Realism America, Emerged in the Late 1960's, early
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.
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.
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.
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
Expressionism Centered in New York City, 1946 to
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
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 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.
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
The American Scene basically consists of two main schools, the
ruralAmerican Regionalism, and the urban and politically-oriented al
An American term, Regionalism refers to the work of a group of rural
artists, mostly from the Midwest, who came to prominance in the
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
Futurism was founded in 1909 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, along with
painters Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Gino
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
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.
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.
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
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 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 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
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
There is no single well-defined style of Post-Impressionism, but in
general it is less casual and more emotionally charged than
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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
The Ashcan School, the American Scene Painters, and, much later, on
the Contemporary Realist movement are all following the American
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Britain, 1848 to Late 19th
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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, and .
In the 18th century, Baroque Art was replaced by the more elegant and
elaborate Rococo style.
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
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:
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.
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
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.