History of Modern Art (Paperback)

H H Arnason / Elizabeth C. Mansfield  
Total pages
December 2012
Related Titles


A Comprehensive Overview — available in digital and print formats


History of Modern Art is a visual comprehensive overview of the modern art field. It traces the trends and influences in painting, sculpture, photography and architecture from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. The seventh edition deepens its discussions on social conditions that have affected the production and reception of modern and contemporary art. 


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Learning Goals

Upon completing this book, readers will be able to:

  • Understand the origins of modern art
  • Provide an analysis of artworks based on formal and contextual elements
  • Recognize the influences of social conditions on modern art


  • Comprehensive exploration of modern art — Provides an overview of modern art. It explores the movements, trends and influences of artists from the mid-nineteenth century through contemporary art. Includes Photorealism, Conceptualism, Pattern and Decoration, New Image, and Neo-Expressionism.
  • Encompasses all media of modern art — Covers photography, performance art, installation art, collaboration, video, and mixed-media works.
  • Chronological organization – The chronological structure of the text puts works of art in historical perspective.   
  • Illustrations - Over 1100 illustrations, all color as appropriate, with 300 new and updated images.
  • Contextual information – Political, social, and historical context of artists, movements, and individual works provide additional reference information.
    • Three categories of boxed features emphasize this information:
      • Context
      • Technique
      • Sources
  • Central Themes - Six central themes guide readers to make connections between works of art. Themes include:
    • Intersections between art and science
    • Role of technology in shaping modern art
    • The relationship between modernism and femininity
    • The influence of criticism on the reception of modern art
    • The development and effects of the art market
    • The persistence of the exotic as an aesthetic ideal
  • Globalization chapter – The final chapter examines globalization. It looks at the economic and political conditions currently affecting artists and audiences internationally.
  • Instructor Resources - PowerPoints featuring nearly every image in the book, with captions and without captions.


New to this Edition

In this Section:
1) Overall changes

2) Chapter-by-Chapter changes


Overall Changes


  • The key change for the seventh edition is its availability as a two-volume version as well as a single comprehensive text. 
    •  Volume I concludes with a chapter on American art between the wars and the reception of Surrealism, as well as a conclusion to the volume.
    • Volume II has an introductory chapter summarizing main points relating to the development of modernism through Surrealism, as well as the American reception of Surrealism.
  • Chapters continue to be realigned and updated to better reflect new scholarly research and criticism.
  • Over 1100 illustrations, all color as appropriate, with 300 new updated images.



Chapter-by-Chapter Changes


Chapter 1

  • A streamlined introduction to the origins of modern art
  • Traditional, academic approaches to art making highlight modernity’s challenges to expectations about art


Chapter 2

  • Realism discussion sharpens the distinctions among the various movements and techniques
  • Photography and  Realism
  • Impressionism’s relationship and reaction to Realism
  • Women artists’ contributions and the significance of the female nude as a persistent subject of modern art


Chapter 3

  • Focus on the diverse artistic movements in France following the Franco-Prussian War and Paris Commune
  • Post-Impressionism emergence
  • Closer analyses of fewer artworks


Chapter 4

  • Architecture’s central role for Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau is made clear
  • Greater emphasis on sculpture’s importance
  • The Wiener Werkst™tte is now cast in relation to Arts and Crafts, as well as Jugendstil.


Chapter 5

  • Chapter develops around the works of Henri Matisse and Constantin Brancusi
  • Closer examination of the relationship between photography and early twentieth-century experiments
  • Special note of Brancusi’s use of photography as part of his artistic process


Chapter 6

  • Examples of German and Austrian Expressionism
  • A focus on Expressionism’s preoccupation with female nude relating to contemporary social conventions and aesthetic trends within modernism


Chapter 7

  • Discussions on Cubism emergence and French social conditions in the early twentieth century give rise to the artistic experiments by Picasso and Braque
  • Cubism’s distinct aesthetic concerns are treated at length, but not as ideas divorced from history


Chapter 8

  • Photographs of buildings help readers to understand early twentieth-century architecture
  • An expanded discussion on functionalism strengths theoretical framework for discussions on buildings


Chapter 9

  • The European response to Cubism is highlighted through diverse artists in Paris
  • A look on how Italian and Russian artistic innovations lead to movements such as Futurism and Constructivism


Chapter 10

  • New images convey the depth of the social and cultural rupture caused by World War I
  • The intense outrage, confusion, and despair felt by those who experienced the war is shown through works such as Dada and the New Objectivity


