Man’s Evolution… Planet Earth

Some 14 billion years ago, the universe was created, and 4.5 billion years ago, our solar system was formed.  Its creation was by way of swirling clouds of electrostatic space dust particles, which attach themselves to each other, forming clusters, which in turn form rocks.

Planets are created, as gravity pulls these rocks together, forming spheres in a process known as accretion (A gradual increase in size, layer by layer).

The Sun, our star was created within a nebula; swirling clouds consisting of dust and gas.

Possibly a shock wave, caused a dying star (Supernova) to explode in space, and dust particles were drawn together, forming a dense sphere like cloud.

So a chain reaction is activated.  More dust is attracted to the core, and its gravitational pull increases, until the cloud collapses in, on itself.

This sees the rotation of the cloud increase in speed.  The rotational forces at the equator of the cloud, prevent dust being drawn in and the cloud flattens into a spinning disc, surrounding the core.

As more and more mass accumulates and so the temperature increases, setting off nuclear reactions.

Our solar system consists of eight planets which orbit the sun; Earth, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Saturn, Uranus and Venus.

According to the scientific community, it is believed that the Moon was formed, when Earth collided with another astronomical body.

There’s a common origin between the Earth and Moon.  For Earth’s spin and the Moon’s orbit, contain similar orientations, and each contain identical lunar and terrestrial rock.

Therefore, Earth roughly speaking is some 4.5 billion years old, and life began a billion years later, with the appearance of a single celled marine organism.  New forms of life have evolved since that time.

Life forms on Earth, started out with single-celled organisms, followed by multi-celled version which evolved into the fish, an original vertebrate, with a backbone.

As history moves forward we have the Amphibians who evolved from fish and into reptiles, capable of living on dry land.

The next stage of evolution saw birds and mammals evolving from reptiles, until the final step … the human being evolved from mammals.

The Paleolithic Age:

  • Creature of the Homo group
  • Homo Habilis – First human species evolved in Africa 2,500,000 BC
  • Homo Habilis – Marked start of Stone Age as stone tool makers

Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) refers to humans who were hunter gatherers.  They who followed an annual migration, based on ripening of plants and travelling of livestock.

Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) refers to period between hunter-gatherers and agricultural lifestyle.

Neolithic (New Stone Age) where humans existed through agriculture.

Lower Paleolithic, an age of human evolution, which led to an increase in size of the body and brain, of Homo-Sapiens, our modern day humans around 200,000 BC in Africa.

Around 50,000 BC, humans belonging to the Lower and Middle Paleolithic times, exhibited the first signs of primitive behaviour, yet their behaviour resembled a close connection with the animal kingdom.  So the early stages of our evolution, had taken the next step.

Some are known to have migrated out of Africa, and eventually becoming extinct, leaving our world with a single human species; the Homo-Sapiens.  They who would colonize much of the world during the Middle Paleolithic periods.

Some parts of the world opted not to follow an agricultural based lifestyle.  Some continued the old ways of being hunter-gather, and this was followed by Australia, Siberia, Africa and the Americas.  Whilst others followed a nomadic herding lifestyle, where rainfall is sufficient, but grass is scarce.

Neolithic life was the crucial step towards urbanization and Eurasia experienced the rise of cities, thousands of years before the rest of the world.  For they had a plentiful supply of plants and animals, some of which, could be harnessed to undertake heavy labour.

Bronze and Iron Ages:

The Bronze Age started with the development of smelting (A process by which metal is extracted from ore), which had the ability to be shaped, a process which first emerged in Southwest Asia between 3,000-1,000 BC.

Copper was first smelted, but proved to be rather soft, until blended with tin, created a harder metal; Bronze.

The Iron Age arrived in Southwest Asia, around 1,000 BC when iron ore was smelted at much higher temperatures, than that achieved during the Bronze Age.

This transition came about, because it was more abundantly available than copper and tin.  This enabled mass production of tools and weapons, for agriculture and warfare.

Western Art Movements (3/3)

Surrealism (1916–1950) emerged from the Dada art movement of 1916, showcasing works of art that defied reason. Surrealists denounced the rationalist mindset. They blamed this thought process on events like World War I and believed it to repress imaginative thoughts. Surrealists were influenced by Karl Marx and theories developed by Sigmund Freud, who explored psychoanalysis and the power of imagination.

Surrealist artists like Salvador Dalí tapped into the unconscious mind to depict revelations found on the street and in everyday life. Dalí’s paintings in particular pair vivid and bizarre dreams with historical accuracy.

Abstract Expressionism (1940s–1950s) shaped by the legacy of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism emerged in New York after WWII. It’s often referred to as the New York School or action painting. These painters and abstract sculptors broke away from what was considered conventional, and instead used spontaneity and improvisation to create abstract works of art. This included colossally-scaled works whose size could no longer be accommodated by an easel. Instead, canvases would be placed directly upon the floor.

