- Western art history
"Also see articles:
History of painting, Western painting"
"'Western Art' redirects here. For art of the American West, see
Artists of the American West"
Western art is the art of Europe, and those parts of the world that have come to follow predominantly European cultural traditions such as the Americas.
Written histories of Western art often begin with the art of the
Ancient Middle East, Ancient Egyptand the Ancient Aegean civilisations, dating from the 3rd millennium BC. Parallel with these significant cultures, art of one form or another existed all over Europe, wherever there were people, leaving signs such as carvings, decorated artifacts and huge standing stones. However a consistent pattern of artistic development within Europe becomes clear only with the art of Ancient Greece, adopted and transformed by Romeand carried, with the Empire, across much of Europe, North Africaand the Middle East.
The influence of the art of the
Classical periodwaxed and waned throughout the next two thousand years, seeming to slip into a distant memory in the Medievalperiod, to re-emerge in the Renaissance, suffer a period of what some early art historians viewed as "decay" during the Baroqueperiod, [ Banister Fletcherexcluded nearly all Baroque buildings from his mammoth tome "A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method". The publishers eventually rectified this.] to reappear in a refined form in Neo-Classicismand to be re-born in Post-Modernism.
The other major influence upon Western art has been
Christianity, the commissions of the Church, architectural, painterly and sculptural, providing the major source of work for artists for about 1400 years, from 300 AD to about 1700 AD. The history of the Church was very much reflected in the history of art, during this period. Secularismhas influenced Western art since the Classical period, while most art of the last 200 years has been produced without reference to religion and often with no particular ideologyat all. On the other hand, Western art has often been influenced by politics of one kind or another, of the state, of the patron and of the artist.
Western art is arranged into a number of stylistic periods, which, historically, overlap each other as different styles flourished in different areas. Broadly the periods are, Classical,
Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Modern. Each of these is further subdivided.
Ancient Classical art
Egypt, Greece, Rome,Early Christian
Ancient Egypt, a civilization with very strong traditions of architectureand sculpture(both originally painted in bright colours) also had many muralpaintings in temples and buildings, and painted illustrations on papyrus manuscripts. Egyptian wall paintingand decorative painting is often graphic, sometimes more symbolic than realistic. Artists as contemporary as Pablo Picassohave been directly inspired by Egyptian painting and sculpture. Egyptian painting depicts figures in bold outline and flat silhouette, in which symmetry is a constant characteristic. Egyptian painting has close connection with its written language - called Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Egyptians also painted on linen, remnants of which survive today. In fact painted symbols are found amongst the first forms of written language, and religion. However it is Ancient Egypt's mysterious and compelling architecture that has had the most impact on modern art historians. The Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx of Giza, and the smaller pyramids and tombs of Ancient Egyptare among the Seven Wonders of the World.
To the north of
Egyptwas the Minoan civilizationon the island of Crete. The wall paintings found in the palace of Knossosare similar to that of the Egyptiansbut much more free in style. Around 1100 B.C., tribes from the north of Greececonquered Greece and the Greek art took a new direction. Ancient Greecehad great painters, great sculptors, and great architects. The Parthenonis an example of their architecture that has lasted to modern days. Greek marble sculptureis often described as the highest form of Classical art. Painting on the pottery of Ancient Greeceand ceramics gives a particularly informative glimpse into the way society in Ancient Greece functioned. Black-figure vase paintingand Red-figure vase paintinggives many surviving examples of what Greek painting was. Some famous Greek painters on wooden panels who are mentioned in texts are Apelles, Zeuxis and Parrhasius, however no examples of Ancient Greek panel painting survive, only written descriptions by their contemporaries or by later Romans. Zeuxis lived in 5-6 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 for perfect technique in drawing, brilliant color and modeling. Roman artwas influenced by Greece and can in part be taken as a descendant of ancient Greek painting and sculpture. Roman sculpture, is primarily portraiture derived from the upper classes of society as well as depictions of the gods. However, Roman painting does have important unique characteristics. Among surviving Roman paintings are wall paintings, many from villas in Campania, in Southern Italy, especially at Pompeiiand Herculaneum. Such painting can be grouped into 4 main "styles" or periods [ [http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/roman/painting.html Roman Painting ] ] and may contain the first examples of trompe-l'oeil, pseudo-perspective, and pure landscape. [ [http://www.accd.edu/sac/vat/arthistory/arts1303/Rome4.htm Roman Wall Painting ] ] from Late Antique illustrated books also survive, and a rather larger number of copies of them from the Early Medieval period.
Most surviving art from the
Medievalperiod was religious in focus, often funded by the Church, powerful ecclesiastical individuals such as bishops, communal groups such as abbeys, or wealthy secular patrons. Many had specific liturgical functions — processional crosses and altarpieces, for example.
