Are Art Prints Worth Anything?

Art prints are thought of as mass-produced copies of artworks. Therefore this isn’t always the case. There is much more to it than that.

An art print’s worth depends on many factors, including quality, technique, edition, print number. Art prints can go for large amounts of money in auctions, but the worth is entirely dependent on these factors and what buyers are willing to pay. 

This article will be talking about the misconceptions associated with art prints as the the factors that are taken into consideration when calculating the value of an art print. Read on if you’d like to know how it all works.

What Is an Art Print?

Before diving further into this subject, it’s important to be aware of what an art print actually is.

There are two primary types of art prints: reproductions and original art prints. The terminology can be difficult to memorize, however, there are many differences between them. As The Anthrotorian puts it, “The easiest way to remember the difference between the two is to think about how close the actual artist is to the final work that you have hanging on your wall.”

Normally art prints are associated with reproductions. They are made mechanically, quickly, and in large numbers. Whereas original prints have some originality, they are individually made by the artist, and some distinctions between them can be spotted if you look closely.


As mentioned before, there is a misconception regarding art prints, which is that they are solely reproductions of artworks. There are many differences between a reproduction and an original print.

So what is a reproduction, and in what aspects is it different from an original print?

According to artist Phil Metzger, reproductions are copies that are mechanically made in order to get them out in large numbers, and as fast as possible. Usually, the artist isn’t involved in the process of making the reproductions of their work.

Reproductions are a photographic copy of a painting. Reproductions of notorious painting usually have little value; however, if they are printed as limited editions, they might be more valuable. This all depends on supply and demand over time.

The cost of reproduction depends on its level of detail and the surface it’s printed on. Paper prints cost less than canvas prints, for example. Plus, since reproduction resorts to a digital file, it’s essential to make sure that the digital file looks good and can produce high-quality copies. 


A giclée is a very popular form of reproduction. This type of reproduction is created with a specialized inkjet printer. This method of reproduction has a much higher quality than a home printer, for example. It can even reproduce the texture of the paint in the original, and it prints in different types of paper, which will also have to be considered when calculating the price of the art print.

Now, moving on to original prints. What is the difference when it comes to value between a reproduction and an original print? And are there more factors that come into play?

Original Prints

Original prints are made by the artists. The prints themselves are called original prints because they are not a copy of the artwork already made;

Original art prints are made one by one. Therefore, the prints might have subtle differences when compared with each other. These prints can be considered just as valuable as any other type of artwork. 

However, as the prints are used, they might begin getting worn down, and the quality might drop, that is why it is not uncommon for prints to be limited editions, meaning there will be a set number of impressions of a certain print.

Original art prints have small variations within each other due to the techniques that are used to make them. Each print undergoes manual procedures that can result in small details unique to only a specific impression. 

It is up to the artist to decide which prints are good enough and which ones should be discarded. In printmaking, each print is considered an individual artwork, unlike reproductions that are a copy of the original.

When trying to figure out the value of an art print, many factors come into play, such as the techniques that were used, if it’s signed, if it’s a limited edition, the print’s run number, and other factors that’ll be discussed below.

How do these factors affect the value of an art print?

Printmaking Techniques

Prints consist of transferring ink from a printing matrix onto a certain material, and there are several techniques of doing this that are used by artists in order to make prints. The amount of labor a technique requires can influence the print’s value. These techniques are usually divided by process.

The techniques themselves are woodcut, linocut, etching, engraving, drypoint, lithograph, monotype, and screenprinting.

Relief Print

A relief print is a process in which an artist carves certain areas on a surface and inks the remaining areas, then pressing a paper or another material against the surface, the ink is then transferred, thus creating a print. 

Here is a great video by New York’s Museum of Modern Art that explains how it’s done: 

The relief process techniques are:


Woodcut was the first printmaking technique; it is a form of relief print. This technique uses a block of wood as the matrix. A design is made on the woodblock and then carved by the artist, these are the areas of the wood that will not be receiving ink. The raised areas of the design will be covered with ink. The design is then transferred onto a material with either a printing press or by hand.


Linocut is a print that is created using a linoleum block as the matrix, a design is cut into the matrix, much like in the woodcut technique. The raised surface is spread across the area, and then the design is transferred onto a material.

