How Well Do You Know Your Art History?
Fancy getting to know your art history and finding out information about our creative culture? This article introduces some of the great artistic movements and lists the main artists of each era.
There are also illustrations of artworks from around the globe, which contain links to the source of each image.
This content was written by Ricardo Marcedo. We have paraphrased where necessary
Hopefully, you will find this a worthwhile read. Please feel free to leave a positive comment to help our creative community.
This movement emerged from nineteenth-century France, inspired by the painting Impression: Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet.
The Impressionists rejected the artistic conventions of the time. Instead, they were motivated by the influence of light and motion on the perception of a landscape.
Adopting loose brushstrokes, the works produced by this movement depicted natural themes and landscapes. They showed the impact of natural light and avoided sharp outlines around figures.
Also called Neo-Impressionism, this was an artistic movement that came in between Impressionism and Cubism.
It developed mainly in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century.
It arose as an objection to the limitation imposed by the Impressionist techniques. Because the Impressionists mainly portrayed landscapes without giving great importance to emotions or political and social events, their work was considered superficial.
Leading artists of Post Impressionism include: Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Georges-Pierre Seurat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
This movement extended from art to literature and theatre. It appeared in France at the end of the nineteenth century.
Symbolism was based on romance and mysticism and opposed the progress of science, technology and realism.
The Symbolists took a great interest in the individual, rather than the generalist, view. They focussed on perception, understanding and imagination instead of observation and realistic physical descriptions.
Leading Symbolist artists include Aubrey Beardsley, Puvis de Chavannes, Paul Gauguin, James Ensor, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch and Henri Rousseau.
Pointillism came from the Impressionist movement. It is an artistic technique using small spots or dots of colour to cause an optical illusion.
It was created in France in the mid-nineteenth century; the major artists include Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.
Pointillism uses the composition of colours and light as a form to create dimension and depth.
A similar style, called Dot painting, is popular among Australian Indigenous and Aboriginal artists.
Both Pointillism and Dot painting have a similar form although they developed from different historical influences and origins.
Primitivism borrowed references from foreign cultures, particularly pre-industrial and tribal societies.
This art movement drew inspiration from both the types of art made by the general population of those times and also primitive tribes.
It was generally produced by self-taught artists with little or no technical or theoretical knowledge and was usually about a fashionable theme.
Inspiration came from exploring primitive art collections in museums. Leading Primitivist artists include Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Paul Gauguin, Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso.
Dadaism emerged from Zurich in 1916 as a modern avant-garde art movement. It arose as a reaction to the negativity of World War I, was sometimes satirical and usually left-wing.
These artists ignored existing culture, especially the bourgeoisie, opting instead for total freedom of the individual unshackled from rules.
It became a worldwide movement that claimed no set history, tradition or method.
Fauvism began at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was driven by Henri Matisse and was seen as the natural evolution of Impressionism.
This new aesthetic changed the perception of colour and used a playful chromatic palette. It took advantage of the feelings and sensations of the artist, featuring a more faithful reproduction of the observed.
Fauvism comes across as an ode to freedom, rebellion and imagination. It sought to share the joy of living by using bright colours and contrasts.
These are often imaginary and unrelated to the visual aspects of reality.
Expressionism aimed to establish a bridge between contemporary art and the art of the future.
The human figure is the prominent element, shown usually through nudes in natural settings although urban life (streets, people in cafés, etc.) also feature.
Shaped by the subjective vision of the artist, this is a dramatic painting style bringing human feelings to the forefront.
The group’s goal was to have freedom of movement and life.
Created in Munich and inspired by Expressionism, the group was formed in 1911 by Russian and German artists.
They wanted to see life from the perspective of experiences, sensations and individual feelings. The artists sought to overcome territorial boundaries or barriers and wanted to unite the vanguard of European art.
Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Paul Klee and August Macke are the great leaders of this movement based on lyricism and emotiveness.
