Classical Modernism evolved within the atmosphere of tension generated by the dichotomy between figurative and non-figurative art, realistic portrayal and abstraction. Changing perceptions of society brought in their wake new perceptions of form, space, light, time and movement.
In France, Matisse created images of peerless harmony born of his enthusiasm of colour, while Braque and Picasso broke the mould of conventional concepts of form. Delaunay combined form and colour in a way that influenced the painters of the Blauer Reiter group. Whereas such new movements as Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism still retained certain figurative elements. Kandinsky was the first to take the radical step to pure abstraction. For Klee, on the other hand, abstract forms were a source of inspiration for his highly imaginative creative approach.
Painting as a vehicle of personal expression was taken to new heights by Chagall, Modigliani, Kirchner and Beckmann. The surrealists Dalí, Megritte, Max Ernst and Miró plumbed the depths of the subconscious in their works. In Russia and the Netherlands, Malevich and Mondrian sought to ban all that was personal from the new visual world they created , using strictly geometric f forms of abstraction.