Art History Time Line

The history of art is immense, the earliest cave paintings pre-date writing by almost 27,000 years! If you’re interested in art history, the first thing you should do is take a look at this table which briefly outlines the artists, traits, works, and events that make up major art periods and how art evolved to present day:

Art Periods/
Movements
Characteristics Chief Artists and Major Works Historical Events
Stone Age (30,000 b.c.–2500 b.c.) Cave painting, fertility goddesses, megalithic structures Lascaux Cave Painting, Woman of Willendorf, Stonehenge Ice Age ends (10,000 b.c.–8,000 b.c.); New Stone Age and first permanent settlements (8000 b.c.–2500 b.c.)
Mesopotamian (3500 b.c.–539 b.c.) Warrior art and narration in stone relief Standard of Ur, Gate of Ishtar, Stele of Hammurabi’s Code Sumerians invent writing (3400 b.c.); Hammurabi writes his law code (1780 b.c.); Abraham founds monotheism
Egyptian (3100 b.c.–30 b.c.) Art with an afterlife focus: pyramids and tomb painting Imhotep, Step Pyramid, Great Pyramids, Bust of Nefertiti Narmer unites Upper/Lower Egypt (3100 b.c.); Rameses II battles the Hittites (1274 b.c.); Cleopatra dies (30 b.c.)
Greek and Hellenistic (850 b.c.–31 b.c.) Greek idealism: balance, perfect proportions; architectural orders(Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) Parthenon, Myron, Phidias, Polykleitos, Praxiteles Athens defeats Persia at Marathon (490 b.c.); Peloponnesian Wars (431 b.c.–404 b.c.); Alexander the Great’s conquests (336 b.c.–323 b.c.)
Roman (500 b.c.– a.d. 476) Roman realism: practical and down to earth; the arch Augustus of Primaporta, Colosseum, Trajan’s Column, Pantheon Julius Caesar assassinated (44 b.c.); Augustus proclaimed Emperor (27 b.c.); Diocletian splits Empire (a.d. 292); Rome falls (a.d. 476)
Indian, Chinese, and Japanese(653 b.c.–a.d. 1900) Serene, meditative art, and Arts of the Floating World Gu Kaizhi, Li Cheng, Guo Xi, Hokusai, Hiroshige Birth of Buddha (563 b.c.); Silk Road opens (1st century b.c.); Buddhism spreads to China (1st–2nd centuries a.d.) and Japan (5th century a.d.)
Byzantine and Islamic (a.d. 476–a.d.1453) Heavenly Byzantine mosaics; Islamic architecture and amazing maze-like design Hagia Sophia, Andrei Rublev, Mosque of Córdoba, the Alhambra Justinian partly restores Western Roman Empire (a.d. 533–a.d. 562); Iconoclasm Controversy (a.d. 726–a.d. 843); Birth of Islam (a.d. 610) and Muslim Conquests (a.d. 632–a.d. 732)
Middle Ages (500–1400) Celtic art, Carolingian Renaissance, Romanesque, Gothic St. Sernin, Durham Cathedral, Notre Dame, Chartres, Cimabue, Duccio, Giotto Viking Raids (793–1066); Battle of Hastings (1066); Crusades I–IV (1095–1204); Black Death (1347–1351); Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453)
Early and High Renaissance (1400–1550) Rebirth of classical culture Ghiberti’s Doors, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael Gutenberg invents movable type (1447); Turks conquer Constantinople (1453); Columbus lands in New World (1492); Martin Luther starts Reformation (1517)
Venetian and Northern Renaissance (1430–1550) The Renaissance spreads north- ward to France, the Low Countries, Poland, Germany, and England Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Dürer, Bruegel, Bosch, Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden Council of Trent and Counter-Reformation (1545–1563); Copernicus proves the Earth revolves around the Sun (1543
Mannerism (1527–1580) Art that breaks the rules; artifice over nature Tintoretto, El Greco, Pontormo, Bronzino, Cellini Magellan circumnavigates the globe (1520–1522)
Baroque (1600–1750) Splendor and flourish for God; art as a weapon in the religious wars Reubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Palace of Versailles Thirty Years’ War between Catholics and Protestants (1618–1648)
Neoclassical (1750–1850) Art that recaptures Greco-Roman grace and grandeur David, Ingres, Greuze, Canova Enlightenment (18th century); Industrial Revolution (1760–1850)
Romanticism (1780–1850) The triumph of imagination and individuality Caspar Friedrich, Gericault, Delacroix, Turner, Benjamin West American Revolution (1775–1783); French Revolution (1789–1799); Napoleon crowned emperor of France (1803)
Realism (1848–1900) Celebrating working class and peasants; en plein air rustic painting Corot, Courbet, Daumier, Millet European democratic revolutions of 1848
Impressionism (1865–1885) Capturing fleeting effects of natural light Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cassatt, Morisot, Degas Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871); Unification of Germany (1871)
Post-Impressionism (1885–1910) A soft revolt against Impressionism Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Seurat Belle Époque (late-19th-century Golden Age); Japan defeats Russia (1905)
Fauvism and Expressionism (1900–1935) Harsh colors and flat surfaces (Fauvism); emotion distorting form Matisse, Kirchner, Kandinsky, Marc Boxer Rebellion in China (1900); World War (1914–1918)
Cubism, Futurism, Supremativism, Constructivism, De Stijl (1905–1920) Pre– and Post–World War 1 art experiments: new forms to express modern life Picasso, Braque, Leger, Boccioni, Severini, Malevich Russian Revolution (1917); American women franchised (1920)
Dada and Surrealism(1917–1950) Ridiculous art; painting dreamsand exploring the unconscious Duchamp, Dalí, Ernst, Magritte,de Chirico, Kahlo Disillusionment after World War I; The Great Depression (1929–1938); World War II (1939–1945) and Nazi horrors; atomic bombs dropped on Japan (1945)
Abstract Expressionism (1940s–1950s) and Pop Art (1960s) Post–World War II: pure abstraction and expression without form; popular art absorbs consumerism Gorky, Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, Warhol, Lichtenstein Cold War and Vietnam War (U.S. enters 1965); U.S.S.R. suppresses Hungarian revolt (1956) Czechoslovakian revolt (1968)
Postmodernism and Deconstructivism (1970– ) Art without a center and reworking and mixing past styles Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Anselm Kiefer, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid Nuclear freeze movement; Cold War fizzles; Communism collapses in Eastern Europe and U.S.S.R. (1989–1991)

