Intro to art history
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Intro to Art History. Art History. A. Art History – focuses on recreating social, cultural, and economic contexts in which an artwork was created 1) Goal of art history -> understand the artwork and its meaning B. Art history is not definite!

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Intro to art history

Intro to Art History

Art history

Art History

A. Art History – focuses on recreating social, cultural, and economic contexts in which an artwork was created

1) Goal of art history -> understand the artwork and its meaning

B. Art history is not definite!

1)It is related to other areas (i.e. anthropology) and often overlaps with aesthetics and art criticism

2)Definition of “art” has become more broad than it was in earlier times

3)The meaning of an artwork can change over time and from a different perspective.

Nature of art history

Nature of Art History

A. Art generally analyzed in two forms: formal and contextual.

1) Formal analysis – focus on visual qualities. Artist’s decisions on visual aspects (i.e. color choice) relate to meaning of artwork.

2) Contextual analysis – looks outside the artwork to consider culture, economy, location, etc. of work’s origin for meaning of artwork.

B. Art historians often assume the art of one culture will affect the art of a future culture.

Development of art history

Development of Art History

A. Arose as a discipline in mid-eighteenth century.

1)Evolved from ancient Roman Pliny the Elder to Enlightenment thinkers and even present-day art historians.

Art of the old stone age

Art of the Old Stone Age

A. Oldest works of art – cave paintings in Chauvet Cave, France.

1) Natural pigments used to draw outlines of animals, possibly as part of rituals.

B. Venus women statues from Old Stone Age cultures suggest value of fertility.

C. Lascaux cave paintings first art to include both humans and animals.

Venus statue

Venus Statue

Lascaux cave painting

Lascaux Cave Painting

Art of the middle stone age

Art of the Middle Stone Age

A. Cave and rock paintings continue to appear in southwestern Europe.

1) Lascaux still only site of human subjects in artwork.

Art of the new stone age

Art of the New Stone Age

A. Rings and rows of stones (i.e. Stonehenge) appear in Europe.

1) “Heel-stone” sits northeast of site, marking point where sun rises on midsummer solstice.

Ancient mesopotamian art

Ancient Mesopotamian Art

A. Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) was site of strong religious influence.

1) Religious temples evolved to become stepped pyramids called ziggurats.

B. After Babylonian invasion, pillar containing Hammurabi’s Code becomes symbol of law and order

C. During Assyrian period, relief carvings became popular to depict important historical events.



Persian art

Persian Art

A. Known for palace at Persepolis (influenced by Egyptian art)

Ancient egyptian art

Ancient Egyptian Art

A. Architecture of Predynastic period (before conquest by Alexander the Great)

1) Sphinx, pyramids at Giza, pharaoh statues.

B. Hierarchical scale – status of person determines size in artwork (kings would be largest, defeated enemies smallest)

C. Fractional representation – each part of body shown as much as possible (profile of head, torso in full frontal view, profile of arms and legs).

D. Pharaohs’ tombs often sites of much decoration and art.

Fractional representation

Fractional Representation

As much of body as possible is shown

Nubian art

Nubian Art

A. Little is known on Nubian art, but art historians continue to search for clues.

Art of the aegean islands

Art of the Aegean Islands

  • Cycladic, Minoan, and Mycenaean cultures influenced Ancient Greek art.

  • Cycladics known for nude female figures and decorated pottery

  • Minoans created frescos (paint on wet plaster) and pottery designs

    • Religious influence in art

  • Mycenaeans mastered goldsmithing.

Ancient greek art

Ancient Greek Art

  • Known for stone statues influenced by Egyptian and Mesopotamian art

  • Temples built with three main types of orders (column designs)

    • Doric – simple cap, no base

    • Ionic – curved design in cap, simple base

    • Corinthian – intricate design in cap, simple base

Greek orders

Greek Orders




The classical period

The Classical Period

  • Athens became home to the Classical Period – a period of fine Greek architecture and sculpture

    • 475-323 B.C.E.

  • Early Classical Period – Doric columns and sculptures emphasized strength

  • Contrapposto – pose that appeared in Greek sculptures that made figure’s balance uneven to give more natural stance

  • Middle Classical Period – Parthenon establishes column as principle feature in Western architecture

  • Late Classical Period – decline in architecture. Use of Corinthian column

  • Hellenstic Period (331 - 23 B.C.E.) – influence of Eastern culture. Venus de Milo famous sculpture.

