Modernism Influence on Contemporary Design

Contemporary Art can refer to any artistic work produced from 1860s and 1970s in which previous traditions were set aside paving way for new experimentations. People began focusing on abstract characteristics in their works of painting, drawings, and carving depicting a new wave of creative creation.
Two great painters, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque came collectively to develop the idea of Cubism in Paris at some point of the early years of 1907. Cubist painters developed a two-dimensional prospect of the canvas and instead of an abstract nature of precise fore view, they reduced and fractured the objects to create geometric forms inside a shallow area in relief form.
The elements that influenced the adoption of cubism included the need to represent modern reality shaped by new inventions and cultural diversity (Utell, 2016). Development in technology and scientific discoveries affected the society’s way of perceiving nature. Cubism emerged as a response to the idea of representing aspect of time, motion, and space to help in capturing the immediate moment (Heywood, 2017). A great variety of subject matter was merged with a special introduction of surfaces, texture and adding an essential ingredient of elegant design.
Jean Metzinger
Jean Metzinger was born on 24 June 1883, in Nantes but moved to Paris at the age of two to practice painting. In 1908, he met artists such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso who influenced him to 1923 (Marshall & Desborde, 2017). Among his many works, include ones at Leicester Galleries in London in 1930, the Hanover in 1932, and the Arts Club of Chicago in 1953 before his death on November 3, 1956.
Figure 1. Tea Time (Metzinger, 1911).

Metzinger, J. (1911). Retrieved from
The image shows a female figure with still elements shown from varying angles exhibited in Salon d’Automne in 1911. The artist seems as if he was moving around the subject capturing it from different points of view at successive moments in time. For instance, the teacup and the woman can be seen from the front, sides, and above. The reproduction of the painting was done in 1912 in Metzinger and Gleize’s book known as Du Cubisme and again in 1913 in Apollinaire’s The Cubist Painters. The painting is oil on canvas measuring 75.9 x 70.2 cm and can be found on Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Figure 2. At the Cycle-Race Track (Au Vélodrome, 1912)

Au Vélodrome, (1912). At the Cycle-Race Track. Retrieved from
At the Cycle-Race Track measuring 3038 × 4096 cm was a painting created in 1912 (oil and collage on canvas). The artwork depicts Cubism and Futurism in a naturalistic way. Elements such as the printed-paper collage, granular surface, and the use of transparent planes for defining space form the Cubist elements. He chose a subject on motion to show velocity and fused various forms to define futurism. The use of dots of various colors represents the crowd in the background in an attempt to define the pictorial language.
Contemporary Designer
Lee Alexander McQueen
McQueen was a British fashion designer and couturier born on March 17th 1969 famous for working as chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and for founding his own Alexander McQueen label. He was inspired by Cubism art, which put emphasis on real geometric shapes instead of illusion of perspective. According to Slone (2012), Alexander was described as a true artist whose medium was fashion.
Handcrafted Art and Accessories 2010, Fashion
The dresses were displayed by Pink Leaf Design Shop in 2012 to portray the spirit of Alexander McQueen. The garments are brightly colored, long, and bear decorations making them appear gorgeous to the audience and the wearer. The designer incorporates much of the Cubism styles since the clothes seem to have various geometric shapes such as spirals, cylinders, and natural shapes (Callahan, 2014). However, modern technology has been applied in enhancing decorations by adding extra pieces to bring out its unique features. No political influence can be linked to the designs since the designer was driven by passion and desire to make unique wedding garments. However, cultural factors are evident since the era involved walking on the red carpet to display styles. The floral arrangements also reveal environmental influence and desire to communicate love for natural phenomena.
Figure 3. Buzz Buzz: The story of the bees (Alexander McQueen, 2012)

