Modernism Modern art evolved in the first half of the 20th century with a complexity that reflected the times. In politics and society as well as in painting and sculpture, centuries-old institutions came under scrutiny. Breaking away from conservative academies, artists forged their own aesthetic paths through experimentation. In general, modern art is characterized by a move toward abstraction. Artists no longer rendered their subjects in precise detail; rather, paint and color became independent subjects. Some of the artists on view in this gallery include Marsden Hartley, Max Pechstein, and Marguerite Zorach.