Intaglio Print

Intaglio prints have ink spread across the printing matrix so that the ink can go into the recesses of the matrix instead of on the original surface area. This process requires a printing press.


Etching is created by spreading ground, which is an acid-resistant waxy material, across a metal plate. Using an appropriate tool, the artist carves the design, and then the plate is submerged in acid, the ground protects it, and so the acid eats away at the metal that was left exposed.

When the plate reemerges, the ground is removed, and then the ink can be applied. The etching technique is the opposite of woodcut and linocut, and it is not the raised surface that receives the ink but the etched lines. Finally, the plate is moved to a press that will transfer the ink from the lines to the material.

Here is an informative video made by Liverpool’s National Museum that thoroughly explains this process: 


Engraving is a very similar technique to an etching; however, there is no use of ground nor acid. A metal plate is engraved with a sharp tool; generally, a tool called “burin”, it leaves a burr that is wiped off.

The ink is spread across the plate, filling the engraved lines. It is then wiped clean off the surface so that the ink in the lines is all that remains. The plate goes through a printing press in order for the ink to transfer to the material.


Much like engraving, when creating drypoint prints, a sharp tool is used to make the design; however, the burr is not cleaned from the plate before the ink is applied.

Drypoint prints tend to be soft and blurry because of the burr, but this also means that when being subjected to the printing press, the burr is worn down and destroyed. 

This means that drypoint prints will usually have very small editions, and since the burr is progressively worn down, the first impressions might vary from last printed impressions. This shows how each impression is unique and individual from the others.

Planographic Print

In order to make planographic prints, there is no need to alter the matrix, it maintains the original surface. The surface is prepared in a way that allows the ink to transfer the image onto the material.


Lithography print exists because water and oil don’t mix. A greasy medium is used to make a design on the stone surface, normally limestone. Water is spread onto the stone, wetting only the surface that is not covered with oil. Then an oil ink is applied with a roller onto the matrix; however, the oil in the ink is repelled by the water, meaning it’ll only adhere to the design.

Paper is placed onto the inked surface and then run through a printing press that will cause the ink to transfer onto the paper.


Monotype prints usually only allow the creation of one or two impressions, though the second one will be significantly worse in terms of quality.

Monotype prints consist of applying ink on a smooth surface and then transferring it onto paper by using a printing press. A print made using this technique is usually embellished using watercolors or stencils. This technique isn’t very common, as it won’t allow the artist to make many impressions.

Stencil Print

Stencil prints are made by pressing ink through a screen with a prepared opening.

Screen Printing or Silkscreen

Screen printing allows the artist to make a print using a stencil. This means that with the help of a squeegee, the ink is spread across the surface except where the stencil is blocking it. The ink is then transferred through the prepared opening and made into a print.

Some of these techniques require more materials than others. More labor is also put into creating some prints depending on the techniques that were chosen; some techniques have the ability to produce a bigger or a smaller edition, all of these factors will be taken into consideration when determining the value of the prints.

But that’s not all; there are a few other variables that need to be mentioned when talking about art print values.


Prints that are made from the same matrix are called an edition. An edition can contain a certain amount of impressions, meaning it’s a limited edition print. Or, it can be reproduced an infinite amount of times, meaning it’s an open edition. Limited editions are worth much more than open edition prints.

The smaller an edition, the more valuable the print will be due to the exclusivity. An edition can be as small as only having two impressions, commonly, if you resort to the monotype technique. This will vary on the artist’s decision and the techniques used.

A limited-edition print will be numbered. The number will be written in pencil at the bottom of the print. For example, if it reads 10/50, it means that the impression you own is the 10th print from an edition of 50 prints total.

This is another important factor to take into consideration when determining the value of the print. The value will be higher if the print run number is closer to one.

And why’s that?

The first impression is considered to be the most valuable because it will have the best quality amongst the entire edition, taking into account that with excessive printing, it might deteriorate the original image, this also means that the first impression will be closer to what the artist intended to create.


A proof is a different type of print; it is not numbered because it is not part of an edition. Some proofs are impressions that were created before the official version; however, some are impressions that were put aside for a specific reason.

