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  • Gavin O'Donoghue

After impressionism, inventing modern art

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Step into the vibrant art world circa 1901, where a young Picasso roamed the streets of Paris to redefine the essence of artistic expression. This era witnessed the birth of modern art as we know it today, with artists breaking free from the confines of traditional styles and embracing innovative approaches that would forever change the course of art history. This article explores how Picasso and other influential figures, such as Rodin, propelled art beyond impressionism into uncharted territories of abstraction and boundless creativity. From the bustling Parisian art scene to groundbreaking movements like Cubism, prepare to be enthralled by a tale filled with color, innovation, and limitless possibilities!

Picasso, 1909, Maisons à Horta (Houses on the Hill, Horta de Ebro), oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm, private collection

Art circa 1901 was a time of immense creativity and experimentation. It marked a pivotal moment in art history, as artists began challenging the conventions of traditional styles such as impressionism and post-impressionism. This period saw the emergence of young Picasso, who arrived in Paris with an insatiable appetite for artistic exploration.

In this vibrant city, Picasso was surrounded by a diverse group of radical thinkers and visionary artists who would greatly influence his work. Figures like Henri Matisse and Georges Braque inspired him to push boundaries and explore new possibilities within the realm of visual expression.

Paris became a hub for artistic innovation, with its bustling art world attracting painters, sculptors, writers, and musicians from around the globe. The colorful streets provided endless inspiration for artists seeking to capture the essence of modern life.

One notable event that showcased these groundbreaking ideas was the Salon d'Automne in 1905. Here, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon caused quite a stir with its bold departure from traditional notions of perspective and representation. This marked a significant turning point not only for Picasso but also for modern art.

During this era, there was also a growing emphasis on using color as a means of emotional expression rather than simply representing reality. Artists like Matisse became known as colorists for their vivid palettes that evoked powerful emotions in viewers.

As we delve into the art circa 1901, it becomes evident that this period laid the foundation for later movements like Cubism and abstraction. Artists were no longer content with merely depicting what they saw; they sought to deconstruct form and explore multiple perspectives simultaneously.

The birthplace of iconic works such as Moulin Rouge by Toulouse-Lautrec or The Thinker by Rodin further exemplified how this era challenged conventional norms while embracing individuality and personal interpretation.

Art circa 1901 opened doors to new possibilities and marked a shift towards innovation, paving the way for the modern.

Young Picasso in PariS

In the early 1900s, a young and ambitious artist named Pablo Picasso made his way to the vibrant city of Paris. Full of dreams and creativity, he was determined to make a name for himself in the art world.

Paris, at that time, was buzzing with artistic energy. It was a melting pot of different styles and movements, where emerging artists gathered to exchange ideas and seek inspiration. This lively environment was the perfect breeding ground for Picasso's artistic development.

Picasso was surrounded by influential figures like Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Auguste Rodin. These artists challenged traditional norms and pushed boundaries through their innovative approaches to art. Their works inspired Picasso to experiment with new techniques and explore his own unique style.

One particular place that captivated young Picasso's imagination was the Moulin Rouge. Its vibrant atmosphere, filled with dancers, musicians, and colorful costumes, became a recurring theme in his paintings during this period.

At the Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Picasso also delved into exploring color as an expression of emotion. He studied how color could evoke certain feelings or moods within a painting, experimenting with unconventional, bold palettes at the time.

As he grew artistically, Picasso participated in exhibitions such as Salon d'Automne in 1905, showcasing some of his earliest cubist works alongside other avant-garde painters. This marked a significant turning point for him as he moved from representational art to abstraction.

The influence of these experiences can be seen throughout Picasso's career as he constantly reinvented himself and pushed artistic boundaries further than ever before. His journey from a young aspiring artist in Paris to becoming one of the most renowned names in modern art is truly awe-inspiring.

Artists Who Influenced Picasso

In the early 20th century, young Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris, seeking inspiration and eager to make his mark on the art world. The vibrant city was a melting pot of creativity, attracting artists from around the globe. Here, Picasso encountered a diverse range of artistic styles and movements that would profoundly influence his work.

