Kate S. Magpoc
The medieval art of the Western world covers a vast scope of time and place, over 1000 years of art
in Europe, and at times the Middle East and North Africa. It includes major art movements and periods,
national and regional art, genres, revivals, the artists crafts, and the artists themselves.
Art historians attempt to classify medieval art into major periods and styles, often with some difficulty. A
generally accepted scheme includes Early Christian art, Migration Period art,Byzantine art, Insular
art, Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque art, and Gothic art, as well as many other periods within these
central styles. In addition each region, mostly during the period in the process of becoming nations or
cultures, had its own distinct artistic style, such as Anglo-Saxon art or Norse art.
Medieval art was produced in many media, and the works that remain in large numbers
include sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, metalwork and mosaics, all of which have had a
higher survival rate than other media such as fresco wall-paintings, work in precious metals or textiles,
including tapestry. Especially in the early part of the period, works in the so-called "minor arts"
or decorative arts, such as metalwork, ivory carving,enamel and embroidery using precious metals, were
probably more highly valued than paintings or monumental sculpture.
Medieval art in Europe grew out of the artistic heritage of the Roman Empire and theiconographic
traditions of the early Christian church. These sources were mixed with the vigorous "barbarian" artistic
culture of Northern Europe to produce a remarkable artistic legacy. Indeed the history of medieval art can
be seen as the history of the interplay between the elements of classical, early Christian and "barbarian"
art. Apart from the formal aspects of classicism, there was a continuous tradition of realistic depiction
of objects that survived in Byzantine art throughout the period, while in the West it appears intermittently,
combining and sometimes competing with new expressionist possibilities developed in Western Europe
and the Northern legacy of energetic decorative elements. The period ended with the selfperceived Renaissancerecovery of the skills and values of classical art, and the artistic legacy of the
Middle Ages was then disparaged for some centuries. Since a revival of interest and understanding in the
19th century it has been seen as a period of enormous achievement that underlies the development of later
Religious art or sacred art is artistic imagery using religious inspiration and motifs and is often intended
to uplift the mind to the spiritual. Sacred art involves the ritual and cultic practices and practical and
operative aspects of the path of the spiritual realization within the artist's religious tradition.
Christian sacred art is produced in an attempt to illustrate, supplement and portray in tangible form the
principles of Christianity, though other definitions are possible. Most Christian groups use or have used
art to some extent, although some have had strong objections to some forms of religious image, and there
have been major periods of iconoclasm within Christianity. Most Christian art is allusive, or built
around themes familiar to the intended observer. One of the most common Christian themes is that of the
Virgin Mary holding theinfant Jesus. Another is that of Christ on the Cross. For the benefit of the
illiterate, an elaborate iconographic system developed to conclusively identify scenes. For example, Saint
Agnes depicted with a lamb, Saint Peter with keys, Saint Patrick with a shamrock. Each saint holds or is
associated with attributes and symbols in sacred art.
Gothic art was a style of Medieval art that developed in Northern France out of Romanesque art in 12th
century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe,
never quite effacing more classical styles in Italy. In the late 14th century, the sophisticated court style
of International Gothic developed, which continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas,
especially Germany, Late Gothic art continued well into the 16th century, before being subsumed
into Renaissance art. Primary media in the Gothic period included sculpture, panel painting, stained
glass, fresco andilluminated manuscripts. The easily recognizable shifts in architecture from Romanesque
to Gothic, and Gothic to Renaissance styles, are typically used to define the periods in art in all media,
although in many ways figurative art developed at a different pace.
The earliest Gothic art was monumental sculpture, on the walls of Cathedrals and abbeys. Christian art
was often typological in nature (see Medieval allegory), showing the stories of the New Testament and
the Old Testament side by side. Saints' lives were often depicted. Images of the Virgin Mary changed
from the Byzantine iconic form to a more human and affectionate mother, cuddling her infant, swaying
from her hip, and showing the refined manners of a well-born aristocratic courtly lady.