One of the central questions about Medieval art concerns its lack of realism. A great deal of knowledge of perspective in art and understanding of the human figure was lost with the fall of Rome. But many also point out that realism was not the primary concern of Medieval artists. They were simply trying to send a religious message, a task which demands clear iconic images instead of precisely rendered ones.
Time Period: 6th century to 15th century
Byzantine art overlaps with or merges with what we call Early Christian art until the iconoclasm period of 730-843 when the vast majority of artwork with figures was destroyed; so little remains that today any discovery sheds new understanding. After 843 until 1453 there is a clear Byzantine art tradition. It is often the finest art of the Middle Ages in terms of quality of material and workmanship, with production centered on Constantinople. Byzantine art's crowning achievement were the monumental frescos and mosaics inside domed churches, most of which have not survived due to natural disasters and the appropriation of churches to mosques.
Early Medieval Art
Migration period artis a general term for the art of the "barbarian" peoples who moved in to formerly Roman territories. Celtic artin the 7th and 8th centuries saw a fusion with Germanic traditions through contact with the Anglo-Saxonscreating what is called the Hiberno-Saxon style or Insular art, which was to be highly influential on the rest of the Middle Ages. Merovingian artdescribes the art of the Franksbefore about 800, when Carolingian artcombined insular influences with a self-conscious classical revival, developing into Ottonian art. Anglo-Saxon artis the art of England after the Insular period. Illuminated manuscripts contain nearly all the surviving painting of the period, but architecture, metalwork and small carved work in wood or ivory were also important media.
Romanesque art refers to the period from about 1000 to the rise of Gothic art in the 12th century. This was a period of increasing prosperity, and the first to see a coherent style used across Europe, from Scandinavia to Switzerland. Romanesque art is vigorous and direct, was originally brightly coloured, and is often very sophisticated.
Stained glassand enamelon metalwork became important media, and larger sculptures in the round developed, although high reliefwas the principal technique. Its architecture is dominated by thick walls, and round-headed windows and arches, with much carved decoration.
Gothic art is a variable term depending on the craft, place and time. The term originated with Gothic architecture in 1140, but Gothic painting did not appear until around 1200 (this date has many qualifications), when it diverged from Romanesque style. Gothic sculpture was born in France in 1144 with the renovation of the Abbey Church of S. Denis and spread throughout Europe, by the 13th century it had become the international style, replacing Romanesque. International Gothic describes Gothic art from about 1360 to 1430, after which Gothic art merges into Renaissance art at different times in different places. During this period forms such as painting, in fresco and on panel, become newly important, and the end of the period includes new media such as prints.
Renaissanceis characterized by a focus on the arts of Ancient Greeceand Rome, which led to many changes in both the technical aspects of painting and sculpture, as well as to their subject matter. It began in Italy, a country rich in Roman heritage as well as material prosperity to fund artists. During the Renaissance, painters began to enhance the realism of their work by using new techniques in perspective, thus representing three dimensions more authentically. Artists also began to use new techniques in the manipulation of light and darkness, such as the tone contrast evident in many of Titian's portraits and the development of sfumatoand chiaroscuroby Leonardo da Vinci. Sculptors, too, began to rediscover many ancient techniques such as contrapposto. Following with the humanist spirit of the age, art became more secular in subject matter, depicting ancient mythologyin addition to Christian themes. This genre of art is often referred to as Renaissance Classicism. In the North, the most important Renaissance innovation was the widespread use of oil paints, which allowed for greater colour and intensity.
From Gothic to the Renaissance
During the late 13th and early 14th centuries, much of the painting in Italy was Byzantine in Character, notably that of
Duccioof Siena and Cimabueof Florence, while Pietro Cavalliniin Romewas more Gothic in style.
In 1290 Giotto began painting in a manner that was less traditional and more based upon observation of nature. His famous cycle at the
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, is seen as the beginnings of a Renaissance style.
Other painters of the 14th century were carried the Gothic style to great elaboration and detail. Notable among these painters are
Simone Martiniand Gentile da Fabriano.
Netherlands, the technique of painting in oils rather than tempera, led itself to a form of elaboration that was not dependent upon the application of gold leaf and embossing, but upon the minute depiction of the natural world. The art of painting textures with great realism evolved at this time. Dutch painters such as Jan van Eyckand Hugo van der Goeswere to have great influence on Late Gothic and Early Renaissance painting.
The ideas of the Renaissance first emerged in the city-state of
Florence. The sculptor Donatelloreturned to classical techniques such as contrappostoand classical subjects like the unsupported nude — his second sculpture of David was the first free-standing bronze nude created in Europe since the Roman Empire. The sculptor and architect Brunelleschistudied the architectural ideas of ancient Roman buildings for inspiration. Masaccio perfected elements like composition, individual expression, and human form to paint frescoes, especially those in the Brancacci Chapel, of surprising elegance, drama, and emotion.