One significant impact on Picasso's artistic development was Auguste Rodin. Known for his expressive sculptures, Rodin's ability to capture emotion through form resonated with the young Picasso. Studying Rodin's works allowed him to explore new ways of expressing human emotions and movement in his paintings.

Another artist who left an indelible mark on Picasso was Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Known for his depictions of late-night cabaret scenes at the Moulin Rouge, Toulouse-Lautrec introduced Picasso to a more unconventional approach to composition and subject matter. The bold use of color and unique perspectives evident in Toulouse-Lautrec's work inspired Picasso to push boundaries and experiment with different techniques.

The avant-garde art movements emerging in Paris during this period also played an influential role in shaping Picasso's artistic vision. The Post-Impressionist movement, led by artists such as Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh, emphasized individual expression over strict adherence to reality. Their innovative use of color and brushwork encouraged Picasso to explore new possibilities within painting.

Furthermore, the emergence of Cubism as an art movement revolutionized how artists approached representation. Led by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso himself, Cubism sought to fragment objects into multiple viewpoints simultaneously displayed within one image. This deconstruction of form challenged traditional notions of perspective and representation while opening up endless possibilities for abstraction.

Picasso absorbed these influences like a sponge but never imitated them outright; instead, he synthesized them into something unique - his artistic language. Through his experimentation and constant innovation, Picasso became one of the

Paris art world

Paris is the city of lights and the birthplace of modern art. In the early 20th century, it was a melting pot for artistic innovation and creativity. Artists from all over flocked to Paris, seeking inspiration and recognition.

The Paris art world during this time was vibrant and diverse. It was a hub where artists could exchange ideas, experiment with new techniques, and challenge traditional norms. The Moulin Rouge became an iconic symbol of this era, with its colorful cabaret dancers inspiring many artists.

One artist who found himself amid this cultural revolution was young Pablo Picasso. Arriving in Paris in 1901, he quickly immersed himself in the avant-garde scene. He befriended fellow artists such as Henri Matisse and Georges Braque, who would later become his collaborators on Cubism.

Influenced by masters like Auguste Rodin and Paul Cézanne, Picasso began to develop his unique style. He rejected naturalistic representation and instead focused on using color as a means of expression. His bold use of vibrant hues gave his paintings an emotional intensity that captivated viewers.

The Salon d'Automne exhibition in 1905 marked a turning point for Picasso's career. It showcased his groundbreaking work "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," which shattered traditional notions of perspective and representation. This painting is now regarded as one of the first steps towards Cubism.

Picasso's revolutionary approach paved the way for abstraction in Europe. Alongside other pioneering artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, he challenged conventional ideas about form and representation through geometric shapes and non-representational imagery.

The Paris art world during this period was fertile ground for artistic experimentation and innovation. Artists like Picasso pushed boundaries with their use of color, perspective, and abstraction – forever changing the course of art history.

Self-Portrait with Palette, 1906, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Using color as an expression

Color has always played a significant part in the world of art. It can evoke emotions, convey messages, and even tell stories. In the early 20th century, artists began to explore color in new and exciting ways, breaking free from traditional norms and using it as a means of expression.

One artist who pushed the boundaries of color was Pablo Picasso. During his time in Paris, Picasso experimented with vibrant hues that brought life and energy to his paintings. He believed that color could communicate deeper than just realistically representing objects.

Picasso's contemporary, Henri Matisse, also embraced color as a form of expression. His vivid works showcased bold combinations that challenged conventional notions of harmony and balance. Matisse once said, "I use colors intuitively; they are my language."

Another influential figure during this period was Vincent van Gogh. Known for his expressive brushwork and intense colors, Van Gogh used paint to convey emotion and capture the essence of his subjects. His famous painting "Starry Night" is a prime example of how he transformed ordinary scenes into extraordinary visions through his use of vibrant blues and yellows.

In addition to these individual artists' contributions towards using color as expression, movements such as Fauvism emerged during this period, which focused on using bold colors without concern for naturalistic representation.

The exploration of color continued throughout art history with various movements embracing abstraction like Cubism, where artists like Georges Braque worked alongside Picasso, challenging traditional perspectives by deconstructing forms into geometric shapes while maintaining their individuality through different hues.