Abstract Expressionism appeared in New York in the 1940s and was the first artistic movement to reverse the traditional geographic path.
Born in America and later having a global influence, the movement put a new city on the art world map.
In the previous decade, many European artists had settled in New York, heavily influencing the creation of young American painters.
From here the movement emerged by combining the emotional intensity of German Expressionism with the anti-figurative aesthetics of the Abstract School in Europe. This included influences such as Futurism, the Bauhaus and Synthetic Cubism.
With a rebellious attitude towards traditional painting being planned rather than spontaneous, the leading artists of Abstract Expressionism are: Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still and Wassily Kandinsky.
Also called New Expressionism, this movement arose in the 80s as a result of dissatisfaction with Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Happening.
It was heavily influenced by Expressionism, Symbolism and Surrealism.
New Expressionism sought to bring back painting as a means of communication of both emotional and subjective representations.
The expression in neo-expressionist art was a struggle for identity and a need for art in itself. The work addressed issues related to cultural background and identity, often using materials such as straw, linen, iron, and broken crockery.
Geometrical Cubism and the appreciation of colours shown in Fauvism and Expressionism prepared the way for one of the greatest revolutions of twentieth-century European art: Abstractionism.
This movement featured a complete abandonment of the representation of identifiable objects. Emerging in 1910 with the Russian precursor Kandinsky, Abstractionism broke from Traditionalists who were looking to realistically represent life and considered Abstractionism as being too strange and bad taste.
Abstractionism is divided into two trends: lyrical abstractionism (inspired by instinct and intuition linked to an “inner necessity”) and geometric abstractionism (focused on streamlining, intellectual and scientific analysis).
Appeared in the twentieth century with pioneers including Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
Cezanne had already used multiple perspectives in a single painting previously, but the technique did not have a name at that time.
Cubist artists broke with the idea of realistic representation of nature and were unfaithful to actual forms although without distorting them beyond recognition.
The main feature of Cubism is the representation of different angles of a particular object in a single plane.
This artistic and literary movement emerged in 1909 with the publication of the Futurist Manifesto in the French newspaper Le Figaro by the poet Filippo Marinetti.
The movement was characterised essentially by the rejection of art and culture of the past. It preferred to celebrate progress, urban life, modern technology, speed and, in extreme cases, violence and weapons.
Often, futuristic paintings had vibrant colours, geometric shapes, image overlay and so-called “power lines” giving an illusion of action to the object represented.
Suprematism originated in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century and focussed on basic geometric shapes like squares and circles. It was the start of abstractification.
The first work of the movement was Black Square on a White Background by Cazimir Malevich. The artist said about it that, “I felt only night within me, and it was then that I conceived the new art which I called Suprematism.”.
It was defined as the supremacy of pure feeling and focused on breaking away from any imitation of the real world.
Neoplasticism is an avant-garde art movement suggested by Piet Mondrian in the early twentieth century. It is based on the ideals of Cubism and Naturalism, using analytical concepts of painting and objective expression.
Neoplastic painters only use primary colours, black and white with maximum saturation to create shades that are not found naturally. This emphasizes the artificial component of the style.
Lyrical Abstractionism finds inspiration from instinct and intuition to produce an imaginary art linked to “inner needs”. It arose as a reaction to the great landmarks of the twentieth century such as the First World War. Organic forms, vibrant colours and contour lines characterise this style.
Lyrical Abstractionism looked to use visual art to simulate the effect music has to turn sound into artistic language.
The Bauhaus movement suggested the idea that there is a connection between art, design and architecture. Bauhaus originally operated from a German school of design, art and avant-garde architecture between 1919 and 1933. It was built to create a multi-purpose art space.
The school had a profound influence on later developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design and typography.
Malevich used the word Constructivism for the first time when describing the work of Rodchenko. Constructivism is an artistic and political avant-garde movement that started in Russia in the twentieth century.
