The use in modernist art of images, tableaus, and single scenes is the framework upon which the genre has developed. Modernist art, ranging in chronology from approximately 1860 to the mid-20th century, reflects the uninhibitedness of artists not seen previously. Experimentation became the norm, and with this experimentation came less realism and narrative and more abstract philosophies.

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One of the important elements of modernist art is images. Images in modernist art have the importance of giving the observers and participants in the art a different way at viewing the world, especially the natural world. Instead of realistic depictions of trees and water, modernist artists used geometric shapes or abstract shapes as representations. This created a less formal, more conceptual feel to the works.

A second important element in modernist art is tableaus. Tableaus take modernist art a step further and allowed the observer to become a participant. A tableau vivant allowed people to reenact a modernist painting to help with the understanding of the piece and to allow involvement of the audience with the piece. This was done on the stage, in homes, on the street, and elsewhere.

A third important element in modernist art is single scenes. Single scenes in modernist art depict a panorama of one event or activity. A scene of people bathing or a scene of a person and his or her emotion are examples of single scene modernist art subjects. These single scene representations of the modernist art period, including painting and sculptures, give the observer a picture of the abstractness of the era.