Secular art came into its own during this period with the rise of cities, foundation of universities, increase
in trade, the establishment of a money-based economy and the creation of a bourgeois class who could
afford to patronize the arts and commission works resulting in a proliferation of paintings and illuminated
manuscripts. Increased literacy and a growing body of secular vernacular literature encouraged the
representation of secular themes in art. With the growth of cities, trade guilds were formed and artists
were often required to be members of a painters' guild—as a result, because of better record keeping,
more artists are known to us by name in this period than any previous; some artists were even so bold as
to sign their names.
Renaissance art is the painting, sculpture and decorative arts of that period of European history known as
theRenaissance, emerging as a distinct style in Italy in about 1400, in parallel with developments which
occurred inphilosophy, literature, music and science. Renaissance art, perceived as a "rebirth" of ancient
traditions, took as its foundation the art of Classical antiquity, but transformed that tradition by the
absorption of recent developments in the art of Northern Europe and by application of contemporary
scientific knowledge. Renaissance art, with Renaissance Humanist philosophy, spread throughout Europe,
affecting both artists and their patrons with the development of new techniques and new artistic
sensibilities. Renaissance art marks the transition of Europe from the medieval period to the Early
In many parts of Europe, Early Renaissance art was created in parallel with Late Medieval art. By 1500
the Renaissance style prevailed. As Late Renaissance art (Mannerism) developed, it took on different and
distinctive characteristics in every region.
The Baroque (US /bəˈroʊk/ or UK /bəˈrɒk/) is a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and
clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting,
architecture, literature, dance, and music. The style began around 1600 in Rome,Italy and spread to most
The popularity and success of the Baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, which
had decided at the time of the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation, that the arts
should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement.The aristocracyalso saw the
dramatic style of Baroque architecture and art as a means of impressing visitors and expressing triumph,
power and control. Baroque palaces are built around an entrance of courts, grand staircases and reception
rooms of sequentially increasing opulence.
Realism in the arts may be generally defined as the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully,
without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements. The
term originated in the 19th century, and was used to describe the work of Gustave Courbet and a group of
painters who rejected idealization, focusing instead on everyday life.
In its most specific sense, Realism was an artistic movement that began in France in the 1850s, after
the 1848 Revolution. Realists rejected Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art since
the late 18th century. Realism revolted against the exotic subject matter and exaggerated emotionalism
and drama of the Romantic movement. Instead it sought to portray real and typical contemporary people
and situations with truth and accuracy, and not avoiding unpleasant or sordid aspects of life. Realist works
depicted people of all classes in situations that arise in ordinary life, and often reflected the changes
wrought by the Industrial and Commercial Revolutions. The popularity of such 'realistic' works grew with
the introduction of photography — a new visual source that created a desire for people to produce
representations which look ―objectively real.‖
More generally, realist works of art are those that, in revealing a truth, may emphasize the ugly or sordid,
such as works of social realism, regionalism, or Kitchen sink realism. The movement even managed to
impact on opera, where it is called Verismo, with contemporary working-class heroines such as Carmen,
who works in a cigarette factory, and Mimi in La bohème.
Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with
a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from
the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an
attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. The arts of cultures other than the European had
become accessible and showed alternative ways of describing visual experience to the artist. By the end
of the 19th century many artists felt a need to create a new kind of art which would encompass the
fundamental changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. The sources from which
individual artists drew their theoretical arguments were diverse, and reflected the social and intellectual
preoccupations in all areas of Western culture at that time.
Abstract art, nonfigurative art, nonobjective art, and nonrepresentational art are loosely related terms.
They are similar, but perhaps not of identical meaning.
