Modernism of the late 1800s was followed by postmodernism that arose after the Second World War. The latter was a reaction to the former and emerged from it. They were movements that influenced art, architecture, literature, culture, and society at large. This ArtHearty article tells you the differences between modernism and postmodernism.
“A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern. Postmodernism thus understood is not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this state is constant.”
— Jean-Francois Lyotard
According to some theorists, the 20th century can be divided into two distinct periods; one characterized by the modernism movement and the other by postmodernism. Some believe that postmodernism was a response to modernism and hence consider them as two aspects of the same movement. There are some major differences between modernism and postmodernism. These distinctions make clear the basic difference in the ways of thinking that led to these movements. The difference between modernism and postmodernism highlights the difference in the two approaches towards life.
Modernism describes a collection of cultural movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It consists of a series of reforming movements in art, architecture, literature, music, and applied arts. It was characterized by a dramatic change of thought, whereby human intellect sought to improve their environment. There was a trend of improving every aspect of life by involving science and technology into it. Modernism brought about a reform in all spheres of life including philosophy, commerce, art, and literature, with the aid of technology and experimentation. It led to progress in many spheres of life by changing the approach of mankind towards them.
Postmodernism means, ‘after the modern’. It was a reaction to modernism and was influenced by the disenchantment brought about by the Second World War. Postmodernism refers to the state that lacks a central hierarchy and one that is complex, ambiguous, and diverse. The developments in society, economy, and culture of the 1960s were impacted by postmodernism.
Modernism Vs. Postmodernism
|Modernism began in the 1890s and lasted till about 1945.||Postmodernism began after the Second World War, especially after 1968.|
|Its aim was criticism of the bourgeois social order of the 19th century and its world view. Modernist painting is considered to have begun with the French painter Édouard Manet.||The first use of the term postmodernism dates back to the 1870s. John Watkins Chapman referred to a postmodern style of painting which differed from French Impressionism. J.M. Thompson used the term to refer to changes in attitudes and beliefs in religion.|
|Low forms of art were a part of modernism. Simplicity and elegance in design are the characteristics of modern art.||Postmodern art brought high and low culture together by using industrial materials and pop culture imagery. Postmodern art is decorative.|
|Modernism was based on using rational and logical means to gain knowledge. It rejected realism. A hierarchical, organized, and determinate nature of knowledge characterized modernism.||Postmodernism denied the application of logical thinking. Rather, the thinking during the postmodern era was based on an unscientific, irrational thought process, as a reaction to modernism.|
|Modernism is based on European and Western thought.||Postmodernists believe in multiculturalism.|
|Modernist approach was objective, theoretical, and analytical.||Postmodernism was based on an anarchical, non-totalized, and indeterminate state of knowledge.|
|Modernist thinking is about the search of an abstract truth of life.||Postmodernist thinkers believe that there is no universal truth, abstract or otherwise.|
|Modernism attempts to construct a coherent world-view.||Postmodernism attempts to remove the difference between high and low.|
|Modernist thinking asserts that mankind progresses by using science and reason. It believes in learning from past experiences and trusts the texts that narrate the past.||Postmodernists believe that progress is the only way to justify the European domination on culture. They defy any truth in the text narrating the past and render it of no use in the present times.|
|Modernist historians believe in depth. They believe in going deep into a subject to fully analyze it.||Postmodernist thinkers believe in going by superficial appearances, they believe in playing on surfaces and show less or no concern towards the depth of subjects.|
|Modernism considers the original works as authentic.||Postmodernist thinkers base their views on hyper-reality; they get highly influenced by things propagated through media.|
|Modernists believe that morality can be defined.||Postmodernists believe that morality is relative.|
|The year 1939 is considered to have marked the end of modernism. In the 1970s, postmodern movement entered music. In art and architecture, it began to establish itself in the early 1980s. The exact year when modernism ended, and whether it ended in the real sense is debatable.||It is considered that postmodernism started going out of fashion around the late 1990s, and was replaced by post-postmodernism which has developed from and is a reaction to postmodernism. Metamodernism is a related term that was first used by Zavarzadeh in 1975 to describe aesthetics and attitudes emerging in the American literature in the mid-1950s.|
During the modernist era, art and literary works were considered as unique creations of the artists. People were serious about the purpose of producing art and literary works. These works were believed to have a deep meaning, and novels and books predominated society. During the postmodernist era, with the onset of computers, media, and advancements in technology, television and computers became dominant in society. Art and literary works began to be copied and preserved by means of digital media. People no longer believed in art and literary works bearing one unique meaning; they rather believed in deriving their own meanings from works of art and literature. Interactive media and the Internet led to distribution of knowledge. Music by those like Mozart and Beethoven, which was appreciated during modernism, became less popular in the postmodern era. World music, Djs, and remixes characterized postmodernism. The architectural forms that were popular during modernism were replaced by a mix of different architectural styles in the postmodern times.
A relatively slow-paced life that was driven by grounded principles became fast-paced and lost its calm. Perhaps, the pace killed peace.