And are art print proofs more valuable than limited edition prints?

Art print proofs are often more valuable than other prints because they are much harder to come by; their rarity adds to their value.

Trial Proof

A trial proof is an impression that was made as a test; the artist creates this to test what needs or doesn’t need to be altered. The artist then proceeds to change the matrix accordingly. There are no annotations in trial proof.

Bon À Tirer

Once the artist has finished and is happy with the result, a bon à tirer is created, this is a french expression that means it’s ready to print. This is sent to the printer, and it determines how the edition will look. For a bon à tirer proof, there will be an annotation with the letters “B.A.T.”.

Artist’s Proof

An artist’s proof (Epreuve d’artiste, E.A.) is an impression of a print that is provided to the artist. Normally, an artist will receive one or more prints of an edition. These prints are specifically put aside for the artist, and they are exactly the same as the other impressions; however, there will be an annotation with the letters “A.P.” or “E.A.”.

Printer’s Proof

Printer’s proofs are complementary impressions given to the printer. There can be multiple printer’s proofs; it depends on the number of printers that are involved. They will be typically marked with “P.P.”.

Hors Commerce

Hors Commerce are impressions that were not meant to be sold. Their purpose is to be used for galleries and exhibitions, and they are only available through the artist. They are annotated with the letters “H.C.”.

Proofs are not meant to be sold; however, they have still somehow found their way into the market. Not only are they valuable due to their rarity but also because some of them allow the public to see another perspective of the finished artwork, namely trial proofs, that may look very different from the completed piece. They can provide more information about what the artist intended to do with his piece.


There’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to art prints. It is necessary to understand the different variables that come into the picture when determining the value of an art print.

Not only the fact that there are two different types of art prints that are very distinct from each other, one consists of copies as the other can be seen as the fine art of printmaking. But there is also the quality, material, technique, editions, and these are all factors to keep in mind in order to accurately calculate how much an art print is worth.


Contemporary art vs. Modern art: 12 differences that matter

In today’s article, we are going to deal with the distinction between modern and contemporary art, as it is made by art historians. Namely, despite the vernacular use of the term and even some well-known resources not making the distinctions.

There is a difference between modern and contemporary art and we are going to show them so you can actually know how to use the terms in writing and conversation.

12 difference between Contemporary and Modern art that matter:

  • Time
  • Paradigms
  • Framework
  • Materials
  • Themes
  • Conceptualization
  • Forms
  • Engagement
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Availability
  • Simplicity or complexity
  • Relationship with history

The term “modern art” is one of the most complex terms in the discipline of art history. Why? Simply because it is very complex to define and there is no agreed-upon definition of the term. Rather, there are two “currents”, one which defines modern art as a long historical period that still lasts, and the other which distinguishes modern and contemporary art. In every-day English, the term “modern art” usually corresponds with the notions of the first “current”.

Keep reading to find out more!

What is considered modern art?

Garcon A La Pipe (1905) – Pablo Picasso

The famous Encyclopædia Britannica (1) defines modern art as “painting, sculpture, architecture, and graphic arts characteristic of the 20th and 21st centuries and the latter part of the 19th century”. As we can see, one of the most famous encyclopedias in the world uses the broader definition of the term modern art, defining it as practically every movement starting with romanticism and still continuing to this day. This is a very simplified definition of modern art that accompanies a lot of completely different approaches to art (you can hardly compare the artistic ideas of constructivism or orphism with those of photorealism or socialist realism).

This is why we disagree with the proposed definition.

For us, modern art is the complete artistic production extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, although a more precise limit would be the 1950s. These dates aren’t, of course, set in stone (they’re not the Battle of Waterloo fought in 1815), as is with most artistic periods and different styles and artistic ideas (or ideologies) actually overlap, so you shouldn’t look at the dates conservatively. Modern art is distinguished by its new and innovative approach to the arts. Modern art was a truly changing movement that redefined artistic ideas, materials, themes and even the functions of art itself. Although pre-modern art developed stylistically (from the perfection of Ancient art, through the stylization of Medieval art, to the pompousness of the baroque), things haven’t changed much in how art was executed and perceived. Modernists changed that. They redefined art and began experimenting, changing not only the basic execution of art, but also its function.

