The history of art focuses on objects made by humans in visual form for aesthetic purposes. Visual art can be classified in diverse ways, such as separating fine arts from applied arts; inclusively focusing on human creativity; or focusing on different media such as architecture, sculpture, painting, film, photography, and graphic arts. In recent years, technological advances have led to video art, computer art, Performance art, animation, television, and videogames.
The history of art is often told as a chronology of masterpieces created during each civilization. It can thus be framed as a story of high culture, epitomized by the Wonders of the World. On the other hand, vernacular art expressions can also be integrated into art historical narratives, referred to as folk arts or craft. The more closely that an art historian engages with these latter forms of low culture, the more likely it is that they will identify their work as examining visual culture or material culture, or as contributing to fields related to art history, such as anthropology or archaeology. In the latter cases art objects may be referred to as archeological artifacts.
The oldest human art that has been found dates to the Stone Age, when the first creative works were made from shell, stone, and paint. During the Paleolithic (25,000-8,000 BCE), humans practiced hunting and gathering and lived in caves, where cave painting was developed. During the Neolithic period (6000-3000 BCE), the production of handicrafts commenced.
The earliest human artifacts showing evidence of workmanship with an artistic purpose are the subject of some debate. It is clear that such workmanship existed by 40,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic era, although it is quite possible that it began earlier. Engraved shells created by homo erectus dating as far back as 500,000 years ago have been found, although experts disagree on whether these engravings can be properly classified as 'art'.
The Paleolithic had its first artistic manifestation in 25,000 BCE, reaching its peak in the Magdalenian period (±15,000-8,000 BCE). Surviving art from this period includes small carvings in stone or bone and cave painting. The first traces of human-made objects appeared in southern Africa, the Western Mediterranean, Central and Eastern Europe (Adriatic Sea), Siberia (Baikal Lake), India and Australia. These first traces are generally worked stone (flint, obsidian), wood or bone tools. To paint in red, iron oxide was used. Cave paintings have been found in the Franco-Cantabrian region. There are pictures that are abstract as well as pictures that are naturalistic. Animals were painted in the caves of Altamira, Trois Frères, Chauvet and Lascaux. Sculpture is represented by the so-called Venus figurines, feminine figures which may have been used in fertility cults, such as the Venus of Willendorf. There is a theory that these figures may have been made by women as expressions of their own body. Other representative works of this period are the Man from Brno and the Venus of Brassempouy.
Blombos Cave engraved ochre
Venus of Hohle Fels, an Upper Paleolithic figurine, the earliest known, undisputed example of a depiction of a human being in prehistoric art (ivory, height 6 cm (2.4 in))
Venus of Laussel, an Upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian) carving
The Lion-man figurine after restoration in 2013
In Old World archaeology, Mesolithic (Greek?, mesos "middle"; , lithos "stone") is the period between the Upper Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The term Epipaleolithic is often used synonymously, especially for outside northern Europe, and for the corresponding period in the Levant and Caucasus. The Mesolithic has different time spans in different parts of Eurasia. It refers to the final period of hunter-gatherer cultures in Europe and West Asia, between the end of the Last Glacial Maximum and the Neolithic Revolution. In Europe it spans roughly 15,000 to 5,000 BP, in Southwest Asia (the Epipalaeolithic Near East) roughly 20,000 to 8,000 BP. The term is less used of areas further east, and not all beyond Eurasia and North Africa.
|The Neolithic |
The Neolithic period began in about 8,000 BCE. The rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin--dated between the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras--contained small, schematic paintings of human figures, with notable examples in El Cogul, Valltorta, Alpera and Minateda.
Neolithic painting is similar to paintings found in northern Africa (Atlas, Sahara) and in the area of modern Zimbabwe. Neolithic painting is often schematic, made with basic strokes (men in the form of a cross and women in a triangular shape). There are also cave paintings in Pinturas River in Argentina, especially the Cueva de las Manos. In portable art, a style called Cardium Pottery was produced, decorated with imprints of seashells. New materials were used in art, such as amber, crystal, and jasper. In this period, the first traces of urban planning appeared, such as the remains in Tell as-Sultan (Jericho), Jarmo (Iraq) and Çatalhöyük (Anatolia).
Yarmukian pottery vessel, Sha'ar HaGolan
Boian culture pottery exposed in Bucharest History Museum
The enthroned "Lady of Pazard?ik" of the Karanovo VI culture (c. 4500 BC)
The "Vu?edol Dove", emblem of the Vu?edol culture
Amphora from the 16th century BCE, made by the Ottomány culture
Jade bi made by the Liangzhu culture
Painted pottery, made by the Liangzhu culture
Pottery symbols of the Banpo culture
Eagle-shaped ceramic vase, made by the Yangshao culture
Large water vessel of the Yangshao culture
Japanese Jomon vase for cooking, made in the flame-style, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Female figure from Mehrgarh, circa 5500-2400 BCE, made of terracotta, 9.5 cm (3 in) high. Part of the Neolithic 'Venus figurines' tradition, this figure's abundant breasts and hips suggest links to fertility and procreation. Her hair was probably painted black; brown ochre would have covered the body, and her necklace was probably yellow. Her seated posture, with arms crossed under the breasts, is common throughout the region, as is her extravagant hairstyle
The last prehistoric phase is the Metal Age (or Three-age system), during which the use of copper, bronze and iron transformed ancient societies. When humans could smelt metal and forge metal implements could make new tools, weapons, and art.
In the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Megaliths emerged, and massive monuments of stone were built. Examples include the dolmen and menhir and the English cromlech, as can be seen in the complexes at Newgrange and Stonehenge. In Spain the Los Millares culture was formed, characterized by the Beaker culture, characterized by human figures with big eyes. In Malta, the temple complexes of ?a?ar Qim, Mnajdra, Tarxien and ?gantija were built. In the Balearic Islands notable megalithic cultures developed, with different types of monuments: the naveta, a tomb shaped like a truncated pyramid, with an elongated burial chamber; the taula, two large stones, one put vertically and the other horizontally above each other; and the talaiot, a tower with a covered chamber and a false dome.
In the Iron Age the cultures of Hallstatt (Austria) and La Tene (Switzerland) emerged in Europe. The first was developed between the 7th and 5th century BCE by the necropoleis with tumular tombs and a wooden burial chamber in the form of a house, often accompanied by a four-wheeled cart. The pottery was polychromic, with geometric decorations and applications of metallic ornaments. La Tene was developed between the 5th and 4th century BCE, and is more popularly known as early Celtic art. It produced many iron objects such as swords and spears, which have not survived well to the 2000s due to rust.
