Major Art Movements & Events - Timeline


The Renaissance in Europe (1300 - 1600)
The Renaissance, a period of remarkable achievements in European culture, begins in Italy. Characterized by a renewed interest in classical learning, fascination with the visible world, and confidence in the power of individuals, it arises from economic prosperity, exposure to other cultures, flourishing cities, and relative political stability.

Mannerism Thrives in Europe (1520 - 1580)
The late Renaissance style of art and architecture known as mannerism develops first in Italy. The movement is characterized by disproportion, imbalance, elongated figures, and emotional drama. Some of mannerism's first proponents are Florentine painters Pontormo and Fiorentino. During the height of the movement, the goldsmith and sculptor Cellini encourages a less flamboyant, more elegant style. With the rise of baroque art, Spanish painter El Greco is the last great artist of the mannerist period.

Baroque Reveals a New Realism and Intensity (1550 - 1750)
The Baroque period in European art, architecture, and music follows the Renaissance. Artists reveal a delight with visual form and a fascination with light while retaining the Renaissance preoccupation with unity and balance. Characteristics include intense emotion and great realism.

Rococo Style Dominates the Reign of Louis XV (1715 - 1774)
The Rococo style of art and architecture originates in France and lasts for most of the 18th century, corresponding roughly to the reign of Louis XV of France. Prevalent characteristics include elaborate ornamentation and overall lightness and delicacy. The Rococo style of architecture spreads quickly to central Europe, particularly Germany and Austria, where church interiors are decorated lavishly. Preeminent practitioners include the painters Jean-Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Jean Honoré Fragonard, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Preeminent Rococo architects include François de Cuvilliés and Dominikus Zimmermann.

The Romantic Movement (1750 - 1870)
The movement known as Romanticism arises in Europe in reaction to the Enlightenment and its exaggerated claims for reason, its general anti-religious posture, its depreciation of the imagination, and its radical individualism. Rather, proponents of Romanticism emphasize the emotional, religious, creative, and social dimensions to the human personality. In art and literature Romanticism stimulates an interest in nature; in politics it stimulates a new focus on the roots of community and national spirit often as it finds expression in folk traditions. Romanticism flourishes between the late 18th and mid-19th centuries. An early proponent of Romanticism is the Enlightenment philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. Leading writers of Romantic literature include Johann Wolfang von Goethe, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Victor Hugo, and Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin. Artists who paint in the Romantic style include Eugène Delacroix in France and J. M. W. Turner in England. And leading composers of Romantic music include Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms and, later, Richard Wagner.

Goya Paints The Third of May, 1808
Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, outraged by the carnage wrought by Napoleon's troops during the Peninsular War, depicts The Third of May, 1808. In Goya's bleak vision of humanity, a faceless French firing squad murders a Spanish civilian. The artist, conveying the inhumanity of the act, bathes the victim in white light, hands outstretched in a Christlike pose. With his nightmarish scenes, distorted human forms, and morbid color tones, Goya will have a profound influence on the romantic movement and generations of artists to come.

Impressionism in Art (1860 - 1890)
The Impressionism school of painting arises in reaction to the romantic painters' focus on intense emotions and heroic and mythical figures of the past. Impressionists focus instead on the daily activities of ordinary people. Their paintings highlight the fleeting quality of change, particularly as reflected by the effects of light and movement. In time, the impressionists' self-imposed rules - such as not using black - become too restrictive to the next generation of painters. The movement gradually declines and is eventually replaced by postimpressionism.

Picasso Transforms Modern Art (1907 - 1973)
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso paints the revolutionary Demoiselles d'Avignon. The work, considered one of the masterpieces of 20th-century art, is a reaction to the impressionist and postimpressionist focus on representational forms. In a radical departure, Picasso seeks to portray the nude subjects of the painting not as the eye sees them but as the mind might interpret them, from multiple perspectives at once. The women's masklike faces are probably inspired by the art of Africa and Oceania.

De Chirico Creates The Uncertainty of the Poet (1913)
Italian metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico completes The Uncertainty of the Poet. The work, typical of his paintings of this period, aims to portray the contents of the dreaming unconscious mind. Among the first to paint imagery of the dream world, de Chirico anticipates the surrealist artistic movement.

Mondrian and van Doesburg Found De Stijl (1917 - 1917)
Dutch artists Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg found De Stijl (The Style), a journal on modern art that gives its name to the group of painters and architects associated with it and to their style. De Stijl promotes abstract art and at first steers artists toward a principle of radical simplification based on straight lines and right angles. The following year, in 1918, Doesburg paints Rhythm of a Russian Dance.

Walter Gropius Founds the Bauhaus (1919)
German industrial designer and architect Walter Gropius founds the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. Responding to the horrors of World War I (1914-1918), Gropius starts a movement with the hope that art can contribute to world peace by creating a universal language of form.

André Breton Founds Surrealism (1924)
French poet and critic André Breton founds the literary and artistic movement of surrealism in Paris. Influenced by Freudian psychology, the surrealist movement seeks to explore the role of the unconscious in releasing the creative power of the imagination. By juxtaposing unrelated subjects together, surrealist artists hope to convey the irrational state of consciousness produced by dreams. In surrealist literature, which remains primarily confined to France, authors write down whatever came to mind in a style known as 'stream of consciousness,' avoiding any revision or attempt to make their work comprehensible. In art a representative example of the movement is André Masson's Panic.

Art Deco Emerges (1925)
The art deco movement springs from, and is named after, a Paris exhibit in 1925. Favoring simple, clean lines and shapes, as well as geometric ornamentation, it lasts until World War II (1939-1945). One of the best-known examples of art deco is the Chrysler Building in New York.

Salvador Dalí Depicts The Persistence of Memory (1931)
Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí paints The Persistence of Memory, one of his most recognizable works. The painting, rich in symbolism and references to images of the unconscious, is typical of Dalí's style. Rather than producing faithful representations of the real world, Dalí elongates and distorts forms in an attempt to re-create images from his own dreams.

Kenneth Noland Creates Split (1959)
American abstract painter Kenneth Noland produces his work Split by pouring paint directly onto an unprepared canvas. Noland is among the first artists to experiment with this technique. Split, which contains bold fields of color and simple sharp-edged geometric forms, exemplifies Noland's contribution to two artistic movements: minimal art and color-field painting.

Andy Warhol Unveils 200 Campbell's Soup Cans (1962)
American visual artist Andy Warhol attracts international attention with his 200 Campbell's Soup Cans, a silk-screened image of the familiar product depicted with an intentionally flat, cartoonlike quality. Warhol becomes a leader of the pop art movement in the United States, which concerns itself with images of popular culture and the mass production of consumer goods.

Lichtenstein Paints Whaam! (1963)
American painter, sculptor, and graphic artist Roy Lichtenstein paints Whaam!, an original large-scale canvas with the appearance of a comic book illustration. Lichtenstein is among the first artists to create works in the style known as pop art. In pop art, images from popular culture, such as mass-produced comic strips and food labels, are used as inspiration for paintings and sculpture.

Artist Anselm Kiefer Hailed at Venice Biennale (1980)
German neoexpressionist Anselm Kiefer's works gain wide acclaim at the Venice Biennale, an illustrious exhibition of modern art held in Venice, Italy. Kiefer's art, which is greatly influenced by early-20th-century German expressionism, explores the dark side of human ritual through references to German mythology and the nationalism of the Nazi era.

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