Thus, Romanticism started experimenting with subjects and themes never seen before, while also connecting art with the liberal revolutions in 19th century Europe. Realism was the first movement that wanted to portray reality as it was – ugly, common, without any stylization. Impressionists and post-impressionists redefined art and added a lot of philosophy to the interpretation of their works, which now served a higher artistic purpose, rather than just being works of art. This aesthetic philosophy was brilliantly explained by the Italian philosopher and critic, Benedetto Croce, in his book Breviario di Estetica (1913). Avant-garde movements and abstract art completely changed art and gave it a new look, even a new purpose, stating for the first time in history that even something superficially incomprehensible can be art, with a deep philosophical and artistic purpose.

Although modern art is perceived to last until the 1970s, not much innovation was presented since after the 1950s and a lot of the movements were just reinventions of earlier ideas with something new and artist-orientated.

What is considered contemporary art?

Helen Frankenthaler

Not all art historians agree that contemporary art actually exist, as they consider it to be a part of modern art. But we are not among them. We firmly believe that modern art ended around the middle of the 20th century, which is when contemporary art beings. So, contemporary art can be viewed as the artistic production of the second half of the 20th century and the 21st century.

Contemporary art is different from modern art. Whatever someone says – it just is. We are going to analyze the reasons in more detail in the following paragraphs, but the difference is dogmatically very, very different. Modern art aimed to redefine art, its execution and its function. It wanted to remain in the general framework of classical art, but change how that framework is perceived. This is why we value impressionism, expressionism, abstract art, neoplasticism, abstract expressionism and all the other movements from that period as revolutionary artistic ideas. They were still “classical” art in the broadest sense, but they were almost essentially different from their predecessors.

Since art had to evolve and the artists didn’t just want to imitate their predecessors and influences, they had to create something new. There wasn’t really that much space for a new form of artistic expression within the boundaries of “classical” art, because the modernists practically did everything that was possible. So, in order to be creative and original, the contemporary artists had to redefine the framework itself, i.e., the artwork.

Contemporary artists relied less on tradition and began experimenting with what they could. They used new materials, they combined previously unused materials into new ones and they used technology to create art. They relied heavily on the new, globalized and culturally diverse world to create new, interdisciplinary art forms. Although traditional techniques were kept, they were redefined and molded into new forms in accordance with the experimental nature of contemporary art. Art also became increasingly engaged, transforming from a mere l’art pour l’art creation to a weapon of political and social progress.

As time passed, contemporary art became increasingly conceptual (although conceptual art is not a synonym for contemporary art), relying more on the philosophical, political or social symbolism of work than on its intrinsic (i.e., traditionalist) artistic value. Art became a message, but whether that message remained purely artistic or morphed into something much bigger now depends on the artist, the work and the context in which it was made and presented to the public.

Although generally considered to begin not before the 1950s, some art historians consider the first work of contemporary art to be Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), a conceptual/Dadaist work created during one of the peaks of artistic modernism.

What is similar between contemporary art and modern art?

While their differences are going to be the focus of our article, we have to say something about the common points that modern and contemporary art share.

The first common point they share is their revolutionary nature. Namely, both modern and contemporary art changed the artistic paradigm of their respective times. When modern art replaced the so-called “classical” art, it redefined how art was perceived and created. It worked within the same framework, but it did wonders within. From the romantic pathos to the “action painting” of Jackson Pollock, modernism completely changed art and showed the public that art doesn’t have to be a proportional portrait of a political figurehead or a beautiful woman, but also a series of colorful geometrical shapes and random splashes of paint on a large canvas. This art was symbolic and was the embodiment of the artist’s internal beauty and inspiration. On the other hand, contemporary art went even further, outside the framework, redefining the artwork itself. A dot on a large canvas, a completely black canvas or an egg on a public square – all of that became art, because contemporary artists refused to be restrained by the traditional framework. Anything that they could assign artistic value to could become art, which practically turned art into a limitless phenomenon. The revolutionary nature is evident – modernism revolutionized art, while contemporary art revolutionized the artwork.

