Art History


Contemporary Realism  America, Emerged in the Late 1960's, early 1970's
Contemporary Realism is the straightforward realistic style of painting which continues to be widely practiced in this post-abstract era. It is different from Photorealism, which is somewhat ironic and conceptual in its nature.

Contemporary Realists form a disparate group, but what they have in common is that they are literate in the concepts of Modern Art, but choose to work in a more traditional form. Many actually began as abstract painters, having come through an educational system dominated by an establishment dismissive of representational painting.

Among the best-known artists associated with this movement are Neil Welliver, William Bailey, and Philip Pearlstein. There is an identifiable "group" of Contemporary Realists, but we have used a fairly loose definition to allow inclusion of a larger number of 20th-century realists.


Minimalism Emerged in the 1960's
Minimalism is a style of art in which objects are stripped down to their elemental, geometric form, and presented in an impersonal manner. It is an Abstract form of art which developed as a reaction against the subjective elements of Abstract Expressionism.

Minimalist art frequently takes the form of installations or sculpture, for example with Dan Flavin,Donald Judd,  Carl Andre, and Sol LeWitt. However, there are also a number of minimalist painters, including Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella.


Photorealism  1960's to 1970's
 Photorealism is a movement which began in the late 1960's, in which scenes are painted in a style closely resembling photographs. The subject matter is usually mundane and without particular interest; the true subject of a photorealist work is the way we unconsciously interpret photographs and paintings in order to create a mental image of the object represented.

The leading members of the Photorealist movement are Richard Estes and Chuck Close. Estes specializes in street scenes with elaborate reflections in window-glass; Close does enormous portraits of neutral faces. Other photorealists also typically specialize in a particular subject matter: trucks, horses, diners, etc.


Optical Art  1950's to 1960's
Optical Art is a mathematically-oriented form of (usually) Abstract art, which uses repetition of simple forms and colors to create vibrating effects, moiré patterns, an exaggerated sense of depth, foreground-background confusion, and other visual effects.
In a sense all painting is based on tricks of visual perception: using rules of perspective to give the illusion of three-dimensional space, mixing colors to give the impression of light and shadow, and so on. With Optical Art, the rules that the eye applies to makes sense of a visual image are themselves the "subject" of the artwork.

In the mid-20th century, artists such as Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, and M.C. Escher experimented with Optical Art. Escher's work, although not abstract, also deals extensively with various forms of visual tricks and paradoxes.
In the 1960's, the term "Op Art" was coined to describe the work of a growing group of abstract painters. This movement was led by Vasarely and Bridget Riley. Other Op Artists included Richard Anuszkiewicz, Jesús-Rafael Soto, Kenneth Noland, François Morellet, and Lawrence Poons


Abstract Expressionism  Centered in New York City, 1946 to 1960's
Abstract Expressionism is a form of art in which the artist expresses himself purely through the use of form and color. It is form of non-representational, or non-objective, art, which means that there are no concrete objects represented.
Now considered to be the first American artistic movement of worldwide importance.

Magic Realism  1943 to 1950's
Magic Realism is an American style of art with Surrealist overtones. The art is deeply rooted in everyday reality, but has overtones of fantasy or wonder. The term was later also applied to the literary works of authors such as Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.

Artists most commonly associated with the style are Paul Cadmus, Philip Evergood, Ivan Albright, and George Tooker. Andrew Wyeth is sometimes associated with this group, due to the slightly mysterious nature of his work.


Academic Art Academic Art is the painting and sculpture produced under the influence of the European Academies, where many artists received their formal training. It is characterized by its highly finished style, its use of historical or mythological subject matter, and its moralistic tone. Neoclassical Art was closely associated with the Academies.

The term "Academic Art" is associated particularly with the French Academy and its influence on the Salons in the 19th century. Artists such as Bouguereau and Jean-Leon Gerome epitomize this style.


American Scene Painting   America, 1931-1940
American Scene Painting is an umbrella term for the mainstream realist and antimodernist style of painting popular in the United States during the Great Depression. A reaction against the modern European style, it was seen as an attempt to define a uniquely American style of art.

The American Scene basically consists of two main schools, the ruralAmerican Regionalism, and the urban and politically-oriented al Social Realism.


American Regionalism 1930's An American term, Regionalism refers to the work of a group of rural artists, mostly from the Midwest, who came to prominance in the 1930's.

Not being part of a coordinated movement, regionalists often had an idiosyncratic style or point of view. What they shared, among themselves and among other American Scene painters, was a humble, antimodernist style and a fondness for depicting everyday life. However, their rural conservatism put them at odds with the urban and leftist Social Realists of the same era.

