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Art History is a specialized field of its own, and takes many years of study and practice
to be considered competent in it. There are many separate courses in Art History at the
undergraduate and graduate levels. This document is only the barest outline indicating
the major art movements in western painting; the other visual arts such as sculpture,
often are synchronous with the developments in painting.


The history of painting reaches back in time to artifacts from pre-historic humans, and
spans all cultures. The oldest known paintings are at the Grotte Chauvet in France,
claimed by some historians to be about 32,000 years old; other famous examples come
from Altamira in Spain and Lascaux in France. They are engraved and painted using
red ochre and black pigment and show horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, mammoth, or
humans often hunting. There are examples of cave paintings all over the world—in
France, India, Spain, Portugal, China, Australia etc. No one is sure what these paint-
ings had to the people who made them, but ideas include hunting magic, a depiction of
hunting and religious experiences.


Cave paintings of the CroMagnon; this example is from Las-

caux in France (about 16,000 years old)

Venus of Willendorf (Austria, limestone carving, about 24,000 to 26,000

years old)
Stonehenge (England, constructed in several stages, 8000-
1600 BC)

ANTIQUITY: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome

Ancient Egypt, a civilization with strong tradi-

tions of architecture and sculpture (both origi-
nally painted in bright colors), had many mural
paintings in temples and buildings, and painted
illustrations on papyrus manuscripts. Egyptian
wall painting and decorative painting is often
graphic, sometimes more symbolic than realis-
tic. Egyptian painting depicts figures in bold out-
line and flat silhouette, in which symmetry is a
constant characteristic. Egyptian painting has
close connection with its written language -
called Egyptian hieroglyphs. Painted symbols are
found amongst the first forms of written language. The Egyptians also painted on linen,
remnants of which survive today. Ancient Egyptian paintings survived due to the ex-
tremely dry climate. The ancient Egyptians created paintings to make the afterlife of the
deceased a pleasant place. The themes included journey through the afterworld or their
protective deities introducing the deceased to the gods of the underworld. Some exam-
ples of such paintings are paintings of the gods and goddesses Ra, Horus, Anubis, Nut,
Osiris and Isis. Some tomb paintings show activities that the deceased were involved in
when they were alive and wished to carry on doing for eternity. In the New Kingdom and
later, the Book of the Dead was buried with the entombed person. It was considered im-
portant for an introduction to the afterlife.

To the north of Egypt was the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. The wall paint-
ings found in the palace of Knossos are similar to those of the Egyptians but much more
free in style. Around 1100 B.C., tribes from the north of Greece conquered Greece and
its art took a new direction. The culture of Ancient Greece is noteworthy for its outstand-
ing contributions to the visual arts. Painting on pottery of Ancient Greece and ceramics
gives a particularly informative glimpse into the way society in Ancient Greece func-
tioned. Many fine examples of Black-figure vase painting and Red-figure vase painting
still exist. Some famous Greek painters who worked on wood panels and are mentioned
in texts are Apelles, Zeuxis and Parrhasius; however, with the single exception of the
Pitsa panels, no examples of Ancient Greek panel painting survive, only written descrip-
tions by their contemporaries or later Romans. Zeuxis lived in the 5th century BC and
was said to be the first to use sfumato. According to Pliny the Elder, the realism of his
paintings was such that birds tried to eat the painted grapes. Apelles is described as the
greatest painter of Antiquity, and is noted for perfect technique in drawing, brilliant color,
and modeling.

Roman art was influenced by Greece and can in part be taken as descendant from An-
cient Greek painting. Roman paintings contain the first examples of trompe-l'oeil,
pseudo-perspective, and pure landscape. Realistic portraits were found at the Late An-
tique cemetery of Al-Faiyum.


Egypt: King Tutʼs Golden Mask (King Tut, 1333-1324 BC)

Mesopotamia: Assyrian Winged Bull (c. 713-716 BC)

Crete: Minoan Snake Goddess (c. 1600 BC)

Greece: The Parthenon and its Sculptures (Elgin marbles) (c.

430 BC)
Greece: The Winged Victory of Samothrace (c. 220-190 BC)

Greece: The Death of Laocoøn and his Sons (160-20 BC)

Rome: Al-Faiyum, Portrait of a man (c. 125-150 AD)


The focus for art of the medieval period was the Christian religion, that of the Roman
Catholic and Byzantine (Orthodox) faiths; the various Protestant faiths would begin
much later, in the 1500s. After the decline of the western Roman Empire in the 400s,
there was the simultaneous rise of medieval Christianity in the 500s. While the western
portion of the Roman Empire declined with the rise of the barbarians, the eastern center
of the Roman Empire in Byzantine Constantinople, Turkey, would remain intact, until the
rise of Islam conquered it.

