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Scholarly Article

Arpan Adhikary

To Go beneath the Surface and to Read the Symbol: Negotiations of Modernity in Western Art


Modernity, Art, Tradition, Perspectivism


Visual art, like literature, has both shaped and negotiated with the relative norms of modernity at different ages. As the paintings of Renaissance artists like Pieter Bruegel and Rembrandt marked a certain modernity of thought ahead of the general ways of seeing of the period they belonged to, the paintings of such Impressionists as Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh or those of the Surrealists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí kept on refashioning and redefining the mores of modernity in the age that concerned itself not only with deciding the relative tenets of modernity as the previous ages did, but with critiquing the more complex cultural discourses of modernism and postmodernism. However, the debates concerning the pertinence of contemporaneity of artistic expression and aesthetic responsibility of the artist remain consistent accompaniments of the considerations of modernity in art, and unlike many a discursive practice that claim to be modern or beyond, the notion of modernity itself evades temporal specification and uniform characterization. Hence, while rethinking about modernity the different axiomatic and ideological constructs of the notion of the modern as evolved through successive periods of history and culture are to be taken into consideration. My paper will study some significant works of western art belonging to different ages of history against their respective cultural and literary contexts to trace and critique their varying expressions and negotiations of modernity in theme and technique.

About the Author

Arpan Adhikary is a Doctoral Research Scholar at the Department of English and Culture

Studies, The University of Burdwan. He obtained M.A. in English with First Class from

University of Calcutta in 2012 and qualified the UGC-NET for Lectureship in English in

2013. He has presented papers in three international-level and five national-level seminars, and eight of his papers have been published in scholarly journals and books. He may becontacted at

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