Renaissance Art

Renaissance Art finds itself emerging between the 14th and 16th centuries A.D. Within this period the Renaissance movement itself, along with all that lead up to the actuality of the movement influences all of its art. Painters and sculptors are influenced by humanism and secularism respectively. Unlike the Middle Ages (period before it) human thought was focused away from God, heavenly saints, and it began to examine the natural aspect of living on Earth. As Greek and Roman scientific methods began to be revived, artists began to be perceived as knowledgeable, respected figures in society and no longer artisans or craftsmen. A profession in the visual arts called for knowledge of mathematical perspective, optics, geometry, and anatomy. It was this exploration of fields in science, biology, architecture, mathematics, and engineering lead art of the Renaissance to be distinct from its predecessors. By solely using “secular humanism” as a means to identify art of this period we see changes in the depiction of saints and/or individuals of religious importance where halos become to disappear and the size of such figures actually are more scaled to look like ordinary people.

During the Renaissance we also see paintings transform in their presentation. Oil paints were used for the time, and the mixing of egg yolks for pigmentsis replaced. With oil, paint became translucent and more vivid colors were used, as well as more depth in paintings. The works of art that were a result of the Renaissance were made with attention to detail, and have a natural essence to them-which is exactly what artists intended. Evidence of this lays in well-known examples from this period of time such as the “Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo Da Vinci, as well as Michelangelo’s sculptures and his artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Image of Michelangelos Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel


“Renaissance Art.” History Department, Hanover College. Web. 24 Sept. 2009. <>.

“Renaissance Art Gallery.” Renaissance Art. Web. Sept. 2009. <>.

Sistine Chapel . Web. Sept. 2009. <>.

Witcombe, Prof. Christopher. “What is Art?…. What is an Artist.” Department of Art History: SBC Virginia, Fall 1997. Web. Sept. 2009. <>.

Fauvism Art Movement

Fauvism was an art movement made up of 20th century artists known as Les Fauve. Their name was coined by french art critic Louis Vauxcelles who was viewing one of the groups exhibitions, headed by Henri Matisse. The wild brush strokes, bright colors, and simplified design prompted Vauxcelles to call them Fauves, or “Wild Beasts”. Fauvism tried combining impressionism with dramatic colors in the attempt to combine the straightforwardness of impressionism with vivid colors’ great capacity for evoking emotion. they had been tremendously influenced by Van Gough, who also combined impressionism with vivid colors but Fauve artists went even further in liberating color from its distinctive function and using it for both expressive and structural ends (Gardner, 2005). The colors of the paintings are non realistic and the artists use heavy amounts of paint in objects’ centers, and fade into their borders as can clearly be seen in ”Open Window, Collioure” by Henri Matisse, painted in 1905 (see below)
The movement began in Paris at the Salon d’Automne in 1905 and consisted of artists such as Vlaminck, Derain, Marquet, Rouault, Camoin, and Valtat. Matisse was the main figure though, so much so that Fauvism lasted only as long as its originator, Henri Matisse (1869-1954), fought to find the artistic freedom he needed (Pioch 2002). by 1908 many of its painters had moved on to Cubism.

Henri Matisse, Open Window, Collioure, 1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney 1998.74.7

Works Sited

Helen Gardner, Fred S. Kleiner, Christin J. Mamiya, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: The western Perspective. (Wadsworth Publishing; 12 edition, February 23, 2005), pp. 738-739

Nicolas Pioch. The Web Museum: Fauvism. 14 Oct 2002


Superrealism, also known as Hyper-realism, is an art movement that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in which the paintings, or sculptures, resemble a high resolution photograph.  The objects and scenes in Superrealism paintings are detailed to create the illusion of a new reality that does not exist in the original photo. Textures, surfaces, lighting effects and shadows are often painted to appear clearer and more distinct than the referrence photo or evenn the actual subject.