Venus de milo

Venus de Milo

Etruscan art

Etruscan Art

  • Transition from Greek to Roman art

    • “Ideal to pragmatic”

  • Etruscans first known inhabitants of Italy

  • Only surviving art – clay artifacts and sarcophagus lids

Roman art

Roman Art

  • Early Roman art – reflected influences of Etruscan art

  • 2nd century B.C.E. – adapted Greek idealized figures to show Roman emperors

  • Architecture – invented concrete (stones cemented together)

    • Pioneer the dome and the arch to build bridges and aqueducts

The colosseum the pantheon and aqueduct

The Colosseum, the Pantheon, and Aqueduct

Roman art cont

Roman Art (cont.)

D. Relief sculptures common would glorify empire

1. Emperors and military victories

2. Reliefs on tombs to honor the dead

E. Statues and busts became common for funeral processions

1. Still followed idealistic style

Byzantine art

Byzantine Art

  • Byzantine art – mosaics

    • Christian subject matter. Found in Ravenna, Italy

  • Byzantine architecture – Hagia Sophia

Ravenna mosaic

Ravenna Mosaic

Hagia sophia

Hagia Sophia

Medieval art

Medieval Art

  • Dominated by Catholic Church

  • Majority illiterate – monks copied illuminated manuscripts

    • Book of Kells and Coronation Gospels

  • Germanic metalwork popular

    • Often jewelry

  • Vikings carved designs on their ships

Architecture of medieval churches

Architecture of Medieval Churches

  • At the heart of every city or town was a church

  • Early churches – Romanesque(used Roman arch)

    • Often formed from barrel vaults (rounded vault)

      • Vault – arch-shaped structure used as ceiling or to support ceiling (intersection of arches)

    • Massive stone walls, small doors and windows

  • 12th – 16th centuries – Gothicchurhes

    • Pointed arch gives “soaring” sense

    • Ribbed vaults (thin framework vaults)

    • Flying buttresses (exterior supports) counteracts pressure created by arches

      • Large stained glass windows








Romanesque church

Romanesque Church

Gothic cathedral

Gothic Cathedral

Renaissance in southern europe

Renaissance in Southern Europe

  • Late 13th century – transitional period from Gothic to Renaissance

    • Giotto diBondone created frescos using perspective (giving illusion of third dimension)

    • Beginning of use of naturalistic style

  • Growing economy, influence of Greek and Roman art led to rise of Renaissance

  • Rise of individual artists

  • 1400 A.D. – competition to design Florence baptistery doors won by Lorenzo Ghiberti

    • Combined biblical scene with Greek style

  • Second place winner – Filippo Brunelleschi

    • Finished dome of Florence Duomo

    • Developed linear perspective (single vanishing point)

      • Masaccio transforms into aerial perspective (“bird’s-eye view”)

The duomo

The Duomo

The ninja turtles plus one

The Ninja Turtles! (plus one)

  • Donatello – “founder of modern sculpture”

    • Influenced by classic antiquity. Work showed naturalism

    • David bronze statue (revived male nude)

  • Botticelli – The Birth of Venus depicts female nude as lasting image in art

  • Leonardo Da Vinci – “Renaissance Man” (inventor, architect, engineer, painter, sculptor, scientist, musician)

    • Designed canal lock system, designs for submarine and helicopter

    • The Last Supper and Mona Lisa

      • Mona Lisa used sfumato (blurred outline)

  • Michelangelo diBuonarotti creates David out of marble slab

    • “Embodied spirit of Florence”

    • Commissioned by Pope Julius II to design tomb (later cancelled)

      • Created The Dying Slave, The Bound Slave, and Moses

      • The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

  • Raphael Sanzio also commissioned by Julius II

    • School of Athens pays homage to Greek thinkers

    • Sistine Madonna shows mastery of Madonna (Virgin Mary)

Key renaissance works

Key Renaissance Works

More southern renaissance artists

More Southern Renaissance Artists

  • Giorgione – The Tempest shows landscape as important subject matter

  • Titian Vecelli – painted portraits with column or curtain backdrop

  • Tintoretto influenced by Mannerism

    • Distortion of perspective, scale, color, positioning, etc.

    • Chiaroscuro – contrast of light and dark

  • Reformation takes focus off church; Counter Reformation puts focus back on church

    • El Greco and Tintoretto bridge gap between Renaissance and Baroque periods



Renaissance in northern europe

Renaissance in Northern Europe

  • New oil paints = more detail

  • Artists travel south to Italy

  • Matthias Grünewald’sIsenheimAlterpiece depicts Christ’s crusifiction.

  • German artist Albrecht Dürer influenced by naturalism and Italian Renaissance

    • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and other woodcuts and engravings

  • Hans Holbein the Younger painted for King Henry VIII

    • Captured detail and psychological character of subjects

The four horsemen of the apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Baroque art

Baroque Art

  • Baroque – characterized by movement and energy

    • Sought to appeal to emotion and faith

  • Patronage of wealthy few led to rise of Baroque work

  • Lots of color and ornamentation

    • Baroque = dramatic!

