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This facilitates consideration of specific reactions to the use of technology in the First World War, and anti-technological and nihilistic aspects of the works of diverse thinkers and artists spanning the period from Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) to Samuel Beckett (1906–1989). Turner (1775–1851), one of the greatest landscape painters of the 19th century, was a member of the Romantic movement, as "a pioneer in the study of light, colour, and atmosphere", he "anticipated the French Impressionists" and therefore modernism "in breaking down conventional formulas of representation; [though] unlike them, he believed that his works should always express significant historical, mythological, literary, or other narrative themes." The dominant trends of industrial Victorian England were opposed, from about 1850, by the English poets and painters that constituted the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, because of their "opposition to technical skill without inspiration." They were influenced by the writings of the art critic John Ruskin (1819–1900), who had strong feelings about the role of art in helping to improve the lives of the urban working classes, in the rapidly expanding industrial cities of Britain.According to one critic, modernism developed out of Romanticism's revolt against the effects of the Industrial Revolution and bourgeois values: "The ground motive of modernism, Graff asserts, was criticism of the nineteenth-century bourgeois social order and its world view [...] the modernists, carrying the torch of romanticism." While J. Art critic Clement Greenberg describes the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as proto-Modernists: "There the proto-Modernists were, of all people, the pre-Raphaelites (and even before them, as proto-proto-Modernists, the German Nazarenes).In this spirit, its innovations, like the stream-of-consciousness novel, atonal (or pantonal) and twelve-tone music, divisionist painting and abstract art, all had precursors in the 19th century.A notable characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness and irony concerning literary and social traditions, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc.
These engineering marvels radically altered the 19th-century urban environment and the daily lives of people.The human experience of time itself was altered, with the development of the electric telegraph from 1837, But despite continuing technological advances, from the 1870s onward, the idea that history and civilization were inherently progressive, and that progress was always good, came under increasing attack.Arguments arose that the values of the artist and those of society were not merely different, but that Society was antithetical to Progress, and could not move forward in its present form.The philosopher Schopenhauer (1788–1860) (The World as Will and Representation, 1819) called into question the previous optimism, and his ideas had an important influence on later thinkers, including Nietzsche.Two of the most significant thinkers of the period were biologist Charles Darwin (1809–82), author of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), and political scientist Karl Marx (1818–83), author of Das Kapital (1867).
Historians, and writers in different disciplines, have suggested various dates as starting points for modernism.