The Bronze Age refers to the period when bronze was the best material available. Bronze was used for highly decorated shields, fibulas, and other objects, with different stages of evolution of the style. Decoration was influenced by Greek, Etruscan and Scythian art.
In the first period of recorded history, art coincided with writing. The great civilizations of the Near East: Egypt and Mesopotamia arose. Globally, during this period the first great cities appeared near major rivers: the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, Indus and Yellow Rivers.
One of the great advances of this period was writing, which was developed from the tradition of communication using pictures. The first form of writing were the Jiahu symbols from neolithic China, but the first true writing was cuneiform script, which emerged in Mesopotamia c. 3500 BCE, written on clay tablets. It was based on pictographic and ideographic elements, while later Sumerians developed syllables for writing, reflecting the phonology and syntax of the Sumerian language. In Egypt hieroglyphic writing was developed using pictures as well, appearing on art such as the Narmer Palette (3,100 BCE).
Mesopotamian art was developed in the area between Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in modern day Syria and Iraq, where since the 4th millennium BCE many different cultures existed such as Sumer, Akkad, Amorite and Chaldea. Mesopotamian architecture was characterized by the use of bricks, lintels, and cone mosaic. Notable are the ziggurats, large temples in the form of step pyramids. The tomb was a chamber covered with a false dome, as in some examples found at Ur. There were also palaces walled with a terrace in the form of a ziggurat, where gardens were an important feature. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Relief sculpture was developed in wood and stone. Sculpture depicted religious, military, and hunting scenes, including both human and animal figures. In the Sumerian period, small statues of people were produced. These statues had an angular form and were produced from colored stone. The figures typically had bald head with hands folded on the chest. In the Akkadian period, statues depicted figures with long hair and beards, such as the stele of Naram-Sin. In the Amorite period (or Neosumerian), statues represented kings from Gudea of Lagash, with their mantle and a turban on their heads and their hands on their chests. During Babylonian rule, the stele of Hammurabi was important, as it depicted the great king Hammurabi above a written copy of the laws that he introduced. Assyrian sculpture is notable for its anthropomorphism of cattle and the winged genie, which is depicted flying in many reliefs depicting war and hunting scenes, such as in the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III.
Cast of the Warka Vase
Standing male worshiper from the Tell Asmar Hoard
Royal Game of Ur, British Museum
Columns with clay mosaic cones from the Eanna precinct in Uruk, dating from 3600-3200 BC. The clay cones were painted in red, black and white and were inserted in such a way that they created geometrical designs on the surface of the columns. The columns are on permanent display at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin (Germany)
The Mask of Warka
Silver cup with linear-Elamite inscription on it, from late 3rd millennium BC, in the National Museum of Iran
Statue of Queen Napirasu, found at Susa, circa 1350 BC, made of bronze, 129 x 73 cm (50 x 28 in)
Clay panels found at Susa by french archeologist Roland de Mecquenem , during his excavations of the Apadana tell, below the achaemenian level, Louvre
Zoomorphic figurine from the neo-Elamite period, circa 1000-800 BCE, Indianapolis Museum of Art
One of a pair of armlets from the Oxus Treasure which has lost its inlays of precious stones or enamel
In Egypt, one of the first great civilizations arose, which had elaborate and complex works of art which were produced by professional artists and craftspeople, who developed specialized skills. Egypt's art was religious and symbolic. Given that the culture had a highly centralized power structure and hierarchy, a great deal of art was created to honour the pharaoh, including great monuments. Egyptian culture emphasized the religious concept of immortality. Later Egyptian art includes Coptic and Byzantine art.
The architecture is characterized by monumental structures, built with large stone blocks, lintels, and solid columns. Funerary monuments included mastaba, tombs of rectangular form; pyramids, which included step pyramids (Saqqarah) or smooth-sided pyramids (Giza); and the hypogeum, underground tombs (Valley of the Kings). Other great buildings were the temple, which tended to be monumental complexes preceded by an avenue of sphinxes and obelisks. Temples used pylons and trapezoid walls with hypaethros and hypostyle halls and shrines. The temples of Karnak, Luxor, Philae and Edfu are good examples. Another type of temple is the rock temple, in the form of a hypogeum, found in Abu Simbel and Deir el-Bahari.
Painting of the Egyptian era used a juxtaposition of overlapping planes. The images were represented hierarchically, i.e., the Pharaoh is larger than the common subjects or enemies depicted at his side. Egyptians painted the outline of the head and limbs in profile, while the torso, hands, and eyes were painted from the front. Applied arts were developed in Egypt, in particular woodwork and metalwork. There are superb examples such as cedar furniture inlaid with ebony and ivory which can be seen in the tombs at the Egyptian Museum. Other examples include the pieces found in Tutankhamun's tomb, which are of great artistic quality.
A "house altar" depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti and three of their daughters; limestone; New Kingdom, Amarna period, 18th dynasty; c. 1350 BC - Collection: Ägyptisches Museum Berlin, Inv. 14145
A jewelled falcon of Tutankhamun holding the ankh or sign for life in Ancient Egypt
A Wedjat/Udjat (Eye of Horus) pendant
Greek and Etruscan artists built on the artistic foundations of Egypt, further developing the arts of sculpture, painting, architecture, and ceramics. The body became represented in a more representational manner, and patronage of art thrived. Greek art started as smaller and simpler than Egyptian art, and the influence of Egyptian art on the Greeks started in the Cycladic islands between 3300-3200 B.C.E. Cycladic statues were simple, lacking facial features except for the nose.
Greek art eventually included life-sized statues, such as Kouros figures. The standing Kouros of Attica is typical of early Greek sculpture and dates from 600 B.C.E. From this early stage, the art of Greece moved into the Archaic Period. Sculpture from this time period includes the characteristic Archaic smile. This distinctive smile may have conveyed that the subject of the sculpture had been alive or that the subject had been blessed by the gods and was well.
