6+ A Kid's Guide to Modern Art Movements


What is a Modern Art Movement?

An art movement is when a style of art is shared by a group of artists at a specific time. ‘Modern art’ is any art created after the late 1800s. There have been many modern art movements across the world, but here we’ve written up a clear intro to a few of the most popular ones for kids aged 6 and up!


Time Period: 1867 – 1886

Impressionism was the first art movement to kick start the modern art era. Before Impressionism, artists would always paint inside and paint from sketches. Impressionist artists thought this was boring and wanted to paint outside, so they did! They took their paintbrushes outside and painted straight from nature. Impressionism was all about bold colours, painting as fast as you can, and using short brush strokes to capture daily life. Can you count some of the tiny brushstrokes in these paintings by Monet and Renoir?

Examples of Impressionistic Art:


Famous Artists: Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Fun Fact: Across his lifetime, Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted around 4000 paintings!


Time Period: 1904 – 1910

Coming from the French word ‘Fauve’ meaning ‘wild animals’, Fauvism was an art movement led by artists Henri Matisse and André Derain. Taking after their adventurous name, Fauvist artists wanted to paint like wild animals! Fauve artists wanted to make their work as bright, unnatural and exciting as possible. Instead of using normal skin tones in portraits, artists would use dark blues or bright yellows to show light and dark. What weird colours would you use to show light and dark in a portrait?

Examples of Fauve Art:


Notable Artists: Henri Matisse, André Derain and Georges Braque

Fun Fact: In 1961, Fauve artist Henri Matisse’s painting ‘Le Bateau’ was hung upside down in a gallery for 46 days! Oops!


Time Period: 1905 to 1920

Expression was an art movement all about expressing how you feel. Starting in Germany, Expressionism meant that you painted emotion rather than real life. Expressionist artists often painted emotions like fear, anger, and sadness. As every painter feels different emotions, this means Expressionist paintings can all look very different. However, common traits of Expressionist paintings are pieces being painted in a hurry, having lots of different textures, and being painted in strong colours. How does art help you show how you feel?

Examples of Expressionistic Art:

Notable Artists: Edvard Munch, Otto Gleichmann, Franz Marc and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Fun Fact: In 1994, Edvarch Munch’s painting titled ‘The Scream’ was stolen from a museum! The thieves left a note saying “Thank you for the poor security”. The painting was luckily found later that year.


Time Period: 1908 to the late 1920s

Cubism was a movement started by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Cubist artists liked to use paint, clay, and collage to create their work. Cubism is all about using 3D shapes to create pictures. Wanting to create weird and whacky paintings, artists like Picasso would break portraits up into smaller shapes. Think triangles for eyes, pentagons for noses, and squares for mouths – Cubist artists loved to use shapes to make weird and funny looking people! If you had to make a cubist portrait, what shapes would you use for what parts of your face?

Examples of Cubism Art:

Notable Artists: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris

Fun Fact: Picasso’s first word as a baby was ‘Pencil’!


Time Period: Mid-1920s to the mid-1930s

Ever had a weird dream?  Inspired by dreams, Surrealism is a movement all about exploring our minds and our dreamworlds. Ignoring boring old real life, Surrealist artists wanted to focus on all the weird things in life; by taking inspiration from whacky dreams and odd thoughts! Have you had a dream recently you could turn into a painting?

Examples of Surrealist Art:

© 2020 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí

Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Notable Artists: Salvador Dali, Dorothea Tanning, Louis Guiglielmi and René Magritte

Fun Fact: Salvador Dali made a film with Walt Disney! The pair made a short film together called Destino

Abstract Art

Time Period: 1940s onwards

Abstract art is a piece of art that isn’t based on a person, landscape, or object. Instead of showing real-life, Abstract art shows bright colours, lines and shapes. Abstract art is using your imagination to make up something completely new and made up! Thinking of different shapes, colours, and textures in your mind, can you think of how you would make an Abstract painting?

 Examples of Abstract Art:

© 2010 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Notable Artists: Jackson Pollock, Wassily Kandinsky, and Mark Rothko

Fun Fact: The most expensive Abstract painting ever sold was a landscape by William De Kooning that sold for $300 million dollars! It’s the second most expensive ever sold.

Pop Art

Time Period: 1950s onwards

Pop Art is a movement all about having fun! Taking a silly look at life, Pop Art took inspiration from popular celebrities, comic books and adverts and turned them into something new and super colourful. Pop Art was meant to be something that everyone could enjoy. Pop Art pieces are bright, use neon colours, and reference food/celebrities everyone knows. What’s a TV, film or book character you would like to paint in a bright, Pop Art style?

Examples of Pop Art:

© 2018 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Notable Artists: Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Keith Haring

Fun Fact: Keith Haring loved to paint for and with children. He once created a massive painting of the statue of liberty with 1000 children!

As you can see, there have been many different types of artists and art styles over the past 130 years. Modern art has always been about doing something different and doing something completely new! There’s no right or wrong way to do art and it’s always good to experiment with different mediums and styles. From what you’ve learnt today about modern art, what new styles of art would you like to experiment with?