Celebrated Abstract Expressionist painters include Jackson Pollock, known for his unique style of drip painting, and Mark Rothko, whose paintings employed large blocks of colour to convey a sense of spirituality.

Op Art (1950s–1960s) was heightened by advances in science and technology as well as an interest in optical effects and illusions, the Op art (“optical art”) movement launched with Le Mouvement, a group exhibition at Galerie Denise Rene in 1955. Artists active in this style used shapes, colours, and patterns to create images that appeared to be moving or blurring, often produced in black and white for maximum contrast. These abstract patterns were meant to both confuse and excite the eye.

English artist Bridget Riley is one of the most prominent Op Art practitioners. Her 1964 artwork Blaze features zigzag black and white lines that create the illusion of a circular decent.

Pop Art (1950s–1960s) is one of the most recognizable artistic developments of the 20th century. The movement transitioned away from methods used in Abstract Expressionism, and instead used every day, mundane objects to create innovative works of art that challenged consumerism and mass media. This introduction to identifiable imagery was a shift from the direction of modernism.

Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein sought to alter the idea that art can draw from any source and there is no hierarchy of culture to disrupt that. The most famous pop culture work of art is Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans production.

Arte Povera (1960s) literally means “poor art,” Arte Povera challenged modernist, contemporary systems by infusing commonplace materials into creations. Artists used soil, rocks, paper, rope, and other earthen elements to evoke a pre-industrial sentiment. As a result, many of the notable works during this movement are sculptural.

Italian artist Mario Merz, in conjunction with other Italian artists such as Giovanni Anselmo and Alighiero Boetti, created anti-elitist works by drawing upon materials from everyday life. His 1968 Giap’s Igloo, one of what would soon become his signature series of igloos, focused on his occupations with the necessities of life: shelter, warmth, and food.

Minimalism (1960s–1970s) Minimalist movement emerged in New York as a group of younger artists began to question the overly expressive works of Abstract Expressionist artists. Minimalist art instead focused on anonymity, calling attention to the materiality of works. Artists urged viewers to focus on precisely what was in front of them, rather than draw parallels to outside realities and emotive thoughts through the use of purified forms, order, simplicity, and harmony.

American artist Frank Stella was of the earliest adopters of Minimalism, producing nonrepresentational paintings, as seen in his Black Paintings completed between 1958 and 1960. Each features a pattern of rectilinear stripes of uniform width printed in metallic black ink.

Conceptual Art (1960s–1970s) completely rejected previous art movements, and artists prized ideas over visual components, creating art in the from of performances, ephemera, and other forms. Polish performance artist Ewa Partum’s Active Poetry consisted of her scattering single alphabet letters across various landscapes. American artist Joseph Kosuth explored the production and role of language within art, as seen in his 1965, One and Three Chairs. In it, he represents one chair in three different ways to represent different meanings of the same object. Because this type of art focused on ideas and concepts, there was no distinct style or form.

Contemporary Art (1970–present) marked the beginning of contemporary art, which extends through to the present day. This period is dominated by various schools and smaller movements that emerged.

  • Postmodernism: In reaction against modernism, artists created works that reflected skepticism, irony, and philosophical critiques.
  • Feminist art: This movement arose in an attempt to transform stereotypes and break the model of a male-dominated art history.
  • Neo Expressionism: Artists sought to revive original aspects of Expressionism and create highly textural, expressive, large works.
  • Street art: Artists such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barry McGee, Banksy, and more created graffiti-like art on surfaces in public places like sidewalks, buildings, and overpasses.
  • The Pictures Generation: Artists Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Gary Simmons, and others who were influenced by Conceptual and Pop art experimented with recognizable imagery to explore images shaped our perceptions of the world.
  • Appropriation art: This movement focused on the use of images in art with little transformation from their original form.
  • Young British Artists (YBA): This group of London artists were notorious for their willingness to shock audiences through their imagery, and a willingness to push beyond limits of decency. They’re also known for their zestful, entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Digital art: The advent of the camera lent way to this artistic practice that allowed artists to use the infusion of art and technology to create with mediums like computers, audio and visual software, sound, and pixels.

Art movements throughout the history of Western art have offered a swath of diverse, influential styles, techniques, and media across the globe. Each movement shed light on distinctive painting, sculpture, architectural achievements, and other defining works.

Western Art Movements (2/3)

Romanticism (1780–1850) embodies a broad range of disciplines, from painting to music to literature. The ideals present in each of these art forms reject order, harmony, and rationality, which were embraced in both classical art and Neoclassicism. Instead, Romantic artists emphasized the individual and imagination. Another defining Romantic ideal was an appreciation for nature, with many turning to air painting, which brought artists out of dark interiors and enabled them to paint outside. Artists also focused on passion, emotion, and sensation over intellect and reason.

Prominent Romantic painters include Henry Fuseli, who created strange, macabre paintings that explored the dark recesses of human psychology, and William Blake, whose images conveyed mystical visions and his disappointment in societal constraints.

