Short Guide on the History of Art (part two)


The artistic style of Early Christian art comprises the first five centuries of our era, from the beginning of Christianity to the invasion of the barbarian tribes. That is a crude way to say it, but I lacked a better word even after I searched this website.

In the Occident, Rome is the center and symbol of Christianity, because it was there that the primitive Christians, or early Christians, produced their first artistic works; both architecture and visual arts were to a great extent influenced by the Roman art. The early period of the history of Christianity, as well as that of Christian art, is divided into two distinct stages, separated by the Edict of Milan, issued by Emperor Constantine the Great in 313, which granted Christians the legal right to exercise their faith publicly.

This art is rich in symbolic and expressive meaning. The language is clear and simple so that the believers would understand. The first Christian paintings were obviously done in catacombs, usual gathering places for early Christians.



Art in the Middle Ages is divided in three periods:

Byzantine Art: Starting from the foundation of Constantinople in 330, to the Turkish conquest of 1453. Pictures were painted on flat panels, and they received the name of ‘icons’, the Greek word for ‘image’. First, the pictures portrayed martyr saints; later, they started to depict Jesus Christ and Mary.

Romanesque Art: From the 10th to the 12th century. Reminiscent of the Roman art, it symbolized power and sovereignty.

Gothic Art: The last medieval period, it developed throughout Europe. The paintings were very expressive and the background panels were usually painted in golden leaf.



This movement appeared in the Netherlands and unfolded in the Northern part of Europe in the 14th and the 15th centuries. Its paintings are characterized by bright colors, abundance of symbolic details and rich texture.

The most remarkable painters of the time are Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden and Jan Van Eyck.



The focal point of the Renaissance was in Italy. This is also divided in three periods:

The Trecento – 13th to 14th century.

Period of transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Giotto di BondoneLamentation (The Mourning of Christ) is an emotionally moving painting.

The Quattrocento – 15th century.

The significance of this period is given by renowned painters, such as Massaccio, Paolo Ucello, Fra Angélico, Sandro Botticelli and others.

BoticelliThe Birth of Venus (1478-1487)

MasaccioThe Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden was the first nude picture, ever since the Greek art period.

The Cinquecento – the 16th century.

The time of the most outstanding painters: Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Paolo Veronese and others. Art revived in Florence and Rome.

Leonardo Da VinciLa Gioconda (Mona Lisa) (1503-1507)

MichelangeloThe Creation of Adam (1511)

Raphael SanzioSistine Madonna (1512-1513)



1530-1600. Develops sophisticated and refined art, and also enlarges the figures, making them more dynamical.

El GrecoMater Dolorosa (1590?)



This art spread all around Europe. The main themes are religion, mythology and daily life, and the most striking aspect is the dynamism of the figures.

Italy: Guido Reni

France: Nicolás Poussin



The term ‘neoclassicism’ first occurred in the 19th century as a pejorative word used to describe the esthetic movement that reflected in arts the intellectual principles of the Enlightenment. This  movement had occurred in philosophy from the mid-18th century, and then it was trasmitted to all cultural fields.



This art rejects the neoclassical principles and adheres to the baroque values. Its themes are exotic, historical, Oriental or related to landscapes, and it generally uses warm and loose colors.



Was created by a Brotherhood composed of an association of English painters, poets and critics. It was founded in 1848 in London by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. The Brotherhood lasted for only five years, but it influenced English painting until the beginning of the 20th century.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood : John Everett Millais (painter), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (painter and poet), William Holman Hunt (painter), William Michael Rossetti (critic), Thomas Woolner (sculptor and poet), James Collinson (painter) and Frederic George Stephens (critic).

Artists and personalities associated with the Brotherhood: Ford Madox Brown (painter and illustrator), Edward Burne-Jones (painter and illustrator), Arthur Hughes (painter), Jane Morris (model), William Morris (illustrator and architect), Christina Rossetti (poet), Elizabeth Siddal (painter, poet and model), John William Waterhouse (painter) and Thomas Cooper Gotch (painter).