A remarkable number of these major artists worked on different portions of the
Florence Cathedral. Brunelleschi's dome for the cathedral was one of the first truly revolutionary architectural innovations since the Gothic flying buttress. Donatello created many of its sculptures. Giotto and Lorenzo Ghibertialso contributed to the cathedral.
High Renaissance artists include such figures as
Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and Raffaello Santi.
The 15th-century artistic developments in Italy (for example, the interest in perspectival systems, in depicting anatomy, and in classical cultures) matured during the 16th century, accounting for the designations “Early Renaissance” for the 15th century and “High Renaissance” for the 16th century. Although no singular style characterizes the High Renaissance, the art of those most closely associated with this Period—Leonardo daVinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian—exhibits an astounding mastery, both technical and aesthetic. High Renaissance artists created works of such authority that generations of later artists relied on these artworks for instruction. These exemplary artistic creations further elevated the prestige of artists. Artists could claim divine inspiration, thereby raising visual art to a status formerly given only to poetry. Thus, painters, sculptors, and architects came into their own, successfully claiming for their work a high position among the fine arts. In a sense, 16th- century masters created a new profession with its own rights of expression and its own venerable character..
Another equally important but less well known figure of the Renaissance is
Jan van Eyck(1366-1441), a Flemish painter often attributed with "bringing the Renaissance North." (see: Early Renaissance paintings). Hieronymus Bosch(1450?-1516), a Dutch painter, is another important figure in the Northern Renaissance. In his paintings, he used religious themes, but combined them with grotesque fantasies, colourful imagery, and peasant folk legends. His paintings often reflect the confusion and anguish associated with the end of the Middle Ages.
Northern Renaissance art was not as concerned with perspective and the figure as that of the Italian Renaissance. The cornerstone of the Northern Renaissance was the development of
*Italian Renaissance — Late 14th century to Early 16th century
*Northern Renaissance — 16th century
Mannerism, Baroque and Rococo
In European art, Renaissance Classicism spawned two different movements—
Mannerismand the Baroque. Mannerism, a reaction against the idealist perfection of Classicism, employed distortion of light and spatial frameworks in order to emphasize the emotional content of a painting and the emotions of the painter. The work of El Grecois a particularly clear example of Mannerismin painting during the late 16th, early 17th centuries. Baroque art took the representationalism of the Renaissance to new heights, emphasizing detail, movement, lighting, and drama in their search for beauty. Perhaps the best known Baroque painters are Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velázquez, and Caravaggio. Baroque art is often seen as part of the Counter-Reformation— the artistic element of the revival of spiritual life in the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, the emphasis that Baroque art placed on grandeur is seen as Absolutist in nature. Louis XIV said, "I am grandeur incarnate", and many Baroque artists served kings who tried to realize this goal. However, the Baroque love for detail is often considered overly-ornate and gaudy, especially as it developed into the even more richly decorated style of Rococo. This can also be seen in the ornate styles of lineography. After the death of Louis XIV, Rococo flourished for a short while, but soon fell out of favor. Indeed, disgust for the ornateness of Rococo was the impetus for Neoclassicism.
Mannerism— 16th century
*Baroque — 17th century to 18th century
Rococo— Mid-18th century
Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Academism and Realism
As time passed, many artists were repulsed by the ornate grandeur of these styles and sought to revert to the earlier, simpler art of the Renaissance, creating
Neoclassicism. Neoclassicism was the artistic component of the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment, which was similarly idealistic. Ingres, Canova, and Jacques-Louis Davidare among the best-known neoclassicists.James J. Sheehan, "Art and Its Publics, c. 1800," United and Diversity in European Culture c. 1800, ed. Tim Blanning and Hagen Schulze (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 5-18.]
Just as Mannerism rejected Classicism, so did
Romanticismreject the ideas of the Enlightenment and the aesthetic of the Neoclassicists. Romantic art focused on the use of color and motion in order to portray emotion, but like classicism used Greek and Roman mythology and tradition as an important source of symbolism. Another important aspect of Romanticism was its emphasis on nature and portraying the power and beauty of the natural world. Romanticism was also a large literary movement, especially in poetry. Among the greatest Romantic artists were Eugène Delacroix, Francisco Goya, J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Caspar David Friedrich, Thomas Cole, and William Blake.
Most artists attempted to take a centrist approach which adopted different features of Neoclassicist and Romanticist styles, in order to synthesize them. The different attempts took place within the French Academy, and collectively are called
Academic art. Adolphe William Bouguereauis considered a chief example of this stream of art.