Realism (1848–1900) the first modern art movement, began in France in the 1840s, the result of multiple events: the anti-Romantic movement in Germany, the rise of journalism, and the advent of photography. Each inspired new interest in accurately capturing everyday life. This attention to accuracy is evident in art produced during the movement, which featured detailed, life-like depictions of subject matter.

One of the most influential leaders of the Realist movement is Gustave Courbet, a French artist committed to painting only what he could physically see.

Art Nouveau (1890–1910) translates to “New Art,” attempted to create an entirely authentic movement free from any imitation of styles that preceded it. This movement heavily influenced applied arts, graphics, and illustration. It focused on the natural world, characterized by long, lines and curves.

Influential Art Nouveau artists worked in a variety of media, including architecture, graphic and interior design and painting. Graphic designer Alphonse Mucha is best-known for his theatrical posters of French actress Sarah Bernhardt. Spanish architect and sculptor Antoni Gaudi went beyond focusing on lines to create curving, brightly-coloured constructions like that of the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Impressionism (1865–1885) painters sought to capture the immediate impression of a particular moment. Characterized by short, quick brushstrokes and an unfinished, sketch-like feel. Impressionist artists used modern life as their subject matter, painting situations like dance halls and sailboat events.

French artist; Claude Monet, spearheaded the idea of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, is virtually synonymous with the Impressionist movement. His works include The Water Lily Pond (1899), Woman with a Parasol (1875), and Impression, Sunrise (1872).

Post-Impressionism (1885–1910) painters worked independently rather than as a group, but each influential Post-Impressionist painter had similar ideals. They concentrated on subjective visions and symbolic, personal meanings rather than observations of the outside world. This was often achieved through abstract forms.

Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat, noted for his pointillism technique that used small, distinct dots to form an image. Vincent van Gogh a Post-Impressionist painter, searched for personal expression through his art, often through rugged brushstrokes and dark tones.

Fauvism (1900–1935) Painting introduced by Henri Matisse, built upon examples from Vincent van Gogh and George Seurat. As the first avant-garde, 20th-century movement, this style was characterized by expressive use of intense colour, line, and brushwork, a bold sense of surface design, and flat composition.

As seen in many of the works of Matisse himself, the separation of colour from its descriptive, representational purpose was one of the core elements that shaped this movement. Fauvism was an important precursor of Cubism and Expressionism.

Expressionism (1905–1920) emerged as a response to increasingly conflicted world views and the loss of spirituality. Expressionist art sought to draw from within the artist, using a distortion of form and strong colours to display anxieties and raw emotions. Expressionist painters, in a quest for authenticity, looked for inspiration beyond that of Western art.

The roots of Expressionism can be traced to Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and James Ensor. Prominent groups including Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) formed so artists could publish works and express their ideals collectively.

Cubism (1907–1914) was established by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who rejected the concept that art should copy nature. They moved away from traditional techniques and perspectives; instead, they created radically fragmented objects through abstraction. Many Cubist painters’ works are marked by flat, two-dimensional surfaces, geometric forms or “cubes” of objects, and multiple vantage points. Often, their subjects weren’t even discernible.

Western Art Movements (1/3)

Prehistoric Art (40,000–4,000 B.C.)  The origins of art history can be traced back to the Prehistoric era, before written records were kept. The earliest artifacts come from the Paleolithic or the Old Stone Age times, in the form of rock carvings, engravings, pictorial imagery, sculptures, and stone layouts.

Art from this period relied on the use of natural pigments and stone carvings to create representations of objects, animals, and rituals that governed a civilization’s existence. One of the most famous examples is that of the Paleolithic cave paintings found in the caves of Lascaux in France, they’re estimated to be up to 20,000 years old and depict large animals and vegetation from the area.

Ancient Art (4,000 B.C.–A.D. 400) was produced by advanced civilizations, which in this case refers to those with an established written language. These civilizations included Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and those of the Americas.

The medium of a work of art from this period varies depending on the civilization that produced it, but most art served similar purposes: to tell stories, decorate objects like bowls and weapons, display religious and symbolic imagery, and demonstrate social status. Many works depict stories of rulers, gods, and goddesses.

One of the most famous works from ancient Mesopotamia is the Code of Hammurabi. Created around 1792 B.C., the piece bears a Babylonian set of laws carved in stone, adorned by an image of King Hammurabi—the sixth King of Babylonia—and the Mesopotamian god, Shabash.

Medieval Art (500–1400) ofThe Middle Ages, often referred to as the “Dark Ages,” marked a period of economic and cultural deterioration following the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. Much of the artwork produced in the early years of the period reflects that darkness, characterized by grotesque imagery and brutal scenery. Art produced during this time was mostly centered around the Church. As the first millennium passed, more sophisticated and elaborately decorated churches emerged; windows and silhouettes were adorned with biblical subjects and scenes from classical mythology.

This period was also responsible for the introduction of the illuminated manuscript and Gothic architecture. Definitive examples of influential art from this period include the catacombs in Rome, Lindisfarne Gospels, and Notre Dame, a Parisian cathedral and prominent example of Gothic architecture.