Group of three Cycladic figurines, early Spedos type, Keros-Syros culture (EC II)
Marble female figure, Cyclades, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Female figurine made between 2700-2300 BCE, Louvre
Woman head made between 2700-2300 BCE, Louvre
This monumental female is the largest known example of a folded-arm figurine (1.5 m. high) and, with other types represents earliest surviving monumental sculpture from Greece. Its size suggests it may have served as a cult figure
Palace of Knossos, near Heraklion (in Crete, Greece). A long time ago, it's walls were full of Minoian frescos, most well-known being the "Prince of the Lilies". On Crete, the earlier Bronze Age is characterized by the presence of monumental, court-centred complexes at sites such as Knossos, Malia, Phaistos and Petras
Known as the Prince of the Lilies (also as the Priest King), this painted stucco relief, as it appears today, is the result of heavy restoration undertaken in 1905 by Swiss artist Emile Gilliéron Jnr, at the request of Arthur Evans. Imagined as a monumental, long-haired male waring a kilt and codpiece, a crown f feathers and lilies and a lily necklace. It has been suggested that Gilliéron's version combines fragments from a number of different figures, and several alternative interpretations have been offered. From circa 1675-1460 BCE, in Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Fresco of the Ladies in Blue. A largely restored fragment from a fresco which adorned the large ante-chamber of the Throne Room in the eastern wing of the Palace of Knossos. Ladies of the court, dressed with great elegance according to the fashion of the day, engage in conversation. The restoration is based on similar scenes found elsewhere. From 1675-1460 BCE, in Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Part of a five-panel composition, the iconic Bull-Leaping Fresco depicts an acrobat at the back of a charging bull. A second figure prepares to leap, while a third waits with arms outstretched. The event may have resembled the Course landaise of modern southwest France. Bulls feature centrally in Knossian iconography and may have acted as a symbol of Knossian power. The central court may have served as an arena for bull-sports, although it was barely large enough. From 1675-1460 BCE, in Heraklion Archaeological Museum
A group of faience Minoan snake goddess figurines (like the ome from the picture) were found in fragments among a collection of objects at Knossos that appear to represent the paraphernalia of an Minoan religion reserved for the palatial elite. Wearing religious dress and an elaborate hat with a feline perched atop, the goddess has been reconstructed holding aloft a pair of snakes. The goddess may represent one incarnation of the 'Mistress of Animals' (Potnia) referred to in Linear B. The deity is normally associated with nature and fertility, although the snakes suggest a chthonic component. From circa 1460-1410 BCE, in Heraklion Archaeological Museum
This is the most impressive of a small number of bull rhyta known from the Aegean. The presence of this and other examples at Knossos reflect the prominence of the bull in the political propaganda of the palace. The face and ears are made of steatite, bordered with jasper, and the muzzle is inlaid with tridacna (clam shell) from the Red Sea. The horns have been restored in gilt wood. A small graffito on the back of the neck suggests that they may originally have been sawn, perhaps following a practice observed during bull sacrifice. From circa 1700-1460 BCE, in Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The famous Bee pendant from Malia incorporates a variety of complex gold-working techniques including repoussé, filigree and granulation, and offers some idea of the technical and artistic skill of goldsmiths working on Crete during Protopalatial period. The pendant depicts opposing bees supporting a drop of honey (or perhaps a pollen ball) elaborated with pendant discs at the wings and strings, and a filigree care with a small gold sphere (of unknown meaning) above their heads. From circa 1700-1600 BCE, in Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Kamares-style jug in the Herakleion Archaeological Museum, from the Old palatial period (2100-1700 B.C.). Kamares ware takes its name from the Kamares cave on the southern slope of Mount Ida (from Crete), one of the most important Minoan rural sanctuaries and the site at which the style was first recognized in 1890. Kamares ware appeared on Crete as the palace centeres emerged, and it developed alongside them over the course of the Middle Bronze Age. From circa 1850-1675 BCE, in Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The cave of Arkalochori is located about 3 km. (1 miles) south of the Minoan palace at Galatas and has yielded the largest assemblage of votive material of any Minoan cave sanctuary on Crete. A collection of bronze objects weighing more than 18 Turkish okas (22.5 kg/50 lb) was reportedly retrieved from the cave by locals and sold as scrap before the first systematic excavation in 1912. Among the incredible array of votive objects recovered since are some thirty gold double axes, or labrys, a religious symbol in the same manner as the Christian cross. From circa 1700-1460 BCE, Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The enigmatic Phaistos Disc has no prallel. It is thought by some to be a religious text, but both the language and meaning of the disc remain unknown. Its two faces preserve a total of 241 symbols representing 45 different pictographic signs, running from the edge to the center within an incised spiral band. Further incisions define individual groups of signs, perhaps representing single words. Incredibly, these signs were impressed usingindividual metal stamps, as in modern typography. Such stamps would probably have been used repeatedly, raising the possibility that other discs remain to be discovered. From circa 1700-1675 BCE, Heraklion Archaeological Museum
The large female figurines representing the Minoan goddess come chiefly from the sanctuaries at Gazi, Gortys, Prinias, Knossos and Gournia. The largest and most typical group is that from Cazi (one of these is in the picture). The figurines, which are larger than any previously produced on Minoan Crete, are rendered in an extremely stylized manner in accordance with the artistic spirit of the period: the bodies are lifeless, the skirts simple cylinders, and the poses stereotyped. All the figures have raised hands; hence the name usually given to this type of figurine: "the goddess with raised hands". On the heads of the figures there are various symbols, such as horns of consecration, bird and the seeds of opium poppies. The figures with poppies are known as the "Poppy Goddesses", Heraklion Archaeological Museum
This sarcophagus, known as the Hagia Triada sarcophagus, offers a unique narrative depiction of funerary ritual that incorporates both Minoan and Mycenaean elements, perhaps to convey a political message at a time when Crete may have fallen under Mycenaean control. Side A depicts a daytime scene with females pouring libations beneath a pair of double axes accompanied by a male lyre player, and a night scene showing men moving towards a figure who may represent the deceased. Side B depicts a pair of women sacrificing a bull, accompanied by a male flautist. On the terminal ends are female divinities an Mycenaean chariots drawn by griffin and others drawn by wild goats. From circa 1370-1315 BCE, Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Mask of Agamemnon, a gold funeral mask, dated 1550-1500 BC
Etruscan head-shaped vase, Louvre
Painted terracotta Sarcophagus of Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa, about 150-130 BCE
Dacian art is the art associated with the peoples known as Dacians or North Thracians; The Dacians created an art style in which the influences of Scythians and the Greeks can be seen. They were highly skilled in gold and silver working and in pottery making. Pottery was white with red decorations in flolral, geometric, and stylized animal motifs. Similar decorations were worked in metal, especially the figure of a horse, which was common on Dacian coins.
Dacian gold zoomorphic figurine, part of the Co?ofenesti Treasure
Almost all extant works of Iberian sculpture visibly reflect Greek and Phoenician influences, and Assyrian, Hittite and Egyptian influences from which those derived; yet they have their own unique character. Within this complex stylistic heritage, individual works can be placed within a spectrum of influences- some of more obvious Phoenician derivation, and some so similar to Greek works that they could have been directly imported from that region. Overall the degree of influence is correlated to the work's region of origin, and hence they are classified into groups on that basis.
