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).