The history of art dates back to more than five hundred thousand years ago. The presence of art has proved the existence of the earliest civilizations. Moreover, archeologists have found drawings on the walls of the caves during excavations. Archeologists believe that, at that time, humans lived in caves and hunted. As the scenes of hunting have been found during the excavations. The evolution of art started with the evolution of humans. Let us begin with the evolution of art and different movements in western art.
Pre-historic Art (40,000-4,000 BC)
As humans evolved, their art also evolved. Archeologists first discovered the complex caves of Lascaux in France in 1940. During the excavation, they found inscriptions and line drawings depicting humans and animals. Although discovered recently, the drawings are said to be almost twenty thousand years old. The pre-historic era is divided into three major groups. Paleolithic era (50,000-5,000 BC), Mesolithic era (15,000-5,000 BC) and Neolithic era (10,000-3,000 BC).
In the Neolithic Age, the art evolved from just cave paintings to sculptures and pots of clay. The remains of which have been found during the excavations. The last phase of the stone age came with the metal age. Where copper, bronze, and iron changed the ancient societies. People could now extract these metals from the earth and smelt them into figurines and utensils. People also began making jewelry and swords, and spears in this age. Which they decorated with geometric patterns.
Ancient Art (4,000 BC-AD 400)
With time, people evolved and began living in societies. They began worshipping Kings as their Gods and also established written language. Civilizations like that of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, and some places in America. In different civilizations, people worshipped different gods. Therefore, the proofs of which can be found as they painted and carved it on the stones.
Medieval Art (500-1400 AD)
The middle age, also known as the “dark age”, saw the cultural deterioration and the fall of the Roman Empire. Therefore, the artwork reflects the brutal scenes and darkness. During this era, different mediums of artwork emerged. From sculptures and paintings to stained glass, metalwork, and mosaics. It gave birth to Early Christian art, Byzantine art, Romanesque art, Gothic Art, and many more. Duccio di Buoninsegna and Giotto di Bondone, both painted the Painting called Madonna and Child in the early fourteen century. It became one of the most famous paintings.
The renaissance style of painting, sculpture, and architecture, focused mainly on nature and individualism. With this period, began the rise of the modern world. Many influential artists came to light in this period. They developed many great techniques like studying light, shadow, and human anatomy by Leonardo da Vinci. His demonstration of the Vitruvian man is the base of human anatomy that we learn today.
This style reached its peak in Florence, Italy, with Italian designer and architect Filippo Brunelleschi and sculptor Donatello as the key innovators. Bringing creative power and spearheaded ideals of emotional expression, artists like da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rafael, and Botticelli became famous for working in this style.
Also known as the high renaissance, mannerism emerged during the mid sixteen century. Michelangelo, Raphael, and other Late Renaissance artists became the ideals of this style. The figures in this style had more artificial qualities, opposed to the naturalistic style of the renaissance period. Some widely renowned mannerist artists include Giorgio Vasari, Francesco Salviati, Domenico Beccafumi, and Bronzino.
The Baroque period depicts grandeur and richness, as the artists work in a pretty complex style. Unlike Renaissance artists, who had softness in their figures, Baroque artists expressed emotions. They focused more on the drama and movement. Therefore, for which they would paint neither vertical nor horizontal, but slanting to the left or right. As it gave their work a sense of movement. The use of warm colors was intense.
The most interesting fact about the artists who worked in this style was, their painting depicted a story. They had hidden encrypted symbols or messages. The artists whose work became famous during this era include Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Diego Velázquez, François Boucher, and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.
Originated in Paris, the Rococo period described as the final expression in the Baroque movement. Rococo artists offered a softer style that consisted of decorative art, painting, architecture, and sculpture. This style influenced other forms too, like, furniture, porcelain, silver and glassware, and especially sculpture. Some famous paintings encompass, Pilgrimage on the Isle of Cythera by Antoine Watteau, The Toilet of Venus by François Boucher, etc.
Neoclassicism (1750–1850) and Romanticism (1780–1850)
The Neoclassicism artist recreated the works of ancient art. Once again, the classical ideals of harmony and proportions were restored. Influenced by classic elements, this style focused on idealism. Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Antonio Canova become one of the famous artists of this period.
Whereas Romanticism came to be known as the complete opposite of the Neoclassicism period. Unlike Neoclassicism, Romanticism embraced individualism and imagination. This style also appreciated nature. Therefore, during this period, Plein air painting became prominent. This allowed the painters to step out in the light, out of the darkness of their room, and paint. The Raft of Medusa by Théodore Géricaultand The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya became a well-known painting of that period.
This style originated in France in the 1840s. Also referred to as naturalism, as the artists painted what they saw. Therefore, artists avoided using any supernatural elements or artificiality. artists focused more on capturing what day saw in their everyday life, just as it is. The paintings of this period look like photographs. The artists Gustave Courbet, Jan van Eyck, and Robert Campin, became prominent artists during the Realism movement.
Impressionism (1865–1885) and Post-Impressionism (1885–1910)
Originated by a group of Paris-based artists, Impressionism characterizes short, quick brushstrokes and an unfinished, sketch-like feel. These artists would independently exhibit their artwork which gained them popularity. Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Édouard Manet, became quite notable artists of the Impressionism movement.
Whereas, the Post-Impressionism artists preferred to work individually, sharing the same ideals. These artists focused more on subjective visions and symbolic personal meanings rather than observations of the outside world. The artists like Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Rousseau became very renowned artists of this period.
Began by the examples that Van Gogh and George Seurat set, Henry Matisse led this movement. Artists of this period used intense color, line, and brushwork, a bold sense of surface design, and flat composition. It became an important precursor of Cubism and Expressionism. Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Maurice de Vlaminck are some of the famous artists of this style.
Inspired by the native folk traditions and tribal art, Expressionist artists looked for authenticity. This movement was born as the world lost spirituality and conflicted views in the world increased. Artists expressed raw emotions and distorted figures by using solid colors. Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka became famous artists of this movement.
Rejecting the concept that art should copy nature, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque established this movement. Cubist painters worked on flat surfaces, two-dimensional, and depicted forms by using geometric shapes. Therefore, instead of using traditional techniques, they used abstraction in their paintings.
The artworks of this period emerged from the Dada art movement of 1916, which defied reason and denounced rational mindset. The artists blamed events like World War I for these repressed imaginations. Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo became popular during the movement.
Op and Pop Art (1950–1960)
Op art stands for ‘Optical’ art, where the artists used shapes, colors, and patterns to create images that appeared to be moving or blurring. However, the artists used black and white for producing maximum contrast. These abstract patterns confused as well as excited the viewer. Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley became renowned for their artwork in this style.
Whereas, Pop art become the most recognizable artistic developments of the 20th century. the artists used everyday and mundane objects to create exotic art. Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein became famous artists during Pop art movement.
Minimalism art is a form of abstract expressionism, but rather than expressive works, the artists instead focused on anonymity. They used purified forms, order, simplicity, and harmony. Therefore, urged viewers to focus on precisely what was in front of them. Some renowned artists of this period are Frank Stella and Agnes Martin.
Contemporary Art (1970–present)
With the emergence of technology in the field of art, contemporary art has many small movements in it. This style contains many different styles, such as feminist art, street art, postmodernism, digital art, etc. With so many influential artists running and working in this movement.
Therefore, these art movements have offered diverse and influential styles and techniques over time. And, each movement and periods shed light on all aspects of art, from painting to sculpture and architecture to literature. How each movement inspired the next movement is paramount to building a thoughtful, cohesive collection.