6 Influential Art Movements & Their Timeline

Posted by Robert Lange on

What is an art movement? This term is used to describe a group of artists creating in the same period and adopting the same style, philosophy, or goals. There have been a plethora of different art movements over the years, some of which had a major impact on the history of art itself. Thus, in this article, we present a timeline of the most influential art movements that truly shaped the contemporary scene and explain them in a bit more detail. Did we spark your interest? Then read on!

Renaissance – A Period or an Art Movement?

The first on our timeline of the most influential art movements in history is the Renaissance. Although its name was generally adopted by the whole historical period, the Renaissance started as a 14th century art movement in Italy. But why is it so influential?

Had it not been for the Renaissance, we wouldn’t have known contemporary art as it is. After all, this is the movement that pushed art away from religion and drove artists toward transcending the already known boundaries. Humanism and naturalism emerged right in this period due to the initial Italian art movement. Even the techniques have changed, with the linear perspective and the vanishing point being discovered and added to the artists’ arsenal.

Romanticism – A Trip Away from Rationality

Romanticism, like the Renaissance, may be perceived as an art movement or as a period in the history of art. Being present between 1750 and 1850 (though the time frames might vary depending on the country), it took art on a journey far away from reality into abstraction, imagination and dramatization.

The art of this era and movement was focused on individuality, irrationality and emotions. Nature was also important for romantic artists, who often created beautiful landscapes and got their inspiration from it.

Impressionism – The Art of Creating Spontaneous Masterpieces

Venturing further into the 19th century, we should discuss impressionism, one of the many art movements originating from France.

Impressionism was all about spontaneity – artists created their pieces on the spot, often outside, rather than working their way through various sketches in a studio. The art itself was mainly focused on nature, landscapes, or scenes from everyday life, and its influence may be observed even nowadays.

Modern Impressionism is characterized by small, barely visible brush strokes and its use of light and shade, evoking the feeling that the pieces themselves are brief, short-lived images that will quickly disappear over time.

Realism – Art True to the World

Precision and detail, faithful representations, natural lighting, and everyday subjects – this is exactly what Realism is. Having started in the middle of the 19th century, this is one of the most influential art movements that still have an impact on art nowadays.

Photorealism and hyperrealism are the most common modern art movements that have their roots in realism itself, and this approach to art has been practiced ever since it emerged, which just proves how critical realism is for the whole world of art.

what is movement in art


Expressionism – An Emotional Art Movement from Germany

Expressionism is an art movement that emerged on the verge of the 19th and 20th centuries. Its style is abstract, emotional, and evocative.

Expressionism abandoned the real-life imaginary and was focused on communicating emotions through strong and dramatic images. Some even claim that it was the German response to industrialization and its effect on human minds.

One of the most characteristic pieces of this art movement is The Scream by Edvard Munch, a piece that has inspired both artists and pop culture ever since it was created.

Art Deco – A Symbol of Luxury

Another influential art movement that emerged in the 20th century (the 1920s, to be more precise) is art deco, which even became a symbol of luxury between the two World Wars. This style was focused on making mass-produced goods, like clocks or cars, more beautiful.

Art deco is characterized by symmetry along with geometrical and sleek designs. Why is it among the most influential art movements? Because one could argue that it has never gone out of fashion, though now it is mostly visible in vintage design and art trends.

The Takeaway

This timeline shows but a few of the most influential art movements that emerged in the past. Cubism, modernism, surrealism, minimalism, pop art, and many more are also worth your attention. After all, art is a matter of taste – one might praise realism, while someone else might love expressionism, so deciding which movements were the most influential and important is a matter of perspective.

If you like this article, we strongly recommend reading our other post: How to Start Collecting Art? Guide for Beginners

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