McQueen, A. (2012). Buzz Buzz: The story of the bees. Retrieved from
Bridal Style 2011
The royal wedding dress was considered fit for a princess due to its unique features. The white gown has several decorations styled in a unique manner and threaded at the bottom. No political influence can be linked to the design but the culture of having unique wedding dresses for brides was of great influence (McQueen & Beauty, 2015). In addition, the decorations of utilizing geometric shapes on the gown can be linked to the modernist art.
Figure 4. Alexander McQueen’s Wedding Dress Designs (Noria Morales, 2011)

Morales, N. (2011). Alexander McQueen’s Wedding Dress Designs. Retrieved from
Comparison of Work
Contemporary artists have created designs on similar features as those by famous Cubists, based on objects, places, and people (Basiri & Mousavilar, 2017). In contrast, though, their work appears to display multiple views of the subject at a time, done from different angles. Mcqueen’s work was inspired by Cubism, which involved viewing of paintings as a whole instead of perspective achieved by use of shapes (Slone, 2012). He represented images of nature in his fashion designs to create emotional link with the environment. For instance, the gown in figure 3 above shows horizontal arrangement of large flowers giving the garment a three-dimension arrangement. Similarly, the white gown in figure 4 has raised protrusions depicting ideas of cubist of representing images as whole. A general intention to reconfigure space is methodically done by reconstruction of the elements into a composition of planes, colors, floral, and forms. As a result, the images of gowns by McQueen concisely reveal the front, sides, and back of the elements in an interchangeable design, which characterizes Cubism art. Compared to the works of contemporaries, the modernist has used warm colors from to manifest various events such as weddings.
As evidenced in the painting by Jean Metzinger, in which sharp cutting edges and geometrical bearing of the elements portray reconstruction on an image, a similar outplay of features reveal in a more or less advancement the works of contemporary artists ( Muñiz, Norris & Alan, 2014). In a bid to avoid over-reliance on color, geometrical bearings, and sharp angular edges to depict the spatial location of features, cubist contemporaries focus less on planar composition but more on excellent contrast on the color of natural space against the objects within the display.
In most contemporaries, space is not necessarily reconfigured and elements deemed interchangeable in the design as does in modernism but instead views the subject as the occupant of a fixed natural position that cannot be easily altered regarding topographical bearing (Fruscione, 2015). As a result, there appears to be a more precise definition of space and perspective of view, necessarily regarding spatial focus by contemporary designers. Alexander MacQueen was one of the greatest designers respected for her unique garments inspired by modernist artistic styles.
Modern and contemporary art can neither be exclusively reliant on unique features nor be regarded as carefully tied to compositional characteristics, but one noticeable feature is the fundamental basis their construction. Whereas modern art began on specific characteristic features, contemporary art either took an adaptive part in development.
Arnason, H. H., & Mansfield, E. (2013). History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography. Pearson.
Basiri, F., & Mousavilar, A. (2017). Modernism in Persian Painting and Studying Cubism Art Style In The Art Works Of This Era. Turkish Online Journal of Design Art and Communication, 7(1), 77-86.
Callahan, M. (2014). Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the 90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion. Simon and Schuster.
Fruscione, J. (2015). Teaching Hemingway and Modernism.
Heywood, I. (2017). Cubism and the Iconic Turn: A Climate of Practice, the Object and Representation. The Handbook of Visual Culture, 200.
Marshall, K. P., & Desborde, R. (2017). Using the Fine Arts to Illustrate Degrees of Innovation: From the High Renaissance to Cubism (pp. 284-293).
McQueen, A., & Beauty, S. (2015). Altmetric. Fashion Theory.
Muñiz Jr, A., Norris, T., & Alan Fine, G. (2014). Marketing Artistic Careers: Pablo Picasso as brand manager. European Journal of Marketing, 48(1/2), 68-88.
Slone, B.S (2012). The Nature of Alexander McQueen: The Aesthetics of Fashion Design as a Site of Environmental Change. Undergraduate Thesis submitted to the University of Waterloo, 2012.
Utell, J. (2016). Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation, and Change, and Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation, and Change by Pablo Picasso, Mariah.

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