The three best-known regionalists were Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood, the painter of the best-known and one of the greatest works of American art, American Gothic.


The Bauhaus School  Germany, 1919-1933
The Bauhaus School is a school of design founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius. Its signature modernist style, integrating art with the fields of design and architecture, was enormously influential Expressionist throughout the world.

It was later led by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The school's faculty included such artists as Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Josef Albers and Anni Albers.

Others associated with the Bauhaus include Johannes Itten, Oskar Schlemmer, Gunta Stolzl and George Grosz.

The school was closed by the Nazis in 1933, and many of the artists subsequently emigrated to the United States in search of intellectual freedom.


Art Deco  1920's to 1930's
Art Deco is an elegant style of decorative art and especially architecture, similar in some regards to the earlier Art Nouveau style, but with a more Modernist esthetic.
The Art Deco style is reminiscent of the Precisionist art movement, which developed at about the same time.
Well-known artists within the Art Deco movement included Tamara de Lempicka, glass artist Rene Lalique, fashion illustrator Erte and graphic designer Adolphe Mouron, known as Cassandre.


The Group of Seven  Canada, 1920-1960's
The Group of Seven were Canadian wilderness landscape painters inspired by the work of Tom Thomson, who died under mysterious circumstances while on a trek in Ontario's Algonquin Park in 1917 (his body was found floating in Canoe Lake, but an autopsy showed an injury to the head and no evidence of water in his lungs).
Group of Seven artists were strongly influenced by Post-Impressionism, creating bold, vividly-colored canvases, and instilling elements of the landscape with symbolic meaning.

The group was not limited to the seven founding members, and they eventually changed their name to the Canadian Group of Painters. Besides Thomson, the group included Franklin Carmichael, A.J. Casson, Lionel Fitzgerald, Lawren Harris, Edwin Holgate, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, F.H. Varley. Emily Carr was inspired by the group early in her career.


Neo-Plasticism Holland, 1920 to 1940
Neo-Plasticism is a Dutch movement founded (and named) by Piet Mondrian. It is a rigid form of Abstraction, whose rules allow only for a canvas subsected into rectangles by vertical and horizontal lines, colored using a very limited palette.

Neo-Plasticism was somewhat influential on Russian Constructivism.

Precisionism America, 1920's to 1930's
Precisionism (also known as Cubist Realism) is a style of representation in which an object is rendered realistically, but with an emphasis on its geometrical form. An important development in American Modernism, it was inspired by the development of Cubism in Europe.

Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth are most closely associated with Precisionism. The urban works of Georgia O'Keeffe are also highly typical of this style.

Dealing as it did with pure form more than with narrative or subject matter, Precisionism gradually evolved towards Abstraction, and faded away as an important influence.


The Harlem Renaissance  early 1920's to 1930's
The Harlem Renaissance was a flowering of African-American social thought which was expressed through the visual arts, as well as through music (Louis Armstrong, Eubie Blake, Fats Waller and Billie Holiday), dance (Josephine Baker), theater (Paul Robeson) and literature (Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and W.E.B. DuBois). Centered in the Harlem district of New York City, the New Negro Movement (as it was called at the time) had a profound influence across the Unites States and even around the world.

The intellectual and social freedom of the era triggered a widespread migration of Black Americans from the rural south to the industrial centers of the north - and especially to New York City.

Artists at the core of the Harlem Renaissance movement included William H. Johnson, Lois Mailou Jones and the sculptor and printmaker Sargent Claude Johnson. Other prominent artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance included Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Archibald Motley.

Later artists influenced by the movement included Charles Sebree, John Biggers, Hale Woodruff, Beauford Delaney and Ernie Barnes (Barnes' Sugar Shack is the now-famous painting featured at the end of the TV show Good Times).  Artists closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance are listed below. Or you can click here for a list of all African-American artists in our database.


Die Neue Sachlichkeit Germany, 1918-1933
Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity) is an Expressionist movement founded in Germany in the aftermath of World War I by Otto Dix and George Grosz. It is characterized by a realistic style combined with a cynical, socially critical philosophical stance.
Other artists associated with the movement included Max Beckmann and Christian Schad.


Dada  Europe, 1916-1924
 Dada was a protest by a group of European artists against World War I, bourgeois society, and the conservativism of traditional thought. Its followers used non sequiturs and absurdities to create artworks and performances which defied intellectual analysis. They also included "found" objects in sculptures and installations.
The founders included the French artist Jean Arp and the writers Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball. Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp were also key contributors.
The Dada movement evolved into Surrealism in the 1920's.


