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.