(Pablo Picasso, Le guitariste, 1910, oil on canvas, 100 x 73 cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.)
Modernism describes a series of reforming cultural movements in art and architecture, music, literature and the applied arts which emerged roughly in the period of 1884-1914.
The term covers many political, cultural and artistic movements rooted in the changes in Western society at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation.
Modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was 'holding back' progress, and replacing it with new, progressive and therefore better, ways of reaching the same end. In essence, the modernist movement argued that the new realities of the industrial and mechanized age were permanent and imminent, and that people should adapt their world view to accept that the new equaled the good, the true and the beautiful.
Modern (quantum and relativistic) physics, modern (analytical and continental) philosophy and modern number theory in mathematics also date from this period. Embracing change and the present, modernism encompasses the works of thinkers who rebelled against nineteenth century academic and historicist traditions, believing the "traditional" forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated; they directly confronted the new economic, social and political aspects of an emerging fully industrialized world.
Some divide the 20th Century into movements designated Modernism and Postmodernism, whereas others see them as two aspects of the same movement.