Art History over the Years

Art History

Many art periods have come and gone, just as many are still yet to be born. Each one possesses a distinct significance and has affected history over the years. We have gathered some key elements that will help you enhance your understanding of the history of art over the years.

What Is Art History?

The academic study of the arts is particularly visual art. This includes painting, drawing, sculpting among others.

Why Is Art History Important?

Art is a reflection of the times, therefore it is a reflection of us. When we want to know more about our past we must turn to art, not just facts and average textbooks. The art depicts times of war, relationships, historical figures, love, famous people, geographic location, pandemics, trends, cultures, norms, gender roles, architecture, and the list can continue forever. It is a physical replica of how people thought, felt and acted at any given time. As we watch the evolution of art, we are watching the evolution of human beings and the world as a whole. Pretty cool right?

Art Styles Timeline

We have gathered a timeline of art movements over the years. A basic guide to important moments in time and historical artwork throughout the generations. Enjoy!


The farthest origin of art we could find is marked year 40,000 to 4,000 BC by experts. Art from this period relied on the natural world. We see this art through carvings, stone arrangements, sculptures, engraved messages, and more. These artworks often referenced the life of a civilian of that time relating to objects, animals, and rituals of the old stone age. An example of this is the Paleolithic cave paintings found in the caves of Lascaux in France.


One of the earliest periods of art known to people took place from 30,000 BC to AD 400. This work was created by ancient civilizations. These civilizations were scattered between Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt, and the Americas. The art differs between civilizations, but they together find common ground in their purpose to decorate, tell stories, signal religion, display status and worship the gods. A famous archive from this period is Fallen Warrior from the Temple of Aphaia.


This art era was battling it out from 500 AD to 1400 AD. It is also referred to as the “Dark Ages” due to the fall of the Roman Empire. Artwork created during this period reflects the darkness of the ending of an era. It depicts many images of brutal and grotesque scenery. This art was also centered around the church and gothic architecture. An example of this is Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.


This classical period came alive in 1400 and continued into 1600. Renaissance art is timeless, considered to be priceless, and is still appreciated today in museums and galleries globally. This was one of the different art periods from the previous because of its focus on individualism. It sought inspiration from nature, spirituality, and the independent man. This form of art was most popular in Italy and was propelled by artists like Leonardo da Vinci. He is most famous for the “Mona Lisa”.


As the period after the Renaissance, Mannerism art took form 1527-1580’s. It is also considered one of the most underrated or unknown art history time periods. These artists took inspiration from the renaissance period but honed in more on detail in technique. A famous work from this period is The Burial of the Count of Orgaz by El Greco.


What is art history

This over-the-top approach originated in 1600 and fizzled out in 1750. It focused primarily on drama and richness, as well as expanding the human mind and widening discovery. These grand ideals are displayed in “The Calling of Saint Matthew” by Caravaggio.


This form took flight in 1750 and concluded in 1850. It is known for reviving the classical and ancient. It is reflective of the notable Age of Enlightenment. An artist known for Neoclassicism is Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.



One of the most real periods of art history took place in 1848-1900. The goal was to recreate objects and people in excruciatingly specific detail. To come as close to real-life as possible and create a natural illusion to the eye. Vincent van Gogh’s “The Potato Eater” brings this genre to life.


The Modern art period took place from approximately the 1860s to the 1970s. This art was deemed experimental and defied tradition. It made room for artists to act on childlike curiosity and served as a playground for new techniques or a lack of technique to emerge. Some artists that paved the way during this period were Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and many others. An amazing place to witness modern art is the MoMA in New York City.


Took place from about 1865 to 1885. Routed in thin but visible brushstrokes and accurately incorporating light. A famous impressionist painting is Claude Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise”.


This whimsical period began in 1900 and continued to 1935. In this genre, color took precedence over all else. These bursts of color enabled artists to be more adventurous. Henri Matisse was integral in propelling this art movement. He is famous for many works including but not limited to “Woman with a Hat” and “Blue Nude”.


Existing as a subcategory of the modern era, this genre began in 1905 and concluded shortly in comparison in 1920. It originated in Germany and is intended to evoke an emotional response through distortion and its emphasis on the subjective experience. Erie colors make for a mood shift in this style of painting. A famous work of this period is “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.


This short period emerged in 1907 and concluded in 1914. In a short time, this shift made a huge impact. This avant-garde approach revolutionized new ideas surrounding painting and sculpture. Pablo Picasso played a huge role in the integrity of this genre. His famous Cubism-based works included “Guernica” and “Girl With Mandolin”.


Art history Timeline

Taking place in 1740-1850, this work originated in Europe and was made to be intellectual. This work emphasized the subjective human experience and emphasized autonomy. This can be seen in Gustave Courbet’s painting “A Desperate Man”.

Existing from 1917-1950, Surrealism was a cultural movement that broke through following World War I. It is known for incorporating unusual objects and proportions. Salvador Dali’s work is the epitome of this genre. One of his wildest paintings is entitled, “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening”.

Pop Art

One of the greatest art history movements of our time. Pop Art, inspired by popular culture, began in. Andy Warhol is the most famous poster child for this genre. He is most acclaimed for his works depicting Marilyn Monroe and Cambell’s soup, among many others.


Gaining traction in the 1960s and 1970s, minimalism is extreme abstract art where less equals more. This type of art challenges the conditions for which something should be considered art. A great example of this is the work of Jiro Yoshihara. Specifically, his work entitled “Red Circle on Black”.

Street Art

This movement began to flip the history of painting and its classical norms starting and is continuing to expand its reach today. This art involves graffiti and installations that take place in public. A famous street artist that changed the game and is still creating today is Banksy. His work “Girl With Balloon” is appreciated globally and the image is recognizable everywhere from prints to t-shirts.


As the most recent period, contemporary art began in the 1970s and is continued today. That means now and now and the next now. In short, contemporary art is a collection of creative works that are happening with new and fresh ideas. The movement is always evolving. An example of contemporary art is “Radiant Baby” by Keith Haring from his Icons Series.


We hope you enjoyed this art history summary and timeline of the art movement across the centuries. Now go get creating!

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