The Lady of Baza
Hittite art was produced by the Hittite civilization in ancient Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey, and also stretching into Syria during the second millennium BCE from the nineteenth century up until the twelfth century BCE. This period falls under the Anatolian Bronze Age. It is characterized by a long tradition of canonized images and motifs rearranged, while still being recognizable, by artists to convey meaning to a largely illiterate population.
"Owing to the limited vocabulary of figural types [and motifs], invention for the Hittite artist usually was a matter of combining and manipulating the units to form more complex compositions"
Many of these recurring images revolve around the depiction of Hittite deities and ritual practices. There is also a prevalence of hunting scenes in Hittite relief and representational animal forms. Much of the art comes from settlements like Alaca Höyük, or the Hittite capital of Hattusa near modern-day Bo?azkale. Scholars do have difficulty dating a large portion of Hittite art, citing the fact that there is a lack of inscription and much of the found material, especially from burial sites, was moved from their original locations and distributed among museums during the nineteenth century.
Vase A of the Hüseyindede vases
Hittite Goddess And Child, "sun goddess of Arinna", 15th-13th Century BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia, dated to c. 2300-1700 BC, located in present-day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River). Its sites were discovered and named by the Soviet archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi (1976).
BMAC materials have been found in the Indus Valley Civilisation, on the Iranian Plateau, and in the Persian Gulf. Finds within BMAC sites provide further evidence of trade and cultural contacts. They include an Elamite-type cylinder seal and a Harappan seal stamped with an elephant and Indus script found at Gonur-depe. The relationship between Altyn-Depe and the Indus Valley seems to have been particularly strong. Among the finds there were two Harappan seals and ivory objects. The Harappan settlement of Shortugai in Northern Afghanistan on the banks of the Amu Darya probably served as a trading station.
Seated Female Figure, chlorite and limestone, Bactria, 2500-1500 BC, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Bird-Headed Man with Snakes, bronze. Northern Afghanistan, 2000-1500 BC, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Celtic art is associated with the peoples known as Celts; those who spoke the Celtic languages in Europe from pre-history through to the modern period, as well as the art of ancient peoples whose language is uncertain, but have cultural and stylistic similarities with speakers of Celtic languages.
The reverse side of a British bronze mirror, 50 BC - 50 AD, showing the spiral and trumpet decorative theme of the late "Insular" La Tène style
Carved stone ball from Towie in Aberdeenshire, dated from 3200-2500 BC
The Battersea Shield, England, 350-50 BC, for display rather than combat
The Wandsworth Shield-boss, in the "plastic" style
Pottery from Heuneburg, Germany
Parade Helmet, Agris, France, 350 BC, decorated in a mixture of Mediterranean styles
Roman art is sometimes viewed as derived from Greek precedents, but also has its own distinguishing features. Roman sculpture is often less idealized than the Greek precedents, being very realistic. Roman architecture often used concrete, and features such as the round arch and dome were invented.
Roman artwork was influenced by the nation-state's interaction with other people's, such as ancient Judea. A major monument is the Arch of Titus, which was erected by the Emperor Titus. Scenes of Romans looting the Jewish temple in Jerusalem are depicted in low-relief sculptures around the arch's perimeter.
Ancient Roman pottery was not a luxury product, but a vast production of "fine wares" in terra sigillata were decorated with reliefs that reflected the latest taste, and provided a large group in society with stylish objects at what was evidently an affordable price. Roman coins were an important means of propaganda, and have survived in enormous numbers.
The Patrician Torlonia bust, believed to be of Cato the Elder. 1st century BC
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the Medieval era began, lasting for a millennium. Early Christian art begins the period, followed by Byzantine art, Anglo-Saxon art, Viking art, Ottonian art, Romanesque art and Gothic art, with Islamic art dominating the eastern Mediterranean.
In Byzantine and Gothic art of the Middle Ages, the dominance of the church resulted in a large amount of religious art. There was extensive use of gold in paintings, which presented figures in simplified forms.
Similar plaques of whale bone carved with confronted monster heads are found frequently in the graves of wealthy Viking women in Norway. The monster heads, similar to the figureheads attached to Viking ship prows, are typical of Viking decoration. 8th-late 9th century, whale bone, 22 × 18.3 × 0.8 cm (8.6 × 7.2 × 0.3 in), in Walters Art Museum
The Renaissance is the return to a valuation of the material world, and this paradigm shift is reflected in art forms, which show the corporeality of the human body, and the three-dimensional reality of landscapes. Art historians often periodize Renaissance art by century, especially with Italian art.Italian Renaissance and Baroque art is traditionally referred to by centuries: trecento for the fourteenth century, quattrocento for the fifteenth, cinquecento for the sixteenth, and seicento for the seventeenth.
The art of Pre-Islamic Arabia is related to that of neighbouring cultures. Pre-Islamic Yemen produced stylized alabaster heads of great aesthetic and historic charm. Most of the pre-Islamic sculptures are made of alabaster.
Archaeology has revealed some early settled civilizations in Saudi Arabia: the Dilmun civilization on the east of the Arabian Peninsula, Thamud north of the Hejaz, and Kindah kingdom and Al-Magar civilization in the central of Arabian Peninsula. The earliest known events in Arabian history are migrations from the peninsula into neighbouring areas. In antiquity, the role of South Arabian societies such as Saba (Sheba) in the production and trade of aromatics not only brought such kigdoms wealth but also tied the Arabian peninsula into trade networks, resulting in far-ranging artistic influences.
It seems probable that before around 4000 BC the Arabian climate was somewhat wetter that today, benefitting from a monsoon system that has since moved south. During the late fourth millennium BC permanent settlements began to appear, and inhabitants adjusted to the emerging dryer conditions. In south-west Arabia (modern Yemen) a moister climate supported several kingdoms during the second and first millennia BC. The most famos of these is Sheba, the kingdom of the biblical Queen of Sheba. These societies used a combination of trade in spices and the natural resources of the region, including aromatics such as frankincense and myrrh, to build wealthy kingdoms. M?rib, the Sabaean capital, was well positioned to tap into Mediterranean as well as Near Eastern trade, and in kingdoms to the east, in what is today Oman, trading links with Mesopotamia, Persia and even India were possible. The area was never a part of the Assyrian or Persian empires, and even Babylonian control of north-west Arabia seems to have been relatively short-lived. Later Roman attempts to control the region's lucrative trade foundered. This impenetrability to foreign armies doubtless augmented ancient rulers' bargaining power in the spice and incense trade.
