THE HISTORY OF ART is the most important part of the WORLDMUSEUM site: all of the remaining parts are just continuations of its main threads. It enables the reader to take a broad look all over approximately 30.000 years of history of European art and the art of cultures related with Europe. However, these are not subsequent stages of a single evolutionary process. They are more likely a sum of separate processes in which took part different people of different beliefs, or of no beliefs at all; they created different social structures and different art. The only thing all those developments had in common was an inexplicable, exclusively human need to create works of art, whatever the meaning of the term would be.
On this site, the periodization of history of art used in popular studies is taken into consideration. However, according to the historical perspective which already sees the 20th century as a part of a fairly distant past, the emphasis has been put differently in case of the history of modern art, originating from mid-19th century. The whole art history is divided into ten chapters.
THE PREHISTORY 30.000 – 3.500 BC
It covers the period from first Paleolithic works of art till the rise of first great civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Aegean Sea surroundings. According to material classification it is Stone and Copper Age; as long as social structures are considered, it is the age of primitive communities.
In this chapter the prehistory of humanity is also briefly outlined—as it is easier to understand the art when one knows where did the artists come from.
GREAT CIVILIZATIONS 3.500 – 1.200 BC
This chapter includes the history of art of the first advanced civilizations which emerged in Egypt, lower Mesopotamia, on islands and coasts of Aegean Sea, and between upper Mesopotamia and Anatolia.
It is the Bronze Age and also the time when slave-based societies were formed. The end of this era in Europe is also the beginning of the so-called Dark Ages; symbolic is the year of the capture of Troy, 1200 BC.
THE ANTIQUITY 1.200 BC – 300 AD
It includes the so-called Dark Ages, i.e., the era of civilizational and cultural recession, and the history of ancient Greece (Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods), Etruscan art, ancient Rome art and Persian art.
The end of the Antiquity came with the last important works of imperial Rome and the first Christian temples of Armenia, Palestine, Syria and Rome.
THE MIDDLE AGES 300 – 1450
include the history of early-Christian, Byzantine and pre-Romanesque art, and the two great medieval styles: Romanesque and Gothic. As a matter of fact, the first Christian-themed works of art were created in the catacombs. However, the foundation of first Christian basilicas in Jerusalem and Rome by Constantine the Great is now seen as the essential beginning of medieval art—its symbolic end being the completion of Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence.
MODERN HISTORY 1450 – 1820 – 1850
It includes the art of some of the great styles, i.e. Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo and Classicism. Their common feature was the usage of formal devices borrowed directly or indirectly from classical Greek and Roman art. The stylistic framework is established, on one hand, by the first Renaissance works (e.g. Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise from Florence cathedral's baptistery) and, on the other hand, by the decline of Classicism and the dominant role obtained by Gothic Revival in the mid-19th century.
THE 19th CENTURY
it includes the trends of Romanticism, the Nazarenes and Realism. Although its importance is hardly recognized, it is probably the most important era in the history of art. The French Enlightenment deprived the humanity of religious inspiration. Then, discredited by the barbarism of the French Revolution, it sent art to the abyss of romantic solitude. Attempts at leaving that mental blind alley were the so-called “Lebensreform”, the Realism in art or the attempts at finding “new spirituality” by the Nazarenes, Pugin's Gothic Revival or the Ancients, led by Samuel Palmer.
PRE-MODERNISM 1870 – 1900
it's a prenatal period of modern art. The expansion of atheism and the process of subjectivistic “self-creation” started by German idealists such as Fichte left an artist one-on-one with reality. Realistic Impressionism showed for the first time the world as seen through the eyes of an artist. However, it also showed its spiritual void. The three great Post-Impressionists: Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin created the basis of the three trends of modern art: Realism, Expressionism and Symbolism. In spite of the differences, they all believed in a transcendental dimension of art.
MODERNISM 1900 – 1950
It includes the history of modern art from the first Fauvists' performance till the spectacular success of Abstract Expressionism by Jackson Pollock. It also covers the trends as distant from each other as mathematically precise Cubism, mystic Suprematism, Neo-Plasticism, lyric Abstractionism or different kinds of Figurative Expressionism.
The most eventful was, however, the anarchic Dada which—as the only modernist trend—fiercely called into question the exceptional, “sacred” status of a work of art and the notion of an artistic workmanship.
POST-MODERNISM 1950 – 2000
It's a very extensive chapter which covers the trends that meant a reaction for Modernism. Trends as contradictory as a ludic Pop art and an art renewal, the latter being a complete negation of an essence of Modernism and corresponding with the academic tradition. Post-Modernism is symbolized by Conceptual art which questioned the whole sense of creation of a material work of art as a final stage of the creative process.
The trends that were emerging between the 20th and 21st centuries, wherever they place themselves within a contemporary critical classification, do not seem to be cracking through the post-modernist attitude nor beginning a new era in any way.