Differences between traditional and modern art
Sara Rastkhiz


“The word Tradition art which is created by the emergence of modernity and after HONAR considered being an equivalent of art in Persian.
The meaning of art in Book of Kings is culture, elegance, delicacy.”
(Firozan, 1995:47)
But art before the modern art can be looked as tradition art , however it has no specific framework.
"Tradition art” in contrast to what is called “Modern art “,originated from the unique inner knowledge of artist and permanently wants to reveal the constant exalted truth in it’s most possible aesthetical way.( Bavandian, 2008)

Traditional and Modern art

There are number of people who believed traditional art is the art of our deceased ancestors, in the class and among the admiration and artistic sense of our departed .It is the heritage that our gifted and creative ancestors hand over to the livings .The art which is passed it’s time and age therefore should be seen in museum .In the attitude of this group traditional art lacks the today modern dynamic and cannot be related to the concerns of modern human.
“Tradition “and “Traditionalism “are subjects which are discussed before “Modernity” and “Modernism”. If this confrontation is applied by appropriate awareness towards meaning and understandings of these word in each specific culture and language ,it can contribute to clear their meaning and their connection with each other ;otherwise confusing their issue and suggesting the wrong meaning (for example archaism and reaction instead of tradition ,modernism instead of modernity )cause confusion and depravity for them .
In other word ,though the majority of thinker and even ordinary people consider tradition to be in contrast with modernity ;therefore in most of the cases ,erroneously or intentionally ,correct and actual meaning of these 2 concepts is not paid enough attention .For example ,the term of “Traditional” with meaning of being archaic ,old ,worn out ,etc is confused with “Modernity” which means modern ,fresh, scientific, up-to-date and this word mislead listener (reader).
Thus, deep reflection about these expression, comprehending their understanding and meaning is required even their other “Traditional “and “Modernist” explanation aroused lots of discussion. (Marvdashti,2003:165)
Furthermore, group of thinkers are known as traditionalist, present their special point of view about modernity, its effects on mental, artistic and scientific products of human and also concerning (about) tradition, it’s value and importance in order to achieve moderate, balanced and exalted life. For instance we could mention Coomaraswamy who is believed that form of archaic art was the balance between physics and metaphysics .But as it transferred among generation its content reduced and become an ornament.
“The sensible forms (of artifacts)in which there was at first a polar balance of physical and metaphysical ,have been more and more voided of content on their way down to us :so we way ,this is an ornament.” (Comarawsoamy 241).
In traditional philosophy the work of art is a reminder; the summons of it’s beauty to a thesis, as to something to be understood rather than merely enjoyed.
And as I have so often said myself, nowadays by detailing and making fine distinctions of art these issues have divided from each other .As Larry shiner believed that utility and ornament in the Traditional art are not divided but nowadays .But today they are divided and it’s not appreciate to make distribution between fine art and apply art. Coomarawamy also accepts that division between utility and meaning does not exist in the past.
Moreover Kant believed that art is an understanding not means of enjoyment.
In my point of view by specializing and detailing most of affairs, constant words with new utility cannot transfer their modern specific meaning or we should not consider previous generalization in the form of same detailing and specializing .By making explanation of traditional art from the modern point of view and considering the delicate point in this explanation, possibly it can compensates the differences and misunderstandings .
In the past traditional artist did not feel any differences between his work and changes or developments that is considered to be new and modern, and also tried to apply these development and innovation in order to promote his present art. Intention of art is not to please mental pleasure, and objective aesthetic are the same in the traditional art which can not to be divided.
As Comarawswamy believed that nowadays pleasure is more important than order of an object. The necessity of recognition the traditional art leads us toward several dimensions of its meaning and as a result to its allegorical form. For a deep thinker beauty is not the means of pleasure and earthly hobby but a reminder of spiritual world in Platonize concept. (Nasr, 1998:11)
In order to get the concept, traditional art deals with secret and allegory.
In other hand traditional art has never been an accusing and aggressive habit (attitude) and always try to establish artistic and mental accordance with the entire world.
“Moreover traditional art in contrast to modern art talks about customs and habit but never limited and walled itself between customs and ordinary methods. The purpose of this art is by anyway to satisfy reader (viewer) but not by the cost of his weakness. Traditional art uses imaginative images but this kind of fantasy is connected to reality.
Because of “Abstract fantasy” of modern art which is the same imagination isolated from its origin, flies over any land or country in a unbridled way and does not avoid criticizing the terrific affairs independently in order to attract and absorb the viewer even for a moment .
“Traditional art obtains its materials from the artistic sense of society but it cannot achieve integrity in custom and tradition”.( Bavandian, 2008)