The second common point is the historical moment. Namely, both movements appeared during a period of change. Modernism started off during a period of turbulence in Europe, peaking during the interwar period, when the whole world wanted something new to forget the horrors of World War I. Contemporary art started emerging after World War II and during the Cold War, again as a reaction to important historical and social movements. Plus, there is a two-decade period when the two movements intertwined (1950s – 1970s), influencing each other directly.

Innovation is another common point between the two movements. Artistic innovation is a common element in the history of art, but the fact is that both modernism and contemporary art changed a lot. Modernists started using new or then-obsolete techniques, they provided the artistic community with new approaches, new ideas and new themes, but also with some new techniques, especially in the fields of sculpture and architecture; the painters mostly contributed with their themes and styles. As for contemporary artists, they started using completely new materials and their mixtures, creating works of art whose likes had never been seen before that. Good examples of such innovations are video art and the assemblage technique used by the Neo-Dada movement.

These are the three main common points, the similarities between modern and contemporary art. These are not all of them, but other smaller similarities can easily be paired with some of these so there’s no need to analyze each one of them separately. Now, we can start our list of the main differences between modern and contemporary art.

Difference between Contemporary and Modern art that matter

This is a list of the main differences between modern and contemporary art:

1. Time

The first obvious difference is their chronology. Considering the fact that we are distinguishing modernism as an artistic movement separate from contemporary art, we can easily deduce that these two movements don’t historically overlap. As stated above, modern art started around the 1860s, with romanticism being the first modern artistical movement in the world. Painters like Eugène Delacroix, Francisco Goya and William Blake were all fathers of modern art. Modern art ceased to work sometime during the 1970s, although it had been slowly but effectively replaced by contemporary art as early as the 1950s, which is the decade when contemporary art is considered to have started.

2. Paradigms

The two movements also functioned on different paradigms and artistic doctrines. And while both had a large number of different styles, the stylistic pluralism of modernism was very different from the stylistic pluralism of contemporary art. Namely, the main paradigm of modernism was to redefine art, so all of the styles wanted to create something new within a known set of “rules”, an artistic idea where art wasn’t just something already seen but reworked. This is why some of the styles were so revolutionary, but in retrospect – all of modernism’s styles were based either on the revolutionary stylization of post-impressionistic styles (including the avant-garde) or on Kandinsky’s abstract art. They were plural, but they had two distinct origins. Contemporary art, on the other hand, developed on the paradigm that the artwork – and not art – must be redefined, thus creating something completely new. The stylistic pluralism of contemporary art is much more diverse than that of modernism, with Neo-Dada, op art, hyperrealism and performance art all being part of the same, large artistic movement that is contemporary art. This is how their paradigms, although similar, are still largely different.

3. Framework

The framework within which these two movements developed are largely different. Modernism was based on a traditional artistic framework, opting to redefine it from within to create a different impression on the outside. This was a large part of the philosophical doctrines of almost all modernist styles. But why is that? Namely, when modernism developed (whether you, like us, consider it to have started with romanticism or, like some, with impressionism), the preceding style was either neoclassicism or realism, however you want to perceive it. Modernist worked within a traditional framework because it was all that art knew at the time, which makes their contribution even greater, as they managed to do so much with “old toys”. Contemporary art, on the other hand, worked within the framework created by modernism, so they just needed to upgrade an already “new toy” in that aspect. Contemporary artists could learn from revolutionaries such as Picasso, Dalí, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Malevich, Pollock, Matisse, de Kooning, Magritte and others, which actually means that the framework they had to change was very, very different from the one modernists worked with.

4. Materials

Initially, modernists had to work with traditional materials. They experimented with the techniques – e.g. Monet’s dreamy impressionism, the fauvist’s unorthodox coloration, Van Gogh’s brushwork, or Seurat’s dots – but the materials were largely the same. Some experiments were made in later phases – cubists experimented with collages, constructivists with metal – but the only true innovative materials in modernism were used by the sculptors and architects of late modernism. Contemporary artists, on the other hand, completely reinvented what could be perceived as artistic materials, using completely new ones and previously unimaginable mixtures of materials. Everyday objects became materials, people themselves even, and the conceptualism of a lot of contemporary styles absolutely contributed to the innovations in the field of materials.