Although subject to external influences, south Arabiaretained characteristics particular to itself. The human figure is typically based on strong, sqare shapes, the fine modeling of detail contrastingwith a stylized simplicity of form.
The 'Ain Ghazal Statues consist of a framework of twine-tied reeds coverd with plaster. Some are plain; others have painted bands on their faces and bodies, perhaps representing clothing. Some are full-length, around 90 cm. (36 in.) heigh; others are simply armless torsos. Many are gender-neutral; others clearly female, Louvre
Votive alabaster figurines from Yemen that represent seated women and female heads, made between 3rd and 1st century BCE
Rising from a roundel, the sculpture represents a priestess who intercedes with the sun goddess on behalf of the donor, Rathadum, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Some branches of Islam forbid depictions of people and other sentient beings, as they may be misused as idols. Religious ideas are thus often represented through geometric designs and calligraphy. However, there are many Islamic paintings which display religious themes and scenes of stories common among the three Abrahamic monotheistic faiths of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
The influence of Chinese ceramics has to be viewed in the broader context of the considerable importance of Chinese culture on Islamic arts in general. The ?znik pottery (named after ?znik, a city from Turkey) is one of the best well-known types of Islamic pottery. It's famous combination between blue and white is a result of that Ottoman court in Istanbul who greatly valued Chinese blue-and-white porcelain.
Luxurious Egyptian or Syrian mosque lamp from 14th century, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (Lisboa, Portugal)
Painting of life tree in interior of Shaki Khan palace, National Art Museum of Azerbaijan
The art of the Eskimo people from Siberia is in the exact same style as the Inuit art from Alaska and north Canada. This is because the native Americans traveled through Siberia to Alaska, and later to the rest of the Americas.
Including the Russian Far East, the population of Siberia numbers just above 40 million people. As a result of the 17th-to-19th-century Russian conquest of Siberia and the subsequent population movements during the Soviet era, the demographics of Siberia today is dominated by native speakers of Russian. There remain a considerable number of indigenous groups, between them accounting for below 10% of total Siberian population, which are also genetically related to Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.
The history of art in the Americas begins in pre-Columbian times with Indigenous cultures. Art historians have focused particularly closely on Mesoamerica during this early era, because a series of stratified cultures arose there that erected grand architecture and produced objects of fine workmanship that are comparable to the arts of Western Europe.
The art-making tradition of Mesoamerican people begins with the Olmec around 1400 BCE, during the Preclassic era. These people are best known for making colossal heads but also carved jade, erected monumental architecture, made small-scale sculpture, and designed mosaic floors. Two of the most well-studied sites artistically are San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán and La Venta. After the Olmec culture declined, the Maya civilization became prominent in the region. Sometimes a transitional Epi-Olmec period is described, which is a hybrid of Olmec and Maya. A particularly well-studied Epi-Olmec site is La Mojarra, which includes hieroglyphic carvings that have been partially deciphered.
By the late pre-Classic era, beginning around 400 BCE, the Olmec culture had declined but both Central Mexican and Maya peoples were thriving. Throughout much of the Classic period in Central Mexico, the city of Teotihuacan was thriving, as were Xochicalco and El Tajin. These sites boasted grand sculpture and architecture. Other Central Mexican peoples included the Mixtecs, the Zapotecs, and people in the Valley of Oaxaca. Maya art was at its height during the "Classic" period--a name that mirrors that of Classical European antiquity--and which began around 200 CE. Major Maya sites from this era include Copan, where numerous stelae were carved, and Quirigua where the largest stelae of Mesoamerica are located along with zoomorphic altars. A complex writing system was developed, and Maya illuminated manuscripts were produced in large numbers on paper made from tree bark. Many sites "collapsed" around 1000 AD.
At the time of the Spanish conquest of Yucatán during the 16th and 17th centuries, the Maya were still powerful, but many communities were paying tribute to Aztec society. The latter culture was thriving, and it included arts such as sculpture, painting, and feather mosaics. Perhaps the most well-known work of Aztec art is the calendar stone, which became a national symbol of the state of Mexico. During the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, many of these artistic objects were sent to Europe, where they were placed in cabinets of curiosities, and later redistributed to Western art museums. The Aztec empire was based in the city of Tenochtitlan which was largely destroyed during the colonial era. What remains of it was buried beneath Mexico City. A few buildings, such as the foundation of the Templo Mayor have since been unearthed by archaeologists, but they are in poor condition.
Art in the Americas since the conquest is characterized by a mixture of indigenous and foreign traditions, including those of European, African, and Asian settlers. Numerous indigenous traditions thrived after the conquest. For example, the Plains Indians created quillwork, beadwork, winter counts, ledger art, and tipis in the pre-reservation era, and afterwards became assimilated into the world of Modern and Contemporary art through institutions such as the Santa Fe Indian School which encouraged students to develop a unique Native American style. Many paintings from that school, now called the Studio Style, were exhibited at the Philbrook Museum of Art during its Indian annual held from 1946 to 1979.
Las Limas Monument 1, considered an important realisation of Olmec mythology. The youth holds a were-jaguar infant, while four iconic supernaturals are incised on the youth's shoulders and knees
Olmec jade mask, 10th-6th century B.C., in Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Wrestler, an Olmec basalt statuette
Ceramic art recovered from Tlatilco, commonly known as the "Acrobat", c. 1300 - 800 BCE
The 14th page of Codex Borbonicus
Long considered a backwater of culture and aesthetic expression, Central America's dynamic societies are now recognized as robust and innovative contribuitors to the arts of ancient Americas. The people of pre-Columbian Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama developed their own distinctive styles in spite of the region being a crossroads for millennia. Its peoples were not subsumed by outside influences but instead created, adopted and adapted al manner of ideas and technologies to suit their needs and temperaments. The region's isiosyncratic cultural traditions, religious beliefs and sociopolitical systems are reflected in unique artworks. A fundamental spiritual tenet was shamanism, the central principle of which decreedthat in a trance state, transformed into one's spirit companion form, a person could enter the supranatural realm and garner special power to affect worldly affairs. Central American artists devised ingenious ways to portray this transformation by merging into one figure human and animal characteristics; the jaguar, serpent and avian raport (falcon, eagle or vulture) were the main spirit forms.