Traditional method reflect its meaning by using allegory of holy affairs in the world of fantasy, therefore active perception is necessary to achieve meanings .The world of fantasy plays an important role in the creation and comprehension of traditional art, also in the point of view of traditionalist and traditional thinker, understanding the universe which contains meaning and beauty requires fantasy.
“In the modern term, each factor can be divergence and consistent in such a way with the habits of human sense and in short be surprising has artistic reputation ”.( Bavandian, 2008)

Because it separates human for a moment(s) from misery of routine excessive mechanical life and gives him opportunity to release from terrifying reality of such a living .Whereas traditional art in contrast to thought of some people who believe that art has an expiry date tries to reconciled human with his inner forgotten reality and help him to understand his consistent exalted reality .One of the characteristics of modern artistic era is that artistic epistemology faces some faults and the reputation of artist reduces to skillful persons who can just created beautiful (not pretty)forms.
By occurrence of modernity ,modern artist is divided form his previous holy presence and produces works which lack his innate and holy essence .This is the reason that thinker express their deep sorrow of lacking admirable and refined epistemology and talk about the death of art.

Relation of tradition and cognition

“Theoretical science of art started in Greece at the time when their Great Art with its majestic philosophy finished and lost his life; therefore at the time of Platonic and Aristotle the first subjects and meaning form and affect all the dialogues of future generation about art. But their subjects are still monitor ancient Greek cognition and thus it is not of the sort of modern theoretical subjects about art and by no means we could not name it as philosophy of art.
The ancient recognized art as an appendix to philosophy and understanding which basically is inconsistent with common opinions about art in the modern era. Even in the late middle ages that modern concept of art became common and they differentiated between art and understanding ,said art is consist of the absolute skill ,genius, made ,delicate and superficial softness.
The greats of that time adopted a position toward this subject .The first sentence of Parisian bishop, JAN MINO, at the time of inauguration of Cathedral in Milan was;”Art without understanding is nothing “; art is subordinate to philosophy and understanding.
“I think so there we are” despite the fact that it placed down the first stone of sensual topicality construction in modern cognition, it can be also comprising a reality that is in fact cognition is the way of presence of human beings. In this Dekart basis “self” is assumed similar to existence in such a way that subjectively is realized and therefore it is the “world “which should be explained as a subjective reality toward the “self”. In the ancient philosophy it was important for existence to be meaningful as if it was obvious in the Aristotle’s speech, the word form is not form but it is the same meaning. Plato is also called Idos means eye. According to the Aristotle’s speech, everything has its form in the universe and it cannot be found without form .This subject is changed in Dekart cognition :first ,meaning become subjective and second another image of universe is presented which is inconsistent which meaningful universe .This image is the mechanical and mathematical image of universe .We can predict after it is proceed toward total psychological and individual interpretation and psychological cognition with subjective form it would decline.
Whether cognition means objective meditation or in person cognition ,it have to refer to tradition inevitably .As we are supposed to refer our predecessors such as Sa’di ,Hafez .Our tradition has no inevitable connection with these ancient historically ,although tradition means something beyond history which had grown the existence of our great predecessors .
Modernism era is materialize by leaving and neglecting the exalted reality of existence and so self –awareness of modern human is the self –awareness 0f this negligence.

Relation of modernity and cognition

Modernity is the foundation of modern thought in which we have a completely modern attitude toward the entire universe.
In the modern time a creature ,object ,means something which is belong to subject calling human and it gains its identity from this subject ;that is human and his unconditional awareness which is “I think” Dekart ,change to a court in which the position of creatures and their definition as well as their perception is determined.
This is what is called as “difference between subject and object “in modern philosophy; means total separation of human being because he is subject and foreign creatures are object. In the modernity cognition foreign creatures consist of everything including works of art, history, poems, even God. Anyway “ego” and its sensual saying are the most certain, actual and noble criterion of judgment about other creatures in modern time. The way human beings looks at things determines the way those things exist and paying attention to real identity of object and creatures are overlooked.
Denis Calendars considered pleasure of self-purification and refinement as highest artistic pleasure and believed structuralism painters and artist by violating this order,blocked the road of human‘s mental and social development. She said art like other affairs has its own purpose which is to release human from the limits of this world and achieved the highest rank.

