The arrival of modernism and contemporary art can be traced to the Industrial Revolution. This period of rapid changes in production, transportation, and engineering started around the mid-18th century. It continued through the 19th century, profoundly affecting the social, economic, and cultural states of life in Western Europe, North America, and eventually the world.
With the new forms of transport, which included the railroad, the steam engine, and the subway, changed how people lived, worked, and travelled, expanding their worldview and access to fresh ideas.
Before the 19th century, artists were often commissioned to generate art by wealthy sponsors or institutions such as the church. Much of the art depicted spiritual or mythological scenes that told tales meant to instruct the viewer. Throughout the 19th century, many artists began to make art based within their own experiences and about subjects that they chose.
When a work of psychologist Sigmund Freud was first published called ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (1899) and the popularization of the notion of a subconscious mind, many artists began exploring dreams, symbolism, and private iconography. These were meant to depict paths of subjective experiences.
Some artists experimented with the expressive use of colour, unconventional materials, and new techniques and mediums. They intended to challenge the idea that art must realistically portray the way we see our planet. One of the new mediums was photography, whose invention in 1839 offered revolutionary possibilities for depicting and distributing the world.