In western Europe under the Roman Catholics, the first distinctive artistic style to
emerge that included painting was the art of the British Isles, where the only surviving
examples are miniatures in illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells; on main-
land Europe, Carolingian and Ottonian art also survives. These are most famous for
their abstract decoration, although figures of saints, and sometimes scenes, were also
depicted. The art of this period combines insular and "barbarian" influences with a
strong Byzantine influence and an aspiration to recover classical monumentality and

Byzantine art, once its style was established by the 6th century, placed great emphasis
on retaining traditional iconography and style, and has changed relatively little through
the thousand years of the Byzantine Empire and the continuing traditions of Greek and
Russian Orthodox icon-painting up to today. Byzantine painting has a particularly hiera-
tic feeling and icons were and still are seen as a reflection of the divine. In general Byz-
antium art borders on abstraction, in its flatness and highly stylized depictions of figures
and landscape.

In western Europe of the medieval period, the walls of Romanesque and Gothic
churches were decorated with frescoes as well as sculpture and many of the few re-
maining murals have great intensity, and combine the decorative energy of Insular art
with a new monumentality in the treatment of figures. Far more miniatures in Illuminated
manuscripts survive from the period, showing the same characteristics, which continue
into the Gothic period.

Towards the middle of the 13th century, Medieval art and Gothic painting became more
realistic, with the beginnings of interest in the depiction of volume and perspective in It-
aly with Cimabue and then his pupil Giotto. They are considered to be the two great
medieval masters of painting in western culture. Cimabue, within the Byzantine tradition,
used a more realistic and dramatic approach to his art. His pupil, Giotto, took these in-
novations to a higher level which in turn set the foundations for the western painting tra-
dition in the Renaissance.

Churches were built with more and more windows and the use of colorful stained glass
become a staple in decoration in cathedrals. By the 14th century Western societies
were both richer and more cultivated and painters found new patrons in the nobility and
even the bourgeoisie. Illuminated manuscripts took on a new character and slim, fash-
ionably dressed court women were shown in their landscapes. This style soon became
known as the International style and tempera panel paintings and altarpieces gained


Byzantine: Icon of Christ Pantocrator (“Christ, Ruler of All”) (c. AD 500-

Insular: Lindisfarne Gospels (c. AD 650-750)

Insular: Book of Kells (c. AD 800)

Romanesque: Church of St. Foy, Conques, France (c. AD 1000-1100)

Romanesque: Verdun Altar (c. AD 1100)

Gothic: Chartres Cathedral (c. AD 1200)

Gothic: Unicorn Tapestries (AD 1495-1505)

International Style: Tres Riches Heures (“The Very Rich Hours”) (c.
AD 1410)

Giotto: Scrovegni or Arena Chapel, “Lamentation” (AD 1305-

RENAISSANCE (1400-1600)

The Renaissance (French for 'rebirth'), a cultural movement roughly spanning the 14th
through the mid 17th century, heralded the study of classical sources, as well as ad-
vances in science which profoundly influenced European intellectual and artistic life. In
Italy artists like Paolo Uccello, Fra Angelico, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Andrea
Mantegna, Filippo Lippi, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelan-
gelo, Raphael, Bellini and Titian took painting to a higher level through the use of per-
spective, the study of human anatomy and proportion, and through their development of
an unprecedented refinement in drawing and painting techniques.

The northern Flemish, Dutch and German painters of the Renaissance such as Hans
Holbein the Younger, Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Grünewald, Bosch, and Brueghel represent
a different approach from their southern Italian colleagues, one that is more realistic and
less idealized. The adoption of oil painting whose invention was traditionally, but errone-
ously, credited to Van Eyck, (an important transitional figure who bridges painting in the
Middle Ages with painting of the early Renaissance), made possible a new verisimilitude
in depicting reality. Unlike the Italians, whose work drew heavily from the art of Ancient
Greece and Rome, the northerners retained a stylistic residue of the sculpture and illu-
minated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

Renaissance painting reflects the revolution of ideas and science (astronomy, geogra-
phy) that occurred in this period, the Reformation, and the invention of the printing
press. Dürer, considered one of the greatest of printmakers, states that painters are not
mere artisans but thinkers as well. With the development of easel painting in the Ren-
aissance, painting gained independence from architecture. Following centuries domi-
nated by religious imagery, secular subject matter slowly returned to Western painting.
Artists included visions of the world around them, or the products of their own imagina-
tions in their paintings. Those who could afford the expense could become patrons and
commission portraits of themselves or their family. In the 16th century, movable pictures
which could be hung easily on walls, rather than paintings affixed to permanent struc-
tures, came into popular demand .