Hyper-realist style emphasizes detail rather than the subject. The paintings are not literal illustrations of a particular scene or subject, but rather use subtle pictorial elements to create the illusion of a reality which in fact either does not exist or cannot be seen by the human eye. The paintings may incorporate emotional, social, cultural and political thematic elements as an extension of the painted visual illusion. Hyperreal paintings and sculptures further create a tangible solidity and physical presence through subtle lighting and shading effects. Shapes, forms and areas closest to the forefront of the image visually appear beyond the frontal plane of the canvas; and in the case of sculptures, details have more clarity than in nature. Hyperrealistic images are typically ten to twenty times the size of the original photographic reference source, yet retain an extremely high resolution in color, precision and detail. Many of the paintings are achieved with an airbrsh, using acrylics, oils or a combination of both.

Sculpture of a baby by  superrealist artist, Ron Mueck.


IAN CHILVERS. “Superrealism.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists. 2003. 23 Sep. 2009 <>.

Op Art

Op Art is an early 20th century art movement in which the focus is optical illusion. That being said, most op artists do not merely make their art for the sake of tricking the eye. For them, it is an exploration of chromatic tension and perspective illusion. Indeed, the most popular paintings have been done in black and white, such as Bridget Riley’s “Intake,” yet this is merely because the simple contrast of these colors brings more attention to the juxtaposition and mathematical flow of lines. In a technical sense, op art is to painting as mathcore is to music.

Bridget Riley’s “Intake”

Though it appeared almost simultaneously in Europe and the United States during the late 1950’s, Op Art can be traced back as far as 1945, to Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. Escher often experimented with perspective, the best example of which can be seen in his 1955 lithograph “Convex and Concave.”

Works Cited:

  • “ArtLex on Op Art.” 2009.


  • Esaak, Shelley “Op Art- Art History 101 Basics.” 2009.


  • “Op Art (Optical Art).” 2009.



  • Riley, Bridget “Intake.” 1964.

Retrieved from: <>

  • Escher, Maurits C. “Convex and Concave.” 1955.

Retrieved from: <>



~Translation: “This is not a pipe.”

~By Rene Magritte (1898 – 1967).

~From <>.

Postmodern art, which is synonymous with “contemporary” art, was born in the mid-1970s. It stole several properties from “modern” art, but quickly became distinct enough to require a new name (even two). Like modern art, contemporary art initially focused on how something was presented rather than what was presented.

Postmodernism became unique when it went on to ridicule modern art’s realism. Artists grew tired of “high” and “low” forms of art. They did not want to express themselves directly and concretely; instead, they focused on discontinuity and fragmentation. Duchamp, Kruger, Lichtenstein, Magritte, Rosenquis, and Warhol have, above all, incorporated irony, humor, and parody into their work [Art History, 2006]. They have addressed topics including “feminism, multiculturalism, globalization, bioengineering and AIDS awareness,” and they have used various industrial materials, as well as pop, to create collage-like images [Esaak, 2009]. This type of art is difficult to critique in the usual sense, which is why postmodernists have been called “rebels” against the artistic elite. They have blurred the separation between art, media, and pop. Movements associated with postmodern art include futurism (speed, technology, and violence), Dada (nihilistic “anti-art”), surrealism, and pop art [Overview, 2008].

Works Cited

1) Esaak, Shelley. “What is Contemporary Art?”. 2009.

2) “Overview of Postmodern Art”. 2008. On Postmodernism.

3) “Art History: Postmodernism: (1975-)”. 2006. World Wide Art Resources.

Baroque Art Movement

The art movement known as “Baroque” began in Italy in the late 1500s.  However, by the mid-17th century, the movement had succeeded in spreading across Europe, and then flourished in colonial South America in the 1700s.  Many Baroque artists used their works to contrast the orderly style of most Renaissance art. With its extensive detail, many curved lines, strong contrast between light and darkness, and rich colors, the art of this time was realistic, but still able to convey a strong sense of emotion and appeal to the senses. Since the Baroque movement took place during the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church took advantage of the art’s ability to invoke emotion, and many churches began using Baroque architecture, sculpture, and paintings to promote religion. The architecture included many columns and arches and very little harsh rectangular shapes and edges. The Baroque sculptors emphasized movement and attention to form in their sculptures

Some famous Baroque artists include Peter Paul Rubens, Caravaggio, Bernini, Annibale Carracci, and Rembrandt. They all used dramatic ornamentations and conveyed energy and movements in their work. The Baroque movement died out in the 18th century and was soon replaced by Rococo art movement.


