Art History Timeline – Winter 2013

 

"The Great Paranoia" by Salvador Dali
“The Great Paranoia” by Salvador Dali

Art History Timeline

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  • Prehistoric Art in Europe……………………………………….42,000 – 1,000 BCE

Prehistoric Art includes two periods: the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) and the Neolithic (New Stone Age).  During the Paleolithic period (42,000 – 8,000 BCE) mankind lived as “hunter-gatherers” in small nomadic groups.  Paleolithic art shows a distinctive sense of design and imagination as seen in the statue of the Lion-Human; which represents a creature never seen in nature.  Artifacts recovered from that period are small figurines made of ivory, stone, clay, or bone.  The cave paintings were part of rituals, and served as a way to summon animals for the next hunt.  They were definitely valuable since they are carefully made in the farthest reach of the cave.  The Neolithic period is marked by fundamental social and cultural changes.  The development of organized agriculture, the maintenance of domesticated animals, and year-round settlements of the tribe in one location.  Neolithic cultures built tombs and other massive monument such as the Stonehenge (located in southern England) also for ritual purposes.  That period ended with the introduction of metalwork known as the Bronze Age.

  • Art of the Ancient Near East………………………………………..4,000 – 500 BCE

The development of agriculture in the alluvian plains between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, which the Greeks called Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) contributed to the evolution of the first cities and city-states: the cities in northern Mesopotamia known as Sumer and those in southern region known as Assyria.  The Sumerians invented the wagon wheel, the plow, copper and bronze casting, and most importantly a form of writing on clay tablets: the cuneiform.  The writing was a tool in their accounting system for trading goods.  They were pictographs then evolved into phonograms representing syllable sounds.  The Sumerians built Ziggurats – a very imposing pyramidal structure with a temple on top – to proclaim the wealth, prestige, and stability of the city’s ruler,  and to glorify the gods. The first codified laws by Hammurabi from Babylon appeared during that period. Before then,   the law was arbitrary and subject to the ruler’s state of mind. They also introduced the idea of anthropomorphic gods.  In their art they use hieratic scale in the depiction of heroes in battle scene as seen in the Stele of Naram-Sin.  They also created votive human figures used to worship the gods and the ancestors.  The Assyrians influenced by Sumerian culture also adopted the Ziggurats when they became dominant around 1,400 BCE.

  • Art of Ancient Egypt……………………………………………..3,500 BCE – 500 CE

Egypt was divided into two kingdoms: Upper Egypt in the south and Lower Egypt in the north.  King Narmer from the south conquered Lower Egypt thus merging the lands into one unified state.  This is illustrated by the palette of Narmer where the Sumerian hieratic scale is used to signify his importance.  In Ancient Egypt, religion and state were one.  They believed in the after-life, and that the Ka (the human spirit) was immortal. Their art was almost exclusively funerary and followed a strict set of rules, the canon.  The kings, the pharaohs, would represent the gods on earth.  The art revolved around building their monumental tombs and representing them with the sole purpose of helping the Ka in its journey to the after-life.  The human figure is represented from different perspective: the eyes and shoulders in frontal view, the head and the legs in profile.  As established by the canon, everything had to be represented in the most familiar way.  The art is very geometric.  For the statues, the pharaohs would be in the conventional royal posture; which is very rigid with hands on knees.

  • Art of Ancient Greece………………………………………………..1,000 – 100 BCE

As Egypt declined, Greece was in ascendence.  Greek art includes: potteries, sculptures, mosaics, friezes, and architecture – there were paintings but none survived.  In Architecture, the Greek introduced the columns that went from  the simple Doric order to the Ionic and the very elaborate Corinthian order.  When studying the Art of Ancient Greece, we split it into the following periods: the Geometric (1,000 – 700 BCE), the Archaic (600 – 480 BCE), the Classical (480 – 323 BCE), and the Hellenistic (323 – 331).  The emphasis on humanity (or an elite social group of men) is prominent.  The gods have human weaknesses and are represented as human beings.  The new focus in art resulted from a new political system: democracy.  The one-man rule was no longer in fashion.  Thus, artistic creation became centered on the material world and reflected the philosophers’ search for truth, virtues, harmony.  Those values were integrated both in the subjects and the style.  The Geometric period is an extension of the Ancient Egyptian style. Artists would reduce body parts of objects to simple geometric shapes.  The Classical  (Early Classical and High Classical) period set itself apart from the Egyptian ideal. The art became philosophical and drew inspiration from the physical world, daily life, and epic tales.  The individual, the rational, and the logical were encouraged.  Artist were given more freedom to experiment and try new ideas.  The representation of the human figure during the Classical period was idealized, whereas in the Hellenistic period artists chose the real instead of the ideal.  The hellenistic art was more dramatic.  The art forms Bronze casting created a new form.