Chapter 11

  • The artistic response to World War I in Paris
  • The importance of art dealers in the promotion of avant-garde art
  • The role of the dealer is given renewed consideration
  • Artists, critics, dealers, and patrons contribution to the culture “Call to Order”  characterizing the post-war period


Chapter 12

  • New architectural views devoted to the de Stijl movement
  • The complex significance accorded to abstraction by Piet Mondrian is elaborated


Chapter 13

  • Clearer and more historically accurate images have been introduced to support the idea that Bauhaus was founded on the principle of arts integration in pursuit of a unified aesthetic


Chapter 14

  • Surrealism’s reliance on concepts derived from Freud’s theories contributes to the movement’s presumptions regarding femininity as a dangerous yet irresistibly seductive manifestation of the psyche
  • The movement’s representation of women and its ambivalence toward women artists is under sharper critique
  • Photographer Dora Maar’s work is included


Chapter 15

  • Chapter now begins with artist Romaine Brooks and uses her career as an entry point into American artists’ relationship to the European avant-garde

  • Social concerns animating progressive American artists are discussed
  • American artists visual responses to urban poverty, child labor, and isolationism


Chapter 16

  • A more focused approach to Abstract Expressionism and the emergence of American modernism
  • More in-depth discussion of selected pieces
  • Subtler treatment of the contributions of women to modern art in North America


Chapter 17

  • European art of the immediate postwar period has been contextualized in relation to the era’s difficult economic conditions and to existentialism
  • Inclusion of new comparative pieces enhance the discussion of Francis Bacon’s painting


Chapter 18

  • Nouveau Réalisme and Fluxus have their own chapter


Chapter 19

  • The importance of Pop art to the history of twentieth and twenty-first-century and allied movements are discussed
  • French artists Evelyn Axell gives women involved with Pop art a stronger presence


Chapter 20

  • Subtler treatment of the legacy of Clement Greenberg in order to lend greater accuracy to the treatment of Minimalism
  • Chapter further emphasizes  uncertainty and competing claims that pervade the history of modern art, a point made clearly by discussion of the Minimalist project


Chapter 21

  • This chapter has been enhanced with new, clearer images and architectural plans
  • A discussion of the architecture and design work of Eileen Gray has been added


Chapter 22

  • Conceptual art, Performance art, feminist art, protest art, and the Situationists are addressed through works by Marina Abramovic, Ulay, Jean-Michel Sanejouand,and Sylvia Sleigh
  • Josef Beuys’ contribution to Conceptual art is discussed at greater length


Chapter 23

  • A more in-depth analysis of Post-Minimalism, Earth art, and New Imagists
  • The chapter opens with Process art, giving readers a clearer understanding of the relationship among the various movements that characterized modern art in the 1970s


Chapter 24

  • The section on architecture discusses the differences among Postmodern, Constructivist, and Deconstructive approaches
  • The chapter now closes with a single painting by Mark Tansey


Chapter 25

  • The chapter focuses on easel painting
  • Several comparative works introduce the growing social and aesthetic interest in painting


Chapter 26

  • Explanation of contemporary artists willingness to work outside the bounds of established institutions and practices
  • The DIY movement in the visual arts is revealed with works by Charles LeDray and Guy Ben-Nur
  • Christian Marclay and Andrea Fraser, whose distinct confrontations with the culture of the art world offer divergent approaches to institutional critique, are introduced


Chapter 27

  • Significantly updated to accommodate works of visual art produced in response to postcolonialism, neocolonialism, and globalization
  • How the “Arab Spring” protests and the global Occupy Movement has brought greater awareness to digital technology in spreading and shaping information
  • Works of art include pieces that address issues related to digital cultures, personal confrontations with globalization, and arts in the service of social justice
  • Artists added to this edition include Walid Raad, Rirkrit Tiravanija, El Anatsui, Do-Ho Suh, Pierre Huyghe, Thomas Hirschhorn, Ai Wei Wei, and Bernadette Corporation

Table of Contents

In this Section:
1) Brief Table of Contents

2) Full Table of Contents





Chapter 1: The Origins of Modern Art

Chapter 2: The Search for Truth: Early Photography, Realism, and Impressionism

Chapter 3: Post-Impressionism

Chapter 4: Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and the Beginnings of Expressionism