It wanted to break artistic convention and denied the purity of art, looking to Futurism, modernity and art inspired by artists from the New Workers’ State. Constructivism admired the serving of social objectives and building of a socialist world.
Realism was born in Europe, specifically France, in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
It was a rejection of Neoclassicism and Romanticism that tried to portray real-life customs and mundane everyday hardship without reference to models of the past.
Realism appeared at a time when there was simultaneously growing respect for empirical investigation, experimental science and technical progress as well as imaginative creations.
The movement is opposed to the idealisation of classical and romantic schools, and should not be confused with techniques that try and reproduce reality.
Founded in Paris in 1924, Surrealism was born from Dadaism within the avant-garde context of the early twentieth century.
André Breton released the first major Surrealist Manifesto in the same year.
Freudian psychoanalysis was a strong influence, so Surrealism shows the unconscious role in the creative process.
Dreams, fantasies, daydreams and illogical reasoning were the major themes of this movement.
Emerging from England in the 1950s to reach maturity by 1960 in the United States. Pop Art is seen as the transition from modernity to postmodernity in Western art.
It used figurative art as opposed to German Expressionism which previously dominated the creative environment.
Pop Art simultaneously glorified and brought out the irony of the materialistic consumerist everyday societies that dominated that era.
It is famous for the use of images from television, cinema and advertising.
Yves Klein, Arman, Raymond Hains and Jean Tinguely clarified the differences between New Realism and Pop Art.
The art critic, Pierre Restany, published a small manifesto that united the contrasting artistic medium styles.
The manifesto was published at a presentation of the exhibition New Realists in Milan a few months after the founding of New Realism, but was only made official in 1960.
New Realists saw the world as an image that they could take parts from and incorporate into their work to try and unite art and life as much as possible.
In the 50s Minimalism arose as both an artistic and cultural movement originating in the United States.
However, it only really reached maturity in the 60s and 70s after the peak of Abstract Expressionism.
Minimalists opposed complexity and intensity, striving instead for simplicity in colour and shape until all remaining components left became essential.
The result is pure and free from mixtures and similarities, with a search for essential expressiveness of shape and form of materials.
Arte Povera was born in large Italian cities such as Turin, Milan, Rome, Venice, Naples and Bologna in the 1960s. It took until the 1970s to gain traction though.
The artists were known for exploring the use of unconventional materials in their art, such as textiles and wood.
This emphasized the values imposed from the domination of industry, government and culture. Throughout the 1970s the artists focused on nature and were heavily critical of industrial processes.
Conceptual Art emerged in the 60s then peaked in both Europe and the United States during the 1970s. The scope is fairly broad, making it difficult to outline exactly what is considered conceptual art.
Central to this art movement is that the product should challenge people to interpret an idea or criticism, making them reflect. Conceptual art uses innovative mediums, sometimes simultaneously, for example, performances, art installations, videos, new media, photographs, and texts.
Postmodernism encompasses all the socio-cultural, aesthetic, scientific, artistic and social changes since the 1950s, which is considered the end of modernism.
That era saw the spread of media and technological development. The movement is therefore heavily influenced by the digital world and capitalist society.
Postmodern art presents a near-future simulation filled with signs and icons that replaces reality. This is a movement that is still too recent for deeper analysis.
Performance Art uses the human body as a medium for the artwork. Antonin Artaud was the founding father, working within the organisation The Situationists and the Fluxus movement.
It came about in the late 60s and early 70s, as an antithesis to the theatre, challenging artistic forms and cultural norms.
The aim is to create fleeting authentic movements that cannot be repeated, captured or purchased.
It is usually connected to Conceptual Art and although involving presentation to the audience, tries to escape conventional narrative.
Artists occasionally interact with the audience, and at other times completely ignore expectations.
Performance Art is still not universally accepted and artists have attracted regular controversy and discussion of their works.
We also have a supportive Facebook group you can join click here.