The Fall of Phaeton, Peter Paul Rubens

Works Consulted:

“The Baroque Art Movement: Artists and Artwork of the 17th Century.” Empty Easel. N.p., n.d. Web. 23

Sept. 2009. <


“Baroque Art Movement.” Art Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2009.


“Baroque Art.” Toffs World. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2009. <


“Art History: Baroque.” World Wide Arts Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2009.


Primitivism, Krishan Sharma

The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope, Henri Rousseau 1905

(Note the strong use of pattern and lack of relative perspective)

Primitivism was an art movement occurring during the early 20th century. Primitive art is also known as naïve art; most artists of this age, however, find these terms offensive and suggest a lack of skill1. Because of this, primitive/naïve art is also referred to as “vernacular art.” 2 This art form is most often associated with painting and is characterized by its strong simplicity towards the representation of its subject matter 2. Vernacular art employs bold, saturated colors as opposed to subtle tones and mixtures2. It is also characteristic of a lack of perspective, with several figures and objects seeming to “float” above the ground; this is often why vernacular art is described as “childlike.” This art form also has a strong reliance on pattern and repetition, favoring simplistic representations as opposed to complexity in design 1. Vernacular art established itself as an art form that could be enjoyed by anyone (which is where the name originates) 2. Because of this, some vernacular artists concerned themselves solely with universal symbols, as opposed to those specific to his/her culture 1.

As stated before, the vernacular art movement occurred during the early 20th century. During the 19th century, the visual arts were extremely structured2. Most artists at the time went to academies and universities such as the Beaux Arts School of Academic Painting in order to learn how to create art 1. These schools instructed artists on how to copy the idealized classical forms of the Greeks and Romans, along with techniques of Renaissance artists2. Several artists, however, began to revolt against this dogmatic approach, feeling as though art had begun to lose its self-expression. The vernacular art movement was thus initiated by those who had no formal art education2. It is important to note that these artists were not simply those who painted during their spare time; they were actual artists who devoted themselves to their craft, but had revolted against the formal education aspect of art2. These artists tried to depict the world in different ways which would not normally be seen by people 1. This is why many vernacular artists chose not to incorporate perspective into their work. The prototype artist of this movement would be Henri Rousseau3. He was a Frenchman who incorporated all of the main aspects of vernacular art mentioned above. He is also regarded as one of the main founders of this art form3. It should be noted, however, that a small selection of artists in the 19th century are also considered vernacular artists, including Edward Hicks and Justus Darlee 1. Other famous artists from this movement include Camille Bambois and Anna “Grandma Moses” Robertson3. Although this movement generally began in Europe, it had spread to America soon after. Grandma Moses was of particular importance for helping carry the movement to New York and the western world 3.

1. Brodskaia, Natalia (2008), Art of the Century: Arte Naïve.  Advanced Marketing

2. Brodskaia, N.V. & Brodskaia, Natalia (1999), Naïve Art.  Parkstone International, Sirrocco

3.  Stabenow, Cornelia (2001), Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910. Taschen America, LLC


Minimalism first arose as a movement in the 1950s, continuing throughout the sixties and seventies. Minimalist art can include paintings, drawings, sculpture, and can be applied to things such as architecture. Like abstract art, there is no real life subject as reference, as the subject is the painting itself. The artist hopes that the viewer can experience the work in its most intense form.  Traditional concepts such as that of composition and theme are considered distractions; the content and form of minimalist art should be as simplistic as possible. Stripped of detail, minimalist art often includes geometric shapes and uses industrial materials.

This movement differs from many of the others in that it is meant to be impersonal. Minimalist art strived to be as unexpressive as possible. In this way, the movement was a reaction against Abstract Expressionism, which takes artistic expression to the extreme. Famous minimalist artists include Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Carl Andre.

The picture I included is Ad Reinhardt’s “Abstract Painting,” which is one in his famous series of Black Paintings. This can be seen in the New York Guggenheim Museum.


Christopher Want. “Minimalism.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 24 Sep. 2009 <>.

