The history of art is very complicated when you try to determine when exactly it started. Art can be classified in so many diverse ways, making it hard to decide what to include in history. Visual art can be separated in many ways, including separating fine arts from applied arts, focusing on human creativity, or focusing on different media such as architecture, sculpture, painting, film, photography, and graphic arts. Many other elements of art have to be considered to create an accurate history.

For this blog, we will start with a broad sense of the history of art. We will address the most significant events that occurred and give a brief history around those. We will also introduce what art is so that you can gain an understanding of the topics we will be talking about throughout the blog.

  1. What is Art?

Because art is so diverse, it can be hard to define what it exactly is. Art is typically thought of to be the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to people’s senses or emotions. It is a creative process that involves incorporating creativity and critical thinking. It encompasses different human activities that allow you to express who you are, what you’re feeling, and anything else you want.

The concept of art contains diverse activities that create auditory, visual, or performed artworks. These artworks express the artists’ imaginative or technical skills. The purpose of art is to be appreciated for its beauty or emotional power. It incorporates the principles and elements of art. The principles of art include movement, unity, harmony, variety, balance, contrast, proportion, and pattern. The elements of art are texture, form, shape, color, value, and line. Together, the elements and principles allow artists to organize their artworks visually and emotionally appealing to viewers.

  1. Prehistory

The Prehistoric Age was full of changes because we were creating and developing the first civilizations. There was so much change going on that it was hard to keep track of the art elements that developed during this time. If you would like to know more about Prehistoric art, you can view a list of the important dates from the Lower Paleolithic era to the Iron and Bronze Age. The amount of information in those eras is massive and shows how much work we did at the beginning of time.

  1. Classical Antiquity

The Classical Antiquity period lasted for about 1450 years—roughly around 1000 BCE to 450 CE. This period was centered around the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome. It also incorporated the concept of Hellenism, which is the effect of Greek culture on other civilizations. The Classical Antiquity period is characterized by various art types, including sophisticated forms of ancient pottery, the potter’s wheel, religious art, narrative relief sculpture, and decorative art.

Antiquity is associated with the beginnings of civilization in the West. It is illustrated by the first cultures developed, the first city-states, the hieroglyphic writing system, increased social organization, and the beginning of the use of copper. These developments play a significant role in how art was created and utilized. With different cultures coming together, the artwork became more diverse and began to incorporate new techniques. Painting and sculptures played a significant role in defining the Classical Antiquity period.

  1. The Dark Ages

The Dark Ages was a transition period where Medieval and Byzantine art became popular. This was the period from the Fall of Rome and the Fall of Constantinople. The time period was filled with barbarian violence and upheaval. Many civilizations were at war with each other and trying to establish one dominant power. The only constant aspect of this time was the young Christian church.

Because of the religious nature of this time, many of the artwork artifacts consist of elaborate manuscripts. Christian works were embellished with beautiful designs to help the process of conversion. These manuscripts were meant to be seen rather than read. They were either in open view on the high altar or used during special religious events. Along with the manuscripts, many cathedrals were built with elaborate, gothic architecture. They contained stained glass, stone statues, wood carvings, and metalwork. The Dark Ages incorporated a variety of art techniques and elements to create a recognizable style of art.

  1. The Renaissance

The Renaissance was a two-hundred-year period between 1400-1600 where Europe witnessed a revival of drawing, fine art painting, sculpture, and architecture. The Renaissance was centered in Italy, mainly in Florence, Rome, and Venice. Over time, the Renaissance continued to spread across Europe through the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. During this time, artists became inspired by the ideas and forms of Ancient Greece and Rome. The new notion of Humanism inspired Renaissance art. This style downplayed the importance of religious and secular dogma and instead attached great importance to the individual’s worth.

Due to the transition of the importance of Humanism, artworks began to contain more realistic images. Human faces and bodies were created with great detail to make the painting seem like an actual person. Many artworks began to include nude human figures to promote the high self-worth associated with the Renaissance. This time period revived classical learning and promoted a more individualistic view of man.

  1. The Age of Modern Art

The Modern Art movement began in the mid-late 19th century. There is no definition of what modern art is because it contains various meanings and art styles. The Modern Art movement is hard to define because it falls in between two distinct art movements. It can be considered a transitioning period between the Renaissance and the Postmodern Art movement. There were a variety of techniques and styles that artists adopted during this time.

French Naturalism, Symbolism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Expressionism, and Cubism are a few of the most popular techniques during this time. This art movement allowed artists to have the freedom to experiment and develop new techniques. It is a period where people were more open to accepting new versions of art. Art became well-known and desired. Artists were given a higher status in society and seen as essential contributors to society. This was also the age where art wasn’t just made for practical reasons; artists used it to express their emotions and thoughts.

  1. The Age of Postmodernist Art

The Age of Postmodernist art began in 1970 and is still ongoing. Postmodernism represents the triumph of style over substance. This age has led to artists experimenting with new media, technological developments, and art forms. The definition of art has changed during this time. Art can now be seen as anything goes. There are no guidelines or rules that an artist has to follow to create art. It is all about them expressing what they want to or what they feel expresses themselves.

Postmodernist art rejects the traditional values and conservative assumptions of the past. It promotes using new entertaining, artistic forms by using video and computer-based technology. Another aspect that grew out of the Postmodern movement is the concept of art education. Instead of art schools only focusing on painting and sculpting, they opened up their classes to new art forms. They also made art education open to everyone and not just the elite. The concept of creativity became more critical than the accumulation of skills in only a few art forms. It changed the way society viewed art and made it more accessible to everyone.

The history of art is very complex, and it can be challenging to capture the whole picture. Art is very diverse and contains many different elements that allow you to express your creativity. We encourage you to continue learning more about art and begin incorporating a creative outlet into your life. Echo Gallery offers many opportunities to get you involved and learn more about art. We have a variety of events that you can attend to further your knowledge of art. You can contact us through our website or stop by the gallery in downtown Marion to get involved. What is your favorite style or time period of art?