5. Themes

As far as the themes are concerned, modernists – for a large part – still worked with traditional themes, but redefined them in accordance with their artistic doctrine. Modernists liked portraits, still life, and while they did focus on painting everyday scenes more than their predecessors, not many of them – with the exception of, for example, Picasso’s Guernica and some openly ideologized avant-garde movements such as constructivism, Dadaism and others like socialist realism – chose new themes. Even abstract artists and their compositions don’t fit into the category of new themes, as the compositions were themes themselves. Contemporary artists, on the other hand, became more socially and politically engaged, choosing to comment on the daily turbulences of the quickly-changing political and social situations of the Cold War and post-Cold War society. Contemporary artists also chose to conceptualize their arts, meaning that the themes became more symbolic and metaphoric, which was not the case with modernist styles.

6. Conceptualization

The much-mentioned conceptualization is a characteristic of a large number of contemporary styles. Although not part of all styles, the term conceptual art is most exclusively associated with contemporary art. Conceptual works weren’t just works per se, it wasn’t the classical ars gratia artis; they became concepts, metaphors of something much larger or something much more intimate than what was shown. Whether it was a “classical” work or some performance art – just think of Marina Abramović – contemporary art is largely conceptual and the process of deciphering it is wonderful. Modernist art, on the other hand, wasn’t conceptual, it was straightforward in that aspect, both in themes and in its execution. There is symbolism, very deep symbolism in fact, but it is far from any conceptualization and the whole idea is still in accordance with Gautier’s principle of l’art pour l’art.

7. Forms

Modernist art didn’t do much as far as artistic forms were concerned. Although some newer forms were popularized – for example posters or film animation – it was all pretty much traditional painting, sculpture and architecture. Contemporary art changed that paradigm and popularized different forms of expression as art. Graffiti, photography, video art, performance art, assemblage – these are just some of the new forms of art utilized by contemporary artists. Some of them have been known since modernism, but either weren’t used much or weren’t used for artistic purposes, while some are completely new. Contemporary art raised the bar to a completely new level when art forms are concerned, which was an interesting step forward in the evolution of art.

8. Engagement

Contemporary art is much more engaged than modernist art. Modern art, as was stated, was much more artistic, despite its revolutionary nature. These artists wanted to create art – they did not want to convey a message. There were, of course, exceptions. Picasso’s Guernica sent a powerful sociopolitical message when it was first presented to the public. The Dadaist movement sent a strong social message and tried to change the perception of almost everything. A lot of early surrealists had close ties with socialism – especially Breton, even Buñuel – while socialist realism was wholly based on advocating socialist values. Constructivism also had very close political ties, among other leftist avant-garde movements. But these were, truly, exceptions – Picasso’s whole opus was mostly artistic, surrealism wasn’t an ideological movement (see Dalí), while the political movements were a minority compared to others. Contemporary art, on the other hand, tends to blend social and political comments with art. The majority of contemporary works tries to send a message, mostly one of progress and evolution. Just remember Vrubel’s famous Fraternal Kiss graffiti depicting the famous kiss between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker or some of Banksy’s performances. These are just some examples of the strong sociopolitical engagement contemporary artists have.

9. Interdisciplinarity

Referring back to point seven, we can state that modernist art was rarely interdisciplinary in its nature; this is also somewhat related to point eight. Modernists valued art and didn’t mix that much. Painting was a painting, a sculpture was a sculpture. And that’s how it usually played out. Contemporary artists redefined such paradigms and valued interdisciplinarity, which is a consequence of the growing influence of postmodernism. Technological advancements enabled us to create art with the use of technology, while artists managed to combine their art with other fields of creative output. The term “video game as art” is just one example of that interdisciplinary nature, as some video game creators opted for a full-on artistic approach and experience rather than just present a gaming experience. A lot of art has been implemented in modern movies – even those that aren’t experimental, indie or art films – and there are lots of other examples we cannot analyze completely in this article, but that prove that contemporary art is much more interdisciplinary in nature than modernist art.