  • Used chiaroscuro, Caravaggio most known for it

    • “caravaggesque”

  • Artemisia Gentileschi – woman Baroque artist

  • Bernini sculpted Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

  • Flanders – center of Baroque art

  • Rembrandt known for The Night Watch

  • Louis XIV had much Baroque art in his Versailles palace

  • Diego Velazquez (Spanish Baroque painter) based figures of color instead of drawings

  • Influenced Impressionism

Example of baroque art

Example of Baroque Art

Rococo art

Rococo Art

  • Rococo – celebrated grand, luxurious life in Versailles palace

  • Light-hearted decoration, gold and pastel colors

  • Fête galante – paintings of luxury of French nobility

  • Three main artists – Watteau, Boucher, and Fragonard

Neoclassical art

Neoclassical Art

  • Push for political revolution in France = change in culture = change in art

  • Neoclassicalism – revival of interest in Ancient Greek and Roman art

    • Challenged Rococo and aristocracy

  • Sharp outlines, lack of emotion in figures, geometric forms and rational order

  • Jacques Louis David and pupil Jean Dominique Ingres main artists of period



  • “Emotional and dream-like”

    • Feeling over reason

  • Focused on the natural world

    • Nature often the main subject matter

  • Delacroix, Theodore Gericault, and William Blake main artists of period

Rococo vs neoclassicalism vs romanticism

Rococo vs. Neoclassicalism vs. Romanticism

Realism and impressionism

Realism and Impressionism

  • Realism - shows positive and negative features, ordinary people

    • Gustave Courbet’s The Stonebreakers

  • Impressionism – “broke the rules”

    • Bright, contrasting colors, ordinary subject matter, light over detail, lack of solid form

    • Manet and Monet main Impressionists

Realism vs impressionism

Realism vs. Impressionism

Post impressionism


  • Paul Cezanne – countered Impressionism with art divided into foreground, middle ground, and background

    • Derived form into basic geometric shapes (later influence of cubism)

  • Georges Seurat – optical mixing technique gave vibrant color

  • Van Gogh – color should show human emotion

    • Intense color, new brush strokes

  • Paul Gauguin – went to Tahiti and painted “through the lens of colonialism”

  • Change in technology and focus = change in art

    • Camera = art no longer needs to capture history

    • Chemically based paint = artists can paint outdoors

    • Large focus on colonialism = artists’ interest in African masks and Japanese prints

      • Edgar Degas combined photography and Japanese perspective

    • Industrial Revolution dissatisfaction creates Pre-Raphaelites (religious + Romanticist + Archaic) and Art Nouveau (organic decoration and flowing line)

      • Art Nouveau in architecture and engineering as well as art

Twentieth century and modernism

Twentieth Century and Modernism

  • Henri Matisse – take Van Gogh’s color philosophy one step further

    • Arbitrary color – color choice no longer attempts to recreate reality

  • Picasso and Braque attack natural form (the form of an object in real life) with cubism

    • Psychology – we remember a scene as overlay of various perspectives

    • Cubism – abstract form, overlapping perspectives

      • Form an influence of African art

  • Germany – Expressionism started by Die Brücke

    • Influenced by Fauvists (Matisse’s arbitrary color)

    • Made inner workings of mind visible in art

    • Russian and German Expressionists (Kandinsky) began creating abstract paintings

America world war i and art

America, World War I, and Art

  • 1913 -Armory Show in New York shifts center of art world from Paris to New York

    • Picasso and other Modernist artists shocked world with work unveiled at Armory Show

  • 1920s – Harlem Renaissance – artistic and cultural golden age for African American artists. Centered in Harlem.

  • Shock of World War I = Dada movement

    • Protest towards all order in society. Total entropy

  • Duchamp (known for Dada) and Picasso present ready-mades (ordinary objects as art)

  • Sigmund Freud’s theories influence Rene Magritte and Salvadore Dali to create Surrealism (“super-real” or very dreamlike)

  • Germany: Bauhaus school of design establishes standards of modern architecture

    • Nazi takeover = Bauhaus designers flee to America

The move to abstract art

The Move to Abstract Art

  • World War II – art mostly propaganda. Many artists participated in war effort.

