After Ancient Art
Somewhere between Ancient Roman art and Cubism lies a period of art that we consider to be the relative middle section. This comprised of a few movements and for the most part, saw development within the era that was inspired in and of itself.
Many of the movements in this ‘in-between’ period fed off of each other and in some cases, there isn’t a lot of separation at the start. Though there is an organic flow between these periods, they do still carry their own unique qualities and can be identified as stand-alone movements through this. Within this time frame, which started around the 5th century and lasted until nearly the 19th century, which is a substantial amount of time, there were roughly six primary movements involved here and we will cover them all in more depth as standalone essays but for now, let us briefly cover the general timeline.
Medieval Art and the Middle Ages
Art during the Middle Ages was different based on where in Europe it was being made. However, in a general sense, it can be divided up into three main periods and styles – Byzantine
Art, Romanesque Art and Gothic Art. Much of the art in Europe during the Middle Ages was religious art with Catholic subject matter and themes. The art covered here included work like painting, sculpture, metalworking, engraving, stained glass windows and manuscripts.
Early and High Renaissance Art
The End of the Middle ages is often hailed as the start of the Renaissance Period. There was a large shift in art with the start of Renaissance art. Many of the new ideas and attitudes that marked the Renaissance times were portrayed through the art. There was a larger focus on human interests, needs, and abilities. This new idea changed how artists painted their subjects as well as the choice of subjects they painted. Renaissance art is often divided up into two periods. Early Renaissance, which saw artists trying to emulate classical artists and a focus on creating the perfect form and High Renaissance, which gave art even more room for realism
through a rising interest in perspective and space.
Mannerism can be a confusing term and is subject to radically different interpretations. It is a 16th-century art movement that created highly artificial compositions that showed off their
techniques and skills in manipulating compositional elements to create a sense of sophisticated elegance. However, it is generally used to describe the art in Italy that directly followed from the Renaissance, preceding the Baroque era. Paintings in this era were large, complicated and
filled with such an abundance of human forms that it was almost too difficult to view without being overwhelmed. For many years Mannerism was said to be negative because the association with it held a disturbing psychological tension but around the mid-20th century, Mannerism was equated rather with exceptional skill.
The Baroque is a period of artistic style that started around 1600 in Rome, Italy. It spread further
after this to the majority of Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. In an informal way, Baroque describes something that is elaborate and highly detailed. Baroque was closely linked to the Catholic church and primarily communicated religious themes. The style is characterized
by exaggerated motion and clear details that produce a sense of drama, exuberance and grandeur through the use of sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance and music.
Baroque iconography was direct, obvious and deliberately dramatic and it attempted to appeal, above all else, to the senses and the emotions.
Rococo art follows directly from Baroque and in fact, overlaps it somewhat. Highly inspired by the Baroque movement, Rococo developed in the early 18th century in Paris and is characterized by soft colours and curvy lines. Rococo scenes often depicted scenes of love, nature, amorous encounters and light-hearted entertainment and youth. After the death of Louis XIV the French court moved out of Versailles palace and back to their old Parisian mansions, choosing to adopt a softer and gentler style than that of the late king. The style is characterized by its asymmetry and elegance and had more of a sense of whimsy than Baroque art did.
Neoclassicism was a direct opposition to the frivolous nature of the Rococo movement. Artists involved with the Neoclassical art movements believed that art should be cerebral, not sensual and that a strong drawing was more rational and therefore, morally better. At this point in history, France was on the brink of its first revolution and the Neoclassicists wanted to express rationality and seriousness that was fitting for their times. Before this point, the French
monarchy had nearly driven the country into the ground with their self-interest and extravagant lifestyles. Thus the natural response was to steer away from that and produce work that showed more moral strength. Neoclassicism was a child of the Age of Reason, also referred to as the Enlightenment. Here philosophers believed that we would be able to control our destinies by learning from and following the laws of nature. It is from these ideals that Neoclassicism grew. It is characterized by its clarity of form, sober colours and strong horizontal and vertical lines.