  • Roman Art………………………………………………………………509 BCE – 395 CE

The Roman Empire conquered most of the western world and absorbed Greek Art, gods, heroes, and architecture.  Many of the Greek sculptures we see today are Roman duplicates.  The Romans were not driven by Art but had appreciation for it.  They were however driven by law-making and warfare.  They perfected communication and transportation by building a network of roads.  They made great advances in architecture. They invented concrete, which they used to build the roads, aqueducts, sewers, racetracks, theaters, including architectural breakthroughs such as: the arch, the vault, and the dome. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans saw Architecture as purely utilitarian.   The Romans were polytheistic but their main form of religion was to worship their ancestors.  The statues representing them were very realistic, and associated with the notion of “verism”.  They used death masks as molds to render the deceased ancestor’s likeness but the body was however was idealized.  The Republican period is characterized by verism; the images created had to convey the fact that they were made from careful observation.  The Roman had a huge interest in sports, therefore built arenas such as the Colosseum during the Flavian Empire.  Roman Art also served as visual propaganda.  They made commemorative columns and commemoratives arches to celebrate and memorializing a victory. Emperor Constantine the Great from the Late Empire moved the capital to the eastern region renaming it: Constantinople.  He also made a radical religious change by adopting Christianity as the official religion.

  • Byzantine Art……………………………………………………………….300 – 1500 CE

As the Western Roman Empire declined, the Eastern Roman Empire known as Byzantine and its capital Constantinople flourished.  Byzantine Art was focused on Christ and the Bible.  Artists at the time created Icons, small images of Saints that Christian would use to pray.  Emperor Justinian who came after Constantine started building architectural structures including the Church of Hagia Sophia that still exists today. Human centered art was banned and idealized beauty was considered ungodly.  The aesthetic of the paintings includes a flat look.  A golden halo was used in depicting holy figures.  After the reign of Justinian, which is considered the Golden Age, Emperor Leo III in the year 726 imposed the Iconoclasm, destroying Icons and prohibiting their creation.  Church leaders were afraid that the use of those images could lead to idolatry.  That policy was later reversed in 843 by Empress  Theodora.  Byzantine Art also introduced the Codex – a book with individual pages.  Before then, books were scroll manuscripts.  During the Iconoclast period, artistic creation was centered on the Codex.

  • Asian Art……………………………………………………………..2,600 BCE – Present

In the south and the east of Asia, specifically India, China, and Japan, the main religious philosophies are: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto, Zen Buddhism, and Islam.  In Hinduism, the energy of the universe is considered god and existence is an endless cycle, the Samsara.  The goal is to escape the Samsara to reach the Nirvana; a state in which the soul is liberated and at peace.  Buddhism came from India then spread.  It is considered a rebellion against the idea that one could not achieve a rise in social status.  In Ancient China, the first god was Nature; then their religion changed to worshiping ancestors and Confucianism, a doctrine by Confucius who promoted the idea of etiquette and human kindness.  Daoism, also from China, is about the unity between mankind and nature.  The Japanese were isolated and distrustful of outsiders.  Their religious philosophy is however a mix of Confucianism, Daoism, and ancestor worship.  They also developed Zen Buddhism.  Asian Art demonstrates the respect for natural materials.  It is asymmetrical and includes paintings, sculptures, and calligraphy.  The artists sometimes would purposely leave an imperfection; a concept called the “Wabi-Sabi.”

  • Islamic Art………………………………………………………………………..622 – 1918

Islamic Art is mainly calligraphy. Islam translates literally as “People of the Book.”  This religion is based on a sacred book the “Koran,” hence their dedication to fine writing.  The Mosaic law prohibits any representation of humans or objects.  The art also takes a decorative function as seen in mosque, schools, or the Shazi Pen Box.

  • Medieval Art…………………………………………………………………….433 – 1149

Also known as the “Dark Ages,” the Middle-Ages were a time of chaos that followed the decline of the Roman Empire.  The Barbarians tribes including the Vikings were forced by King Charlemagne to adopt Christianity.  Their Art, which was zoomorphic and mainly for decorating weapons, was absorbed in Christian Art.  During the Medieval period the main form of art was in the monasteries where monks were creating and illustrating manuscripts (codex).  In the Romanesque period, the monasteries gained more power, had more lands, and increased their farms.  Order was brought back.  The Aristocracy, the Papacy, and the Church were united.  The Arts focused on building churches.  The advances of Romanesque architecture includes: the rib vault, the pointed arch, an the flying buttress. The golden halo from Byzantine art was brought back in representing holy figures.

  • Gothic Art………………………………………………………………………1122 – 1417

The main form of art was the cathedrals, using the elements of Romanesque architecture, and the frescoes, a new form of painting on wet plaster walls.  Abbot Suger introduced the stained-glass, which was widely used in the cathedrals and churches.  Gothic Art was made in a religious context but also focused on human beings with their struggles and their beliefs.  Italian painter Giotto is credited for three-dimensionality into painting (the frescoes) using linear perspective techniques and foreshortening, therefore creating more accurate representation.  He is the first famous artist.  Before, artists were unknown craftsmen.  The idea of self-expression of the artist started with Giotto, and he also consideres the first Renaissance artist.

  • The Renaissance……………………………………………………………..1417 – 1498

During the Gothic period the European society was divided into the Aristocrats and the people.  In the Early Renaissance, the increase in trades and the growth of the population resulted in the creation of a middle class.  The invention of oil painting, credited to painter Jan Van Eyck, revolutionized the arts.  Oil painting is easier to work with; it allows the mixing of colors for more individual expression. Other forms of visual arts include: tapestry, and graphic arts such as woodcut and engraving.  Artists during the High Renaissance grouped into Guilds to exchange ideas and set their prices.  The Artist Guilds became a social and political force.  The art was religious but also represented everyday people, Jan Van Eyck‘ Double Portrait of the Merchant and his wife for instance, everyday life and pagan themes as seen in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.  The patrons were sometimes represented in the work they commissioned.  Flemish artist Robert Campin’s Mérode Altarpiece is a triptych about the Annunciation, in which the central panel presents the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel in a contemporary Flemish domestic setting, the panel on the right shows Joseph working in his shop, and the panel on the right has the two patrons praying while witnessing the scene.  Pope Julius commissioned a lot of artworks and was the patron of great artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo.  Many other great artists came from that period: sculptor Donatello, architect Brunelleschi who did the Grand Dome in Florence, Titian, Tintoretto, Da Vinci who introduced the Sfumato technique.  The  Renaissance painters aimed for realistic representations.  They developed perspective techniques to do so, and their careful rendering of light is very advanced. The Venicians introduced the Chiaroscuro, a technique of contrasting dark shadows with light.

  • Neoclassicism, Romanticism, and Realism………………………….1740 – 1865

The main artistic styles in the eighteen and nineteen century are: Rococo, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, and Realism.  The Rococo style was playful and sensuous.  Neoclassicism was inspired by the styles from ancient Greece and Rome with an emphasis on what was considered the noble and serious modes of expression.  The main artistic themes were patriotism, courage, and moral incorruptibility.  In paintings, emotions are muted, human figures are very idealized, and the composition is ordered and balanced with precise and controlled brushstrokes.  Romanticism, on the other hand, involved the use of loose and fluid brushstrokes.  They had dramatic contrast and very complex composition.  Romantic paintings and sculptures were usually based on literary fantasies and often depicted exotic settings. The Romantic approach was imaginative and focused on emotions.  Realism was about the accurate representation of the world.  Photography was invented in 1839 as a result of the public desire for realist depiction.

  • Late Nineteenth-Century Art in Europe and the US……………..1848 – 1889

Realism continued to prevail in the late nineteen century.  However, that period also saw the rise of movements such as  Art Nouveau in Architecture, Impressionism, Expressionism, Modernism, Neo-impressionism.  Lithography and  pointillism among other techniques were developed.  Photography gained public attention as it struggled to be accepted as an artistic medium.

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