Pedestalled plate, circa 7th-9th century AD, earthenware with slip, diameter: 26 cm (10 in), Musée du quai Branly. The serpent was a popular theme for pottery and gold adornments in pre-Columbian Panama. The dynamism of its portrayal and later ethno-historical datasuggest a symbolic association of the snake with concepts of universal life force. Serpent portrayals often combine different animal elements, such as the legs of a crocodile, seen here, which allude to the supranatural nature of the image
Amphibian pendant, circa 9th-16th century AD, made of gold, 8.2 cm (3.2 in), Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, USA). This gold pendant combines the characteristics of a frog, an iguana, a crocodile and a shark. The motif seen coming from the creature's mouth is a double-headed crocodile. This stylized motif is seen everywhere in Pre-Conquest Panamanian art. Smaller crocodile heads sprout from the creature's "shoulders" to support the double headed crocodiles coming out of the animal's mouth. The head appears to be that of a frog, with large, round eyes that bulge out
Zoomorphico-antropomorphic figures from San Agustín Archaeological Park
Lime container, 5th-9th century AD, made of gold, 23 cm (9 in) high, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Likely used by a member of the Quimbaya elite, this expertly fashioned and graceful container for powdered lime (poporo) characterizes an exceptional period of metallurgy in central Colombia. Lime, made from calcined seashells, was used when chewing coca leaves to release their stimulant quality. The fine condition of this outstanding poporo suggests that it was found in a tomb
This pendant, worn by a leader of the Tairona people (dominant in northern Colombia in the 15th & 16th centuries) as a symbol of earthly and spiritual power, portrays a human male transformed into a leaf-nosed bat-shamanic spirit being. He strikes a ritual stance with slightly bent knees, raised shoulders and flexed arms. Emerging from his gead are two avian forms, the spirals behind them symbolizing supranatural forces
Muisca pectoral made of tumbaga, circa 600-1600 CE
Ceramic figurine with tumbaga nose-ring, made by the Quimbaya civilization in 1200-1500 CE
Chavin vassel that depicts a feline rendered in relatively high relief, alternating with a cactus form that may refer to the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus
Double-Spout, Bridge-Handle Vessel, in the Brooklyn Museum
Large funerary vessel from Marajo island (Brazil), made in the Joanes style, from the Marajoara phase
Carved mica hand, Hopewell Mounds, 100 BCE - 400 CE
Haida totem pole, Thunderbird Park, British Columbia
Eastern civilization broadly includes Asia, and it also includes a complex tradition of art making. One approach to Eastern art history divides the field by nation, with foci on Indian art, Chinese art, and Japanese art. Due to the size of the continent, the distinction between Eastern Asia and Southern Asia in the context of arts can be clearly seen. In most of Asia, pottery was a prevalent form of art. The pottery is often decorated with geometric patterns or abstract representations of animals, people or plants. Another very widespread form of art was, and is, sculpture.
The Indus Valley Civilisation made anthropomorphic figures. Most famous are the Dancing Girl and the Priest-King. This civilisation made also many clay pots, most of them decorated with geometric patterns. They made seals decorated with animals, anthropomorphic figures and their script. The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilization during the Kot Diji and Mature Harappan periods between 3500 and 1900 BCE. Most inscriptions containing these symbols are extremely short, making it difficult to judge whether or not these symbols constituted a script used to record a language, or even symbolise a writing system. In spite of many attempts, the "script" has not yet been deciphered, but efforts are ongoing. There is no known bilingual inscription to help decipher the script, nor does the script show any significant changes over time. However, some of the syntax (if that is what it may be termed) varies depending upon location.
Early Buddhists in India developed symbols related to Buddha. Bhutanese painted "thangkas" that shows Buddhist iconography. The major survivals of Buddhist art begin in the period after the Mauryans, from which good quantities of sculpture survives from some key sites such as Sanchi, Bharhut and Amaravati, some of which remain in situ, with others in museums in India or around the world. Stupas were surrounded by ceremonial fences with four profusely carved toranas or ornamental gateways facing the cardinal directions. These are in stone, though clearly adopting forms developed in wood. They and the walls of the stupa itself can be heavily decorated with reliefs, mostly illustrating the lives of the Buddha. Gradually life-size figures were sculpted, initially in deep relief, but then free-standing.Mathura was the most important centre in this development, which applied to Hindu and Jain art as well as Buddhist. The facades and interiors of rock-cut chaitya prayer halls and monastic viharas have survived better than similar free-standing structures elsewhere, which were for long mostly in wood. The caves at Ajanta, Karle, Bhaja and elsewhere contain early sculpture, often outnumbered by later works such as iconic figures of the Buddha and bodhisattvas, which are not found before 100 CE at the least.
Harappan seals, British Museum, London
Harappan bowl decorated with a geometric pattern, ca. early to mid-3rd millennium B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Pair of gold earrings, 1st century BCE, from Andhra Pradesh
Fresco from Ajanta caves, c. 450-500
Single Lion capital at Vaishali
Meditating Buddha, Gupta era, 5th century CE
The major orders of Buddhism in Bhutan are Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingma. The former is a branch of the Kagyu School and is known for paintings documenting the lineage of Buddhist masters and the 70 Je Khenpo (leaders of the Bhutanese monastic establishment). The Nyingma order is known for images of Padmasambhava, who is credited with introducing Buddhism into Bhutan in the 7th century. According to legend, Padmasambhava hid sacred treasures for future Buddhist masters, especially Pema Lingpa, to find. The treasure finders (tertön) are also frequent subjects of Nyingma art.
For more than a thousand years, Tibetan artists have played a key role in the cultural life of Tibet. From designs for painted furniture to elaborate murals in religious buildings, their efforts have permeated virtually every facet of life on the Tibetan plateau. The vast majority of surviving artworks created before the mid-20th century are dedicated to the depiction of religious subjects, with the main forms being thangka, distemper paintings on cloth, Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings, and small statues in bronze, or large ones in clay, stucco or wood. They were commissioned by religious establishments or by pious individuals for use within the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and were manufactured in large workshops by monks and lay artists, who are mostly unknown.
15/16th century carved manuscript cover. An excellent example of the Tibetan carvers art with simple designs containing sacred elements. Sculpted and lacquered, this manuscript cover has stupas and canopies within geometric designs
The inscription on the back is problematic and does not provide sufficient information to identify this figure. Therefore, the date of the portrait suggested here is based entirely on stylistic considerations. It has all the characteristics of metal images representing teachers that were made in Newar workshops in south-central Tibet, especially Tsang. From the 16th century, made of bronze with silver inlay, Walters Art Museum
The surfaces of this silver and gilt box are richly embellished with symbols and mantras associated with the destruction of malevolent spirits. On the front is a symbolic representation of the protective female deity Lhamo. From the 18th century, made of silver with gilding and turquoise, in Walters Art Museum
In Eastern Asia, painting was derived from the practice of calligraphy, and portraits and landscapes were painted on silk cloth. Most of the paintings represent landscapes or portraits. The most spectacular sculptures are the ritual bronzes and the bronze sculptures from Sanxingdui. A very well-known example of Chinese art is the Terracotta Army, depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210-209 BCE whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.