Masaccio, “Expulsion of Adam and Eve” (1425-1480)

Ghiberti, “Gates of Paradise” (Florentine Baptistery) (1404-1424)

della Francesca, “The Flagellation of Christ” (c. 1470)

Mantegna, Ceiling Oculus (c. 1474)

Botticelli, “The Birth of Venus” (c. 1482-1486)

Leonardo de Vinci, “Mona Lisa” (c. 1503-1506)

Raphael, “School of Athens” (c. 1509-


Palladio, Palazzo Chiericati (c. 1550-1680)

Giorgione, “Tempest” (c. 1508)

Titian, “Rape of Europa” (1562)

Michaelangelo, “David” (1504)

Campin, “Mérode Altarpiece” (c. 1425)

van Eyck, “The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna

Cenami” (1434)
van der Weyden, “Descent from the Cross” (c. 1435)

Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (c. 1505-1515) (detail


Breughel the Elder, “The Tower of Babel” (1563)

Hans Holbein the Younger, “Portrait of Sir Thomas More” (1527)

Mathias Grünewald, “The Isenheim Altarpiece” (c.

Albrecht Dürer, “Self-Portrait” (1500)

MANNERISM (1520-1600)

The High Renaissance gave rise to a stylized art known as Mannerism. In place of the
balanced compositions and rational approach to perspective that characterized art at
the dawn of the sixteenth century, the Mannerists sought instability, artifice, and doubt.
The unperturbed faces and gestures of Piero della Francesca and the calm Virgins of
Raphael are replaced by the troubled expressions of Pontormo
and the emotional intensity of El Greco. Mannerism is a period
of European painting, sculpture, architecture and decorative
arts lasting from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance
around 1520 until the arrival of the Baroque around 1600.
Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well
as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities. The defini-
tion of Mannerism, and the phases within it, continue to be the
subject of debate among art historians.


Pontormo “The Deposition from the Cross” (1528)

Bronzino, “Eleanor of Toledo” (1544-45)

Parmigianino, “Madonna with the Long Neck” (1534-40)

Veronese, “The Feast in the House

of Levi” (1573)

Tintoretto, “Paradise” (1587-1590)

El Greco, “Burial of the Count of Orgaz” (1586-1588)

Fiorentino, “Deposition” (1521)

Cellini, “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” (1545-1554)

BAROQUE (1600-1750)

During the period beginning around 1600 and continuing throughout the 17th century,
painting is characterized as Baroque. The original meaning of "baroque" is "irregular
pearl", a strikingly fitting characterization of the architecture of this period; later, the
name came to be applied also to its music. Baroque painting often dramatizes scenes
using chiaroscuro light effects; this can be seen in works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Among the greatest painters of the Baroque are Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, Ve-
lazquez, Poussin, and Vermeer. Caravaggio is an heir of the humanist painting of the
High Renaissance. His realistic approach to the human figure, painted directly from life
and dramatically spotlit against a dark background, shocked his contemporaries and
opened a new chapter in the history of painting.The Flemish painter Antony Van Dyck
developed a graceful but imposing portrait style that was very influential, especially in
England. Large numbers of painters specialized in certain genres: scenes, landscapes,
still-lifes, portraits or history paintings, a repertoire of subjects that was very influential
until the arrival of Modernism. Baroque music describes an era and a set of styles of
European classical music which were in widespread
use between approximately 1600 and 1750. This era is
said to begin in music after the Renaissance and was
followed by the Classical music era. Baroque music
forms a major portion of the classical music canon, be-
ing widely studied, performed, and listened to. It is as-
sociated with composers such as Monteverdi, Vivaldi,
Handel, and Bach.


Caravaggio, “The Calling of St. Matthew” (1599-1600)

Bernini, “Saint Theresa in Ecstasy” (1647-1652)

Peter Paul Rubens, “Adoration of the Magi” (1624)

Vermeer, “Girl With a Pearl Earring” (c. 1665)

Velázquez, “Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor)”


Rembrandt, “Return of the Prodigal Son” (1662)

Pierre Puget, “Milo of Crotona” (1672-82)

Nicholas Poussin, “The Triumph of Pan” (1636)

van Dyck (or Van Dyke), “King Charles I” (c. 1635)

ROCOCO (1715-1785)

During the 18th century, Rococo followed as a lighter extension of Baroque, often frivo-
lous and erotic. Jean-Antoine Watteau is generally considered the first great Rococo
painter. He had a great influence on later painters, including Boucher and Fragonard,
two masters of the late period. Portraiture was an important component of painting in all
countries, but especially in England, where the leaders were William Hogarth in a blunt
realist style, and Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds in more flattering styles
influenced by Van Dyck. Rococo is also a style of 18th century French art and interior
design. Rococo style rooms were designed as total works of art with elegant and ornate
furniture, small sculptures, ornamental mirrors, and tapestry complementing architec-
ture, reliefs, and wall paintings. It was largely supplanted by the Neoclassic style. The
Galante Style was the equivalent of Ro-
coco in music history, too, between Ba-
roque and Classical, and it is not easy to
define in words. The rococo music style
itself developed out of baroque music,
particularly in France. It can be character-
ized as intimate music with extremely re-
fined decoration forms. Exemplars include
Rameau and Daquin.