Renaissance Art (1400–1600) style of painting, sculpture, and decorative art was characterized by a focus on nature and individualism, the thought of man as independent and self-reliant. Though these ideals were present in the late Medieval period, they flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries, paralleling social and economic changes like secularization.

The Renaissance reached its height in Florence, Italy, due in large part to the Medici, a wealthy merchant family who adamantly supported the arts and humanism, a variety of beliefs and philosophies that places emphasis on the human realm. Italian designer Filippo Brunelleschi and sculptor Donatello were key innovators during this period.

The High Renaissance, which lasted from 1490 to 1527, produced influential artists such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, each of whom brought creative power and spearheaded ideals of emotional expression. Artwork throughout the Renaissance was characterized by realism, attention to detail, and precise study of human anatomy. Artists used linear perspective and created depth through intense lighting and shading. Art began to change stylistically shortly after the High Renaissance, when clashes between the Christian faith and humanism gave way to Mannerism.

Mannerism (1527–1580) artists emerged from the ideals of Michelangelo, Raphael, and other Late Renaissance artists, but their focus on style and technique outweighed the meaning of the subject matter. Often, figures had graceful, elongated limbs, small heads, stylized features and exaggerated details. This yielded more complex, stylized compositions rather than relying on the classical ideals of harmonious composition and linear perspective used by their Renaissance predecessors.

Some of the most celebrated artists included Giorgio Vasari, Francesco Salviati, Domenico Beccafumi, and Bronzino, who is widely considered to be the most important Mannerist painter in Florence during his time.

Baroque (1600–1750) period followed on from Mannerism and yielded ornate, over-the-top visual arts and architecture. It was characterized by grandeur and richness, punctuated by an interest in broadening human intellect and global discovery. Baroque artists were stylistically complex.

Baroque paintings were characterized by drama, as seen in the works of Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Painters used an intense contrast between light and dark and had energetic compositions matched by rich colour palettes.

Rococo (1699–1780) originated in Paris, encompassing decorative art, painting, architecture, and sculpture. The aesthetic offered a softer style of decorative art compared to Baroque’s exuberance. Rococo is characterized by lightness and elegance, focusing on the use of natural forms, asymmetrical design, and subtle colours.

Painters like Antoine Watteau and Francois Boucher used light hearted treatments, rich brushwork, and fresh colours. The Rococo style also easily translated to silver, porcelain, and French furniture. Many chairs and armoires featured curving forms, floral designs, and an expressive use of gilt.

Neoclassicism (1750–1850) period drew upon elements from classical antiquity. Archaeological ruins of ancient civilizations in Athens and Naples that were discovered at the time reignited a passion for all things past, and artists strove to recreate the great works of ancient art. This translated to a renewed interest in classical ideals of harmony, simplicity, and proportion.

Neoclassical artists were influenced by classical elements; in particular, a focus on idealism. Inevitably, they also included modern, historically relevant depictions in their works.

Art History Timeline

Art History Timeline: The foundation of art history can be traced back tens of thousands of years to when ancient civilizations used available techniques and media to depict culturally significant subject matter. Since these early examples, a plethora of art movements have followed, each bearing their own distinct styles and characteristics that reflect the political and social influences of the period from which they emerged.

Influential genres of art from the Renaissance to the rise of Modernism have undoubtedly made their mark on history. With many artists today like Banksy, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley consistently infusing art historical references into contemporary works, understanding the historical context and significance of each period and movement is critical.

Prehistoric Art (~40,000–4,000 B.C.)

The origins of art history can be traced back to the Prehistoric era, before written records were kept. The earliest artifacts come from the Paleolithic era, or the Old Stone Age, in the form of rock carvings, engravings, pictorial imagery, sculptures, and stone arrangements.

Art from this period relied on the use of natural pigments and stone carvings to create representations of objects, animals, and rituals that governed a civilization’s existence. One of the most famous examples is that of the Paleolithic cave paintings found in the complex caves of Lascaux in France. Though discovered in 1940, they’re estimated to be up to 20,000 years old and depict large animals and vegetation from the area.

Ancient Art (4,000 B.C.–A.D. 400)

Ancient art was produced by advanced civilizations, which in this case refers to those with an established written language. These civilizations included Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and those of the Americas.

The medium of a work of art from this period varies depending on the civilization that produced it, but most art served similar purposes: to tell stories, decorate utilitarian objects like bowls and weapons, display religious and symbolic imagery, and demonstrate social status. Many works depict stories of rulers, gods, and goddesses.

One of the most famous works from ancient Mesopotamia is the Code of Hammurabi. Created around 1792 B.C., the piece bears a Babylonian set of laws carved in stone, adorned by an image of King Hammurabi—the sixth King of Babylonia—and the Mesopotamian god, Shabash.

