Art has given generation’s complex lessons in exquisiteness, horror, and respect. Art has inspired some to delve further into their minds than they ever have. Art evokes many emotions; it terrifies and pleasures, calms and arouses, and can serve to bring light on the inner mechanisms of politics and inspirations. Art is, was, and will always be an outlet that provides insight into the mind and soul.
Renaissance (1300 – 1600 C.E.)
The Renaissance period was considered “a growing concern with the natural world, the individual, and humanity’s worldly existence” (Kleiner, 2014, p. 406). The translation of Renaissance means rebirth, so this era was described as a rebirth of the fascination in the classical periods of Greece and Rome, symbolized by medieval disquiet of the previous era. The Renaissance period encompassed the belief of humanism, or a “code of civil conduct, a theory of education, and a scholarly discipline [rather] than a philosophical system” (Kleiner, 2014, p. 407). Commercialization also began in the Renaissance, as feudalistic period ended and expansion started to begin. The importance of religion also began to decline due to the world changing views. The more people learned and endured, the less they relied on religion to comprehend their world.
This era was characterized by a more true-to-life approach on the subject matter, techniques using perspective and foreshortening gave the illusion of being three dimensional. New oil paint blends were created, which let the artist use oil on canvas, which was considerably easier to work with than coloring on wet plaster. Individualism (showing singular people), secularism (less church-related), classicism (a revert back to the techniques of ancient Greece and Rome), nature (outdoor and rustic scenes), anatomy (defined and specific human forms), linear perspective (how things seemed to the onlooker with relation to the other), realism (visual precision of the piece), depth (light and shading used to give the illusion of three dimensional art), blue backgrounds (helped create depth), and symmetry (balancing proportions) were all obvious during the Renaissance period.
Artwork iconic to the Renaissance
Tiziano Vecellio (1488-1576). Boy with a Bird [Oil on Canvas; 34.9 cm x 48.9 cm]. Not on Display
Raphael (Raffaello Santi) (1483-1520). An Allegory (‘Vision of a Knight’) [oil on poplar; 17.1 cm x 17.3 cm]. The National Gallery
Baroque (1600 – 1750 C.E)
The Baroque era developed as a direct revolt against the rigidity of classicism. The Baroque era was emboldened by the Catholic Church in order to link themes to religious righteousness and to appeal to newly changing societies. This era gave the Church optimism it could stay immersed within its residents. The wealthy viewed the Baroque style as a means of amazing visitors, as well as a means to express their personal power, wealth and achievements.
Baroque art is characterized by its richness, extravagant subjects and the attention to detail that showed emotionalism. Exuberance and opulence were commonly connected to the Baroque style, with a focused intention to appeal to all the senses. The ‘chiaroscuro’ technique is also a significant style of the Baroque period, this method relates to the interaction between light and shadow to create very intense and differed atmospheres. In architecture, spiral columns, towering domes, and massiveness and monumentality were hallmarks of the Baroque period.
Artwork iconic to the Baroque period
Meindert Hobbema. (1662). The Watermill with the Great Red Roof [oil on canvas; 81.3 cm x 110 cm]. Art Institute Chicago.
Adriaen van der Spelt (1658). Tromp-l’Oeil Still Life with a Flower Garland and a Curtain [oil on panel; 46.5 cm x 63.9 cm]. Art Institute Chicago
Romanticism (1750 – 1870 C.E.)
Like its name, the era of Romanticism leaned more toward the whimsical, the discovery of the emotional side of the human psyche, a direct revolt against the rigid nature of the Renaissance or the ostentatious Baroque periods. Romanticism also evolved as a reaction to the Industrial revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, in which science began to justify and classify nature. To be free of conventional life lead to more emphasis on the individual. The retreat from the here and now lead to a bigger interest in landscapes, the emotional expression and imagination, and the splendor that could be found in past.
This period was the inlet for artwork that expressed human emotion; wonder, shock, and horror. According to Isaiah Berlin (1999), this era represented “a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness… a search after means of expressing and unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals” (p. 92). Usually characterized by bright and vibrant colors, or paler and darker colors that are that are blended to make the image softerÂ to draw focus to nature, instead of man-made objects. Mistiness is also used, to give a more dream-like feel to the piece, through the use of more pensive brushstrokes. Moods, heroes, brilliance, obscurity, passion, the exotic, and even the satanic were all part of the Romantic era.
Artwork iconic to the Romantic era
Théodore Géricault (1819). La Radeau de la Medusa [oil on canvas; 491.5 cm x 716.5 cm]. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Théodore Gericault (1818). Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct [oil on canvas; 250.2 cm x 219.7 cm]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Impressionism (1870 – 1900 C.E.)
Impressionism can be considered the first distinctly modern movement in painting, and was often done outdoors. It was a movement about painting to capture the momentary, sensory effect of a scene, and often portrayed things in nature that could not have been painted in a traditional setting. The goal of Impressionism was to create original works of art that was based on the subject matter and the natural setting.
Impressionism is characterized by loosened brushstrokes that use pure, intense color that gave the piece an unfinished appearance, which was seen as almost amateurish the prominence of changing light conditions, and basic subject matter. “Rather than neutral white, grays, and blacks, Impressionists often rendered shadows and highlights in color. The artists’ loose brushwork gives an effect of spontaneity and effortlessness” (Samu, 2004).
Artwork iconic to Impressionism
Claude Monet (1891) Haystacks (Effects if snow and sun) [Oil on canvas; 65.4 x 92.1 cm]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Claude Monet. (1891). The Four Trees [oil on canvas; 91.9 cm x 81.6 cm]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Modernism (1900 – 1945 C.E.)
Modernism was the complete rejection of the Victorian Era, giving in to a search for new ways to express oneself. Encouraged by the progressively realistic influence of industrialization and urbanization, including the influence of World War I and its results, Modernism strived to reach reclamation and renewal after the destruction that shattered lives and broke nations.
Modernism is characterized by vivid colors and intangible concepts, repeatedly creating artwork with a broken or slanted appearance. Similar to Impressionism, Modernist artists used what they saw to paint the spirit of the subject, often with very loose foundation in reality. Sometimes the art consisted of color splashed onto a canvas.
Artwork iconic to Modernism
JoAnn Verburg (1991). Still Life with Serial Killers [Chromogenic color print; 49.7 cm x 70.4 cm]. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Richard Lindner (1966). Checkmate [Cut-and-pasted papers, watercolor, pencil, crayon, and ink on paper; 60.6 cm x 45. cm]. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.
Art is life, the expression of the intimate, the soul given life. Art is a living, breathing, progressing work, frequently seeking new possibilities of being born. From the Renaissance to the current day, art has changed with times, given voice to the voiceless, and hope to those who lost hope.
Berlin, I. (1999). The roots of romanticism. London: Chatto and Windus.
Kleiner, F. S. (2014). Gardner’s art through the ages: The western perspective (14th ed., Vol. II). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Samu, M. (2004). Impressionism: Art and modernity. The Metropolitan Museum, New York. Retrieved July 3, 2016 from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/imml/hd_imml.htm.