Chinese art is one of the oldest continuous traditional arts in the world, and is marked by an unusual degree of continuity within, and consciousness of, that tradition, lacking an equivalent to the Western collapse and gradual recovery of classical styles. The media that have usually been classified in the West since the Renaissance as the decorative arts are extremely important in Chinese art, and much of the finest work was produced in large workshops or factories by essentially unknown artists, especially in Chinese ceramics.
Black and white porcelian vase from Northern Song period (960-1126), in Asian Art Museum (San Francisco)
Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture, ink painting and calligraphy on silk and paper, ukiyo-e paintings and woodblock prints, ceramics, origami, and more recently manga--modern Japanese cartooning and comics--along with a myriad of other types. It has a long history, ranging from the beginnings of human habitation in Japan, sometime in the 10th millennium BC, to the present.
The first settlers of Japan, the J?mon people (c. 11000 - c. 300 BC). They crafted lavishly decorated pottery storage vessels, clay figurines called dog?. Japan has been subject to sudden invasions of new ideas followed by long periods of minimal contact with the outside world. Over time the Japanese developed the ability to absorb, imitate, and finally assimilate those elements of foreign culture that complemented their aesthetic preferences. The earliest complex art in Japan was produced in the 7th and 8th centuries in connection with Buddhism. In the 9th century, as the Japanese began to turn away from China and develop indigenous forms of expression, the secular arts became increasingly important; until the late 15th century, both religious and secular arts flourished. After the ?nin War (1467-1477), Japan entered a period of political, social, and economic disruption that lasted for over a century. In the state that emerged under the leadership of the Tokugawa shogunate, organized religion played a much less important role in people's lives, and the arts that survived were primarily secular.
Ogata Korin, Red and white plum trees, ink and colors on silver and gold on paper, 156.5 cm. 172.5 cm each
Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Woman with fan
Gintai shipp? (?) vase with design of peacock feathers by Kawade Shibatar?, in Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Korean arts include traditions in calligraphy, music, painting and pottery, often marked by the use of natural forms, surface decoration and bold colors or sounds.
This early period was followed by the art styles of various Korean kingdoms and dynasties. Korean artists sometimes modified Chinese traditions with a native preference for simple elegance, spontaneity, and an appreciation for purity of nature.
The Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) was one of the most prolific periods for a wide range of disciplines, especially pottery.
The Korean art market is concentrated in the Insadong district of Seoul where over 50 small galleries exhibit and occasional fine arts auctions. Galleries are cooperatively run, small and often with curated and finely designed exhibits. In every town there are smaller regional galleries, with local artists showing in traditional and contemporary media. Art galleries usually have a mix of media. Attempts at bringing Western conceptual art into the foreground have usually had their best success outside of Korea in New York, San Francisco, London and Paris.
The Dabotap Pagoda
Rafter finial in the shape of a dragon's head and wind chime from the 10th century, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gilt-bronze Maitreya in Meditation (National Treasure No. 83), unknown date, in the National Museum of Korea (Seoul)
With the millennium of Chinese domination starting in the 2nd century BC, Vietnamese art undoubtedly absorbed many Chinese influences, which would continue even following independence from China in the 10th century AD. However, Vietnamese art has always retained many distinctively Vietnamese characteristics.
By the 19th century, the influence of French art took hold in Vietnam, having a large hand in the birth of modern Vietnamese art.
Neolithic terracotta pieces used to imprint decoration patterns on cloth
Statue of Avalokite?vara Bodhisattva (Quán Th? Âm) of the Lê or Nguy?n Dynasty, Guimet Museum, Paris
Thi?u n? bên hoa hu? (Young Woman with Lily), oil, 1943, by Tô Ng?c Vân
Traditional Thai art is primarily composed of Buddhist art and scenes from the Indian epics. Traditional Thai sculpture almost exclusively depicts images of the Buddha. Traditional Thai paintings usually consist of book illustrations, and painted ornamentation of buildings such as palaces and temples.
Thai sculpture made of bronze, from c. 15th century, H. 12 3/8 in. (31.4 cm); W. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm); D. 5 in. (12.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art
Seated Buddha in "Maravijaya" from 1554 (?) (Lan Na), made of hollow cast bronze, in the Walters Art Museum. Lan Na Buddha images can be looked at in two ways: in terms of types (Sihing or non-Sihing) or modes and in terms of stylistic qualities. But in fact these two approaches overlap to a certain degree
The history of Cambodian art stretches back centuries to ancient times, but the most famous period is undoubtedly the Khmer art of the Khmer Empire (802-1431), especially in the area around Angkor and the mainly 12th-century temple-complex of Angkor Wat, initially Hindu and subsequently Buddhist. After the collapse of the empire these and other sites were abandoned and overgrown, allowing much of the era's stone carving and architecture to survive to the present day. Traditional Cambodian arts and crafts include textiles, non-textile weaving, silversmithing, stone carving, lacquerware, ceramics, wat murals, and kite-making.
Beginning in the mid-20th century, a tradition of modern art began in Cambodia, though in the later 20th century both traditional and modern arts declined for several reasons, including the killing of artists by the Khmer Rouge. The country has experienced a recent artistic revival due to increased support from governments, NGOs, and foreign tourists.
In pre-colonial Cambodia, art and crafts were generally produced either by rural non-specialists for practical use or by skilled artists producing works for the Royal Palace. In modern Cambodia, many artistic traditions entered a period of decline or even ceased to be practiced, but the country has experienced a recent artistic revival as the tourist market has increased and governments and NGOs have contributed to the preservation of Cambodian culture.
Angkor Wat, an icon of Cambodia
Head of Avalokiteshvara, mid-12th century or later, made of sandstone, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
It is quite difficult to define Indonesian art, since the country is immensely diverse. The sprawling archipelago nation consists of 13,466 islands. Around 922 of those permanently inhabited, by over 300 ethnic groups, which speaking more than 700 living languages.
Indonesia also has experienced a long history, with each period leaves a distinctive arts. From prehistoric cave paintings and megalithic ancestral statues of Central Sulawesi, tribal wooden carving traditions of Toraja and Asmat people, graceful Hindu-Buddhist art of classical Javanese civilization which produced Borobudur and Prambanan, vivid Balinese paintings and performing arts, Islamic arts of Aceh, to contemporary arts of modern Indonesian artists. Both Indonesian diversity and history add to complexity on defining and identifying what is Indonesian art.