Medieval Art (500–1400)

The Middle Ages, often referred to as the “Dark Ages,” marked a period of economic and cultural deterioration following the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. Much of the artwork produced in the early years of the period reflects that darkness, characterized by grotesque imagery and brutal scenery. Art produced during this time was centered around the Church. As the first millennium passed, more sophisticated and elaborately decorated churches emerged; windows and silhouettes were adorned with biblical subjects and scenes from classical mythology.

This period was also responsible for the emergence of the illuminated manuscript and Gothic architecture style. Definitive examples of influential art from this period include the catacombs in Rome, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the best-known examples of the illuminated manuscript, and Notre Dame, a Parisian cathedral and prominent example of Gothic architecture.

Renaissance Art (1400–1600):  This style of painting, sculpture, and decorative art was characterized by a focus on nature and individualism, the thought of man as independent and self-reliant. Though these ideals were present in the late Medieval period, they flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries, paralleling social and economic changes like secularization.

The Renaissance reached its height in Florence, Italy, due in large part to the Medici, a wealthy merchant family who adamantly supported the arts and humanism, a variety of beliefs and philosophies that places emphasis on the human realm. Italian designer Filippo Brunelleschi and sculptor Donatello were key innovators during this period.

The High Renaissance, which lasted from 1490 to 1527, produced influential artists such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, each of whom brought creative power and spearheaded ideals of emotional expression. Artwork throughout the Renaissance was characterized by realism, attention to detail, and precise study of human anatomy. Artists used linear perspective and created depth through intense lighting and shading. Art began to change stylistically shortly after the High Renaissance, when clashes between the Christian faith and humanism gave way to Mannerism.

Mannerism (1527–1580):

Mannerist artists emerged from the ideals of Michelangelo, Raphael, and other Late Renaissance artists, but their focus on style and technique outweighed the meaning of the subject matter. Often, figures had graceful, elongated limbs, small heads, stylized features and exaggerated details. This yielded more complex, stylized compositions rather than relying on the classical ideals of harmonious composition and linear perspective used by their Renaissance predecessors.

Some of the most celebrated Mannerist artists include Giorgio Vasari, Francesco Salviati, Domenico Beccafumi, and Bronzino, who is widely considered to be the most important Mannerist painter in Florence during his time.

Baroque (1600–1750)

The Baroque period that followed Mannerism yielded ornate, over-the-top visual arts and architecture. It was characterized by grandeur and richness, punctuated by an interest in broadening human intellect and global discovery. Baroque artists were stylistically complex.

Baroque paintings were characterized by drama, as seen in the iconic works of Italian painter Caravaggio and Dutch painter Rembrandt. Painters used an intense contrast between light and dark and had energetic compositions matched by rich color palettes.

Rococo (1699–1780):  Rococo originated in Paris, encompassing decorative art, painting, architecture, and sculpture. The aesthetic offered a softer style of decorative art compared to Baroque’s exuberance. Rococo is characterized by lightness and elegance, focusing on the use of natural forms, asymmetrical design, and subtle colours.

Painters like Antoine Watteau and Francois Boucher used light hearted treatments, rich brushwork, and fresh colours. The Rococo style also easily translated to silver, porcelain, and French furniture. Many chairs and armoires featured curving forms, floral designs, and an expressive use of gilt.

Neoclassicism (1750–1850)

As its name suggests, the Neoclassical period drew upon elements from classical antiquity. Archaeological ruins of ancient civilizations in Athens and Naples that were discovered at the time reignited a passion for all things past, and artists strove to recreate the great works of ancient art. This translated to a renewed interest in classical ideals of harmony, simplicity, and proportion.

Neoclassical artists were influenced by classical elements; in particular, a focus on idealism. Inevitably, they also included modern, historically relevant depictions in their works. For example, Italian sculptor Antonio Canova drew upon classical elements in his marble sculptures, but avoided the cold artificiality that was represented in many of these early creations.

Romanticism (1780–1850)

Romanticism embodies a broad range of disciplines, from painting to music to literature. The ideals present in each of these art forms reject order, harmony, and rationality, which were embraced in both classical art and Neoclassicism. Instead, Romantic artists emphasized the individual and imagination. Another defining Romantic ideal was an appreciation for nature, with many turning to plein air painting, which brought artists out of dark interiors and enabled them to paint outside. Artists also focused on passion, emotion, and sensation over intellect and reason.

Prominent Romantic painters include Henry Fuseli, who created strange, macabre paintings that explored the dark recesses of human psychology, and William Blake, whose mysterious poems and images conveyed mystical visions and his disappointment in societal constraints.

Realism (1848–1900)

Arguably the first modern art movement, Realism, began in France in the 1840s. Realism was a result of multiple events: the anti-Romantic movement in Germany, the rise of journalism, and the advent of photography. Each inspired new interest in accurately capturing everyday life. This attention to accuracy is evident in art produced during the movement, which featured detailed, life-like depictions of subject matter.

One of the most influential leaders of the Realist movement is Gustave Courbet, a French artist committed to painting only what he could physically see.

