Art History (A Brief Time Line)

The HISTORY OF ART is of course, as old as man.  As long as there was man, there was somebody who wanted to draw and paint.  You are part of a 27,000 year old tradition of expressing your ideas.  It is important to study Art History, even briefly, so that you can get better ideas for your own work.

Like all histories, Art History is written by the victors… where all the money is… so for Art it is rather European centric.  It does not mean that there was not Art being done in other countries; because there was.  We refer to those arts as Folk Art, Regional Art and Native Art.  However, in order to know and understand your Art, this is the Art History that you should understand.
Stone Age (30,000 – 2500 BC)  This includes Cave Painting, fertility goddess sculptures and the creation of megalithic structures such as Stonehenge.  This is a fascinating time as it was the beginning of our known civilization yet we know so little about it.
Google: Lascaux Cave Paintings, Woman of Willendorf, Stonehenge….
Mesopotamian (3500 – 539 BC)  This revolves around the Sumerians civilization (pre-Egyptian) that roamed over most of Europe and the Middle East.  They were obsessed with war and knowledge.  Sumerian’s invented the  basis of writing (3400 BC)and Hammurabi write a law code (1780 BC) that is the base of our civilization.
Google: Standard of Ur, Gate of Ishtar, Stele of Hammurabi’s Code.
 Egyptian (3100 – 30 BC) The Egyptians were super cool, and not just because they covered everything in Gold.  They had a very distinct art style.  They were obsessed with the afterlife, lived in a beautiful oasis along the Nile and (supposedly) created the massive Pyramids.
Google: Imhotep, Great Pyramids, Bust of Nefertiti, Tutankhamen, Cleopatra and Luxor to know more about their coolness.
Greek ( 850 BC – 31 BC)  The Greek civilization is talked about during this time as it was a strong change from the Egyptian style. It still continues to this day, but at that time Greeks revolutionized art with their style was concerned with ideal balance.  They created sculptures of the ideal bodies.  They had different Gods and Goddesses than the Egyptians starting with Zeus almighty.  They also created great architectural buildings and were the inventors of the Olympics.  Interesting, everyone always thinks that Greek statues as well as their buildings were white – as they are now after being bleached in the bright Mediterranean sun for centuries. They were actually painted in bright colours.
Google: Parthenon, Zeus, Aphrodite, Alexander the Great, Olympics for more.
Roman (500 BC- 476 AD)  Romans were basically the most influential society (the victors) and what the civilization we know today is based on.  And the funny thing is… they copied most everything from those that came before.  They copied their laws from the Sumerians and their art from the Greeks.  They even took the Greek gods; just changed their names, so Zeus became Jupiter.  And guess what we did the Roman names?  Jupiter, Mars, Venus….  The one thing that they changed and that they are famous for is that they made their art realistic.
Google: roman portraits, collosseum, pantheon, Julius Caesar, Augustus….
Asian Of course during that time Indian, Chinese and Japanese artists were working just as hard and making art, but NOW (653 BC – 1900 AD) it enters into official history.

WHY NOW?  Because the Silk Road opens and it becomes an influence on European Art.  Huh. And just FYI – Asian Art continues to flourish with cross influence with Western art developing into the powerhouse it it today.
For some fantastic art examples google:  Gu Zaizhi, Li Cheng, Guo Xi, Hokusai, Hiroshige, Art of Buddha, Guiseppe Castiglione…

Byzantine and Islamic  (476 AD – 1453 AD)  This is one of my favourite art times, because they used so much gold!  At this time, just after the fall of Rome, the world was so well travelled.  The centre of the world was thought to be in Constantinople (Istanbul) and so Art was influenced by the East(China), the South(Islam) and the West(Roman). This is also a time of great wealth.. so lots of gold!!  Most art that we know today from this period is from the temples and mosques and is made by mosaics.   Google: Hagia Sophia, Mosque of Cordoba, the Alhambra

Middle Ages (500 – 1400) And then Europe withdraws back into itself to establish Christianity.  Art work becomes done only for Christian Churches.  This is usually referred to as the Dark Ages but it is an extraordinary time for Art with the idea of Heaven and Hell.
In the movies, it’s that old time of Monks and Knights. Think the Crusades, Robin Hood and King Arthur.  It is also the time of the original GOTH’s with the Gothic Gargoyles.
Google: Celtic Art, Giotto, Romanesque, Gothic, Notre Dame, Chartes Cathedral.

Renaissance (1400 – 1550)  And then Art and Culture was reborn. Christopher Columbus discovers America.  Leonardo DaVinci paints Realism.  This was truly an exciting time.  So many *new* scientific ideas were swirling around.  Perspective! And oil paint!Miss A’s favourite artist is from this time. Who is it?
Google: Leonardo Da Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli, Brunelischi, Michelangelo, Raphael.

*You may also want to google Gavin Menzies an English Researcher who thinks that all these new ideas were actually not new.  But came from a Chinese group of ships that docked in Venice during that time lead by Admiral Zhene.  Huh.