10. Availability

Some of you may see it as “bagatellization” of art, but however you perceive it – art is much more available today than it was before. Modernist artists had to have ateliers, they had to buy expensive material, even travel a lot to experience certain themes and that wasn’t available to most people. Today, with the development of globalization and technology, art became a standard. All you need is your talent and some basic resources, since there are different forms of art you can choose. You can be a street artist with a can of paint or spray paint. You can be a video artist with some good software. Or, you can be a good photographer with one investment in a good camera. You have so much to chose from and the possibilities are nigh endless. This is why contemporary art is far more available than modern art ever was, which is a good thing because more talented people can get an opportunity to show their art to the world.

11. Simplicity or complexity?

Modernist art was largely complex. And while some of the canvases or statues might look simpler, they’re usually not. Since modern art still developed on the foundations of traditional art – and traditional art was complex, whatever you may think of it – modernists favored a more complex approach to their works. On the other hand – although not as a general rule – contemporary art is much simpler in its execution, but not in its meaning, which is a very interesting paradox. If you look at Yves Klein’s monochrome paintings, Warhol’s polychromatic panels or some performances – their execution is very simple, yet they convey a very deep meaning. Modernists complemented the depth of their works with their complexity, while some contemporary artists opted for simple execution of very deep meaning.

12. Relationship with history

Modernists comprehended history and wanted to break away with it. They wanted to break away from tradition or completely redefine it. Postimpressionistic styles redefined traditions, while avant-garde and abstract styles completely broke off with them. Some avant-garde artists, such as the futurists, even wanted to completely “eliminate” history in the sense that art had to move forward and completely disregard the historical influences. Some artists did work with historical influences, like Picasso, when he created a cubist version of Velázquez’s baroque masterpiece Las Meninas, but those were rare examples. Contemporary artists, on the other hand, embraced history and even created new works based on history, never considering that history should be eliminated. Both Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol used Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as an influence for their Dadaist and pop art works, while Francis Bacon created nightmarish versions of famous papal portraits initially painted by the great masters. Thus, the relationship of contemporary art with history is more postmodern – contemporary art embraces it, learns from it and even uses it to create something new – while the modernist approach was more exclusive, since these artists considered history as a foundation, but something that should ultimately be left in the past and not reexamined constantly.

There you have it. We have written a pretty extensive study of modern and contemporary art for you, stressing out their differences, but also some of the similarities. We hope you found our article interesting and informative, and that you will keep following us for more of the same!


Why does Pop Art Use Such Bright Colors?

Pop art is probably the most well-known artistic movement of the 20th century. Fueled by consumerism, mass media and popular culture, pop art can be easily recognized by its bright colors, defined line works and some kind of iconic element used as the main subject.

So, why does pop art uses such bright colors? Pop Art emerged in the mid-1950’s, and became popular when Great depression and World war II ended. Due to what was happening in that point of time new generation artists wanted something new. Pop art used bright colors highly because of its ability to grab the attention quickly.

The use of bright colors to catch attention is actually a clever move. Therefore is more complex than what looks like. So, we’re going to be reviewing what pop art is, how it started, principal artists and the complex side of the bright colours.

What is Pop Art ?

Pop Art is a movement that emerged in the mid-20th century. It is characterised by simple, everyday imagery, and vibrant block colours. This movement aimed to solidify the idea that art can draw from any source, and that no hierarchy could disrupt this. The bright colour schemes also enabled this form of avant-garde art to emphasise certain elements in contemporary culture.

Pop Art helped to narrow the division between the commercial arts and the fine arts. It was the first Post-Modernist movement (where medium is as important as the message) as well as the first school of art to reflect the power of film and television, from which many of its most famous images acquired their celebrity. Common sources of Pop iconography were; advertisements, consumer product packaging, photos of film-stars, pop-stars and other celebrities, and comic strips. Famous Artists of this movement include, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

History of Pop Art

Pop-Art emerged in both New York and London during the mid-1950s becoming the dominant avant-garde style until the late 1960s. In the United States, pop art was a response by artists. They used impersonal, mundane reality, irony, and parody to “defuse” the personal symbolism and “painterly looseness” of abstract expressionism.

By contrast, the origins of pop art in post-War Britain, while employing irony and parody, were more academic. Britain focused on the paradoxical imagery of American pop culture as powerful, manipulative symbolic devices that were affecting whole patterns of life. Fuelled by American popular culture when viewed from afar, early pop art in Britain was a matter of ideas. Similarly, Pop art was both an extension and a repudiation of Dadaism.While pop art and Dadaism explored some of the same subjects, pop art replaced the destructive, satirical, and anarchic impulses of the Dada movement with a detached affirmation of the artfacts of mass culture.

