19th Century Art

Art in the 19th century began with the continuation of Neo-classicism and Romanticism into the mid-century. After that, a new classification of art became popular: modernism. The date 1863 is commonly identified as the beginning of modern art; it was the year that Edouard Manet exhibited the painting “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe” in Paris. This is not to say that he is the father of modern art, however, as there were many others also who embarked towards new styles which would all constitute the art period known as modernism.


The Baroque and Rocco

The Baroque style reflects the times. Paintings used exaggerated motion that was easily interpreted to produce drama, tension, exuberance and emotions. Baroque art grew during the 17th and 18th centuries. Baroque art placed great emphasis on high detail and overly ornate decorations.

Rococo art, however,was used with light pastels, elaborate colors and they had a decorative style. It always had a charming setting, with happy surroundings, such as people, or animals. Rococo paintings had delicate decorations such as flowers and shells. They showed noble subject in charming settings surrounded with pets and servants full of joy. Rococo was eventually replaced by Neoclassic art.

Early Renaissance in Italy

Public Domain image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio (Italian 1435-1488). Tobias and the Angel, 1470-80.

In the beginning of the 15th century the Italian renaissance began. The term Renaissance comes from the French word for rebirth. The period when everything upheaval in a number of domain, including painting and sculpture, and represented a break from the artistic traditions of the Middle Ages.

The artists and sculptors of the Italian Renaissance—Masaccio, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci—looked to the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration. The Italian Renaissance was a time of great artistic productivity, and many of the works created during this period are the pride of world-class museum collections.

Perspective and Geometry

  • Paintings that give the illusion of three-dimensional space. Objects and figures appear to be bigger, than usual,  usually in the form of a triangle.


  • Figures and nature  that look more realistically than medieval artists. They made close studies of nature and the human body, sometimes going so far as to perform autopsies to gain a better understanding of human and animal anatomy.


  • Chiaroscuro comes from a combination of the Italian words for light and dark. Italian Renaissance artists used contrast between gradations of light and dark, or shading, to create volume, particularly when painting the human body. By using this technique, Renaissance artists  have created a three-dimensional figure, in contrast to the flat figure of medieval art.

Classical Themes

  • Medieval art was wholly devoted to religious themes, Italian Renaissance was inspired from the classical themes of Greek and Roman mythology. Italian Renaissance artists painted the the first nudes since the classical period.

Use of the Contropposto

  • Contropposto is a standing position, where most of the figure’s weight rests on only one foot. 


Romanesque Art

Medieval Crusaders

The Crusades were a series of Holy Wars launched by the Christian states of Europe against the Saracens. The term ‘Saracen’ was the word used to describe a Moslem during the time of the Crusades.

The Roman Empire was spit into two sections –

The Eastern which fell when the German Visigoths, led by Alaric, sacked Rome.

The Western part of the Empire disintegrated but the Eastern, or Byzantium Empire, stayed in tact.

Early Medieval Art reflect the differences between the development of the Catholic religion in the west and the Byzantium Empire of the east. The Catholic religion became divided in the Great SchismThe art period up to 1000AD is referred to as Pre-Romanesque art and after that date as Romanesque Art.

The style of Romanesque Art was characterised by

  • Medieval art in the form of brightly colored stained glass windows

  • Illuminated manuscripts

  • The colors in the art of this period were generally muted except those used in manuscripts and stained glass windows

  • Figures in Romanesque Art often varied in size in relation to their importance

  • Religious shrines and caskets were decorated with fine metals, gilt work and enamel

  • Romanesque embroidery including the Bayeux Tapestry

  • Large, stone, figurative sculptures

  • Small Ivory Carvings

  • Murals



Prehistoric Art: Ancient Near East


Hittite Lion Gate c. 1400 B.C.E. -This lion gate carved out of limestone reflects the fierceness of the society who made it.

The ancient near East consisted of five notable civilizations:

Akkadian Art

Deification of the king, who did rule with the Gods’ approval, just not their assistance. They had a large interest in creating permanent stone markers to show religious or civic sites, and even burial sites.

Babylonian Art

Covered in it’s well known seven wonders of the world creation, the hanging gardens. Some of the Babylonians art work contains some of the earliest law ever written. 

Hittite Art

Little is known about Hittite art, other then the fact that they preferred using stone over mud-brick.

Assyrian Art

Assyrians praised the glory of their kings, capabilities to kill and destroy. Humans remained solemn as animals were the creatures that showed emotion. Lions would cry out in pain or fear. This expressed the authority of the king. Words were often carved over people or scenes. Shallow relief sculptures were also an Assyrian specialty.

Persian Art

Created extravagant  architecture, huge audience halls, massive buildings, and much much more.

Royalty, and kings, quickly realized the benefits art really withheld. They brought Gods’ to life and imprinted stories on mortals hearts that would surely outlive even the strongest of generations. This is best known as the start of an eternities relationship between artist and viewer.



Greek Art

Venus de Milo on display at the  Louvre

Venus de Milo – the Greek goddess of love and beauty (Venus to the Romans)

Greek Art tends to be in vague terms of vases, statues and architecture.

Greek art is mainly in four forms:

Architecture – houses, religious buildings like temples and tombs, and public buildings like city walls, theaters, stadia, and stoas.

Sculptures – small figurines and life-size statues, but also sculptures which were on the sides of buildings, and also tombstones.

Greek paintings from the Bronze Age. Paintings were painted on walls, as decoration for rooms, like murals or wallpaper. Greeks had a good deal of painted pottery from all periods of Greek history.

Mycenaean Art (1550 to 1200 BC) on the Greek mainland. Although the Mycenaean and Greek cultures were two separate entities, they occupied the same lands.The latter learned a few thing from the former, including how to build gates and tombs.

The Proto-Geometric era (1025 – 900 BC) the beginning of pottery to be decorated with simple shapes, black bands and wavy lines. Both technique in creating, and shapes of pots were being refined.

Geometric Art (900-700 BC). This early period from Greek art history shows how ancient artists adorned many of their works (vase paintings in particular) with precise geometric patterns.

Archaic Art (700-480 BC). During the Archaic period, Greek artists came into contact with ideas and styles from outside of Greece. It was also a time when vase painting and sculpture began to reflect Greek ideals.

Classical Art (480-323 BC). Often referred to as the “Golden Age” of Greece, the Classical era was a time when perfection was achieved in the arts – the Parthenon was constructed during this fruitful period.

Hellenistic Art (323-31 BC) new ideas permeated Greek art, and emotion, drama, and realism.