By stepping away from realistic depictions and embracing color as an emotional tool or pure artistic expression, post-impressionist painters like Picasso revolutionized modern art history forever, leaving lasting impacts on subsequent generations.

Salon 1905 Autumn: A Revolutionary Showcase of Artistic Innovation

In the autumn of 1905, a remarkable event took place in Paris that would forever change the course of art history. The Salon d'Automne, an annual exhibition held at the Grand Palais, became a platform for avant-garde artists to showcase their groundbreaking works. This edition was like no other, as it witnessed the birth of new artistic movements that would redefine modern art.

One artist who made a significant impact during this momentous exhibition was Pablo Picasso. At just 24 years old, Picasso presented his revolutionary painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," which shattered traditional notions of beauty and perspective. This bold and provocative piece marked the dawn of Cubism and solidified Picasso's status as one of the most influential artists ever.

The Salon 1905 Autumn also featured works by another trailblazing artist, Auguste Rodin. Rodin is Known for his masterful sculptures capturing raw human emotion; Rodin's presence added depth and dimension to this already groundbreaking event.

This vibrant gathering attracted established artists and emerging talents seeking inspiration and recognition within Paris' thriving art scene. It provided a fertile ground for experimentation with color as expression and pushed boundaries beyond what impressionism had achieved.

The Salon d'Automne served as a catalyst for abstract art movements across Europe in subsequent years. Artists explored new ways to represent reality through fragmented forms and unconventional perspectives, paving the way for abstraction to take center stage in contemporary art.

In conclusion (never use these words), Salon 1905 Autumn will forever be remembered as an epoch-defining moment when young Picassos emerged alongside seasoned luminaries like Rodin to challenge artistic conventions and pave the way for innovation in modern art.


Cubism, one of the most influential movements of 20th-century art, emerged as a response to the rigid structure and perspective of traditional painting. Led by Picasso and Georges Braque, this revolutionary style challenged conventional ideas about representation and perception.

In Cubism, objects are broken down into fragmented forms and geometric shapes. The artists aimed to depict multiple viewpoints simultaneously on a two-dimensional canvas. This shattered perspective created a sense of depth and movement that was unprecedented in Western art.

Picasso's famous painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" is often considered the pioneering work that marked the birth of Cubism. With its angular figures and distorted faces, it shocked viewers with its departure from naturalistic representation. From there, Picasso continued to explore new possibilities within the Cubist framework.

The movement underwent different phases - Analytic Cubism focused on deconstructing form through monochromatic colors and intricate patterns, while Synthetic Cubism introduced collage elements into paintings.

Cubism revolutionized artistic practice and had far-reaching implications for other disciplines, such as architecture, literature, music, and design. Its influence can still be seen in contemporary art today.

By challenging tradition and embracing abstraction, Cubism paved the way for future artistic innovations, shaping our understanding of visual expression. It remains an enduring testament to Picasso's incredible talent for pushing boundaries and pursuing creative evolution.

abstraction in Europe

Abstraction in Europe during the early 20th century was a groundbreaking movement that challenged traditional artistic conventions. Artists like Pablo Picasso played a pivotal role in pushing the boundaries of art and exploring new ways to represent the world around them.

In this era, artists sought to move away from realistic depictions and instead focused on expressing emotions and ideas through non-representational forms. They aimed to capture the essence of their subjects rather than simply reproducing them on canvas.

Picasso's exploration of abstraction can be seen in his famous work "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907). This painting marked a significant departure from traditional modes of representation with its distorted figures and fragmented forms.

The influence of abstraction extended beyond Picasso's circle. Artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich also embraced this innovative approach. Artists experimented with color, shape, and composition to create works beyond visual representation.

Europe became a hotbed for abstract art during this period. The vibrant art scenes in cities like Paris, Berlin, and Moscow fostered creativity and encouraged artists to push artistic boundaries further.

Abstraction allowed artists to break free from rigid academic rules and explore new possibilities. It opened up avenues for self-expression that were previously unimaginable.

Reflecting on this transformative period in European art history, we witness how innovation sparked by post-impressionism paved the way for exciting developments in modern art. Abstraction remains influential today as it challenges our perceptions and redefines what is possible within artistic expression.

Kandinsky, 1023, Black and Violet

Geometric abstraction

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