Lesson 38: Postmodern Art 

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


The closer we get to the time we are currently living in, the more difficult it becomes to identify and name the major art movements. As we have seen in the previous pages about art movements, art critics often misjudged the art of their time, and what we now value as important and valuable art might not have been appreciated in their time. Without sufficient distance in time and perception, it is indeed challenging to recognize which art, being presented on the market, is truly innovative or groundbreaking. However, this isn’t necessarily a critical issue because art is created by people for people. Art appreciation is always subjective: an individual may find something interesting or not, and they decide to acquire or pass on an artwork based on their perception. Cultural references of the viewers also play a role in these choices. This particular trend in art is based on the idea that truth is nothing more than a perspective from a certain reference point.
It’s a fact that the term “postmodernism” or “postmodern art” is used to encompass almost all art that emerged after modernism. In that sense, modernism and postmodernism share similarities, although postmodern artists might have a different perspective. Just like modernism, the title “modernism” served as an umbrella for various diverse art movements, much like what happens now with postmodernism. “Anything goes” was a commonly used phrase by postmodern artists, meaning that as an artist, you could create anything, and it would be considered art, regardless of the form or content.
This art movement gained popularity around 1975, although the term “postmodern art” had been used since the 1960s, and it remained the dominant art movement until around 2010.
However, changes happen rapidly, both in technology and in the arts. From around 2010, a new art movement emerged in the art world: “metamodernism.”

De goochelaarster van Andre Castinel uit 1979. Het schilderij maakt deel uit van de verzameling van de Gooise Galerie.Image: The painting “The Magician,” from 1979, by the French artist André Castinel (1934-2021). This artist certainly had his own distinctive style, but in his postmodernism, you can also see influences from various art movements. André Castinel spent his entire life searching for the truth, both in his work and in his personal life. This resulted in powerful and colorful paintings with fauvist and surrealist influences, characteristic of the postmodern art movement. For him, art was an intuitive quest for happiness, which he saw as light, joy, and health. In consciously simplified compositions, the artist painted characters, landscapes, figures, and circus scenes in solid colors, combined with shadow tones to create transitions between different parts of the painting. He liked to adjust reality in his work, showing that “what you see is not always what it seems.” As a child, he enjoyed dressing up and was uncertain about his own identity, a struggle reflected in his paintings. In this painting, there are also influences of mannerism, recognizable in the slightly elongated limbs. Walking through his studio, you would encounter paintings and drawings, often with a woman as the central figure in his artworks. He was one of the last painters inspired by a muse. Although speaking of just one muse is not entirely accurate. In André Castinel’s life, three women played a leading role, and he maintained relationships with all three. That’s why we find all three women as muses in his artworks, rarely together, almost always alone. Castinel was not only a painter during his life but also a magician. Hence, in this painting, he depicted his muse as a magician.
Location: André Castinel’s painting “The Magician” is part of the collection of the Gooise Gallery, an online gallery in the Netherlands. ©Ronnie Rokebrand.

Postmodern Art in Diversity

It wasn’t long ago that access to the means of production was crucial for people. However, this has been replaced by the importance of access to information, thanks to ubiquitous mass media, and especially the Internet. On the Internet, it can be challenging to distinguish reality from imaginative stories. Sometimes, pseudo-reality takes the place of actual reality. We saw this, for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic when many (fantasy) stories about the coronavirus and the COVID-19 vaccine circulated on the Internet.
Postmodern artists also made extensive use of the accessibility of the past, thanks to these media. The result was the postmodern art movement, which aimed to move away from the desire for order and functionality, a period in which artists often adhered to the ideals of the Enlightenment.
Postmodernism emphasized variation, chance, and pluralism much more than order and functionality. Instead of order and functionality, they now pursued excess and exaggeration in their artworks. They aligned their art with the spirit of the 1960s, where old norms and values were discarded. Airiness, cynicism, and irony became important elements in their artworks in response to the stricter views of the preceding period.

De vriendin, uit 1986, een levensgroot schilderij van de Zuid-Afrikaanse kunstschilderes Marlene Dumas. Op dit moment een van de bekendste kunstenaars die in Nederland woont en werkt. Zij baseerde dit schilderij op een foto van een vriendin, vandaar de titel. `Ze speelt met de psychologie die je aan een portret kan aflezen en die je er vervolgens zelf op projecteert', aldus het Singer Museum waar dit schilderij hangt.Image: “De vriendin” (The Girlfriend) from 1986, a life-sized painting by South African artist Marlene Dumas (1953). She is currently one of the most renowned artists living and working in the Netherlands. She based this painting on a photo of a friend, hence the title. “She plays with the psychology that you can read in a portrait and then project onto it yourself,” according to the Singer Museum, where this painting is displayed. Marlene Dumas applies her paint thinly on the canvas. In her compositions, her figures appear almost abstract. The many color contrasts in her paintings immediately catch the eye. Dumas draws on existing images that she collects in an image archive for her work. She has exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, as well as in Basel, London, Munich, Los Angeles, and New York.
Location: This painting is part of the ABN AMRO Art Collection. ©Ronnie Rokebrand.

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