Art History Time Line

 

Stone Age (30,000 b.c.–2500 b.c.)

The Paleolithic (literally: “Old Stone Age”) period covered between two and one-half to three million years, dependent upon which scientist has done the calculations. For the purposes of Art History, though, when we refer to “Paleolithic” art, we’re talking about the Late Upper Paleolithic period. This began roughly around 40,000 years ago and lasted through the Pleistocene ice age, the end of which is commonly thought to have occurred near 8,000 B.C. (give or take a few centuries). This period was marked by the rise of Homo sapiens sapiens and its ever-developing ability to create tools and weapons.

What was going on in the world?

There was a lot more ice, for one thing, and ocean shoreline was different from that with which we’re familiar. Lower water levels and, in some cases, land bridges (which have long since disappeared) allowed humans to migrate into the Americas and Australia. The ice also made for a cooler climate, world-wide, and prevented migration to the far north. Humans at this time were strictly hunter-gatherers, meaning they were constantly on the move in search of food.

What kinds of art were created during this time?

Only two. Art was either portable or stationary, and both of these art forms were limited in scope.

Portable art during the Upper Paleolithic period was necessarily small (in order to be portable) and mainly consisted of either figurines or decorated objects. These things were carved (from stone, bone or antler) or modeled with clay. We refer to most of the portable art from this time as figurative, meaning it actually depicted something recognizable, whether animal or human in form. The figurines are often referred to by the collective name of “Venus”, as they are unmistakably females of child-bearing build.

Stationary art was just that: it didn’t move. The best examples exist in (now famous) cave paintings in western Europe, created during the Paleolithic period. Paints were manufactured from combinations of minerals, ochres, burnt bone meal and charcoal mixed into mediums of water, blood, animal fats and tree saps. We’ve guessed (and it’s only a guess) that these paintings served some form of ritualistic or magical purpose, as they are located far from the mouths of caves where everyday life took place. Cave paintings contain far more non-figurative art, meaning many elements are symbolic rather than realistic. The clear exception, here, is in the depiction of animals, which are vividly realistic (humans, on the other hand, are either completely absent or stick figures).

What are the key characteristics of Paleolithic art?

It seems a bit flippant to try to characterize the art from a period that encompasses most of human history (however helpful one is attempting to be). Paleolithic art is intricately bound to anthropological and archaeological studies that professionals have devoted entire lives toward researching and compiling. The truly curious should head in those directions. That said, to make some sweeping generalizations, Paleolithic art:

– Concerned itself with either food (hunting scenes, animal carvings) or fertility (Venus figurines). Its predominant theme was animals.
– Is considered to be an attempt, by Stone Age peoples, to gain some sort of control over their environment, whether by magic or ritual.
– Represents a giant leap in human cognition: abstract thinking.