Abstraction indicates a departure from reality in depiction of imagery in art. This departure from accurate
representation can be slight, partial, or complete. Abstraction exists along a continuum. Even art that aims
for verisimilitude of the highest degree can be said to be abstract, at least theoretically, since perfect
representation is likely to be exceedingly elusive. Artwork which takes liberties, altering for instance
color and form in ways that are conspicuous, can be said to be partially abstract. Total abstraction bears
no trace of any reference to anything recognizable. In geometric abstraction, for instance, one is unlikely
to find references to naturalistic entities. Figurative art and total abstraction are almost mutually
exclusive. Butfigurative and representational (or realistic) art often contains partial abstraction.
Both geometric abstraction and lyrical abstraction are often totally abstract. Among the very numerous art
movements that embody partial abstraction would be for instance fauvism in which color is
conspicuously and deliberately altered vis-a-vis reality, and cubism, which blatantly alters the forms of
the real life entities depicted.
Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement pioneered by Georges Braque and Pablo
Picasso, joined by Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay,Henri Le Fauconnier, Fernand
Léger and Juan Gris that revolutionized Europeanpainting and sculpture, and inspired related movements
in music, literature andarchitecture. Cubism has been considered the most influential art movement of the
20th century. The term is broadly used in association with a wide variety of art produced in Paris
(Montmartre, Montparnasse and Puteaux) during the 1910s and extending through the 1920s. Variants
such as Futurism and Constructivism developed in other countries.
A primary influence that led to Cubism was the representation of three-dimensional form in the late works
of Paul Cézanne, which were displayed in a retrospective at the 1907Salon d'Automne In Cubist artwork,
objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form—instead of depicting objects from
one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a
Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for "the wild beasts"), a loose group of early twentiethcentury Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over
the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. While Fauvism as a style began around
1900 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only a few years, 1904–1908, and had
three exhibitions. The leaders of the movement were Henri Matisse and André Derain.
Dada /ˈdɑːdɑː/ or Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century.
Many claim Dada began in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916, spreading to Berlinshortly thereafter but the
height of New York Dada was the year before in 1915.] To quote Dona Budd's The Language of Art
Dada was born out of negative reaction to the horrors of World War I. This international movement was
begun by a group of artist and poets associated with theCabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Dada rejected reason
and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition. The origin of the name Dada is unclear; some
believe that it is a nonsensical word. Others maintain that it originates from the Romanian artistsTristan
Tzara's and Marcel Janco's frequent use of the words "da, da," meaning "yes, yes" in
the Romanian language. Another theory says that the name "Dada" came during a meeting of the group
when a paper knife stuck into a French-German dictionary happened to point to 'dada', a French word for
The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature, poetry, art manifestoes, art theory,theatre,
and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards
in art through anti-art cultural works. In addition to being anti-war, Dada was also anti-bourgeois and had
political affinities with the radical left.
Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals;
passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture were topics often discussed in a variety of media. Key
figures in the movement included Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Hans Arp, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah
Höch, Johannes Baader, Tristan Tzara, Francis Picabia, Richard Huelsenbeck, George Grosz, John
Heartfield, Marcel Duchamp, Beatrice Wood, Kurt Schwitters, and Hans Richter, among others. The
movement influenced later styles like the avant-garde and downtown music movements, and groups
including surrealism, Nouveau réalisme, pop art and Fluxus.
Marc Lowenthal, in I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, And Provocation, tells us:
Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude
topostmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of antiart to be later embraced for anarchopolitical uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism.
Futurism (Italian: Futurismo) was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early
20th century. It emphasized and glorified themes associated with contemporary concepts of the future,
including speed, technology, youth and violence, and objects such as the car, the aeroplane and the
industrial city. It was largely an Italian phenomenon, though there were parallel movements
in Russia, England and elsewhere. The Futurists practiced in every medium of art,
including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design,industrial design, interior design, urban
design, theatre, film, fashion, textiles,literature, music, architecture and even gastronomy. Key figures of
the movement include the Italians Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni,Carlo Carrà, Gino
Severini, Giacomo Balla, Antonio Sant'Elia, Bruno Munariand Luigi Russolo, and the Russians Natalia
Goncharova, Velimir Khlebnikov,Igor Severyanin, David Burliuk, Aleksei Kruchenykh and Vladimir
Mayakovsky, as well as the Portuguese Almada Negreiros. Its members aimed to liberate Italy from the
weight of its past, to glorify modernity. Important works include its seminal piece of the literature,
Marinetti's Manifesto of Futurism, as well as Boccioni's sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,
and Balla's painting, Abstract Speed + Sound(pictured). Futurism influenced art movements such as Art
Deco, Constructivism, Surrealism, Dada, and to a greater degree,Precisionism, Rayonism, and Vorticism.