*You may also want to follow the path this awesome information followed as it made its way up North influencing some truly awesome artists of the Northern Renaissance 
Google Jan Van Eyck, Durer, Titian, Bruegel.
Mannerism (1527 -1580)  This is the first time that feelings were explored in Art.  The Renaissance artists created artwork that was realistic, so the Mannerists took the work further, making the people look strange, unreal.  They exaggerated  and distorted features to create feelings of uncertainty, darkness and sadness, playing on the fear of God’s wrath.
Google: Tintoretto, El Greco, Pontoromo, Bronzino

Baroque (1600-1750) And then there was a massive war for 30 years between the Christians (the Catholics and the Protestants over who believed in God more, I guess).  And so artists began to realize that life does not start in Heaven.  That every day is important and God must be worshiped in everything we do.  They started to become interested in seeing God in the details; in humans, in the flesh, in the act of living life, in the light and the shadows.  Everything as this time was massive and rich and sumptuous.
Google: Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Palace of Versailles, Roccoco


NeoClassical (1750-1850)  Revisiting Classical (Greek and Roman Art), Artist felt they needed to get away from the fluffy religious based works of Baroque, and back to reality. This was also the time during the French Revolution. And the American Revolution.  It was all about independent thought and freedom.   This was a giant step in Art because it began to be used to express Political ideas, thoughts, feelings not just Religious ideas. Nature and Humanity became the popular subjects.
Google: David, Ingres, Caspar Friedrich, Turner, Delacroix, Benjamin West, Napoleon

You have read so far.  Good for you.  Even though I think the Art so far was awesomely cool, it is THE NEXT eras that you need to be more familiar with… as they seem more… relevant.  Of course, the artists of these eras are definitely observing artists in the past, copying and working from the art and ideas from before….just as we copy and work from their Art.  See how that works?  

Realism (1848-1900)  These painters changed Art from being elite and spiritual and began to paint everyday scenes, such as working peasants.  They also championed the habit of en plein air, going outside to sit under a tree and paint, instead of working in a studio.
Google: Courbet, Damier, Millet, Corot
Impressionism (1865-1885)  Now, this is when the camera was invented and so, this is when Art stopped trying to reflect the real world and it went inwards.  The Impressionists were interested in catching the effects of light, the impression of a specific moment in a day, the way the colours change with the weather and how that makes one feel.
Google: Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cassatt, Morisot, Degas
Post-Impression (1885-1910)  These artists tried to revolt against the Impressionisms by taking the romance out of the moments; trying to portray the reality that was in front of them, and showing their emotions through their brushstrokes.  They also based their ideas on the new Colour Theory.
Google: Van Gogh, Gaugin, Cezanne, Seurat
Fauvism and Expressionism (1900 – 1935)  Building on the use of colours, these artists tried to break down emotions and distort forms using pure colours and flat surfaces to show their inner thoughts and ideas as opposed to the external world.
Google Matisse, Krichner, Kandinksy, Marc
Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism (1905-1920) This was just before, during and after World War 1 where everyone’s world was turned upside down.  The focus on the world was on building; building weapons for war and then building new buildings and cities after the war.  So these artists were obsessed with breaking things down and building them back up again. These artists tried to break down the visions of the real world and present a vision of what they saw; a new world based on geometry and new forms to express their new modern life.
Google: Picasso, Boccioni, Braque, Malevich
Dada and Surrealism (1917-1950)  So much violence and sadness and crazy scientific discoveries were happening in the world at this time, the Great Depression, World War 11, Nazi horrors, the Atomic bombs being dropped on Japan, the world was a terrifying place for many and thoughts of the future were.. crazy.  So the Dadists and Surrealists started to explore their world through their dreams and their unconscious thoughts.  These artists used a Realist style to present their Surreal ideas.
Google Duchamp, Dali, Ernst, Magritte, Kahlo

Abstract Expressionism (1940 – 1950)  The Absract Expressionists were exhausted by all the upheaval of the world and were absorbed with the idea of the unreal – taking their art to pure abstraction and expression, with no links to reality.    Google: Gorky, Pollock, Rothko

Pop Art (1940-1960) And on the opposite scale, the Pop Artists were obsessed with the new consumerism of the world; Macdonald’s, Plastic, Advertising, shiny automobiles.
Google: Warhol, Lichtenstein,
Post Modernism and Deconstructivism (1970 – ):  And then after all that, we get to a point where Art has no center, no focus as we look back and rework and mix all past styles.

Google: Kandinsky, Anselm Kiefer, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Gerhard Richter…..


……………and finally we move onto…..

Contemporary Art (NOW)  which really has no real categories… and waaayyy too many all at the same time…
Contemporary Art is art produced at the present point in time. Some art museums and collections define contemporary art as including all art since the end of World War II.   Check out wikipedia’s various definitions of Contemporary Art to give you an idea of the possibilities and vastness of the world of Art today. A similar term to contemporary art is Modern artPostmodern art would also be a component of contemporary art.
And if you are still interested in the History of Art… check out wikipedia’s immense documentation of all things related to the History of Art.