Der Blaue Reiter  Centered in Munich, 1911-1914
Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) is a group of Expressionist artists led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. One of the primary goals of the group was to use art to express spirituality.
Other artists associated with the movement included August Macke, Gabriele Munter, Alexei Jawlensky, Paul Klee and Heinrich Campendonk The movement was disrupted by World War I, in which Franz Marc and August Macke were killed.


Cubism Europe, 1908-1920
Cubism was developed between about 1908 and 1912 in a collaboration between Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Their immediate influences are said to be Tribal Art (although Braque later disputed this) and the work of Paul Cezanne. The movement itself was not long-lived or widespread, but it began an immense creative explosion which resonated through all of 20th century art.

The key concept of Cubism is that the essence of objects can only be captured by showing it from multiple points of view simultaneously.
Cubism had run its course by the end of World War I, but among the movements directly influenced by it were Orphism, Purism, Precisionism, Futurism, Constructivism, and, to some degree, Expressionism.

Die Brücke Centered in Dresden, 1905-1913
Die Brücke (The Bridge) is a group of Expressionist artists, founded by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel. The group's work is characterized by its intensely emotional and violent imagery.
Other artists associated with the movement included Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Otto Mueller and Edvard Munch.
The group was disbanded due to artistic disagreements and the onset of World War I.


Expressionism Centered in Germany, C.1905 to 1940's
Expressionism is a style of art in which the intention is not to reproduce a subject accurately, but instead to portray it in such a way as to express the inner state of the artist. The movement is associated with Germany in particular, and was influenced by such emotionally-charged styles as Symbolism, Fauvism, and Cubism.
There are several different and somewhat overlapping groups of Expressionist artists, including Die Brücke, Der Blaue Reiter, Die Neue Sachlichkeit and the Bauhaus School.
Leading Expressionists included Wassily Kandinsky, George Grosz, Franz Marc, and Amadeo Modigliani.
In the mid-20th century, Abstract Expressionism (in which there is no subject at all, but instead pure form) was developed into an extremely influential style.


Futurism  Italy, 1909-1914
Futurism is an Italian modernist movement celebrating the technological era. It was largely inspired by the development of Cubism. The core themes of Futurist thought and art were machines and motion.
Futurism was founded in 1909 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, along with painters Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Gino Severini.


Fauvism  1898-1908
Fauvism grew out of Pointillism and general Post-Impressionism, but is characterized by a more primitive and less naturalistic style. Paul Gauguin's style and his use of color were especially strong influences.
The artists most closely associated with Fauvism are Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Andre Derain, and Maurice de Vlaminck.
Fauvism was a short-lived movement, but had a substantial influence on some of the Expressionists.

Art Nouveau  Late 19th Century to Early 20th Century
Art Nouveau is an elegant decorative art style characterized by intricately detailed patterns of curving lines. Somewhat rooted in the British Arts and Crafts Movement of William Morris, Art Nouveau became popular across Europe and in the United States.
Leading practitioners included Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, and the American glassmaker Louis Comfort Tiffany. Art Nouveau remained popular until about the time of World War I, and was ultimately replaced by theArt Deco style.


The Golden Age of Illustration  1880's to 1920's
The Golden Age of Illustration was a period of unparalleled excellence in book and magazine illustration. It was made possible by advances in technology permitting accurate and inexpensive reproduction of art, combined with an enormous public demand for new graphic art.
 In Europe, Golden Age artists were strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and by such design-oriented movements as the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, and Les Nabis. Leading artists included Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, Edmund Dulac, Aubrey Beardsley, and Kay Nielsen.
American illustration of this period is largely the story of the Brandywine Valley tradition, which was begun by Howard Pyle and carried on by his students, who included N.C. Wyeth, , Edwin Austin Abbey, and Maxfield Parrish.


Les Nabis  1891-1899
Les Nabis were a Parisian group of Post-Impressionist artists and illustrators who became very influential in the field of graphic art. Their emphasis on design was shared by the parallel Art Nouveau movement. Both groups also had close ties to the Symbolists. The core of Les Nabis was Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Ker Xavier Roussel, Felix Vallotton, and Edouard Vuillard.