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual
artworks and writings. The aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and
reality." Artists painted (occasionally disturbing) illogical scenes with photographic precision, created
strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious
to express itself.
Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however,
many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first
and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that
Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement.
Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the
movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually
affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political
thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the
beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective,
distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists sought to
express meaning or emotional experience rather than physical reality.
Expressionism was developed as an avant-garde style before the First World War. It remained popular
during the Weimar Republic, particularly in Berlin. The style extended to a wide range of the arts,
including expressionist architecture, painting, literature, theatre, dance, film and music.
The term is sometimes suggestive of angst. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias
Grünewald and El Greco are sometimes termed expressionist, though in practice the term is applied
mainly to 20th-century works. The Expressionist emphasis on individual perspective has been
characterized as a reaction to positivism and other artistic styles such asNaturalism and Impressionism.
Rococo (/rəˈkoʊkoʊ/ or /roʊkəˈkoʊ/), less commonly roccoco, also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an
18th-century artistic movement and style, which affected several aspects ofthe
arts including painting, sculpture, architecture, interior design, decoration, literature,music and theatre.
The Rococo developed in the early part of the 18th century in Paris,France as a reaction against the
grandeur, symmetry and strict regulations of the Baroque, especially that of the Palace of Versailles. In
such a way, Rococo artists opted for a more jocular, florid and graceful approach to Baroque art and
architecture. Rococo art and architecture in such a way was ornate and made strong usage of creamy,
pastel-like colours, asymmetrical designs, curves and gold. Unlike the more politically focused Baroque,
the Rococo had more playful and often witty artistic themes. With regards to interior decoration, Rococo
rooms were designed as total works of art with elegant and ornate furniture, small sculptures, ornamental
mirrors, and tapestry complementing architecture, reliefs, and wall paintings. The Rococo additionally
played an important role in theatre. In the book The Rococo, it is written that there was no other culture
which "has produced a wittier, more elegant, and teasing dialogue full of elusive and camouflaging
language and gestures, refined feelings and subtle criticism" than Rococo theatre, especially that of
Towards the end of the 18th century, Rococo started to fall out of fashion, and it was largely supplanted
by the Neoclassic style. In 1835 the Dictionary of the French Academy stated that the
word Rococo "usually covers the kind of ornament, style and design associated with Louis XV's reign and
the beginning of that of Louis XVI". It includes therefore, all types of art produced around the middle of
the 18th century in France. The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, meaning
stone, and coquilles, meaning shell, due to reliance on these objects as motifs of decoration.The term
Rococo may also be interpreted as a combination of the Italian word "barocco" (an irregularly shaped
pearl, possibly the source of the word "baroque") and the French "rocaille" (a popular form of garden or
interior ornamentation using shells and pebbles), and may be used to describe the refined and fanciful
style that became fashionable in parts of Europe during the eighteenth century.Owing to Rococo love of
shell-like curves and focus on decorative arts, some critics used the term to derogatively imply that the
style was frivolous or merely modish. When the term was first used in English in about 1836, it was
a colloquialism meaning "old-fashioned". As a matter of fact, the style received harsh criticism, and was
seen by some to be superficial and of poor taste, especially when compared to neoclassicism; despite this,
it has been praised for its aesthetic qualities, and since the mid-19th century, the term has been accepted
by art historians. While there is still some debate about the historical significance of the style to art in
general, Rococo is now widely recognized as a major period in the development of European art.