  • 1950s – Greenburgs promote Abstract Expressionism (based of Kandinsky’s ideals)

    • Movement reaches pinnacle with Jackson Pollock

    • Two forms of Abstract Expressionism: action-paintings (dramatic brushstrokes or dripping) and color field paintings (broad areas of color and simple shapes)

  • Response: return to naturalism

    • Focus on everyday objects

    • Robert Rauschenberg’s Bed

More twentieth century art

More Twentieth Century Art

  • Pop art used pop culture images as subject. Used Arbitrary color

    • Andy Warhol most famous Pop artist

  • Minimalism – simplify art to basic shapes and colors

    • Works often monochromatic (shades of single color)

    • Frank Stella best know Minimalist

  • Photorealism – extremely lifelike works

    • Opposite of sfumato technique

    • Chuck Close – best known Photorealist

Western art from 1970 on

Western Art From 1970 On

  • Christo known for Earthworks (extensive art projects outdoors)

    • “As much about process as it is final product”

  • Performance Art – combination of theatre and art to express emotion or opinion

  • Postmodernist art – tends to focus on more traditional styles and subjects

Ancient asian art

Ancient Asian Art

  • China – Great Wall main architectural feat

    • Emperors tombs – treasures of art

    • Qin Dynasty – Terra Cotta Warriors

    • Bronze statues emerge

    • Sculpture and scrolls became main focus of Chinese art after introduction of Buddhism

  • India – Greek art influenced Buddha image

    • Much focus on Hinduism and Hindu gods in art

  • Japan – 1800s: Japanese artists travel to France

    • Learn linear perspective and Impressionism

    • Later rejected for flatter, traditional work

    • Best known for printmaking

Terra cotta warriors

Terra Cotta Warriors

Ancient african and oceanic art

Ancient African and Oceanic Art

  • Namibia cave paintings predate European cave paintings

  • Many bronze figure heads from Benin destroyed or taken by British

    • Many African art pieces did not last (made of wood or fiber) or destroyed by Eurpoeans

  • Functional art (art that serves another purpose) common (baskets and pots)

    • Masks key art pieces. Used mostly for ritual ceremonies

  • Oceania – few surviving pieces of art

    • Polynesia – tattoos become common art

    • Melanesia – shields often carved with intricate artwork

      • Masks often used for ritual purposes

Islamic art

Islamic Art

  • Copies of the Quran often considered art

  • Calligraphy (decorative writing) and abstract design

    • Islamic art can NEVER contain images of Allah (God) or Muhammad

  • Dome of the Rock example of Islamic architecture

Art of the americas

Art of the Americas

  • Pyramids in modern-day Mexico great architectural feats

  • Mayan carvings in temples

  • Jewelry, textiles, statues

  • Pueblos (villages constructed of adobe) common in American Southwest

Elements of art components

Elements of Art “Components”

  • Line – any sequence of points from start to end

    • “Real” and “implied” lines (like footprints)

    • Horizontal = peaceful; vertical = action

  • Shape – way lines come together on 2D plane

    • Geometric (square) and organic (flower petal shape)

  • Form – three dimensional objects (or objects that look 3D)

  • Space – way objects are arranged in artwork

    • Positive space (taken up by main subject) and negative space (background)

  • Color – way in which we perceive light reflected off an object

    • Hue – color

      • Primary colors – red, blue, yellow

      • Secondary colors – green, orange, purple (mix two primaries)

      • Tertiary colors - primary color and adjacent secondary color (blue-green)

Elements of art cont

Elements of Art (cont.)

F. Texture – how something feels to thee touch

A. Actual and visual (how it looks like it will feel)

G. Value – the lightness or darkness of a color

A. Color + white = tint; color + black = shade

B. Black and white are neutrals (not hues)

More on color

More on Color

  • Intensity – how bright a color is

  • Warm colors – feel warm. Red, yellow, orange

  • Cool colors – feel cool or tranquil. Blue, green, violet

  • Local color - the “true” color of something

  • Optical color – how lighting (i.e. moonlight) affect and change local color

More art terms

More Art Terms

  • Two main types of sculpture – freestanding and relief

  • Composition – the way an artist organizes his artwork

  • Rhythm – sense of movement in an artwork

  • Motif – pattern in an artwork (shape, line, color)

  • Balance – symmetrical and asymmetrical (sides balance out)

  • Focal point – where eye rests (usually main subject)

  • Scale – relative size of objects

Art techniques

Art Techniques

  • Shading creates value

    • Stippling (using dots), hatching (using lines), and cross hatching (using intersecting lines)

  • Printmaking requires copying image onto a plate

    • Relief printmaking – carves into plate

    • Intaglio printmaking – plate is engraved

    • Lithography – wax paper copies image when wet with water



  • Paint needs pigment (color), binder (holds pigment together), and solvent (makes paint liquid)

  • Tempera – water-based paint

  • Glaze – thin layered oil paint

  • Encaustic – Egyptian wax-based paint

  • Gouache – higher quality water-based paint

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