Looking at modern art can often be challenging. It always raises questions, even amongst the most knowledgeable viewers: What is an abstract painting “of”? How do you determine if something is “good”? A close look at the history of modern art, dating from roughly 1870 through 1950, demonstrates that the changes that occurred, chiefly that art became more abstract, were not arbitrary but rather developed along deliberate paths. Artists were not working in a vacuum but were responding to changes in technology like the development of photography, cultural moments like the industrial revolution and WWI and WWII, as well as the artists and movements that preceded them. Using works from VMFA’s collection, this chronological telling of important moments in modern art provides the context in which to answer questions like those above.