Centre for Continuing Education

Art History Course: Concepts of Modern Art

Art History. Explore humankind’s amazing cultural heritage.

Study objects of art and their historical development the smart way with Art History courses at the University of Sydney.

As public interest in modern art continues to grow, there is a need for a place that is engaging, offering not only information and ideas about modern art, but also explaining its contemporary relevance and history. We will navigate through time, discovering artistic styles that define Modern Art from Picasso and Matisse to Chagall, Pollock, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Mondrian and so much more...


This art history course will seek to:

  1. Explain the development of modern art in a simple, straightforward way, with over 100 photographs of major art works.
  2. Cover all the key movements in modern art, from the avant-garde of the 19th century to the sometimes-perplexing contemporary art of the 21st Century.
  3. Include a time line of art movements, short biographies of major artists and a glossary of art terms.
  4. Include internet links to recommended websites with online galleries, virtual tours and art games and activities.


The benefits are immense and valuable. At the end of the course, students will be able to measure the diversity and complexity of modern art. In addition, they will be able to look at a work of art, place it within a historical, cultural and artistic context and decipher the message behind its aesthetical beauty.


1900 to 1910: Post impressionism, fauvism, cubism: early abstraction

Post-Impressionism encompasses a wide range of distinct artistic styles that all share the common motivation of responding to the subjective vision of the artists. One of Fauvism’s major contributions to modern art was its radical goal of separating colour from its descriptive, representational purpose and allowing it to exist on the canvas as an independent element. Cubist artists preferred to demolish perspective, which had been used to depict space since the renaissance, to reconstruct from various angles.

1905 to 1930: Expressionism, futurism and prophism

Art was now meant to come forth from within the artist, rather than from a depiction of the external visual world, and the standard for assessing the quality of a work of art became the character of the artist’s feelings rather than an analysis of the composition. Futurist artists managed to represent movement through the combination of Cubist faceted imageries and expressive contrasting colours.

1910 to 1920: Suprematism, constructivism and the bauhaus

While constructivism called on artists to stop producing useless things and to use art for industry and social causes; in contrast, suprematism focused on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colours. The Bauhaus brought all types of artists together and creating something new. They used like the suprematist artists a lot of geometrical shapes throughout their work.

1920 to 1960: Dada and surrealism

The Dada movement was a protest against the barbarism of World War One, it was not art it was “anti-art”. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions; however, many surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artefact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement.

1940 to 1950: Abstract expressionism

Abstract expressionists were later welcomed as the first authentically American avant-garde. They value an art grounded in personal experience. Their art was championed for being emphatically American in spirit – monumental in scale, romantic in mood, and expressive of a rugged individual freedom.

1950 to 1960: Neo-Dada, kinetic art, pop art, op Art

This abstract expressionist assemblage traced back to early expressionism: Pop art reached beyond Surrealism to Dada; Op art and Kinetic art are founded upon experiments made at the Bauhaus. Neo-Dada was adopted to forge a new aesthetic for the latest commercially minded fashions.

Intended Audience

This art history course is suitable for personal interest adult learners, university students and active retirees who are interested in understanding more about art history.

Delivery Style

Lecture style


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion