Art Movements Throughout History

Art is constantly changing. From the beginning of mankind’s history, humans have worked to express themselves in new and meaningful ways. That’s why I decided to devote some posts to the various movements throughout art’s history to help us better understand the art we see today. This week we’re going to review three of many movements, the Renaissance, Baroque, and Realism movements.

Let’s begin.


Michelangelo "Creation of Adam" 1512

Michelangelo "Creation of Adam" 1512

The Renaissance, or the “rebirth,” is known as an age of enlightenment as the European world moved away from the Middle Ages. Lasting from the 14th to 17th centuries, the Renaissance was all about intellectual and artistic growth. This period of time gave birth the Humanism, the idea that man was the center of the world, The Medici Family, a powerful family who strongly encouraged the movement, and legendary minds such as Rene Descartes (Philosopher who said “I think therefore I am.”), Galileo (Engineer, physicist, and astronomer who was jailed for believing in a heliocentric universe), Geoffrey Chaucer (author of “The Canterbury Tales”), Dante (author of “The Divine Comedy”), and William Shakespeare (author of “Romeo and Juliet”) just to name a few. Famous art from the time includes Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa,” Donatello’s “David,” Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” and Raphael’s “The School of Athens.”


Peter Paul Rubena "Garden of Love" 1631

Peter Paul Rubena "Garden of Love" 1631

Following the Renaissance period came the Baroque movement. Like the Renaissance, the Baroque era began in Italy with a strong focus on Realism, rich color, and extravagance. Reacting to strict reforms being pushed by the Reformation, the Catholic Church strongly encouraged artists to create grand and beautiful works of art to help regain the church’s popularity against the Protestant protests. Because of the church’s involvement, Baroque art is heavily influenced by religious symbolism. A key term for the art movement is chiaroscuro, the use of light and shade in an art piece, is heavily used in Baroque art due to it’s theatrical effect bringing drama to every piece. Famous Baroque pieces include Peter Paul Ruben’s “The Garden of Love,” Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa,” and Gentileschi’s “Judith and the Maid Servant with the Head of Holofernes.”


Gustave Courbet "The Stonebreakers" 1849"

Gustave Courbet "The Stonebreakers" 1849

Realism began to take stage in 19th century France, shortly after the French Revolution. Because of the country’s new “right to work” ideology, the working class became valued subjects to artist’s paintings. By rejecting the ideals of heightened emotion evident in romanticism, Realism artists instead chose to depict real life settings and subjects for their paintings. Famous works from the Realism period include Gustave Courbet’s “The Stone Breakers,” Jean-Francoise Millet’s “Man with a Hoe,” and Honore Daumier’s “The Third Class Carriage.”



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