“Minimalism.” Art Movements Directory. 24 Sep. 2009


“Minimalism.” Guggenheim Collection Online. Guggenheim Foundation. 24 Sep. 2009


Classical Art

Surviving Pitsa Panel from Archaic Greece

Classical Art, also known as Classicism, refers to paintings and sculptures created by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Decorative arts began around 1050 B.C. in Ancient Greece, and was later passed down to the Ancient Romans. Classical Art set the precedent for much of Western Art, including themes that would appear in art for centuries. Many speculate that the look of Classical Art is the direct result of Greek ideologies. In particular, Greeks seemed to have a refined view of humans, and, in particular, believed perfection was possible for humans.

Many scholars analyze Classical art and see a restraint on the part of the artists. There is a conservatism with which Classical artists generally paint. The paintings show restraint in the expression of themes. Greek artists also generally went to great lengths ensuring their paintings were physically rational. This means that the proportions of objects, people, and backgrounds were carefully mastered.

Panel Paintings on wooden boards were very respected, in addition to sculptures and wall paintings. Paintings generally depicted portraits, figural scenes, and still-lifes. Paintings were done with wax, but not many survived to the present day. Greek art spread to Egypt and Italy, in addition to other cultures that adopted certain hallmarks of classical art. Throughout the millennia, there have been many classical revivals, most notably in the Middle Ages and again a couple centuries afterward, which is often referred to as Neoclassicism.

Encarta Encyclopedia

Dada and Surrealism

Dada and Surrealism were two movements that developed as a reaction to the confusion following World War I. Dada started in the neutral city of Zurich in Switzerland immediately following the end of the War. (Documents, 2001) Dada, however, was not intended to be a new art movement. According to Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of the movement, “The beginnings of Dada were not the beginnings of art, but of disgust.” (Documents, 2001) People were confused and angry after the Great War, and their rage fueled their artistic creativity. They sought to break down conventions in the arts in order to bring forth a new, improved culture. Even the name “dada” mocked the time period because the name for the movement was decided upon by randomly choosing a word from the dictionary. (About Art History, 2003) The Dada movement made thorough use of obscenities, satire, humor, puns, and everyday objects (usually with a little tweaking) to evoke feelings of rage or shock. (About Art History, 2003) It was whimsical and original, which is perhaps why the public enjoyed the movement while it lasted. One of the most famous artists of the Dada movement was Max Ernst. One of his most famous pieces was called “Celebes,” painted in 1921. The painting is of a creature that somewhat resembles an elephant. It shows darkness (via the colors) and mockery (disfigurement of the creature), which are key aspects of Dada art. The Dada movement subsided around 1923, which gave way for a similar movement to prosper in its place: surrealism.

Max Ernst, Celebes (1921)
Max Ernst, Celebes (1921)

Surrealism was similar to the Dada movement because it was meant to defy the reason and logic in response to the seemingly unreasonable World War I. In contrast, surrealism focused on positive expression. (Surrealist, 1998) Surrealism also employed the use of subconscious and unexpected juxtapositions, especially with certain imagery, to stress the illogicality of the times. The movement shifted to include dream-like sequences, which combined aspects of subconscious thought (since dreams supposedly reveal our deeper thoughts) and irrationality (since anything can happen in a dream, even if it does not make sense in the real world). (Dada and Surrealism, 2006) Surrealism was said to have two types: automatism (Dalí) and veristic surrealism (Picasso). Automatism focused on art being abstract and less analytical because the subconscious relies on feeling, not analysis. Veristic surrealism focused on the images they created to be metaphorical, as a bridge between the feelings evoked by the image and the image’s counterpart in the real world. (Go Surreal) One prominent artist of the Surrealism movement was Salvador Dalí. One of his most famous paintings was “The Persistence of Memory,” which he painted in 1931. It shows positivity (via the bright colors), yet subconscious and dreamlike imagery through the distortion of the clocks.

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence Of Memory (1931)
Salvador Dalí, The Persistence Of Memory (1931)


1. “Documents of Dada and Surrealism: Dada and Surrealist Journals in the Mary Reynolds Collection.” Sept 23, 2009. <>

2. “Dada Art History 101 Basics.” Sept 23, 2009. <>

3.  “Surrealist.” Sept 23, 2009. <>

4. “Dada and Surrealism.” Sept 23, 2009. <>

5.  “History of Surrealism.” Sept 23, 2009. <>

Artwork retrieved from “Dada and Surrealism.” Sept 23, 2009.