Watteau, “Pilgrimage to Cythera” (1721)

Boucher, “The Breakfast” (1739)

Fragonard ,“The Swing” (1767)

Falconet, “Menacing Cupid” (1750s)

Hogarth, “The Rakeʼs Progress” (1735)

Gainsborough, “The Blue Boy” (1770)

Chippendale, Ribbonback chairs (c. 1750)

NEOCLASSICISM (1765-1900; revivals continue to the present)

After Rococo there arose in the late 18th century, in architecture, and then in painting
severe neo-classicism, best represented by such artists as David and Ingres. Ingres'
work already contains much of the sensuality, but none of the spontaneity, that was to
characterize Romanticism. Rococo frivolous and superficial, but neoclassicism serious,
order, moral commitment, educational- spread knowledge and enlightenment, art of
frecnh revolution and naziism- stiff artistic conservatism

Neoclassicism is the name given to quite distinct movements in the decorative and vis-
ual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw upon Western classical art
and culture (usually that of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome). These movements were
dominant during the mid 18th to the end of the 19th century.

In the visual arts the European movement called "neoclassicism" began after 1765, as a
reaction against both the surviving Baroque and Rococo styles, and as a desire to re-
turn to the perceived "purity" of the arts of Rome, the more vague perception ("ideal") of
Ancient Greek arts (where almost no western artist had actually been) and, to a lesser
extent, 16th century Renaissance Classicism.

Contrasting with the Baroque and the Rococo, Neo-classical paintings are devoid of
pastel colors and haziness; instead, they have sharp colors with Chiaroscuro. In the
case of Neo-classicism in France, a prime example is Jacques Louis David whose
paintings often use Greek elements to extol the French Revolution's virtues (state be-
fore family).

The high tide of neoclassicism in paint-

ing is exemplified in early paintings by
Jacques-Louis David and Jean Auguste
Dominique Ingres' entire career.
David's “Oath of the Horatii” was
painted in Rome and made a splash at
the Paris Salon of 1785. Its central per-
spective is perpendicular to the picture
plane, made more emphatic by the dim
arcade behind, against which the heroic
figures are disposed as in a frieze, with
a hint of the artificial lighting and stag-
ing of opera, and the classical coloring
of Nicholas Poussin. In sculpture, the
most familiar representatives are the
Italian Antonio Canova, the Englishman John Flaxman and the Dane Bertel Thorvald-

From about 1800 a fresh influx of Greek architectural examples, seen through the me-
dium of etchings and engravings, gave a new impetus to neoclassicism that is called the
Greek Revival. Many of the buildings in Washington, D.C., are neoclassical Greek Re-
vival in style. In American architecture, neoclassicism was one expression of the Ameri-
can Renaissance movement, ca 1880-1917. The Montana State Capitol, constructed of
Montana sandstone and granite, is derived from Greek neoclassical architecture, and is
listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The last manifestation of neoclassical
influence was in Beaux-Arts architecture, and its very last, large public projects were the
Lincoln Memorial, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the American Museum
of Natural History's Roosevelt Memorial. In some rare cases buildings in the United
States, are still being built in neoclassical style today, is usually now classed under the
umbrella term of "traditional architecture.”


David, “Oath of the Horatii” (1784) (see above)

Wedgewood, Wedgewood blue plate (c. 1760-1790)

Canova, “Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Vic-

trix" (1805-1808)

Ingres, “Apotheosis of Homer”

Copley, “Paul Revere” (1770)

Stuart “George Washington” (1796, unfinished)

ROMANTICISM (1790-1900; actually continues today)

Romanticism was in opposition to neoclassicism. Romanticism elevated emotion and

intuition to an equal status with reason; it held that some experiences are beyond the
rational mind, and that the individual and subjectivity are vital.

Romanticism is a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in

the second half of the 18th century in Western Europe, and gained strength during the
Industrial Revolution. It was partly a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms
of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of na-
ture, and was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature. This
movement turned its attention toward landscape and nature as well as the human figure
and the supremacy of natural order above mankind's will. There is a pantheist philoso-
phy within this conception that opposes Enlightenment ideals by seeing mankind's des-
tiny in a more tragic or pessimistic light. The idea that human beings are not above the
forces of Nature is in contradiction to Ancient Greek and Renaissance ideals where
mankind was above all things and owned his fate. This thinking led romantic artists to
depict the sublime, ruined churches, shipwrecks, massacres and madness.