Relation of tradition art and modern art

The main divergence of view of thinker about tradition, its meaning and its expectation resulted from worldview of different people, produced by their attitude toward universe and way of human ‘s living .However we can examine tradition from different point of view specially in relation to modernity .
By tradition we mean kind of relation with something beyond the nature that remind us modern era.
Modern human believed happiness is something that he can choose without any outer enforcement, no guidance from outside; and tradition means something that cannot be comprehended by human rather he should be guided toward tradition (Mohaghegh Damad, 2001:37)
In fact, traditionalist believed in intuition, mysticism and anything beyond the nature.

But the fact is, tradition and modernity stand together in every presence and areas, and cannot be divided from each other: tradition is our ethical and historical backing and traditional art is the reference of our cultural and artistic records during different ages.
If we consider traditional art, the only choice of any exaltation art and assume it absolute, we actually fun the flames of mannerisms, stop from skillful and modern thinking endeavors, and block the way of futurology and future researching .As if we assumed modernity absolute in fact we help to remove possible limitation.
Each tradition is not inhibiting and each modernity cannot be ruining. Those who block the way of innovation because of folksy and hurried defense of tradition ,are inhibiting and in return ,those who are using the name of modernity ,innovation and have no limitation and do not accept any background or backing which are considered as on destructive .
The main question is that can we make mutual understanding between present and past without even paying attention to tradition? And in return by closing our eyes and ears toward modernity , can we achieve an skillful reading of tradition in present condition that one of the necessity of us is to be the child of our time .By paying attention innovation we can keep tradition active and alive and by paying attention to tradition especially in rereading modernity and art as well as all of its form we are not afflicted with illusion .
We should have modern view toward our literature and art, and also innovate applicable expressing method in order to achieve a good relationship with our modern viewer .But this does not mean entirely to say farewell to our tradition and in point of our culture and traditional art. On the contrary we should think about making our custom and traditional‘s sign fluidly in the light of exalted contents of our culture and do not ask what we already have from others .Traditional art and literature talk about on incident which is called “love “and are disavowed from what unaware obscurantist hermits named law of “separation “. Let ‘s be lawless and adventurer with modern view.


1) Traditional art is not limited in specific time, because it has a comprehensive view toward incident and never inclined its message to special generation or era. Language of traditional art is similar to any other art . It is better to say the essence of transferring meaning in this art like other arts are fantasy images, emotion and spiritual refinement but manifestation expressions in this kind of art (the form in which concepts are presented)is different from any other arts .In traditional art time has religious backing .

2) In contrast with modern art which has specific method in choosing its viewer who are mostly belonged to particular group of society, traditional art has common acceptance and attract all the classes of society as it viewer .

3) There is collective spirit in the body of traditional art, and if particular people are discussed ,the reason is that they are as mirror holder of collective sense .

4) In traditional art human and his restless concerns have a direct effect on creating works.

5) Repetition and constantly are characteristic of traditional art in a way that seems it is created by unique essence who tried his best in growing up it .Beautiful tune of traditional art has never stopped.

6) Traditional art has applicable model and nature .It is not appeared only for auditory or visual relish .This art always help artist and his viewer in stream of sensational passing and practical beauty of everyday life.

7) In traditional art symbolism is one of the main and axial principle: but the point that could be mentioned is symbolism is in contrast to East symbolism has real allegory and in movement of symbolism which is regarded as modern movement at the beginning of 20th century in Europe in which all the symbolism were phantasmal and resulted from interrupted essence of artist from world of reality.

8) In traditional art human being is always superior to material nature and thanks to this superiority he creates something higher than nature. Nature and all it power are docile and calm for man and it is the human who always has superior dialogue with nature. But this superiority to nature does not cause any personal benefit and usage for human being and his spirit.

9) Still a modern art with essence and characteristic of archaic Islamic known works of Islamic art joined to the archaic world to satisfy minority of people. By understanding the principle of philosophy of Islamic art we can distinguish comprehending the condition of renewal and revival.

10) Traditional and modern art are not divided from each other or to be confronting rather the art which is modern today will be change into Traditional after passing time. Basically time cause creation of new form of expressing new meaning.

11) Modern art is not imitated rather it is modern thinking. Modern art would be imitated if it causes wave of art .Modern art which is originated from ourselves would be the art that will last for our future generation.


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Articles on Critising Modernity in the View of Contemporary
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4.Nasr, H. (1998). Islamic Art and Spirituality, tranlated by Ghasemian.
Tehran: Farzan Roz Press
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Nameye Farhang
6.Taghi Zade, M. (2001). Spritual basics in teaching engineering science.
Journal of Engineering Science of Science Academy of Iran.Tehran

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