Fitting art into a timeline

We all come to art history from some perspective. From this perspective, we are likely to build our mental map of how individual artists and styles of art fit together. When we want to place an artist on the art timeline, we should keep in mind that generalisations are useful only up to a point.

For example, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky would fit into the movement known as Expressionism (1905-1930). But, his work took on different forms as he associated with various artists in other European cities.

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Most important art movements
  • Medieval art
  • Renaissance 1300–1600
  • Baroque 1600–1730
  • Rococo 1720–1780
  • Neoclassicism 1750–1830
  • Romanticism 1780–1880
  • Impressionism 1860–1890
  • Post-impressionism 1886–1905
  • Expressionism 1905–1930
  • Cubism 1907–1914
  • Futurism 1910–1930
  • Art Deco 1909–1939
  • Abstract Expressionism 1940s
  • Contemporary art 1946 — present

The way we interact and understand art is dependent on how the narrative of art history has been produced.

For example, art flourished during the Renaissance. One of the main sources about artists of this time comes from the book 'Lives of the Artists', written by Italian Giorgio Vasari during the 16th-century. Vasari draws a similarity between the passage of time and the artistic achievement of Italian artists. In writing about his fellow countrymen, Vasari wanted to promote the Italian Renaissance to the elevated position of high-achievement in all of art history.

After placing the art you are viewing on a timeline, the next step is to build up a sense of time and place that is specific to the artwork and artist.

  • Did the artists have friends or contemporaries that may have influenced the style of the work?
  • Did the artist have a teacher?
  • Did the artist write about their work?
  • What materials were available to the artist?
  • Was the artist male or female?
  • Might race or other specifics of the artists' identity play a role?
  • Did the artwork get shown in public? What were the reactions of the first viewers?

The idea that art is about progress is appealing to historians because it gives a simple linear-narrative framework. But this view tends to be exclusive in that it views Western art as the main story of art history without considering Islamic art, Turkish art, Japanese art, or West Africa's art.

Vasari was an Italian living in Florence and interested in how the art around him was made. We should remember that all art history is tilted with a bias towards the storytelling.

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RELATED IDEAS

Paintings: Impressionist Style Of Art

First seen in the mid-19th century, impressionist art captured the immediate impression of scenery or moment, communicated by the artist using light, reflection and separated colours.

The capturing of light was done using short brushstrokes done quickly and freely, making the painting appear rough and messy to some.

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IDEAS

Historical Significance Of Florence, Italy

Known as the ‘Jewel Of Italian Renaissance’, the city of Florence has countless groundbreaking developments, seeing advances in politics, finance, business, engineering, philosophy, science, architecture, and artistic creativity. The 15th century CE, the golden age of Florence saw many historic art projects, even after a pandemic killed half of the city’s population.

Currently, Florence is the capital of Tuscany, Italy, and its most populous. The breathtaking scenery and long history make it one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Defining Art
  • Art does not have a universal definition, though it is generally believed that it is an intentional and conscious creation of something that requires imagination and skill.
  • It can be thought of as a symbol of what it means to be human, manifested in physical form for others to see and interpret.
  • The word ‘art’ originates from the Latin word ‘ars’ that means skill or craft.
  • Art, like beauty, is subjective, and its valuation and definition changes as time goes by.
  • To understand art one has to see it’s essential nature and the social impact or importance it generates.

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