The movement stressed strong emotion as a source of aesthetic experience, placing

new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror, and the awe experienced in con-
fronting the sublimity in untamed nature and its qualities that are "picturesque", both
new aesthetic categories. It elevated folk art and custom, as well as arguing for a "natu-
ral" epistemology of human activities as conditioned by nature in the form of language,
custom and usage. In visual art and literature, Romanticism found recurrent themes in
the evocation or criticism of the past, the cult of "sensibility" with its emphasis on women
and children, the heroic isolation of the artist or narrator, and respect for a new, wilder,
untrammeled and "pure" nature. Furthermore, several romantic authors, such as Edgar
Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, based their writings on the supernatural/occult and
human psychology. Romantic period in music is typified by the works of Beethoven,
Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Berlioz, Wagner, Paganini, Liszt, Mendelssohn.

Romantic painters turned landscape painting into a major genre, considered until then
as a minor genre or as a decorative background for figure compositions. Some of the
major painters of this period are Delacroix, Géricault, and Turner. The poet and painter
William Blake is the most extreme example of the Romantic sensibility in Britain, epito-
mized by his claim “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's.” Blake's
artistic work is also strongly influenced by Medieval illuminated books. The painters J.
M. W. Turner and John Constable are also generally associated with Romanticism.
Francisco de Goya's late work demonstrates the Romantic interest in the irrational.

The Barbizon School painters were part of a movement towards realism in art which
arose in the context of the dominant Romantic Movement of the time.The leading Barbi-
zon School painter Camille Corot painted in both a romantic and a realistic vein; his
work prefigures Impressionism, as does the paintings of Eugène Boudin who was one
of the first French landscape painters to paint outdoors. Boudin was also an important
influence on the young Claude Monet, whom in 1857 he introduced to Plein air painting.
A major force in the turn towards Realism at mid-century was Gustave Courbet. Corot
was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century,
along with Millet. Corot is a pivotal figure in landscape painting: His work simultaneously
references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Im-

Romanticism in American visual arts, most especially in the exaltation of untamed Amer-
ica, is found in the paintings of the Hudson River School. Painters like Thomas Cole,
Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church and Thomas Moran often combined a sense of
the sublime with underlying religious and philosophical themes.

It also exerted influence on painters who were not primarily impressionistic in theory, like
the portrait and landscape painter John Singer Sargent and the paintings of Aesthetic
movement artist James McNeill Whistler. At the same time in America at the turn of the
century there existed a native and nearly insular realism, as richly embodied in the figu-
rative work of Thomas Eakins, the Ashcan School, and the landscapes and seascapes
of Winslow Homer, all of whose paintings were deeply invested in the solidity of natural
forms. The visionary landscape, a motive largely dependent on the ambiguity of the
nocturne could be seen in the work of Ralph Blakelock.

Blake, “The Ancient of Days (God as an Architect)” (1794)

Turner, “The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last

berth to be broken up” (1839)

Delacroix, “Liberty Leading the People” (1830)

Géricault, “Raft of the Medusa” (1819)

Goya, “The Third of May, 1808” (1814)

Cole, “The View from Mount Holyoke” or “The Ox-

bow” (1836)

Church, “Heart of the Andes” (1859)

Bierstadt, “Storm in the Rocky Mountains”

Moran, “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone”

Blakelock, “Moonlight” (1885)

Corot, “Villa DʼAvray” (1867)

Millet, “The Gleaners” (1857)

Boudin, “Bathers on the Beach at Trouville” (1869)

Whistler, “Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artistʼs

Mother;” better known as “Whistlerʼs Mother” (1871)

Eakins, “The Gross Clinic” (1876)

Homer, “The Herring Net” (1885)

Sargent, “Self Portrait” (1906)

Wyeth, “Christinaʼs World” (1948)


Impressionism is possibly the most popular painting style of most people in the 20th
century. Poetry of the land and mankind was the classic subject matter of Impression-
ism, along with Plein-air techniques (painting outdoors instead of studio), inspiration
from Japanese prints, and a feeling of rebellion. Impressionism came into being along-
side photography, and the impact of science and color theory. It really was born as a
reaction to the power of the French Academy, which focused on realism, romanticism,
and neoclassicism. In 1863, the Academy
refused to exhibit paintings by maverick art-
ists like Courbet, Manet, and Monet, who
went on to create an exhibition of their own
that year. The name of the movement is de-
rived from the title of a Claude Monet work,
“Impression, Sunrise” (Impression, soleil
levant) (Left), which provoked the critic
Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satiric re-
view published in Le Charivari.