Prajñ?p?ramit? statue from East Java
Relief panel of a ship at Borobudur
Musicians performing a musical ensemble, probably the early form of gamelan
Arjuna in Javanese wayang show
Javanese shadow puppet (wayang kulit) of character Gathutkaca
African art includes both sculpture, typified by the brass castings of the Benin people, as well as folk art. Concurrent with the European Middle Ages, in the eleventh century CE a nation that made grand architecture, gold sculpture, and intricate jewelry was founded in Great Zimbabwe. Impressive sculpture was concurrently being cast from brass by the Yoruba people of what is now Nigeria. Such a culture grew and was ultimately transformed to become the Benin Kingdom, where elegant altar tusks, brass heads, plaques of brass, and palatial architecture was created. The Benin Kingdom was ended by the British in 1897, and little of the culture's art now remains in Nigeria. Today, the most significant arts venue in Africa is the Johannesburg Biennale.
Sub-Saharan Africa is characterized by a high density of cultures. Notable are the Nok, Edo, Yoruba, and Igbo people from Nigeria; Kuba people from Central Africa; Djenné people from Mali; Ashanti people from Ghana; Zulu people from Southern Africa; and Fang people from Equatorial Guinea (85%), Cameroon & Gabon.
Helmet mask for Sande Society Brooklyn Museum
Sculpture from Guinea-Bissau
Terracotta seated figure from Mali, 13th century, earthenware, 29.9 cm (11 in) high, Metropolitan Museum of Art. The raised marks and indentations on the back of this hunched Djenné figure may represent disease or, more likely, sacrification patterns. The facial expression and pose could depict an individual in mouring or in pain
Yombe-sculpture, 19th century
Sculpture of a "Queen Mother" from Kingdom of Benin, 16th century
Nok seated figure, terracotta, 5th century BC - 5th century AD, earthenware, 38 cm (1 ft 3 in), Louvre. In this Nok work, the head is dramatically larger than the body supoorting it, yet the figure possesses elegant details and a powerfull focus. The neat protrusion from the chin represents a beard. Necklaces from a cone around the neck and keep the focus on the face
Head of an Oba, 16th century
A Benin Bronze plaque with warriors
The Art of Oceania includes the geographic areas of Micronesia, Polynesia, Australia, New Zealand, and Melanesia. One approach treats the area thematically, with foci on ancestry, warfare, the body, gender, trade, religion, and tourism. Unfortunately, little ancient art survives from Oceania. Scholars believe that this is likely because artists used perishable materials, such as wood and feathers, which did not survive in the tropical climate, and there are no historical records to refer to most of this material. The understanding of Oceania's artistic cultures thus begins with the documentation of it by Westerners, such as Captain James Cook in the eighteenth century. At the turn of the twentieth century the French artist Paul Gauguin spent significant amounts of time in Tahiti, living with local people and making modern art--a fact that has become intertwined with Tahitian visual culture to the present day. The indigenous art of Australia often looks like abstract modern art, but it has deep roots in local culture.
The art of Oceania is the last great tradition of art to be appreciated by the world at large. Despite being one of the longest continuous traditions of art in the world, dating back at leasf fifty millennia, it remained relatively unknown until the second half of the 20th century.
The often ephemeral materials of Oceanic art makes it difficult to determine the antiquity of the majority of the forms of art practised today. The most durable forms are the multitudes of rock engravings and rock paintings which are found across the continent. In the Arnhem Land escarpment, evidence suggests that paintings were being made fifty thousand years ago, antedating the Palaeolithic rock paintings of Altamira & Lascaux in Europe.
Detail from a m?orian t?h?h? from c. 1840
Bradshaw rock paintings, north-west Kimberley region of Western Australia
Artwork form northern Australia, Musée du quai Branly (Paris)
A closeup of a rongorongo tablet
Art historians disagree when Modern art began, some tracing it as far back as Francisco Goya in the Napoleonic period, the mid-19th century with the industrial revolution or the late 19th century with the advent of Impressionism. The French Revolution of 1789 gave rise to further revolutions in thought. In the arts, these included a new self-consciousness about artistic styles and individuality. Art historian H. Harvard Arnason says "a gradual metamorphosis took place in the course of a hundred years", marked by significant events such as the completion in 1784 of Jacques-Louis David's painting The Oath of the Horatii; the exhibition of Gustave Courbet's painting The Artist's Studio in 1855; and the exhibition of Édouard Manet's painting Le déjeuner sur l'herbe in the Salon des Refusés in Paris in 1863.
During the 19th century, the Romantic tendency of early modern artists such as Turner and Delacroix was succeeded by newer art movements: Realism, Impressionism, post-Impressionism, Symbolism, and other movements. Western artists were influenced by Eastern decorative arts, especially Japanese prints.
The Impressionists sought to convey movement, spontaneity, and transient effects of light in their work. Their style was adopted by artists in many countries, alongside national movements such as the Hudson River School and the Ashcan School in the US.
Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 207.5 × 308.1 cm, Art Institute of Chicago
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge: Two Women Waltzing, 1892
Alphonse Mucha, F. Champenois Imprimeur-Éditeur, 1897, lithograph
The history of 20th-century art is a narrative of endless possibilities and the search for new standards, each being torn down in succession by the next. The art movements of Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, abstract art, Dadaism and Surrealism led to further explorations of new creative styles and manners of expression. Increasing global interaction during this time saw an equivalent influence of other cultures into Western art, such as Pablo Picasso being influenced by Iberian sculpture, African sculpture and Primitivism. Japonism, and Japanese woodcuts (which had themselves been influenced by Western Renaissance draftsmanship) had an immense influence on Impressionism and subsequent artistic developments. The influential example set by Paul Gauguin's interest in Oceanic art and the sudden popularity among the cognoscenti in early 20th century Paris of newly discovered African fetish sculptures and other works from non-European cultures were taken up by Picasso, Henri Matisse, and many of their colleagues. Later in the 20th century, Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism came to prominence.
Robert Delaunay, 1912-13, Le Premier Disque, Private collection
Rapid advances in science and technology led to the late Modern and Postmodern period. In these periods, the art and cultures of the world went through many changes, and there was a great deal of intermixture between cultures, as new communications technologies facilitated the national and even global dissemination of music, art and style. The separation of regional cultures that had marked the 19th century was replaced by a global culture. Postmodernism describes a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late-20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism which marked a departure from modernism.
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After a century of failing to crack an ancient script, linguists turn to machines.