Short Guide on the History of Art (from Prehistoric Art to Pre-Raphaelism)


This era is divided into two ages, each consisting of several periods, as follows:

  • The Stone Age:
    • Paleolithic: meaning ‘old stone’. It is divided in Lower (a period of exclusively carved stone using bifaces and flakes), Middle, or Older (flakes and burins), and Upper, or Late Paleolithic. Periods of warm weather allowed the development of a culture under the race of the Neanderthals. During Late Paleolithic, the climate turned glacial, and the people who ruled then were the Cro-Magnons. Reindeer were also replaced due to climate warming.
    • Mesolithic: This is the intermediate period between two ages.
    • Neolithic: Meaning ‘new, polished stone’.
    • The Metal Age has two main eras:
      • Bronze Age: from the 25th to the 9th century BC.
      • Iron Age: this age gas been divided into the Hallstatt  and the La Téne periods. While the former seems to have started in the 9th century BC, the latter ended in the 5th BC.

Prehistoric art is not described as a hobby or pastime, but this art recounts some events that have happened; it tells a story of past events. Moreover, it tells us that the main motifs of this art were sorcery, society, animals and, above all, hunting.

These weapons were made from either stones or animal bones. People used hammers also made of stone to make their weapons very sharp tips which would help kill the prey they wanted.


One of the characteristics of Ancient Egypt is its unique art, with monumental works that usually served served as a vehicle for funerary and religious symbolism.

Although the concept of art is rather modern, it is perfectly appropriate for use in Egyptian architecture, sculpture, painting and jewelry making, as many of the works are genuine pieces o art, not mere craftsmanship.

Because the climate of Egypt is dry and the artifacts were buried by the sand of the desert, (or by the owners of the objects, who wanted to also enjoy them in the “afterlife”), many original works of art have reached present times in an acceptable state of conservation, in spite of the wars, the use of monuments as quarries, or the countless times the temples and tombs have been looted.

Egyptian art touches some of the most beautiful themes; one of them is love of nature, and also family is also present in many sculptures.



Painting: had a strictly decorative purpose, and was used to embellish buildings. Lacks perspective and the use of color is very poor: white, blue and red are the dominating hues. As can be seen in decorative mosaics and tiles, it used the tempera painting technique. The main subjects were scenes of war and ritualistic sacrifices, painted in a very realistic manner. There also appear geometrical shapes, people, animals and monsters. Painting was used in home decoration as well. Shadows would not appear in the paintings.

Sculpture: involved life-size replicas of real beings. However, this realism blends with the artist’s subjective mark, who gives his work a symbolical meaning that lies beyond what can be seen with the naked eye. Sculpture is probably the artistic category in which the Mesopotamian world stands out in the most distinctive manner, with its principles, characters, and its way of transposing itself into art. The pattern is the following: hands crossed on the chest, shaved head, while the body is either nude or covered with a mantle. The thematic of Sumerian sculpture was inspired and influenced by the characters of a world dominated by power and religion, and Sumerian art became an expression of that world.

Painting: Mesopotamian art consisted mainly of mosaics.



Painting: All that is left from Greek painting are the names of a few artists; their painting abilities can be recognized only by their ceramic work. Although they did not use many colors, they managed to keep the harmony with just one color. The shades they used in their works were mainly red and black.

Sculpture: Greek sculpture is impossible to explain, but, without a doubt, it was greatly influenced by the Egyptian art. In contrast to Egyptian art, where figures were carved separately, Greek sculpture seemed more dynamic.



This art is divided into two periods:

The Republican period, when Rome became a republic.

The Imperial period, when Rome was a Military Empire.

Sculpture: Is different from Greek art in that Greeks used to carve statues of gods and heroes, while Romans sculpted their political and military leaders, giving them an air of divinity, but keeping true to reality.

Painting: Was more important than sculpture, as it offer the possibility to create images that better reflected reality. The pictures they created were mosaics and frescos.