Art History For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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The history of art is immense; the earliest cave paintings pre-date writing by almost 27,000 years! If you're interested in art history, the first thing you should do is take a look at the timeline table in this Cheat Sheet, which briefly outlines the artists, traits, works, and events that make up major art periods and how art has evolved to the present day.

Art history timeline

Art Periods/Movements Characteristics Chief Artists and Major Works Historical Events
Stone Age (30,000 BCEE–2500 BCEE) Cave painting, fertility goddesses, megalithic structures Lascaux Cave Painting, Woman of Willendorf, Stonehenge Ice Age ends (10,000 BCE–8,000 BCE); New Stone Age and first permanent settlements (8000 BCE–2500 BCE)
Mesopotamian (3500 BCE–539 BCE) Warrior art and narration in stone relief Standard of Ur, Gate of Ishtar, Stele of Hammurabi’s Code Sumerians invent writing (3400 BCE); Hammurabi writes his law code (1780 BCE); Abraham founds monotheism
Egyptian (3100 BCE–30 BCE) Art with an afterlife focus: pyramids and tomb painting Imhotep, Step Pyramid, Great Pyramids, Bust of Nefertiti Narmer unites Upper/Lower Egypt (3100 BCE); Rameses II battles the Hittites (1274 BCE); Cleopatra dies (30 BCE)
Greek and Hellenistic (850 BCE–31 BCE) Greek idealism: balance, perfect proportions; architectural orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) Parthenon, Myron, Phidias, Polykleitos, Praxiteles, statues of Kritios Boy, Discobolus, Laocoön and His Sons, Venus de Milo Athens defeats Persia at Marathon (490 BCE); Peloponnesian Wars (431 BCE–404 BCE); Alexander the Great’s conquests (336 BCE–323 BCE)
Roman (500 BCE–CE 476) Roman realism: practical and down-to-earth; the arch Augustus of Primaporta, Colosseum, Pantheon, Trajan’s Column Julius Caesar assassinated (44 BCE); Augustus proclaimed Emperor (27 BCE); Diocletian splits Empire (CE 292); Rome falls (CE 476)
Byzantine and Islamic (CE 476–1453) Heavenly Byzantine mosaics; Islamic architecture and amazing mazelike design Hagia Sophia, Andrei Rublev, Mosque of Cordoba, the Alhambra Justinian partly restores Western Roman Empire (CE 533–CE 562); Iconoclasm Controversy (CE 726–CE 843); Birth of Islam (CE 610) and Muslim Conquests (CE 632–CE 732)
Middle Ages (500–1400) Celtic art, Carolingian Renaissance, Romanesque, Gothic St. Sernin, Durham Cathedral, Notre Dame, Chartres; Cimabue, Duccio; Giotto Viking raids (793–1066); Battle of Hastings (1066); Crusades I–IV (1095–1204); Black Death (1347–1351); Hundred Years War (1337–1453)
Early and High Renaissance (1400–1550) Rebirth of classical culture Ghiberti’s Doors, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo Gutenberg invents movable type (1447); Turks conquer Constantinople (1453); Columbus lands in New World (1492); Martin Luther starts Reformation (1517)
Venetian and Northern Renaissance (1430–1550) The Renaissance spreads northward to France, the Low Countries, Poland, Germany, and England Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Dürer, Bruegel, Bosch, Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden Council of Trent and Counter Reformation (1545–1563); Copernicus proves the earth revolves around the sun (1543)
Mannerism (1527–1580) Art that breaks the rules; artifice over nature Tintoretto, El Greco, Pontormo, Bronzino, Sofonisba Anguissola, Lavinia Fontana Magellan circumnavigates the globe (1520–1522)
Baroque (1600–1750) Splendor and flourish for God; art as a weapon in the religious wars Reubens, Rembrandt, Hals, Caravaggio, Artemesia Gentileschi, Elisabetta Sirani, Judith Leyster,Velázquez Palace of Versailles Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants (1618–1648)
Neoclassical (1750–1850) Art that recaptures Greco-Roman grace and grandeur David, Ingres, Joshua Reynolds, Angelica Kaufmann, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Labille-Guiard, Canova, Houdon Enlightenment (18th century); Industrial Revolution (1760–1850)
Romanticism (1780–1850) The triumph of imagination and individuality Caspar Friedrich, Gericault, Delacroix, Turner, William Blake, Henry Fuseli, Goya American Revolution (1775–1783); French Revolution (1789–1799); Napoleon crowned emperor of France (1803)
Realism, Hudson River School, Pre-Raphaelites, The Ten, Ashcan School (1848–1910) Celebrating working class and peasants; en plein air rustic painting Corot, Courbet, Daumier, Bonheur, Millet, Cole, Durand, Bierstadt, Catlin, Homer, Eakins, Rossetti, Spartali Stillman, Millais, Dewing, Tarbell, Benson, Sloan, Luks European democratic revolutions of 1848; Westward expansion of the United States, California Gold Rush of 1849.
Impressionism (1869–1885) Capturing fleeting effects of natural light Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cassatt, Morisot, Degas, Chase, Hassam, Frieseke, Peterson Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871); Unification of Germany (1871)
Post-Impressionism (1886–1892) A soft revolt against Impressionism Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Seurat, Ensor, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin Belle Époque (late-19th-century Golden Age); Japan defeats Russia (1905)
Fauvism and Expressionism (1905–1939) Harsh colors and flat surfaces (Fauvism); emotion distorting form Matisse, Derain, Kirchner, Kandinsky, Gabriel Münter, Franz Marc, Käthe Kollwitz, Gustav Klimt, Egon Shiele Boxer Rebellion in China (1900); World War I (1914–1918)
Cubism, Futurism, Supremativism, Constructivism, De Stijl, Precisionism, Harlem Renaissance (1905–1944) Pre– and Post–World War I art experiments: new forms to express modern life Picasso, Braque, Leger, Boccioni, Severini, Malevich, Tatlin, Gabo, Mondrian, O’Keeffe, Demuth, Sheeler, Douglas, Johnson, Savage Russian Revolution (1917); American women franchised (1920)
Dada and Surrealism, Modernist Architecture (1917–1950) Mock art; painting dreams and exploring the unconscious Duchamp, Dalí, Ernst, Magritte, Miro, Kahlo, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier Disillusionment after World War I; Great Depression (1929–1938); World War II (1939–1945) and Nazi horrors; atomic bombs dropped on Japan (1945)
Abstract Expressionism (1940s–1950s) and Pop Art (1960s) Post–World War II: pure abstraction and expression without form; popular art absorbs consumerism Gorky, Pollock, Krasner, de Kooning, Rothko, Warhol, Close, Lichtenstein, Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneemann Cold War and Vietnam War (U.S. enters 1965); U.S.S.R. suppresses Hungarian revolt (1956) and Czechoslovakian revolt (1968)
Postmodernism and Deconstructivism (1970–) Art without a center and reworking and mixing past styles Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Anselm Kiefer, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Judy Chicago, Smithson, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, ORLAN, James Turrell, Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson Nuclear freeze movement; Cold War fizzles; Communism collapses in Eastern Europe and U.S.S.R. (1989–1991), Iraq wars, climate change, rise of populism and autocracies

 

About This Article

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About the book author:

Jesse Bryant Wilder, MAT (Master of Teaching), is the founder, publisher, and editor of NEXUS, a series of interdisciplinary textbooks used in high schools around the United States. He has written several textbooks on art and art history and was an art critic for The Plain Dealer.

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