Bright Colours and Pop Art

Advertisers began using pop art highly because of its ability to grab the attention quickly. It does so because it uses bright and vivid colors. You should take a look at some of the famous pieces of pop-art and you will see the extensive use of bright colors. In total, the ability of pop art to connect with the viewer makes it one of the most powerful media in the modern world. Whether you want to boost customers or master art, you’ll be able to do so with the help of pop art.

The Color Whell

The Color Wheel is a visual representation of the spectrum of color. It consists of twelve warm and cool hues (Hue is the word used to describe a pure color) and visually describes the relationship between them.

colour wheel
Colour Wheel

Pop art and color

Primary Colors (red, yellow and blue) are the three hues that cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors. All other colors are created from combining these three hues. Those colours are highly present in the works of Roy Lichtenstein, and is due to them that his works stand out so much.

Primary Color Weel and Oh, Jeff… I Love You, Too… But… by Roy Lichtenstein Picture by Gautier Poupeau

Secondary Colors (green, orange and violet) are the colors that are form by mixing the primary colors. These colors are also highly present in the Pop Art movement as we can see in the image bellow.

Andy Warhol - Two Marilyns,
Andy Warhol – Two Marilyns, 1962. Acrylic, silkscreen and pencil on linen (1928-1987) Broad Collection Picture by rocor

What makes pop art stand out?

The main inspirations of pop art are regular items we use in our day-to-day lives. A water bottle, tumbler, mobile phone, anything could be an inspiration for an artist of this genre. The motive is to connect with the viewer on a fundamental level. When a person sees an item he or she uses regularly, he is able to relate with the image quickly.

The context of the image / recognizable imagery:

The context is the most important part of an image. The most attractive feature of these images is the unusual context and object used. This was the chief reason behind the success and huge popularity of this art form. It’s also the reason why it is so popular in the current world. So while creating a piece of pop art, you’d be placing a regular item of daily use in an unconventional place. Some of the most successful artists who performed this task skillfully were Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. 

Combining humor with art:

Irony and satire are two of the most important aspects of this art form. One combines a usual item with an unconventional setting. To display a unique connection, you’ll have to use satire or irony. It will make the artwork more attractive and sensible. Otherwise, it’d be too difficult for the viewer to interpret the artwork properly. Apart from that, as pop art has become popular in advertising, you can see a large number of examples in this field. Advertisers use wit and humor in these artworks to ensure that the viewer admires it considerably and remember the message of the art too. 

Using colors that strike attention

Pop art is characterized by vibrant, bright colors. Primary colors red, yellow, and blue were prominent pigments that appeared in many famous works, particularly in Roy Lichtenstein’s body of work.

Innovative techniques

Many Pop artists engaged in printmaking processes, which enabled them to quickly reproduce images in large quantities. Andy Warhol used silkscreen printing, a process through which ink is transferred onto paper or canvas through a mesh screen with a stencil. Roy Lichtenstein used lithography, or printing from a metal plate or stone, to achieve his signature visual style. Pop artists often took imagery from other areas of mainstream culture and incorporated it into their artworks, either altered or in its original form. This type of Appropriation art often worked hand in hand with repetition to break down the separation between high art and low art, which made the distinction between advertising and media from fine art.

Mixed media and collage

Pop artists often blended materials and utilized a variety of different types of media. Like Robert Rauschenberg, whose works anticipated the Pop art movement, artists Tom Wesselmann and Richard Hamilton combined seemingly disparate images into a single canvas to create a thoroughly modern form of narrative.


  • Pop Art emerged in the mid-1950’s, and became popular when Great depression and World war II ended;
  • Pop art used bright colors highly because of its ability to grab the attention quickly;
  • The bright colour schemes also enabled this form of avant-garde art to emphasise certain elements in contemporary culture;
  • Advertisers began using pop art highly because of its ability to grab the attention quickly;
  • Primary Colors are highly present in the works of Roy Lichtenstein;

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