century. The chronological framework of Modern is very narrow, namely, from 1886 till 1914. Modern is not a one style, but a variety of different styles and movements that make up a period no less important than the Renaissance of the XVI century. The turn of XIX-XX centuries was a “valuable stage, completing a grand cycle of European culture development, beginning in antiquity”. Modern was deemed to be not an art style, but a lifestyle, as new ideas permeated with all aspects of human existence.
Romanticism was the background of the Modern era. Neo-Gothic became one of the major stylistic trends of the Modern art. The Modern epoch ideals were differently reflected in its various movements. These movements were not only different, but, sometimes incompatible and nonetheless intertwined: ornamental and constructive, floreale and geometric, innovative and retrospective, neo-classical and neo-gothic, industrial and handicraft. Main movements of Modern usually distinguished are as follows:
- floreale style, or “Art Nouveau”;
- neo-romantic (national-romantic) style;
- rational, or geometric style;
- neo-plastitsizm, or organic architecture;
- neo-classical style.
In Austria Modern was known as “Secession”. The Vienna Secession was founded by artist G. Klimt and architect O. Wagner.
In Germany the “new style” was called “Jugendshtil” after the Jugend magazine, which was a ganglion for progressively minded artists.
In Italy Modern was known as “Liberty” by the name of the owner of one British company, inculcate “new style” in the country.
In France it was called “Art Nouveau”.
The main motto of the new style (“Back to Nature”) was declared by Belgian artist and architect A. Van de Velde. The Belgium and Viennese Modern were strongly influenced both by the Eastern Japanese art, and the new, rational and constructive art of Scots, in particular art of C. Mackintosh. Under the influence of the straight lines of his furniture the avid “florealist” V. Horta said: “I left the flowers and leaves, and took up the stems and sticks”.
Stylistically diverse romantic thinking has manifested itself in the Russian Modern. F. Shehtel was a Genius architect of Moscow Modern. The most prominent representative of romantic movement in Modern was M. Vrubel (1893 – residence of Z. Morozova in Moscow). The staircase of this amazing building imitates romantic Gothic forms, the main hall in the Empire style and the living room in Rococo style (already the fourth in succession). And all these fictional interiors were furnished with a genuine museum furnishing. Vrubel’s decorative painting and stained glass at Morozova’s mansion were artfully styled on medieval.
The desire of Russian artists for complete “artistic and romantic” environment was manifested in the extremely vivid cultural phenomenon called “fin de siècle”, the famous “Diaghilev Seasons” in Paris.
The general trends of modern art gave a common ground for such diverse artists as O. Wagner and F. Shekhtel, G. Klimt and M. Vrubel, A. Van de Velde and L. Bakst. It was the aestheticization of individual methods that connected them. That’s why, along with the term “period of Modern” is possible to use the concept of “Modern style”, combining all new that has appeared in the art of the different countries of those years.
Symbolism had a special place in Modern style. The most fantastic forms were acquired by the symbolism of Art Nouveau in Spain, in the works of brilliant symbolist architect A. Gaudi.
Just before the First World War, the Modern art, mainly architecture, has changed its plasticity for a constructive clarity, simplicity, rationality and asceticism. The “Modern-Classicism” movement or modernized classics has developed, presented in St. Petersburg in the works of F. Lidval, M. Lyalevich, A. von Gauguin, N. Zakharov, M. Peretyatkovich. It was closely related to the “Nordic Modern” style, which first emerged in Sweden and Finland, and later on in St. Petersburg in the framework of the national romantic movement.
At the same time there were even more radical movements of Neo-Classicism and constructivism, opposing themselves to the ideals of the early Art Nouveau. The “pure classic” architects of the time were I. Fomin, A. Tamanyan, V. Shchuko, A. Shchusev, and I. Zholtovsky.
Sometimes, Modern may push away with its naturalistic details, but in general this art is deeply intellectual, as its artists strive to creatively rethink the entire history of European art. This is particularly well illustrated by the ordinary residential homes in the Art Nouveau style in St. Petersburg.