In the latter third of the century Impression-

ists like Édouard Manet, Claude Monet,
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro,
Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and Edgar Degas worked in a more direct
approach than had previously been exhibited publicly. They eschewed allegory and nar-
rative in favor of individualized responses to the modern world, sometimes painted with
little or no preparatory study, relying on deftness of drawing and a highly chromatic pal-
lette. Manet, Degas, Renoir, Morisot, and Cassatt concentrated primarily on the human
subject. Both Manet and Degas reinterpreted classical figurative canons within contem-
porary situations; in Manet's case the re-imaginings met with hostile public reception.
Renoir, Morisot, and Cassatt turned to domestic life for inspiration, with Renoir focusing
on the female nude. Monet, Pissarro, and Sisley used the landscape as their primary
motif, the transience of light and weather playing a major role in their work. Characteris-
tics of Impressionist painting include visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis
on light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time),
ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human per-
ception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

Musical Impressionism is the name given to a movement in European classical music

that arose in the late 19th century and continued into the middle of the 20th century. Im-
pressionist composers favored short forms such as the nocturne, arabesque, and prel-
ude, and often explored uncommon scales such as the whole tone scale. Claude De-
bussy and Maurice Ravel are generally considered the greatest Impressionist compos-


Manet, “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere” (1882)

Renoir, “Luncheon of the Boating Party” (1880-

Cassatt, “The Childʼs Bath” (1893)

Cézanne, “Jas de Bouffan” (1876)

Degas, “The Dance Class” (1873-1876)

Monet, “Impression, Sunrise” (1872-1873) (see above, in text)

Pissarro, “The Garden of Pontoise” (1875)

Sisley, “Sand Heaps” (1875)


Post-Impressionism is the term coined by the British artist and art critic Roger Fry in
1910, to describe the development of European art from Manet up to about World War I.

While Sisley most closely adhered to the original principals of the impressionist percep-
tion of the landscape, Monet sought challenges in increasingly chromatic and change-
able conditions, culminating in series of monumental works, and Pissarro adopted some
of the experiments of Post-Impressionism. Slightly younger Post-Impressionists like
Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Georges Seurat, along with Paul Cezanne led art
to the edge of modernism; for Gauguin impressionism gave way to a personal symbol-
ism; Seurat transformed impressionism's broken color into a scientific optical study,
structured on frieze-like compositions; Van Gogh's turbulent method of paint application,
coupled with a sonorous use of color, predicted Expressionism and Fauvism, and
Cézanne, desiring to unite classical composition with a revolutionary abstraction of
natural forms, would come to be seen as a precursor of 20th century art.

Although they often exhibited together, Post-Impressionist artists were not in agreement
concerning a cohesive movement. Younger painters during the 1890s and early 20th
century worked in geographically disparate regions and in various stylistic categories,
such as Fauvism and Cubism. by the way, Art Nouveau was 1890-1914!

Post-Impressionism is a term best used within Rewald's definition in a strictly historical

manner, concentrating on French art between 1886 and 1914, and re-considering the
altered positions of impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Auguste
Renoir, and others - as well as all new brands at the turn of the century: from Cloison-
nism to Cubism. The declarations of war, in July/August 1914, indicate probably far
more than the beginning of a World War - they signal a major break in European cultural
history, too.


Seurat, “Sunday Afternoon on the Island

of La Grande Jatte” (1884-1886)

Van Gogh, “The Starry Night” (1889)

Gauguin, “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” (1897)

Rousseau, “The Sleeping Gypsy” (1897)

Toulouse-Lautrec, “At the Moulin Rouge”

Cezanne, “Road Before the Mountains,
Sainte-Victoire” (1898-1902)

Art Nouveau: Beardsley, “The Peacock Skirt”



Modernism is a specific movement of art during the first part of the 20th century; it is not
the same as “contemporary art.” The heritage of painters like Van Gogh, Cézanne,
Gauguin, and Seurat was essential for the development of modern art. At the beginning
of the 20th century Henri Matisse and several other young artists including the pre-
cubist Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy and Maurice de Vlaminck revolution-
ized the Paris art world with "wild", multi-colored, expressive, landscapes and figure
paintings that the critics called Fauvism (fauve = “beast”). Henri Matisse's second ver-
sion of The Dance signifies a key point in his career and in the development of modern
painting. It reflects Matisse's incipient fascination with primitive art: the intense warm
colors against the cool blue-green background and the rhythmical succession of danc-
ing nudes convey the feelings of emotional liberation and hedonism. Pablo Picasso
made his first cubist paintings based on Cézanne's idea that all depiction of nature can
be reduced to three solids: cube, sphere and cone.
With the painting “Les Demoiselles d'Avignon”
(1907) (Left), Picasso dramatically created a
new and radical picture depicting a raw and
primitive brothel scene with five prostitutes, vio-
lently painted women, reminiscent of African
tribal masks and his own new Cubist inven-

