Art is an essential part of human culture and society and it has been created since prehistoric times in every part of the world inhabited by humanity. From neolithic cave art depicting animals and primitive hunting scenes to the vast and magnificent ceilings of the Sistine Chapel in Rome art has been affecting and reflecting human nature and imagination for millennia. There have been many movements in the fine arts over the centuries. Below is a brief overview of five major art movements that occurred in the last 500 years.
Impressionism: The impressionist art movement began in Paris, France in the late 1800's. Impressionist artists didn't conform to the standards of fine art at the time and their paintings focused less on tiny details and more on the entire painting is a whole. Impressionists often used unconventional techniques to create their works, such as working in the outdoors.
Though the early impressionists faced criticism from art critics and the artistic establishments of the time, such as members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and critics such as Louis Leroy and even the general population at large, but eventually the movement grew and people began to revere impressionist artists that they had once reviled and criticized.
Many of the most famous artists in history were a part of the impressionism movement, such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, and Édouard Manet. The movement continued until the dawn of the twentieth century as new young artists began experimenting with impressionism, leading to new movements in art like post impressionism.
Some of the most famous examples impressionist art include: Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, painted in 1876, The Luncheon on the Grass painted by Édouard Manet in 1863, and Impression, Sunrise which gave the movement its name and was painted by Claude Monet in 1872.
Bomford, David, Jo Kirby, John Leighton, Ashok Roy, and Raymond White (1990). Impressionism. London: National Gallery, Rosenblum, Robert (1989). Paintings in the Musée d'Orsay. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Moskowitz, Ira; Sérullaz, Maurice (1962). French Impressionists: A Selection of Drawings of the French 19th Century. Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.
Post Impressionism: This art movement spanned from the end of the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century by painters such as Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and, most famously Vincent van Gogh. These predominately Dutch and French painters took impressionism much further than their predecessors, using techniques such as unnatural lighting and painting unrealistic looking scenes by using bold and bright colours, often to express the feelings, passions, and emotions of the artist.
A few of the most famous pieces of post impressionist art include The Potato Eaters by Vincent van Gogh, created in 1885, Haying at Eragny by Camille Pissarro in 1889, The Artist's Room painted by Maximillien Luce in 1878, and the world famous The Starry Night, also painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1889.
The post impressionism art movement stretched into the early 20th century but by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 post impressionism had faded from popularity, only to be replaced by new, unique and different art movements.
Post-Impressionism: Cross-currents in European Painting, J. Rewald. Studies in Post-Impressionism (London, 1986), J. Rewald. Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin (New York, 1956), F. Elgar. The Post-Impressionists (Oxford, 1977)
Baroque Art: The Baroque movement began in Rome, Italy in the 1500's but soon spread to other nearby Western European nations. Baroque art is known for its lavishness, attention to details, and bold, strong colours. Most of the art produced in the Baroque period was religious in nature, and many Baroque artists enjoyed the political and financial benefits that came from the patronage of powerful institutions such as the Catholic Church. As the popularity of the Baroque style spread, many kings and nobles also funded lavish art projects to decorate their castles and manors with.
Early examples of Baroque art include Aeneas Flees Burning Troy, painted by Federico Barocci in 1598. The most famous artists associated with the Baroque movement include the Italian painter Paolo de Matteis, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Peter Paul Rubens. A few of the works created by the Baroque movement include Caravaggio's image of the crucifixion, The Crowning with Thorns, Saint Theresa in Ecstasy by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and David and Goliath by Orazio Lomi Gentilesch just to name a few. By the mid 17th century Baroque art was falling out of favour and by the end of the 1600s the Baroque period was over.
Helen Gardner, Fred S. Kleiner, and Christin J. Mamiya, "Gardner's Art Through the Ages" (Belmont, California: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005) Renaissance and Baroque (Reprinted 1984; originally published in German, 1888), Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Baroque Reason: The Aesthetics of Modernity, Sage, (1994) Belkin, Kristin Lohse (1998). Rubens. Phaidon Press.
Renaissance Art: Giving rise to the term 'renaissance man', this artistic movement originated in Italy and spread to much of Europe. The Renaissance period began in the 1300s with painters such as Giotto di Bondone and the sculptor Nicola Pisano. The subject matter of these paintings primarily reflected either scenes from the bible or from classical antiquity. The renaissance movement was particularly influenced by the lavish and intricate style of the fallen Byzantine empire and by ancient Greek and Roman art and stories.
Figures in renaissance art were not properly proportioned and paintings typically had some sort of religious symbolism to them, such as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, which was a series of paintings depicting scenes from the life and death of Christ painted by the brothers Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck some time around the 1430's. In the mid 15th century the pope rebuilt the Sistine Chapel and commissioned a number of the most famous and influential renaissance artists such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, and of course, Michelangelo.
The dawn of the 16th century was known as the High Renaissance, and it is during this time that renaissance art and artists were most prominent in Europe. One famous example is Leonardo da Vinci, who painted many works including what may be the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa, which he completed in the early years of the sixteenth century.
Other famous works of art from the renaissance movement include: The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo (1511), The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden (1435) and Jean Hey who painted the Moulins Altarpiece.
Frederick Hartt, A History of Italian Renaissance Art, (1970), Margaret Aston, The Fifteenth Century, the Prospect of Europe, (1979), "Limited Freedom", Marica Hall, Berfrois, (2011)
Art Nouveau: This movement began in France in the beginning of the 20th century and literally means 'New Art' in English and became known for its use of multiple curves and strong lines. The earliest signs of the Art Nouveau movement began with artists like William Morris and Arthur Mackmurdo. These artists incorporated styles and influences from around the world, adding a new dynamic to western art.
The Art Nouveau movement quickly spread across all of Europe with the help of new technologies such as print making and colour printing. A famous example of the Art Nouveau movement is the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, whose paintings bore little resemblance to scenes from reality. Klimt introduced the use of gold leaf in his art, a technique that would prove to be very influential on future painters. His most famous works of art are undoubtedly Pallas Athene (1898), The Kiss (1907), and Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) which recently sold for a record breaking 135 million dollars at an auction. Other great members of the art nouveau movement are Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, René Jules Lalique, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Famous examples of art created in the art nouveau style include: The Toilet (1896) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the Zodiac Calendar by Alphonse Mucha and Folies Bergère, La Loïe Fuller by Jules Cheret (1893). The art nouveau movement had all but disappeared by the early 1920's to be replaced by other unique styles of art such as Modernism, Cubism, and Pop Art.
Lahor, Jean. L'Art Nouveau. Baseline Co. Ltd. (1901), William Craft Brumfield. The Origins of Modernism in Russian Architecture (Berkeley: University of California Press, (1991), anuta Batorska, "Zofia Stryjeńska: Princess of Polish Painting", Woman's Art Journal, vol. 19 (1999), Marie Vitochová Jindřichkjer and Jiří Všetecka, Prague and Art Nouveau, translation by Denis Rath and Mark Prescott, Prague: V Raji, (1995)