Something I've been thinking about lately, what makes a painting look modern? And by modern I mean painted after 1940's or so, at least that is my own artificial cut-off.
Now let me state right away, there's nothing wrong with modern looking paintings and nothing wrong with wanting to imitate the old masters either. But I'm interested in this question because I noticed that I, and think most other painters, can tell if something was painted recently or not. Why?
I've read many guesses.. one points to the pigments currently available. They are much more powerful and very finely and uniformly milled that you end up with a different look to a painting. It's a convincing answer, except that when a painter limits themselves to only historical pigments you can still tell the painting is modern.
Another theory is that, at least in portraiture, the hair, makeup and clothing will tip you off almost subconsciously. Or even that older style of clothing lends itself to a more refined look. However, there is plenty of modern paintings that prove that that's not necessarily true either.
Another guess is the skill and quality of art education today... I'm not going to get into that, haha. I am of opinion that current ateliers are pretty good but feel free to disagree. Yet another guess is that modern day painting favors a direct workflow, alla prima etc, so you do not see the same paint application.
The last theory that I've read yesterday, which I thought was quiet interesting, is that the 'camera aesthetic' is bleeding into everything. Even when a painter does not use photography they tend to subconsciously compose and see like a camera and when your brain is judging a 'successful image' it tends to favor imagery similar to what you see every day.
What do you think, what sounds the most plausible to you? Do you have a theory of your own?