Mesopotamian (3500 b.c.–539 b.c.)

 

This is the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which roughly comprises modern Iraq and part of Syria. The most ancient civilizations known to man first developed there writing, schools, libraries, written law codes, agriculture, irrigation, farming and moved us from prehistory to history. It’s giving Mesopotamia the reputation of being the cradle of civilization. The name does not refer to any particular civilization using that name. It includs non-Semitic Sumerians, followed by the Semitic Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Over the course of 4000 years, the art of Mesopotamia reveals a tradition that appears, homogeneous in style and iconography.
Art became decorative, stylized and conventionalized at different times and places. Gods took on human forms and humans were combined with animals to make fantastic creatures. Large temples and imposing palaces dotted the landscape. History and poetry for the first time was recorded and set down to music. Lyres, pipes, harps and drums accompanied their songs and dances.
The soil of Mesopotamia yielded the civilization’s major building material – mud brick. Stone was rare, and certain types had to be imported for sculpture. Variety of metals, as well as shells and precious stones, were used for the finest sculpture and inlays.

Egyptian Art History (3100 b.c.–30 b.c.)

View Egypt Images | Info

The earliest art from northern Africa is carvings of giraffes and other animals on stones in the Sahara desert starting about 10,000 BC. At about the same time in West Asia, artists were also carving animals onto rock faces. By about 7500 BC, Egyptian artists were also carving on rocks, especially in Upper Egypt.

Tomb of Ti, who is watching a hippopotamus hunt
5th Dynasty Old Kingdom (ca. 2400 BC)
Around 3000 BC, Egyptian artists began to create their own rock walls to carve and paint, by building stone buildings. Most of the buildings we have left are mastabas, which were the burial places of rich people when they died. The pictures carved on the walls of these mastabas were supposed to help the dead person out when he or she reached the next world, where the Egyptians thought you lived after you died in this world. So the paintings showed all sorts of things that people did in their regular lives.

Tomb of Setnakht, New Kingdom (ca. 1500 BC)
There are big changes in style over the two thousand years that these tomb paintings were being painted. In the Old Kingdom, the carvers took great pains with the pictures, but in the Middle Kingdom, the carvers took a lot of shortcuts and did sloppier work, for instance. In the Old Kingdom, the pictures are almost always about daily life, but by the New Kingdom there are more temples being built, and on temples there are pictures about events that happened, reminding people about a big battle, for instance. Also in the New Kingdom, the Amarna period is one of great experimentation in Egyptian art as well as in religion and government.

 

Greek and Hellenistic (850 b.c.–31 b.c.)

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View Hellenistic Art Here

A striking change appears in Greek art of the seventh century B.C., the beginning of the Archaic period. The abstract geometric patterning that was dominant between about 1050 and 700 B.C. is supplanted in the seventh century by a more naturalistic style reflecting significant influence from the Near East and Egypt. Trading stations in the Levant and the Nile Delta, continuing Greek colonization in the east and west, as well as contact with eastern craftsmen, notably on Crete and Cyprus, inspired Greek artists to work in techniques as diverse as gem cutting, ivory carving, jewelry making, and metalworking (1989.281.49-.50). Eastern pictorial motifs were introduced—palmette and lotus compositions, animal hunts, and such composite beasts as griffins (part bird, part lion), sphinxes (part woman, part winged lion), and sirens (part woman, part bird). Greek artists rapidly assimilated foreign styles and motifs into new portrayals of their own myths and customs, thereby forging the foundations of Archaic and Classical Greek art art.

Greek artists rapidly assimilated foreign styles and motifs into new portrayals of their own myths and customs, thereby forging the foundations of Archaic and Classical Greek art art.
The Greek world of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. consisted of numerous autonomous city-states, or poleis, separated one from the other by mountains and the sea. Greek settlements stretched all the way from the coast of Asia Minor and the Aegean islands, to mainland Greece, Sicily, North Africa, and even Spain. As they grew in wealth and power, the poleis on the coast of Asia Minor and neighboring islands competed with one another in the construction of sanctuaries with huge stone temples. Lyric poetry, the primary literary medium of the day, attained new heights in the work of such notable poets as Archilochos of Paros and Sappho of Lesbos. Contact with prosperous centers like Sardis in Lydia, which was ruled in the sixth century B.C. by the legendary king Croesus, influenced eastern Greek art. Sculptors in the Aegean islands, notably on Naxos and Samos, carved large-scale statues in marble. Goldsmiths on Rhodes specialized in fine jewelry, and bronzeworkers on Crete fashioned armor and plaques decorated with superb reliefs (1989.281.49-.50).