Chapter 5: The New Century: Experiments in Color and Form

Chapter 6: Expressionism in Germany and Austria

Chapter 7: Cubism

Chapter 8: Early Modern Architecture

Chapter 9: European Art after Cubism

Chapter 10: Picturing the Wasteland: Western Europe during World War I

Chapter 11: Art in France after World War I

Chapter 12: Clarity, Certainty, and Order: De Stijl and the Pursuit of Geometric Abstraction

Chapter 13: Bauhaus and the Teaching of Modernism

Chapter 14: Surrealism

Chapter 15: American Art Before World War II

Chapter 16: Abstract Expressionism and the New American Sculpture

Chapter 17:  Postwar European Art

Chapter 18: Nouveau Réalisme and Fluxus

Chapter 19: Taking Chances with Popular Culture

Chapter 20: Playing by the Rules: Sixties Abstraction

Chapter 21: Modernism in Architecture at Mid-Century

Chapter 22: Conceptual and Activist Art

Chapter 23: Post-Minimalism, Earth Art, and New Imagists

Chapter 24: Postmodernism

Chapter 25: Painting through History

Chapter 26: New Perspectives on Art and Audience

Chapter 27: Contemporary Art and Globalization





Chapter 1: The Origins of Modern Art

 Making Art and Artists: The Role of the Critic

 The Modern Artist

 What Does It Mean to Be an Artist?: From Academic Emulation toward Romantic Originality

 Making Sense of a Turbulent World: The Legacy of Neoclassicism and Romanticism


Chapter 2: The Search for Truth: Early Photography, Realism, and Impressionism

 New Ways of Seeing: Photography and its Influence

 Only the Truth: Realism

 Seizing the Moment: Impressionism and the Avant-Garde

 From Realism to Impressionism

 Nineteenth-Century Art in the United States


Chapter 3: Post-Impressionism

 The Poetic Science of Color: Seurat and the Neo-Impressionist

 Form and Nature: Paul Cézanne

 The Triumph of Imagination: Symbolism

 An Art Reborn: Rodin and Sculpture at the Fin de Siècle

 Primitivism and the Avant-Garde: Gauguin and Van Gogh

 A New Generation of Prophets: The Nabis

 Montmartre: At Home with the Avant-Garde


Chapter 4: Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and the Beginnings of Expressionism

 “A Return to Simplicity”: The Arts and Crafts Movement and Experimental


 Experiments in Synthesis: Modernism beside the Hearth

 With Beauty at the Reins of Industry: Aestheticism and Art Nouveau

 Natural Forms for the Machine Age: The Art Nouveau Aesthetic

 Painting and Graphic Art

 Toward Expressionism: Late Nineteenth-Century Avant-Garde Painting beyond France


Chapter 5: The New Century: Experiments in Color and Form


 “Purity of Means” in Practice: Henri Matisse’s Early Career

 “Wild Beasts” Tamed: Derain, Vlaminck, and Dufy

 Religious Art for a Modern Age: Georges Rouault

 The Belle Époque on Film: The Lumière Brothers and Lartigue

 Modernism on a Grand Scale: Matisse’s Art after Fauvism

 Forms of the Essential: Constantin Brancusi


Chapter 6: Expressionism in Germany and Austria

 From Romanticism to Expressionism: Corinth and Modersohn-Becker

 Spanning the Divide between Romanticism and Expressionism: Die Brücke

 The Spiritual Dimension: Der Blaue Reiter

 Expressionist Sculpture

 Self-Examination: Expressionism in Austria


Chapter 7: Cubism

 Immersed in Tradition: Picasso’s Early Career

 Beyond Fauvism: Braque’s Early Career

 “Two Mountain Climbers Roped Together”: Braque, Picasso, and the

 Development of Cubism

 Constructed Spaces: Cubist Sculpture

 An Adaptable Idiom: Developments in Cubist Painting in Paris

 Other Agendas: Orphism and Other Experimental Art in


Chapter 8: Early Modern Architecture

 “Form Follows Function”: The Chicago School and the Origins of the Skyscraper

 Modernism in Harmony with Nature: Frank Lloyd Wright

 Temples for the Modern City: American Classicism 1900—15

 New Simplicity Versus Art Nouveau: Vienna Before World War I

 Tradition and Innovation: The German Contribution to Modern Architecture

 Toward the International Style: The Netherlands and Belgium


Chapter 9: European Art after Cubism

 Fantasy Through Abstraction: Chagall and the Metaphysical School

 “Running on Shrapnel”: Futurism in Italy

 “Our Vortex is Not Afraid”: Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism

 A World Ready for Change: The Avant-Garde in Russia

 Utopian Visions: Russian Constructivism


Chapter 10: Picturing the Wasteland: Western Europe during World War I

 The World Turned Upside Down: The Birth of Dada

 “Her Plumbing and Her Bridges”: Dada Comes to America

 “Art is Dead”: Dada in Germany

 Idealism and Disgust: The “New Objectivity” in Germany


Chapter 11: Art in France after World War I

 Eloquent Figuration: Les Maudits

 Dedication to Color: Matisse’s Later Career

 Celebrating the Good Life: Dufy’s Later Career

 Eclectic Mastery: Picasso’s Career after the War

 Sensuous Analysis: Braque’s Later Career

 Austerity and Elegance: Léger, Le Corbusier, and Ozenfant


Chapter 12: Clarity, Certainty, and Order: De Stijl and the Pursuit of Geometric Abstraction

 The de Stijl Idea

 Mondrian: Seeking the Spiritual Through the Rational

 Van Doesburg, de Stijl, and Elementarism

 De Stijl Realized: Sculpture and Architecture


Chapter 13: Bauhaus and the Teaching of Modernism

 Audacious Lightness: The Architecture of Gropius

 The Building as Entity: The Bauhaus

 The Vorkurs: Basis of the Bauhaus Curriculum

 Die Werkmeistern: Craft Masters at the Bauhaus

 From Bauhaus Dessau to Bauhaus U.S.A.


Chapter 14: Surrealism

 Breton and the Background to Surrealism

 “Art is a Fruit”: Arp’s Later Career

 Hybrid Menageries: Ernst’s Surrealist Techniques

 “Night, Music, and Stars”: Miró and Organic—Abstract Surrealism

 Methodical Anarchy: André Masson

 Enigmatic Landscapes: Tanguy and Dalí

 Surrealism beyond France and Spain: Magritte, Delvaux, Bellmer, Matta, and Lam

 Women and Surrealism: Oppenheim, Cahun, Maar, Tanning, and Carrington

 Never Quite “One of Ours”: Picasso and Surrealism

 Pioneer of a New Iron Age: Julio González

 Surrealism’s Sculptural Language: Giacometti’s Early Career

 Surrealist Sculpture in Britain: Moore

 Bizarre Juxtapositions: Photography and Surrealism


Chapter 15: American Art Before World War II

 American Artist as Cosmopolitan: Romaine Brooks

 The Truth about America: The Eight and Social Criticism

 A Rallying Place for Modernism: 291 Gallery and the Stieglitz Circle

 Coming to America: The Armory Show

 Sharpening the Focus on Color and Form: Synchromism and Precisionism

 The Harlem Renaissance

 Painting the American Scene: Regionalists and Social Realists

 Documents of an Era: American Photographers Between the Wars

 Social Protest and Personal Pain: Mexican Artists

 The Avant-Garde Advances: Toward American Abstract Art

 Sculpture in America Between the Wars


Chapter 16: Abstract Expressionism and the New American Sculpture

 Mondrian in New York: The Tempo of the Metropolis

 Entering a New Arena: Modes of Abstract Expressionism

 The Picture as Event: Experiments in Gestural Painting

 Complex Simplicities: Color Field Painting

 Drawing in Steel: Constructed Sculpture

 Textures of the Surreal: Biomorphic Sculpture and Assemblage

 Expressive Vision: Developments in American Photography


Chapter 17:  Postwar European Art

 Re-evaluations and Violations: Figurative Art in France

 A Different Art: Abstraction in France

 Postwar Juxtapositions: Figuration and Abstraction in Italy and Spain

 “Forget It and Start Again”: The CoBrA Artists and Hundertwasser

 The Postwar Body: British Sculpture and Painting

 Marvels of Daily Life: European Photographers


Chapter 18: Nouveau Réalisme and Fluxus

 “Sensibility in Material Form”: Klein



Chapter 19: Taking Chances with Popular Culture

 “This is Tomorrow”: Pop Art in Britain

 Signs of the Times: Pop Art in the United States

 Getting Closer to Life: Happenings and Environments

 “Just Look at the Surface”: The Imagery of Everyday Life  

 Poetics of the “New Gomorrah”: West Coast Artists

 Personal Documentaries: The Snapshot Aesthetic in American Photography


Chapter 20: Playing by the Rules: Sixties Abstraction

 Drawing the Veil: Post Painterly Abstraction

 At an Oblique Angle: Diebenkorn

 Forming the Unit: Hard-Edge Painting

 Seeing Things: Op Art

 New Media Mobilized: Motion and Light

 The Limits of Modernism: Minimalism

 Complex Unities: Photography and Minimalism


Chapter 21: Modernism in Architecture at Mid-Century

 “The Quiet Unbroken Wave”: The Later Work of Wright and Le Corbusier

 Purity and Proportion: The International Style in America

 Internationalism Contextualized: Developments in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Australia