Pointillism  France, 1880's
Pointillism is a form of painting in which the use of tiny primary-color dots is used to generate secondary colors. It is an offshoot of Impressionism, and is usually classified as a form of Post-Impressionism. It is very similar to Divisionism, but but where Divisionism is concerned with color theory, Pointillism is more focused on the specific style of brushwork used to apply the paint.
The term "Pointillism" was first used with respect to the work of Georges Seurat, and he is the artist most closely associated with the movement. Among the relatively few artists following this style were Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross. Pointillism is considered to have been an influence on the development of Fauvism.


Post-Impressionism  France, 1880's to 1900
Post-Impressionism is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of artists who were influenced by Impressionism but took their art in different directions. There is no single well-defined style of Post-Impressionism, but in general it is less casual and more emotionally charged than Impressionist work.

The classic Post-Impressionists are Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Henri Rousseau. The Pointillists and Les Nabis are also generally counted among the Post-Impressionists.


Impressionism  Centered in France, 1860's to 1880's
Impressionism is a light, spontaneous manner of painting which began in France as a reaction against the formalism of the dominant Academic style. Its naturalistic and down-to-earth treatment of its subjects has its roots in the French Realism of Corot and others. The movement's name came from Monet's early work, Impression: Sunrise, which was singled out for criticism by Louis Leroy on its exhibition.
The hallmark of the style is the attempt to capture the subjective impression of light in a scene.
The core of the earliest Impressionist group was made up of Claude Monet,  Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. Others associated with this period were Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Gustave Caillebotte, Frederic Bazille, Edouard Manet, and Mary Cassatt.

The Impressionist style is still widely practiced today. However, a variety of successive movements were influenced by it, grouped under the general term Post-Impressionism.


The Arts and Crafts Movement Britain, Late 19th Century
The Arts and Crafts Movement was a celebration of individual craftsmanship and design, which developed as a reaction against transformation of Britain during the industrial revolution.William Morris, who spearheaded the movement, is particularly remembered as a book designer. He also produced textiles, stained glass, and wallpaper - in addition to being a painter and writer. The movement was closely tied to the Pre-Raphaelites; Burne-Jones and Rossetti, among others, produced designs for Morris' company.


The Barbizon School  France, Mid-19th Century
The Barbizon School was a group of landscape artists working in the region of the French town of Barbizon. They rejected the Academic tradition, abandoning theory in an attempt to achieve a truer representation of the countryside, and are considered to be part of the French movement. Theodore Rousseau (not to be confused with naive artist Henri Rousseau) is the best-known member of the group. Other prominent members included Charles-Francois Daubigny and Constant Troyon. Realist painters Camille Corot and Jean-Francois Millet are also sometimes loosely associated with this school.

The Barbizon School artists are often considered to have been forerunners of the Impressionists, who took a similar philosophical approach to their art.


Victorian Classicism  Britain, Mid to Late 19th Century
Victorian Classicism was a British style of historical painting inspired by the art and architecture of Classical Greece and Rome.

In the 19th century, an increasing number of Europeans made the "Grand Tour" to Mediterranean lands. There was a great popular interest in the region's ancient ruins and exotic cultures, and this interest fuelled the rise of Classicism in Britain, and Orientalism, which was mostly centered in continental Europe.

The Classicists were closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, many artists being influenced by both styles to one degree or another. Both movements were highly romantic and were inspired by similar historical and mythological themes -- the key distinction being that the Classicists embodied the rigid Academic standards of painting, while the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was initially formed as a rebellion against those same standards.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederick Leighton were the leading Classicists, and indeed in their lifetimes were considered by many to be the finest painters of their generation.


Realism Mid-19th Century
Realism is an approach to art in which subjects are portrayed in as straightforward manner as possible, without idealizing them and without following the rules of formal theory.
The earliest Realist work began to appear in the 18th century, as a reaction against the excesses of Romanticism and Neoclassicism. This is evident in John Singleton Copley's paintings, and some of the works of Goya. But the great Realist era was the mid-19th century, as artists became disillusioned with the Salon system and the influence of the Academies.

Realism came closest to being an organized movement in France, inspiring artists such as Corot and Millet, and engendering the Barbizon School of landscape painting.
Besides Copley, American Realists included Thomas Eakins, and Henry Ossawa Tanner, both of whom also received formal training in France.

French Realism was a guiding influence on the philosophy of the Impressionists.
The Ashcan School, the American Scene Painters, and, much later, on the Contemporary Realist movement are all following the American Realist tradition.