In the early 19th century the face of Europe, however, became radically altered by
industrialization. Poverty, squalor, and desperation were to be the fate of the new working classcreated by the "revolution." In response to these changes going on in society, the movement of Realism emerged. Realism sought to accurately portray the conditions and hardships of the poor in the hopes of changing society. In contrast with Romanticism, which was essentially optimistic about mankind, Realism offered a stark vision of poverty and despair. Similarly, while Romanticism glorified nature, Realism portrayed life in the depths of an urban wasteland. Like Romanticism, Realism was a literary as well as an artistic movement. The great Realist painters include Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet, Camille Corot, Honoré Daumier, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas(both considered as Impressionists), and Thomas Eakins, among others.
The response of architecture to industrialisation, in stark contrast to the other arts, was to veer towards historicism. Although the railway stations built during this period are often considered the truest reflections of its spirit – they are sometimes called "the cathedrals of the age" – the main movements in architecture during the Industrial Age were revivals of styles from the distant past, such as the Gothic Revival. Related movements were the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who attempted to return art to its state of "purity" prior to Raphael, and the Arts and Crafts Movement, which reacted against the impersonality of mass-produced goods and advocated a return to medieval craftsmanship.
Neoclassicism— 17th century to 19th century
Romanticism— Late 18th century to 19th century
*Realism — 19th century
Out of the naturalist ethic of Realism grew a major artistic movement,
Impressionism. The Impressionists pioneered the use of light in painting as they attempted to capture light as seen from the human eye. Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, were all involved in the Impressionist movement. As a direct outgrowth of Impressionism came the development of Post-Impressionism. Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seuratare the best known Post-Impressionists.
Following the Impressionists and the
Post-Impressionistscame Fauvism, often considered the first "modern" genre of art. Just as the Impressionists revolutionized light, so did the fauvists rethink color, painting their canvases in bright, wild hues. After the Fauvists, modern artbegan to develop in all its forms, ranging from Expressionism, concerned with evoking emotion through objective works of art, to Cubism, the art of transposing a three-dimensional reality onto a flat canvas, to Abstract art. These new art forms pushed the limits of traditional notions of "art" and corresponded to the similar rapid changes that were taking place in human society, technology, and thought. Surrealismis often classified as a form of Modern Art. However, the Surrealists themselves have objected to the study of surrealism as an era in art history, claiming that it oversimplifies the complexity of the movement (which they say is not an artistic movement), misrepresents the relationship of surrealism to aesthetics, and falsely characterizes ongoing surrealism as a finished, historically encapsulated era.
Other forms of Modern art (some of which border on
Contemporary art) include:
Color Field painting
Der Blaue Reiter
Video artTime Period: First half of the 20th century
Contemporary art and Postmodern art
Recent developments in art have been characterised by a significant expansion of what can now deemed to be art, in terms of materials, media, activity and concept.
Conceptual artin particular has had a wide influence. This started literally as the replacement of concept for a made object, one of the intentions of which was to refute the commodification of art. However, it now usually refers to an artwork where there is an object, but the main claim for the work is made for the thought process that has informed it. The aspect of commercialism has returned to the work.
There has also been an increase in art referring to previous movements and artists, and gaining validity from that reference.
Postmodernismin art, which has grown since the 1960s, differs from Modernismin as much as Modern art movements were primarily focused on their own activities and values, while Postmodernism uses the whole range of previous movements as a reference point. This has by definition generated a relativistic outlook, accompanied by irony and a certain disbelief in values, as each can be seen to be replaced by another. Another result of this has been the growth of commercialism and celebrity.
Some surrealists in particular
Joan Miró, who called for the "murder of painting" (In numerous interviews dating from the 1930s onwards, Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods and his desire to "kill", "murder", or "rape" them in favor of more contemporary means of expression). [M. Rowell, "Joan Mirό: Selected Writings and Interviews" (London: Thames & Hudson, 1987) pp. 114-116.] have denounced or attempted to "supersede" painting, and there have also been other anti-painting trends among artistic movements, such as that of Dadaand conceptual art. The trend away from painting in the late 20th century has been countered by various movements, for example the continuation of Lyrical Abstraction, Pop Art, Op Art, New Realism, Neo-Geo, Neo-expressionism, and Stuckismand various other important and influential painterly directions.
History of painting
Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects
* [http://www.sanford-artedventures.com/study/timeline.html "Timeline of Art"]
* [http://www.wga.hu "Web Gallery of Art"]
* [http://www.colorado.edu/English/ENGL2012Klages/pomo.html Postmodernism]
* [http://www.euartist.com/portal European artists community ]
* [http://www.aiwaz.net/panopticon Panopticon Virual Art Gallery]
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