During the years between 1910 and the end of

World War I and after the heyday of cubism,
several movements emerged in Paris. Giorgio
De Chirico moved to Paris in July 1911, where
he joined his brother Andrea (the poet and
painter known as Alberto Savinio). Through his
brother he met Pierre Laprade a member of the
jury at the Salon dʼAutomne, where he exhib-
ited three of his dreamlike works: Enigma of
the Oracle, Enigma of an Afternoon and Self-Portrait. During 1913 he exhibited his work
at the Salon des Indépendants and Salon dʼAutomne, his work was noticed by Pablo
Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire and several others. His compelling and mysterious
paintings are considered instrumental to the early beginnings of Surrealism. Song of
Love 1914) is one of the most famous works by de Chirico and is an early example of
the surrealist style, though it was painted ten years before the movement was “founded”
by André Breton in 1924 (see gallery).

Other important movements often grouped with Modernism include Futurism, Abstract
art, Der Blaue Reiter, Bauhaus, Orphism, Synchromism, De Stijl, Suprematism, Con-
structivism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. Modern painting influenced all the visual arts,
from Modernist architecture and design, to avant-garde film, theatre and modern dance
and became an experimental laboratory for the expression of visual experience, from
photography and concrete poetry to advertising art and fashion.

Van Gogh's painting exerted great influence upon 20th century Expressionism, as can
be seen in the work of the Fauves, Die Brücke (a group led by German painter Ernst
Kirchner), and the Expressionism of Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, Marc Chagall, Ame-
deo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and others..


Picasso, “Les Demoiselles dʼAvignon” (1907) (Above)

Chagall, “I and the Village” (1911)

Munch, “The Scream” (1893)

Modigliani, “Jeanne Hebuterne in Red Shawl” (c. 1917)

Kandinsky, “Composition VII” (1913)

Klee, “Head of Man, Going Senile” (c. 1922)

Mondrian, “Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow” (1930)

Duchamp, “Nude Descending a Staircase” (1912)

Matisse, “La Danse” (1909)

De Chirico, “The Red Tower” (1913)

Miró, “The Tilled Field” (1923-1924)

Magritte, “This is Not a Pipe” (1929)

Dalí, “The Persistence of Memory” (1931)

Ernst, “L'Ange du Foyer” (1937)


Abstract expressionism was an American post–World War II art movement. It was the
first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence and also the one
that put New York City at the center of the art world, a role formerly filled by Paris.
Although the term "abstract expressionism" was first applied to American art in 1946 by
the art critic Robert Coates, it had been first used in Germany in 1919 in the magazine
Der Sturm, regarding German Expressionism. In the USA, Alfred Barr was the first to
use this term in 1929 in relation to works by Wassily Kandinsky (see Post-
Impressionists, above).

The movement's name is derived from the combination of the emotional intensity and
self-denial of the German Expressionists with the anti-figurative aesthetic of the Euro-
pean abstract schools such as Futurism, the Bauhaus and Synthetic Cubism. Addition-
ally, it has an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel,
rather nihilistic. In practice, the term is applied to any number of artists working (mostly)
in New York who had quite different styles, and even applied to work which is not espe-
cially abstract nor expressionist. In the post World War II era, De Kooning painted in a
style that came to be referred to variously as Abstract expressionism, Action painting,
and the New York School. Other painters that developed this school of painting include
Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Robert
Motherwell, Philip Guston and Clyfford Still among others.

Pollock's energetic "action paintings", with their "busy" feel, are different both technically
and aesthetically, to the violent and grotesque Women series of Willem de Kooning
(which are figurative paintings) and to the rectangles of color in Mark Rothko's, Color
Field paintings (which is not what would usually be called expressionist and which
Rothko denied was abstract), yet all three are classified as abstract expressionists.
While the movement is closely associated with painting, and painters like Arshile Gorky,
Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and others, sculpture
and certain sculptors in particular were also integral to Abstract expressionism.[5] David
Smith, and his wife Dorothy Dehner, Isamu Noguchi, Ibram Lassaw, Theodore Roszak,
Phillip Pavia, Mary Callery, Richard Stankiewicz, Louise Bourgeois, and Louise Nevel-
son in particular were some of the sculptors considered as being important members of
the movement.

The abstract expressionists abandoned the idea that painting is a picture window look-
ing into the real world. To these artists and others who followed them, three-dimensional
effects in painting were sheer illusion. A painting to them was a flat surface with paint on
it, an object to be appreciated for its own sake. The subject matter of these paintings is
not a realistic image, as in a portrait or still life. The subject matter is color or line or tex-
ture, or the relationships among these elements. The artists use color or line to translate
their emotions on canvas, stressing risk and unpredictability, thus capturing the mood
and rhythm of contemporary life.

