11/11/2013 06:00 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:56 EST

AGO's The Great Upheaval explores key art from 1910-1918

In the years leading up to and encompassing the First World War, Europe was swept up in massive societal, political, technological and scientific change — which left an indelible imprint on the artistic community.

Infused with the excitement, exhilaration and uneasiness of the era, artists from Pablo Picasso to Vasily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall to Piet Mondrian and many others defied convention and forged fresh paths, creating new artistic movements and modes of expression.

"It's almost unimaginable how radically people's lives were [changed] in just a few years. The artists were trying to absorb these new realities," said David Wistow, an interpretive planner and art history expert with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Because of the drastic improvements in communications and transportation, for instance, "artists of the time were working across Europe, working collaboratively... You could telephone someone for the first time. You could hop on a train. There was was an interconnectedness," he said.

"There was a new, heightened level of exchange among these artists. As they increasingly wanted to innovate and develop pioneering new ways of making art, they were doing it with the help of each other."

In the upcoming show The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918, the Art Gallery of Ontario takes a closer, chronological look at watershed artworks from this tumultuous wartime period.

In the gallery above, Wistow highlights five works that demonstrate how artists reflected and incorporated the changing, dynamic, full-throttle world in their canvases.

The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918 runs Nov. 30 to March 2 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.