An innovative set of Western artistic, cultural, and spiritual precepts evolved during the start of the modernistic period (1880-1920), based on the new urban, industrial, and secular order. Modernist artists abandoned historical subject matter and Renaissance illusionism, the convincing depiction of nature, in favor of portraying contemporary events and experimental representations. The decline of aristocratic, church, and state patronage in the nineteenth century meant artists were no longer beholden to those powers and their values. In the new fledgling capitalist art market, where the probability of sales remained small, artists were freer to experiment with appearance and content, and even to ridicule the ruling powers. Aesthetic formalism, emphasizing form over content, emerged in part from an ecumenical belief that pure forms could transcend differences implicit in content and become as important as subject matter. Modernists also believed that these forms contained inherent meanings that could be read by viewers. The positivist belief in progress was applied to art and photography, as new styles were continually promoted on the heels of others.