Art Nouveau (1890–1910)

Art Nouveau, which translates to “New Art,” attempted to create an entirely authentic movement free from any imitation of styles that preceded it. This movement heavily influenced applied arts, graphics, and illustration. It focused on the natural world, characterized by long, sinuous lines and curves.

Art Nouveau artists worked in a variety of media, including architecture, graphic and interior design, jewellery making, and painting. Czechoslovakian graphic designer Alphonse Mucha is best-known for his theatrical posters of French actress Sarah Bernhardt. Spanish architect and sculptor Antoni Gaudi went beyond focusing on lines to create curving, brightly-colored constructions like that of the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Impressionism (1865–1885)

Impressionist painters sought to capture the impression of a particular moment. This was characterized by short, quick brushstrokes and an unfinished, sketch-like feel. Impressionist artists used modern life as their subject matter, painting situations like dance halls and sailboat regattas rather than historical and mythological events.

Claude Monet, a French artist who spearheaded the idea of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, is virtually synonymous with the Impressionist movement. His notable works include The Water Lily Pond (1899), Woman with a Parasol (1875), and Impression, Sunrise (1872), from which the name of the movement itself is derived.

Post-Impressionism (1885–1910)

Post-Impressionist painters worked independently rather than as a group, but each influential Post-Impressionist painter had similar ideals. They concentrated on subjective visions and symbolic, personal meanings rather than observations of the outside world. This was often achieved through abstract forms.

Post-Impressionist painters include Georges Seurat, noted for his pointillism technique that used small, distinct dots to form an image. Vincent van Gogh is also considered a Post-Impressionist painter, searching for personal expression through his art, often through rugged brushstrokes and dark tones.

Fauvism (1900–1935)

Led by Henri Matisse, Fauvism built upon examples from Vincent van Gogh and George Seurat. As the first avant-garde, 20th-century movement, this style was characterized by expressive use of intense colour, line, and brushwork, a bold sense of surface design, and flat composition.

As seen in many of the works of Matisse himself, the separation of colour from its descriptive, representational purpose was one of the core elements that shaped this movement. Fauvism was an important precursor of Cubism and Expressionism.

Expressionism (1905–1920)

Expressionist artists sought to draw from within the artist, using a distortion of form and strong colours to display anxieties and raw emotions. Expressionist painters, in a quest for authenticity, looked for inspiration beyond that of Western art and frequented ethnographic museums to revisit native folk traditions and tribal art.

The roots of Expressionism can be traced back to Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and James Ensor. Prominent groups including Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) formed so artists could publish works and express their ideals collectively.

Cubism (1907–1914)

Cubism was established by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who rejected the concept that art should copy nature. They moved away from traditional techniques and perspectives; instead, they created radically fragmented objects through abstraction. Many Cubist painters’ works are marked by flat, two-dimensional surfaces, geometric forms or “cubes” of objects, and multiple vantage points. Often, their subjects weren’t even discernible.

Surrealism (1916–1950)

Surrealism emerged from the Dada art movement in 1916, showcasing works of art that defied reason. Surrealists denounced the rationalist mindset. They blamed this thought process on events like World War I and believed it to repress imaginative thoughts. Surrealists were influenced by Karl Marx and theories developed by Sigmund Freud, who explored psychoanalysis and the power of imagination.

Influential Surrealist artists like Salvador Dalí tapped into the unconscious mind to depict revelations found on the street and in everyday life. Dalí’s paintings in particular pair vivid and bizarre dreams with historical accuracy.

Abstract Expressionism (1940s–1950s)

Shaped by the legacy of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism emerged in New York after WWII. It’s often referred to as the New York School or action painting. These painters and abstract sculptors broke away from what was considered conventional, and instead used spontaneity and improvisation to create abstract works of art. This included colossally-scaled works whose size could no longer be accommodated by an easel. Instead, canvases would be placed directly upon the floor.

Celebrated Abstract Expressionist painters include Jackson Pollock, known for his unique style of drip painting, and Mark Rothko, whose paintings employed large blocks of colour to convey a sense of spirituality.

Op Art (1950s–1960s)

Heightened by advances in science and technology as well as an interest in optical effects and illusions, the Op art (optical art) movement launched with Le Mouvement, a group exhibition at Galerie Denise Rene in 1955. Artists active in this style used shapes, colours, and patterns to create images that appeared to be moving or blurring, often produced in black and white for maximum contrast. These abstract patterns were meant to both confuse and excite the eye.

English artist Bridget Riley is one of the most prominent Op Art practitioners. Her 1964 artwork Blaze features zigzag black and white lines that create the illusion of a circular decent.

Pop Art (1950s–1960s)

Pop art is one of the most recognizable artistic developments of the 20th century. The movement transitioned away from methods used in Abstract Expressionism, and instead used everyday, mundane objects to create innovative works of art that challenged consumerism and mass media. This introduction to identifiable imagery was a shift from the direction of modernism.

Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein sought to establish the idea that art can draw from any source and there is no hierarchy of culture to disrupt that. Perhaps the most famous pop culture work of art is Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans production.

