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Art History Timeline
32,000 years ago is when the story of art really begins.Art from this period was discovered in the regions of Africa, Europe, and the Near East, where it seems that humans intentionally began producing sculpture and paintings for the first time.These first creations predate the invention of writing by tens of thousands of years. Many indigenous peoples from around the world continued to produce artistic works distinctive to their geographic area and culture, until exploration and commerce brought record-keeping methods to them. Some cultures, notably the Maya civilization, independently developed writing during the time they flourished, which was then later lost. These cultures are generally considered prehistoric, especially if their writing systems have not been deciphered. During a time when humankind was struggling for existence against the elements, predators, and opposing tribes, we created art. One of the oldest and most famous of prehistoric figures is Venus of Willendorf.This tiny figurine made of limestone, stands at only four inches tall.
Venus of Willendorf (22,000 B.C.E - 21,000 B.C.E) image 001
ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS 3000 BC - 331 BC (BCE)
At the beginning of this period new-found knowledge of farming and animal domestication allowed for reliable food supply.Thus, ancient people began to give up the nomadic life and civilizations slowly began popping up across the world.
In ancient art, Nature plays a role that is crucial in one respect and minor in another. Except in Egyptian tomb decorations and Aegean wall paintings, the natural world is rarely used as a setting for human action or pleasure. But the life force and power of nature, as embodied in particular birds and animals--such as the bull, serpent and vulture--as well as in fruits and grains, is widespread. The rituals depicted in both sacred and secular art represent the might of deities and rulers alike. A great example of ancient art is the monumental Great Sphinx of Giza.A sphinx is a mythological, half feline, half human creature that is usually associated with royal tombs or religious temples.Also, similar mythological creatures have been discovered in South and South-East Asia.
Great Sphinx of Giza (2520-2494 B.C.E) image 002
According to most historians, the classical civilizations that sprang up on the Mediterranean Sea from 800 B.C.E. until the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 C.E. rivaled their counterparts in India and China in richness and impact. Centered first in the peninsula of Greece, then in Rome's burgeoning provinces, the new Mediterranean culture did not embrace all of the civilized lands in the ancient Middle East. Nevertheless, Greece and Rome do not merely constitute a westward push of civilization from its earlier bases in the Middle East and along the Nile; though this is a part of their story, they also represent the formation of new institutions and values that would reverberate in the later history of the Middle East and Europe alike.
Classical art dates back to as early as 500 B.C. during the rise of the Greek Empire. The Greeks celebrated the human figure through sculpture in highly naturalistic detail. This is one of the eras defining qualities. After the Romans conquered the Greeks they still regarded Greek culture and art as superior to any other. The Romans imported thousands of original Greek artworks and had them copied in even greater numbers. In fact, much of what we know about Greek art, we only know through Roman copies.
Zeus of Artemision (also called Poseiden) (460 B.C.E) image 003
Medieval art in Europe grew out of the artistic heritage of the Roman Empire and the iconographic imagery of the early Christian church. These sources were mixed with the vigorous "Barbarian" artistic culture of Northern Europe to produce a remarkable artistic legacy. Indeed the history of medieval art can be seen as the history of the interplay between the elements of classical, early Christian and "barbarian" art. Medieval art in Europe grew out of the artistic heritage of the Roman Empire and the iconographic traditions of the early Christian Church.
An example of Romanesque art from this period is of an illuminated manuscript depicting Mary Magedalen announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles. An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated intitials, borders and miniature illustrations.
Mary Magdalen Announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles (1120's) image 004
RENAISSANCE 1400 - 1800 AD (CE)
One of the distinguishing features of Renaissance art was its development of highly realistic linear perspective. The development of perspective was part of a wider trend towards realism in the arts. To that end, painters also developed other techniques, studying light, shadow, and, famously in the case of Leonardo da Vinci, human anatomy. Underlying these changes in artistic method was a renewed desire to depict the beauty of nature, and to unravel the axioms of aesthetics, with the works of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael representing artistic pinnacles that were to be much imitated by other artists.Other notable artists include Botticelli, working for the Medici in Florence, Donatello another Florentine and Titian in Venice, among others.
Of one of the most famous renaissance painters came The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci.The painting depicts the last meal between Jesus and his disciples before his death.
The Last Supper (1498) image 005
PRE-MODERN 1750 - 1880 AD (CE)
The early 18th-century French culture was dominated by the aristocracy and by a softer, daintier style known as Rococo.It was characterized by elegance and sensuality, which was soon challenged by the rise of the Enlightenment and the Neoclassical style.The revival of interest in classicism was popular in Europe as well as America.In contrast with Neoclassicism, with its emphasis on reason and logic, Romanticism, which also emerged in conjunction with Enlightenment thought, focused on the primacy of imagination and feeling.The invention of photography shortly before the midcentury was a significant milestone, as it altered public perception of "reality".
A famous painting from Romanticism is Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.Portraying the movement's inclination towards strong emotion and emphasis on trepidation, horror and terror, and awe in the face of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities.Romanticism originated as a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms and the scientific rationalization of nature.
Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog (1818) image 005
MODERNISM 1880 - 1945 AD (CE)
Reacting against and moving away from the past characterize all modern art styles and movements. The world was changing rapidly and nations were becoming industrialized at the time the first modern art styles developed and artists wanted this to be reflected in their art and their lives as artists. The world was full of new ideas, new materials and new possibilities and artists felt that this change and development should be reflected in artistic traditions too. The whole modernist period lasted up until around the 1960s.
Whether Picasso painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon - one of Picasso's most famous paintings and indicative of modern art in general - or Kandinsky's breakthrough into abstraction could be seen as the real concrete beginnings of modernism is arguable, but these significant achievements could not have happened without ground breaking artists in the years before them. The Impressionists in the latter part of the 19th century paved the way for the flatter, more abstract work of the post impressionists, but the impressionists were building on the advances and breaks with tradition made by Eduard Manet, so that takes the beginnings of modern art back to about 1850.
The vast majority of modern art styles are 20th century movements and they are extremely diverse in range. Modern art styles do not follow a single linear progression, and different things were happening in different countries. If there is such as thing as a world center for modern art, this moved from Paris in the early part of the century to New York by the middle of the century.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) image 006
POST-MODERN 1960 AD - Present (CE)
The Post-modern art movement is believed to have emerged as a direct contradiction to Modernism. Post-modernism champions the value of individual and personal interpretations, where as Modernism claims to have a social agenda above the individual.In general, movements such as intermedia, installation art, video art and multimedia, particularly involving video are described as postmodern. The traits associated with the use of the term postmodern in art include bricolage, use of words prominently as the central artistic element, collage, simplification, appropriation, depiction of consumer or popular culture and performance art.
Andy Warhol - among artists like Barbara Kruger, David Hockney, Cindy Sherman to name a few - is probably one of the best examples of a Post-modern artist.His work generally falls into the category of Pop Art, but also is known as apainter, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author, and public figure known for his membership in wildly diverse social circles that included bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy patrons.
Self-Portrait (1986) image 007
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