The prominent artistic centers of mainland Greece—notably Sparta, Corinth, and Athens—also exhibited significant regional variation. Sparta and its neighbors in Laconia produced remarkable ivory carvings and distinctive bronzes (38.11.3). Corinthian artisans invented a style of silhouetted forms (1997.36) that focused on tapestry-like patterns of small animals and plant motifs. By contrast, the vase painters of Athens were more inclined to illustrate mythological scenes. Despite variance in dialect—even the way the alphabet was written varied from region to region at this time—the Greek language was a major unifying factor in Greece. Furthermore, Greek-speaking people came together for festivals and the games that were held at the major Panhellenic sanctuaries on mainland Greece, such as Olympia and Delphi. Dedications at these sanctuaries included many works from the eastern and western regions of Greece.

Throughout the sixth century B.C., Greek artists made increasingly naturalistic representations of the human figure. During this period, two types of freestanding, large-scale sculptures predominated: the male kouros, or standing nude youth, and the female kore, or standing draped maiden. Among the earliest examples of the type, the kouros in the Metropolitan Museum (32.11.1) reveals Egyptian influence in both its pose and proportions. Erected in sanctuaries and in cemeteries outside the city walls, these large stone statues served as dedications to the gods or as grave markers. Athenian aristocrats frequently erected expensive funerary monuments in the city and its environs, especially for members of their family who had died young. Such monuments also took the form of stelai, often decorated in relief.

Sanctuaries were a focus of artistic achievement at this time and served as major repositories of works of art. The two main orders of Greek architecture—the Doric order of mainland Greece and the western colonies, and the Ionic order of the Greek cities on the coast of Asia Minor and the Ionian islands—were well established by the beginning of the sixth century B.C. Temple architecture continued to be refined throughout the century by a process of vibrant experimentation, often through building projects initiated by rulers such as Peisistratos of Athens and Polykrates of Samos. These buildings were often embellished with sculptural figures of stone or terracotta (26.60.73), paintings (now mostly lost), and elaborate moldings. True narrative scenes in relief sculpture appeared in the latter part of the sixth century B.C., as artists became increasingly interested in showing figures, especially the human figure, in motion. About 566 B.C., Athens established the Panathenaic games. Statues of victorious athletes were erected as dedications in Greek sanctuaries, and trophy amphorai were decorated with the event in which the athlete had triumphed.

Creativity and innovation took many forms during the sixth century B.C. The earliest known Greek scientist, Thales of Miletos, demonstrated the cycles of nature and successfully predicted a solar eclipse and the solstices. Pythagoras of Samos, famous today for the theorem in geometry that bears his name, was an influential and forward-thinking mathematician. In Athens, the lawgiver and poet Solon instituted groundbreaking reforms and established a written code of laws. Meanwhile, potters (both native and foreign-born) mastered Corinthian techniques in Athens and by 550 B.C., Athenian—also called “Attic” for the region around Athens—black-figure pottery dominated the export market throughout the Mediterranean region. Athenian vases of the second half of the sixth century B.C. provide a wealth of iconography illuminating numerous aspects of Greek culture, including funerary rites, daily life, symposia, athletics, warfare, religion, and mythology. Among the great painters of Attic black-figure vases, Sophilos, Kleitias, Nearchos, Lydos, Exekias, and the Amasis Painter experimented with a variety of techniques to overcome the limitations of black-figure painting with its emphasis on silhouette and incised detail. The consequent invention of the red-figure technique, which offered greater opportunities for drawing and eventually superseded black-figure, is conventionally dated about 530 B.C. and attributed to the workshop of the potter Andokides.

Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Source: Greek Art in the Archaic Period | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Roman (500 b.c.– a.d. 476)

 

Middle Ages (500–1400)

 

Early and High Renaissance (1400–1550)

 

Mannerism (1527–1580)

 

Roman (500 b.c.– a.d. 476)

 

Baroque (1600–1750)

 

Rococo (1750–1800)

 

Neoclassical (1750–1850)

 

Romanticism (1780–1850)

 

“Realism (1848–1900)

 

Impressionism (1865–1885)

 

Post-Impressionism (1885–1910)

 

Fauvism and Expressionism (1900–1935)

 

Romanticism (1780–1850)

 

Romanticism (1780–1850)

 

“Realism (1848–1900)

 

Impressionism (1865–1885)

 

Post-Impressionism (1885–1910)

 

Fauvism and Expressionism (1900–1935)

 

 

Impressionism (1865–1885)

 

Post-Impressionism (1885–1910)

 

Fauvism and Expressionism (1900–1935)

 

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