Pollock, “Lavender Mist” (detail) (1950)

De Kooning, “Woman V” (1952-1953)

Rothko, “Magenta, Black, Green on Orange” (1947)

Gorky, “Portrait of Master Bill” (1929-1936)

Motherwell, “Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57”


Hofmann, “The Gate” (1959-1960)

Kline, “Painting Number 2” (1954)


The thinned paint used by Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis gives a flat look to the
canvas, so that the unprimed cotton duck itself became part of the composition and en-
hanced the feeling of flat veils of color. the lack of brushstroke was a way of reacting to
the thick gestures of paint favored by abstract expressionists. The painting becomes a
field of color, occupying the whole surface of the canvas. Artists include Helen Franken-
thaler, and Morris Louis.


Frankenthaler, “Mountains and Sea” (1952)

Louis, “Where” (1960)


These preconceived paintings, often geometric and abstract, explore the relationships
between color and form and are a reaction to the spontaneous brushwork of the ab-
stract expressionists. These paintings vary from the pared-down oddly shaped cna-
vases of Ellsworth Kelly to the more decorative metal reliefs of Frank Stella.


Kelly, “Colors for a Large Wall” (1951)

Stella, “The Science of Laziness” (1984)


A distancing or cool detachment characterizes the worls of the minimalists as well as

those of the pop artists. Pop art was a reaction against abstract painting and emerged in
the late 1950s and early 1960s, celebrating postwar consumerism. These artists de-
picted realistic subject matter, most notably common objects, with irony and wit. Just as
the impressionists recorded street life in turn-of-the-century Paris, the pop artists pro-
vided an instant chronicle of what mattered most to people in the 1960s-1970s. Artists
included Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg,
James Rosenquist, Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol, and Tom Wesselmann.


Johns, “Flag” (1954-1955)

Lichtenstein, “Drowning Girl” (1963)

Oldenburg, “Typewriter Eraser” (1999)

Rauschenberg, “Untitled, combine” (1963)

Rosenquist, “President Elect” (1960-1961)

Thiebaud, “Cakes” (1963)

Warhol, “Marilyn” (1967)

Wesselmann, “Still Life #20” (1962)


These artists were primarily concerned with colorful geometric patterns to create optical
illusions, they concentrated on precise color relationships, which produce surprising ki-
netic effects. Artist Richard Anuszkiewicz is an example.

Anuszkiewicz, “Temple of the Radiant Yellow” (1985)


The younger generation of artists in the 1980s explored all areas from abstract to realis-
tic, intellectual to emotional paintings. Their concerns went from stylistically crude, funky
paintings to almost childlike, naive images, often with private or personal references.
They were reacting against the glorification of pop culture. Artists include Jennifer
Bartlett, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Donald Sultan.

Bartlett, “Houses” (2005)

Basquiat, “Untitled (Skull)” (1981)


Today, contemporary art is characterized by the idea of pluralism. The "crisis" in painting
and current art and current art criticism today is brought about by pluralism. There is no
consensus as to a representative style of today. “There is an anything goes attitude that
prevails; an "everything going on", and consequently "nothing going on" syndrome; this
creates an aesthetic traffic jam with no firm and clear direction and with every lane on
the artistic superhighway filled to capacity. Many important works of art continue to be
made; it remains to be seen in future centuries what will be considered the important art
being made today.

Such trends in contemporary art include: hard-edge painting, geometric abstraction, ap-
propriation, hyperrealism, photorealism, expressionism, minimalism, lyrical abstraction,
pop art, op art, abstract expressionism, color field painting, monochrome painting, neo-
expressionism, collage, intermedia painting, assemblage painting, computer art paint-
ing, postmodern painting, neo-Dada painting, shaped canvas painting, environmental
mural painting, Graffiti, traditional figure painting, landscape painting, portrait painting.
Other important visual art trends at this time include environmental/land art, site specific
art, installations, video and media, and anime/manga.

Instead of giving you examples of contemporary art trends, be sure and check
out the videos on YouTube from Art 21 (
Take the time to watch at least 5 of the short videos; there are 78 or so videos to
choose from.


The Painterʼs Eye: Learning to Look at Contemporary American Art, by Jan Greenberg
and Sandra Jordan

Metropolitan Museum of Artʼs Timeline of Art History


Art for Dummies by Thomas Hoving and Andrew Wyeth

Art: The World's Greatest Paintings Explored and Explained (Hardcover) by Robert

Art Explained (Annotated Guides) by Robert Cumming

The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-
Modern (Paperback) by Carol Strickland