 Breaking the Mold: Experimental Housing

 Arenas for Innovation: Major Public Projects


Chapter 22: Conceptual and Activist Art

 Art as Language

 Conceptual Art as Cultural Critique

 The Medium Is the Message: Early Video Art

 When Art Becomes Artist: Body Art

 Radical Alternatives: Feminist Art

 Erasing the Boundaries between Art and Life: Later Feminist Art

 Invisible to Visible: Art and Racial Politics


Chapter 23: Post-Minimalism, Earth Art, and New Imagists

 Metaphors for Life: Process Art

 Big Outdoors: Earthworks and Land Art

 Public Statements: Monuments and Large-Scale Sculpture

 Body of Evidence: Figurative Art

 Animated Surfaces: Pattern and Decoration

 Figure and Ambiguity: New Image Art


Chapter 24: Postmodernism

 Postmodernism in Architecture

 “Complexity and Contradiction”: The Reaction Against Modernism Sets In

 In Praise of “Messy Vitality”: Postmodernist Eclecticism

 Ironic Grandeur: Postmodern Architecture and History

 What Is a Building?: Constructivist and Deconstructivist Architecture

 Structure as Metaphor: Architectural Allegories

 Flexible Spaces: Architecture and Urbanism

 Postmodern Practices: Breaking Art History


Chapter 25: Painting through History

 Primal Passions: Neo-Expressionism

 Searing Statements: Painting as Social Conscience

 In the Empire of Signs: Neo-Geo

 The Sum of Many Parts: Abstraction in the 1980s

 Taking Art to the Streets: Graffiti and Cartoon Artists

 Painting Art History


Chapter 26: New Perspectives on Art and Audience

 Commodity Art

 Postmodern Arenas: Installation Art

 Strangely Familiar: British and American Sculpture

 Reprise and Reinterpretation: Art History as Art

 New Perspectives on Childhood and Identity

 The Art of Biography

 Meeting Points: New Approaches to Abstraction


Chapter 27: Contemporary Art and Globalization

 Lines That Define Us: Locating and Crossing Borders

 Skin Deep: Identity and the Body

 Occupying the Art World

 Globalization and Arts Institutions


Elizabeth C. Mansfield  is Vice President for Scholarly Programs at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.  She  has taught art history at New York University and the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee . A scholar of modern European art and art historiography, her publications include books and articles on topics ranging from the origins of modernism to Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon to the contemporary performance and body art of Orlan. Her 2007 book Too Beautiful to Picture: Zeus, Myth, and Mimesis was awarded the College Art Association’s Charles Rufus Morey book prize.



The late H.H. Arnason was a distinguished art historian, educator, and museum administrator who for many years was Vice President for Art Administration of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York. He began his professional life in academia, teaching at Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and the University of Hawaii. From 1947 to 1961, Arnason was Professor and Chairman of the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota.

Reader Review(s)

“This is a significant and usable text for all undergraduate students of art history, and a very good source book for graduate students. It is an excellent source book for students studying the late nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries.”

 - ­Caterina Pierre, Kingsborough Community College CUNY


“It demonstrates a strong commitment to writing a history of modern art that is inclusive of women and artists of color. It is clearly written and works toward thorough consideration of a topic rather than superficial analysis. The best text for a course on Modern Art.”

 - Cynthia Fowler, Emmanuel College


“Comprehensive, in-depth study of respective stylistic developments in history of modernism; high-quality photographic reproductions; fundamental investment in discussing objects through its own evidence; willingness of text and author(s) to adjust with the times.”

 -  Mysoon Rizk, University of Toledo


“I am pleased with the inclusion of more women and artists of color and with the context, technique and source boxes. As well, I am pleased with the increased quality of reproductions.”

 - Prudence Roberts, Portland Community College