Arte Povera (1960s)

Translating literally to “poor art,” challenged modernist, contemporary systems by infusing commonplace materials into creations. Artists used soil, rocks, paper, rope, and other earthen elements to evoke a pre-industrial sentiment. As a result, many of the notable works during this movement are sculptural.

Italian artist Mario Merz, in conjunction with other Italian artists such as Giovanni Anselmo and Alighiero Boetti, created anti-elitist works by drawing upon materials from everyday life. His 1968 Giap’s Igloo, one of what would soon become his signature series of igloos, focused on his occupations with the necessities of life: shelter, warmth, and food.

Minimalism (1960s–1970s)

The Minimalist movement emerged in New York as a group of younger artists began to question the overly expressive works of Abstract Expressionist artists. Minimalist art instead focused on anonymity, calling attention to the materiality of works. Artists urged viewers to focus on precisely what was in front of them, rather than draw parallels to outside realities and emotive thoughts through the use of purified forms, order, simplicity, and harmony.

American artist Frank Stella was of the earliest adopters of Minimalism, producing nonrepresentational paintings, as seen in his Black Paintings completed between 1958 and 1960. Each features a pattern of rectilinear stripes of uniform width printed in metallic black ink.

Conceptual Art (1960s–1970s)

Conceptual art completely rejected previous art movements, and artists prized ideas over visual components, creating art in the from of performances, ephemera, and other forms. Polish performance artist Ewa Partum’s Active Poetry consisted of her scattering single alphabet letters across various landscapes. American artist Joseph Kosuth explored the production and role of language within art, as seen in his 1965, One and Three Chairs. In it, he represents one chair in three different ways to represent different meanings of the same object. Because this type of art focused on ideas and concepts, there was no distinct style or form.

Contemporary Art (1970–present)

The 1970s marked the beginning of contemporary art, which extends through to the present day. This period is dominated by various schools and smaller movements that emerged.

  • Postmodernism: In reaction against modernism, artists created works that reflected scepticism, irony, and philosophical critiques.
  • Feminist art: This movement arose in an attempt to transform stereotypes and break the model of a male-dominated art history.
  • Neo Expressionism: Artists sought to revive original aspects of Expressionism and create highly textural, expressive, large works.
  • Street art: Artists such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barry McGee, Banksy, and more created graffiti-like art on surfaces in public places like sidewalks, buildings, and overpasses.
  • The Pictures Generation: Artists Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Gary Simmons, and others who were influenced by Conceptual and Pop art experimented with recognizable imagery to explore images shaped our perceptions of the world.
  • Appropriation art: This movement focused on the use of images in art with little transformation from their original form.
  • Young British Artists (YBA): This group of London artists were notorious for their willingness to shock audiences through their imagery, and a willingness to push beyond limits of decency. They’re also known for their zestful, entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Digital art: The advent of the camera lent way to this artistic practice that allowed artists to use the infusion of art and technology to create with mediums like computers, audio and visual software, sound, and pixels.

Art movements throughout the history of Western art have offered a swath of diverse, influential styles, techniques, and media across the globe. Each movement shed light on a distinctive style of painting, sculpture, architectural achievements, and other defining works. Understanding the timeline of art history and how each period has influenced later movements is paramount to our understanding.

Earth’s Timeline: Thousand’s of Years ago…

700,000 Years: Human and Neanderthal lineages started to diverge genetically.

640,000 Years: Yellowstone super volcanic eruption.

600,000 Years: Evolution of Homo Heidelbergensis.

530,000 Years: Development in speech in Homo Heidelbergensis.

400,000 Years: Hominids hunted with wooden spears and used stone cutting tools.

370,000 Years: Human ancestors and Neanderthals were fully separate populations.

350,000 Years: Evolution of Neanderthals.

Hominids used controlled fires.

300,000 Years: Neanderthal man spread through Europe.

200,000 Years: Anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa.

105,000 Years: Stone age humans foraged for grass seeds such as sorghum.

80,000 Years: Non-African humans interbreed with Neanderthals.

60,000 Years: Oldest male ancestor of modern humans.

40,000 Years: Cro-Magnon man appeared in Europe.

30,000 Years: First domestic dogs.

15,000 Years: Bering land bridge between Alaska and Siberia.

12,000 Years: Fired pottery invented.

9,000 Years: Metal smelting started.

5,500 Years: Invention of the wheel.

5,300 Years: The Bronze Age.

5,000 Years: Development of writing.

4,500 Years: Pyramids of Giza.

3,300 Years: The Iron Age.

2,230 Years: Archimedes advanced mathematics.

Earth’s Timeline: Million’s of Years ago…

900 Million Years: Our earth day was now 18 hours along, and the moon was 350,000km from Earth. 

For many millions of years, Planet Earth was completely covered in a layer of ice.

650 Million Years: A mass extinction was taking place as 70% of dominant sea plants died out.

590 Million Years: A meteor would impact planet Earth, creating a 90km crater in South Australia.

                                      Simple soft-bodied organisms like jellyfish were developed.

