Major Artistic Periods and Movements for Dummies Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Major Artistic Periods and Movements for Dummies Deck (30)
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Prehistoric Art Period

Old Stone Age (hunting and gathering) and New Stone Age (agriculture)

  • Paleolithic period - artists painted pictures of animals on cave walls and sculpted animal and human forms in stone.
    • Shamanistic ritual to help them hunt.
    • Even the act of painting was probably part of these rituals.
  • Neolithic period -  No art, but arthicecture


Mesopotamian period

  • Period covers several civilizations, each contributed different features to Mesopotamian culture
    •     The Sumerians
    •     The Akkadians
    •     The Assyrians
    •     The Babylonians
  • Mesopotamian art is usually war art, propaganda art, or religious and tomb art.
  • Mesopotamian art is often macho, but also refined, and sometimes comic and highly imaginative


Egyptian period


  • Art was made for the tomb.
  • Style is symmetrical, rigid but elegant, for the most part unchanging, highly colorful, and symbolic.
  • Artists used visual narrative, but stories were less dramatic and realistic than Mesopotamin


Minoan period

  • Minoan culture and art had a short life compared to Egyptian and Mesopotamian art.
  • Minoan art is playful and focuses on life, sport, religious rituals, and daily pleasures.
  • It is the first art to truly celebrate day-to-day life.


Ancient Greek period

  • Greek art is divided into:
    • archaic (old-fashioned)
    • classical periods
  • moves increasingly toward realism.
  • Invented techniques:
    • Red-figure painting
    • Contrapposto pose
    • Perspective to allow artists to represent the world realistically.
  • Idealized (made to look better than real life).  
    • Art of the classical period (when Greek art peaked) is known for its otherworldly calm and beauty.



The Hellenistic Period

  • Begins with Alexander the Great’s death
  • Ends with Cleopatra’s snakebite suicide.
  • It is Greek art stripped of much of its idealism (though not in all cases).
  • Statues are still physically perfect, but instead of being imperturbably serene, they can express anger, bitter sorrow, or intense fear.
    • Was the first time these emotions were dramatically and realistically portrayed in art.


Etruscan period

  • 8th century B.C.–4th century B.C.
  • Etruria (modern-day Tuscany) 
  • Romans who conquered them built over most of their settlements, but didn’t disturb thier tombs.
  • We know Etruscan life mainly through their tomb art 
    • surprisingly happy affair — death was pleasant continuation of life


Roman period

  • 300 B.C.– A.D. 476
  • Copied Greeks but added something to the style.
  • In architecture, the Romans contributed the Roman arch, an invention that helped them to build the biggest system of roads and aqueducts the world has ever seen.
  • In painting and sculpture, the Romans took realism even farther than the Hellenistic Greeks. The busts of senators and early emperors look middle-aged, tough, and worldly.


Byzantine period 

  • A.D. 500– A.D. 1453
  • Byzantine art is Christian art of the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of Rome in A.D. 476
  • Byzantine art is a marriage of late Roman splendor, Greek artistic traditions, and Christian subject matter. Byzantine art is symbolic and less naturalistic than the Greek and Roman art that inspired it. It points to the hereafter rather than the here and now.
  • Icons Painintgs and mosacics


Islamic period

  • 7th century–
  • Mohammed condemned graven images, thus not many representations of humans in Islamic art.
  • The Middle Eastern and North African countries that converted to Islam were also the guardians of the most sophisticated knowledge of mathematics and geometry. Some of this knowledge seems to have filtered into the artwork.
  • Islamic artists often incorporate incredibly intricate and colorful patterns in carpets, manuscripts, ceramics, and architecture.


Medieval period

  • Mostly Christian art created in Europe after the fall of Rome and before the Renaissance.
  • Steeped in mysticism and symbolism, with a focus on the Christian afterlife.
  • Types:
    • Stained-glass windows
    • lluminated manuscripts
    • Silver and golden reliquaries (elaborate containers for holy relics — bones and other body parts of saints)
    • Architectural reliefs
    • Romanesque
    • Towering Gothic cathedrals.


Renaissance period

  • Renaissance means “rebirth.”
  • Artists returned to classical models in painting, sculpture, and architecture.
  • Portrait art
  • Christian religious art still dominated, but the stories and images in the art tended to celebrate man and things of this world.
  • Realism became as important as symbolism. 
    • Artists worked out the mathematical laws of perspective.