The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood  Britain, 1848 to Late 19th Century
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was created in 1848 by seven artists: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, James Collinson, John Everett Millais, Frederic George Stephens, and Thomas Woolner. Their goal was to develop a naturalistic style of art, throwing away the rules and conventions drilled into students' heads at the Academies. Raphael was the artist considered to have attained the highest degree of perfection, so much so that students were encouraged to draw from his examples rather than from nature itself; thus they became the "Pre-Raphaelites".

The group popularized a theatrically romantic style, marked by great beauty, an intricate realism, and a fondness for Greek and Arthurian legend.

The movement itself did not last past the 1850's but the style remained popular for decades, and influenced the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Symbolists, and even the Classicists.


The Hudson River School  America, 1835 to 1870
The Hudson River School was a group of painters, led by Thomas Cole, who painted awesomely Romantic images of America's wilderness, in the Hudson River Valley and also in the newly opened West. The use of light effects, to dramatically portray such elements as mist and sunsets, developed into a subspecialty known as Luminism.
In addition to Cole, the best-known practioners of this style were Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church.


Neoclassical Art  Mid-18th Century to Early-19th Century
Neoclassical Art is a severe, unemotional form of art harkening back to the style of ancient Greece and Rome. Its rigidity was a reaction to the overbred Rococo style and the emotional Baroque style. The rise of Neoclassical Art was part of a general revival of classical thought, which was of some importance in the American and French revolutions. Important Neoclassicists include the architects Robert Adam and Robert Smirke, the sculptors Antonio Canova, Bertel Thorvaldsen, and Jean-Antoine Houdon, and painters Anton Raphael Mengs, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Jacques-Louis David.

Around 1800, Romanticism emerged as a reaction to Neoclassicism. It did not really replace the Neoclassical style so much as act as a counterbalancing influence, and many artists were influenced by both styles to some degree.
 Neoclassical Art was also a substantial direct influence on 19th-century Academic Art.


The Baroque Era  Europe, 17th Century
Baroque Art emerged in Europe around 1600, as an reaction against the intricate and formulaicMannerist style which dominated the Late Renaissance. Baroque Art is less complex, more realistic and more emotionally affecting than Mannerism. This movement was encouraged by the Catholic Church, the most important patron of the arts at that time, as a return to tradition and spirituality.
One of the great periods of art history, Baroque Art was developed by Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, and Gianlorenzo Bernini, among others. This was also the age of Rubens, Rembrandt. In the 18th century, Baroque Art was replaced by the more elegant and elaborate Rococo style.

Mannerism  Europe, Mid to Late 16th Century
Mannerism, the artistic style which gained popularity in the period following the High Renaissance, takes as its ideals the work of Raphael and Michelangelo Buonarroti. It is considered to be a period of tecnical accomplishment but of formulaic, theatrical and overly stylized work.

Mannerist Art is characterized by a complex composition, with muscular and elongated figures in complex poses. Discussing Michelangelo in his journal, Eugène Delacroix gives as good a description as any of the limitations of Mannerism:

"[A]ll that he has painted is muscles and poses, in which even science, contrary to general opinion, is by no means the dominant factor... He did not know a single one of the feelings of man, not one of his passions. When he was making an arm or a leg, it seems as if he were thinking only of that arm or leg and was not giving the slightest consideration to the way it relates with the action of the figure to which it belongs, much less to the action of the picture as a whole... Therein lies his great merit; he brings a sense of the grand and the terrible into even an isolated limb."

Prominent Members  16th century,
In addition to Michelangelo, leading Mannerist artists included Rosso Fiorentino, Pontormo, and Parmigianino.
By the late 16th century, there were several anti-Mannerist attempts to reinvigorate art with greater naturalism and emotionalism. These developed into the Baroque style, which dominated the 17th century.

Byzantine Art 5th Century A.D. to 1453
Byzantine art is the art of the Byzantine Empire, centered in Constantinople (now Istanbul).
It was centered around the Orthodox church, in the painting of icons and the decoration of churches with frescoes and mosaics.

The Byzantine style basically ended with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, during the European Renaissance era. However, its influence continued in Russia and elsewhere where the Orthodox church held sway.

Gothic Art  5th Century to 16th Century A.D.
Gothic Art is the style of art produced in Europe from the middle ages up to the beginning of the Renaissance. Typically religious in nature, it is especially known for the distinctive arched design of its churches, its stained glass, and its illuminated manuscripts.

In the late 14th century, anticipating the Renaissance, Gothic Art evolved towards a more secular style known as International Gothic. One of the best-known artists of this period is Simone Martini.
Although superseded by Renaissance art, there was a Gothic Revival in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was largely rooted in nostalgia.