580 Million Years: The accumulation of atmospheric oxygen, played its part in the formation of the ozone layer.  In turn this blocked ultra-violet radiation, and permitted the colonisation of planet Earth.

 One can find the ozone layer some 20-30 kilometres above Earth, and plays its part in absorbing 97-99% of the Sun’s ultra-violet light which can potentially damage life forms, like you and me.

570 Million Years: Anthropoids, the ancestors of insects started appearing.

560 Million Years: The earliest forms of Fungi started appearing.

530 Million Years: We would see a major diversification of living things, with the appearance of fish in our oceans.

443 Million Years: A mass extinction would take place, as 49% of all living things would disappear.

434 Million Years: First signs of primitive plants started appearing, having evolved from green algae living on lake edges.

These primitive plants are accompanied by fungi, which may have aided colonization through symbiosis.

Fish in our oceans started changing, and developed teeth and jaws.

410 Million Years: Spiders and Centipedes were next to appear in Earth’s evolution.

374 Million Years: We underwent a mass extinction of marine species, with the loss of 70%.

370 Million Years: Life changed with the appearance of amphibians, they being the ancestors of frogs and toads.

363 Million Years: Vegetation would soon cover our land, seed bearing plants and forests would flourish.

360 Million Years: Insects roamed our land, and shortly thereafter, sharks swam our oceans as top predators.

320 Million Years: Beetles and Reptiles started appearing over the next 40 Million Years.

251 Million Years: Some 95% of ocean species and 70% of land species underwent mass extinction.

225 Million Years: Small dinosaurs appeared, and by 220 Million Years forests had dominated this land.

201 Million Years: A mass extinction took place and some 20% of marine species were wiped out, by an oceanic event.

200 Million Years: Saw the first appearance of Mammals.

150 Million Years: Birds of flight appeared.

130 Million Years: Plants which flowered started bursting forth, and attracted insects and animals to spread pollen.  This innovation caused a major burst in animal/plant evolution.

110 Million Years: Crocodiles appeared.

100 Million Years: The first group of bees evolved, the start of their evolution.

90 Million Years: Snakes appeared.

80 Million Years: Ants put in their appearance.

68 Million Years: In Mexico a 170km crater was formed as part of a meteor impact.

65 Million Years: 80-90% of marine species and 85% of land species were made extinct as part of an extinction of their race.

                                      Dinosaurs became extinct.

55 Million Years: Whales started appearing,

52 Million Years: Bats started appearing.

40 Million Years: Butterflies started appearing.

30 Million Years: Pigs started appearing.

25 Million Years: Deer started appearing.

20 Million Years: Giraffes and Bears started appearing.

15 Million Years: Kangaroo started appearing.

14 Million Years: Apes started appearing.

4.4 Million Years: Early Hominin started appearing.

4.0 Million Years: Ocean currents changed in the Atlantic Ocean.

3.9 Million Years: Appearance of Australopithecus, Genus of Hominids.

3.7 Million Years: Australopithecus Hominids inhabited Eastern and Northern Africa.

2.7 Million Years: Evolution of Paranthropus.

2.4 Million Years: Homo Habilis appeared.

2.1 Million Years: Yellowstone super volcanic eruption.

2.0 Million Years: Beginning of the Stone Age.

1.7 Million Years. Homo Erectus first moved out of Africa.

1.3 Million Years: Yellowstone super volcanic eruption.

1.2 Million years: Evolution of Homo antecessor.

Earth’s Timeline: Billions of Years ago…

4.5 Billion Years: At this point of time in Earth’s evolution, the moon was orbiting earth at a distance of 64,000km.

                             At this time in our history, Earth had no water.

3.9 Billion Years: Meteorites were known to have bombarded Earth, bringing with it water and elements.  Earth’s atmosphere consisted of Carbon Dioxide, Water Vapor, Methane and Ammonia.

3.8 Billion Years: The surface of planet earth changed from molten to solid rock.  Water started condensing in liquid form.  At this time Earth’s Day was 15 hours long.

3.6 Billion Years: First simple cells, oxygen producing bacteria started appearing.

3.4 Billion Years: Stromatolites demonstrated photosynthesis a process by which plants and other organisms can convert light energy captured from the sun into chemical energy.

2.2 Billion Years: Organisms with mitochondria capable of aerobic respiration started appearing.

2.0 Billion Years: A meteor would impact planet earth, creating a 300km crater in South Africa.

1.8 Billion Years: A meteor would impact planet earth, creating a 250km crater in Ontario, Canada.

1.6 Billion Years: Our evolution was changing as we witnessed the appearance of complex single cell life.

1.5 Billion Years: Organisms with a complex cell structure, containing nucleus started appearing.

1.2 Billion Years: Sexual reproduction started appearing, thus increasing the rate of evolution.

1.0 Billion Years: The appearance of Multi-Cellular life.

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