High Renaissance

  • Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael defined the movement known as the High Renaissance
  • Stable, geometrically shaped compositions.
  • Artists portrayed idealized subjects



  • After mastering nature, artists began to intentionally distort it.
  • Artists elongated human figures, created contorted postures, and distorted landscapes, which were often charged with symbolism and erotic or spiritual energy.
  • Art was no longer a window into an idealized version of the real world, but a window into the fruitful and fanciful imaginations of artists.


Baroque period

  • Developed during the Counter-Reformation (the 16th-century Catholic Church reform effort)
  • Propaganda weapon in the religious wars between Catholicism and Protestantism in the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • The Catholic Church wanted art to have a direct and powerful emotional appeal that would grab the attention of ordinary people and bind them to the Catholic faith. 
  • In Protestant lands, Baroque artists went out of their way to downplay the importance of saints, preferring more symbolic subjects for moral painting like landscapes charged with meaning, genre scenes (pictures of everyday events that read like fables), and paintings of fruit that suggest the temporariness of life on earth.
  • Kings and princes also enlisted Baroque artists to celebrate their wealth and power.


Rococo period


  • Rococo is Baroque art on a binge.
  • favored by kings, princes, and prelates who had too much money to spend.
  • The ornamental quality of Rococo painting, relief, sculpture, and architecture is often more important than the subject matter.


Neoclassicism and Romanticism: Period or Movements?

  • Both occurred during the Enlightenment and the American, French, and Industrial revolutions.
  • In a sense both were not only periods but movements.
    • As some conscious choices were made
      • style
      • political and/or spiritual message




  • Yet another return to Greco-Roman classicism.
  • Depicts men and women of the period as if they were Greek gods and heroes. 



Artists shunned the Industrial Revolution, attacked the excesses of kings, and championed the rights of the individual.

Some took refuge in nature; others sought an invigorating mixture of fear and awe in sublime landscapes and seascapes.




Reasserted the integrity of the physical world by stripping it of what they viewed as Romantic dreaminess or fuzziness. 


The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 


  • English
  • Art designed to counter the negative effects of the Industrial Revolution: gritty cities, poverty, and so on.
  • Rejected the materialistic society fed by the Industrial Revolution and backpedaled to the mysticism of the Middle Ages, often depicting Arthurian romances and other medieval legends in their paintings and stained-glass windows.


Arts and Crafts movement 

  • Founded by William Morris, one of the Pre-Raphaelites, Preferred the hands-on medieval workshop to the sweatshops of capitalism.
  • Handmade furniture and decorative arts produced in small workshops and artist colonies



  • Painted everyday life in natural light
  • Captures the subtle changes of atmosphere and shifting light.
  • Convey the fleeting quality of life




Not a movment, but a classification of a group of artists that painted in the wake of impressionism




  • Short-lived movement headed by Henri Matisse and André Derain.
  • Simplified form by stylizing it.
  • Flattened perspective, which made their paintings look less like windows into the world and more like wallpaper.
  • Believed that art should be inspiring and decorative 

    fun to look at



  • Expressionism is two German movements with slightly different goals:
    • Die Brücke (The Bridge)
    • Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).
  • Similar techniques and painted similar subjcts
  • Distort the exterior of people and places to express the interior.



  • What you see depends upon your point of view.
  • Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso invented Cubism so people could observe all views of a person or an object at once, from any angle.



  • Futurists embraced technology, speed, and, unfortunately, violence and Fascism.
  • Fascism was the only type of government that could carry out the cultural housecleaning they believed that society needed.
  • Their movement was based mostly in Italy and pre-Revolution Russia.



  • The madness of World War I spawned Dada
  • Started in neutral Switzerland and quickly spread across Europe.
  • Their “art” was to mock the prevailing culture, including mainstream art, with demonstrations, “actions,” and mock-art.
  • The Dadaists assumed that rational thinking had caused the war; therefore, the antidote to war must be irrational thinking.



  • Inspired by Dada and Freud’s theories of the unconscious.
  • Surrealists hoped to fix humanity by snubbing the rational world.
  • Instead of mocking earlier art and art traditions like the Dadaists, they sought ways to get in touch with the deeper, instinctual reality of one’s unconscious.
  • Painted their dreams, practiced free association, and mixed up the rational order of life