Art through the Ages

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

Art through the Ages


Art has evolved in countless ways since our early ancestors' cave paintings.

Here are a few of the key periods and movements of Western art over 40,000 years showing where the Pre-Raphaelites fit in.

Pre-historic Art There are signs of craftmanship from the Upper Paleolithic era. The earliest undisputed work of art is a naked woman - the Venus of Hohle Fels in Germany, thought to be around 40,000 years old.

Ancient Classical Art The first real flourishings of culture came from the Egyptians, Greeks, and then Romans - their buildings and sculptures have influenced almost everything that has come since.

Medieval Art After the decline of the Roman Empire, there was a huge stylistic shift as the techniques and theories of classical art were lost.

Medieval art was nearly all focussed on religion - Biblical scenes to decorate churches, or illuminated manuscripts. Realism and perspective were sacrificed in favour of the message.

The Renaissance Literally meaning "rebirth", this awakening saw a revival of interest in the art of ancient Greece and Rome. New techniques like the studied use of perspective and light and shade became common, as summed up in the ultimate Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci, a painter, sculptor, scientist and inventor. Artists started using non-religious subject matters such as Greek myths, and wealthy patrons funded their work.

Mannerism and Baroque Both extensions of and reactions to the discoveries of the Renaissance, Mannerism moved away from the realistic instincts of classicism, and emphasised emotion of the work and the artist. El Greco was a key figure. Baroque went the other way, emphasising detail, storytelling, and grandeur, supported by the Catholic church. …

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