Art History Timeline Part 2: Realism to Abstract Expressionism

The movement continues. To quench your thirst for art and knowledge, keep reading if you have already seen the first part of our western art history timeline.

Realism (1848 – 1900)

Realism is arguably the “founding father” of modern artistic movements. Sometimes referred to as Naturalism, it began in France during the 1850s, following the 1848 revolution in Western and Central Europe.

Realism is a result of multiple events: the rise of journalism, the anti-Romantic movement in Germany, and the emergence of paper photography. Each of these events sparked a newfound interest in capturing life realistically, which was evident in the detailed and life-like depictions in artworks produced throughout the movement.

Gustave Courbet was one the most influential artists during the Realist movement. The French artist exclusively painted what he could see before his eyes. Burial at Ornans (1850), The Bathers (1853), and The Painter’s Studio (1870) are some of Courbet’s acclaimed pieces.

Art Nouveau (1890 – 1910)

Art Nouveau aspired to create an authentic movement that does not imitate nor resemble any of the preceding movements. This particular style heavily influenced graphic designers, illustrators, and applied artists. Art Nouveau sheds light on the natural world, characterized by long, sinuous curves and lines.

Czechoslovakian graphic designer Alphonse Mucha is famous for his genius and artistic use of lithography. Mucha is the creative mastermind behind the intricate theatrical posters of French actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Impressionism (1865 – 1885)

The goal of impressionist painters is to capture the immediate impression of a specific moment using short and swift brushstrokes, as well as an unfinished and sketch-like feel. Impressionists use real-life situations as inspiration and main subject matters, creating masterpieces revolving around daily happenings and existing objects rather than mythological or historical occurrences.

Internationally acclaimed French artist Claude Monet revolutionized the idea of expressing one’s perceptions before nature. Some of his many notable works include Regatta at Sainte-Adresse (1867), Impression, Sunrise (1872), and The Water Lily Pond (1899).

Post-Impressionism (1885 – 1910)

Post-Impressionist painters concentrated on subjective perceptions and symbolic or personal meanings instead of observing nature and the outside world. The artists during this movement often achieved the essence of Post-Impressionist art through abstract works.

A distinguished Post-Impressionist painter is Georges Seurat, who was known for using small and distinct dots to form an image (pointillism technique). Vincent van Gogh, one of the best painters in history, is also regarded as a Post-Impressionist for his unique way of expressing himself through art using rugged brushstrokes and dark tones.

Fauvism (1900 – 1935)

Influential French art critic Louis Vauxcelles coined the name les fauves, which translates to “the wild beasts,” when he saw the work of Henri Matisse and André Derain during an exhibition in Paris in 1905. Mainly led by Henri Matisse, Fauvism is an “extreme extension” of George Seurat and Vincent van Gogh’s works.

As the first avant-garde movement of the 20th Century, expressive use of intense lines, colors, and brushwork, as well as a daring sense of surface design and composition characterized this art style.

Evident in many of the masterpieces of Matisse, the division of colors from their descriptive and emblematic purpose was among the fundamental elements that helped shape Fauvism. This art style was an essential precursor of Expressionism and Cubism.

Expressionism (1905 – 1920)

The rise of Expressionism was a response to disagreements in world views and the loss of faith and spirituality. “Expression” being the main keyword, Expressionists drew inspiration from deep within themselves, using distorted forms and bold colors to display vulnerability, anxiety, and other raw emotions. Many Expressionist artists, in search of authenticity, sought inspiration by frequenting ethnographic museums to revisit tribal art and native folk traditions.

Historians can trace the origin of Expressionism to Vincent van Gogh, James Ensor, and Edvard Munch.

Cubism (1907 – 1914)

Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque established Cubism. Both artists rejected the notion that art should mimic nature. Thus, the two distanced themselves from using traditional techniques and perspectives. Instead, they produced radically fragmented objects through abstraction.

Several Cubism paintings feature flat, two-dimensional surfaces, geometric shapes (cubes), and many vantage points. In many cases, the subjects are not discernible. Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Georges Braque’s Man with a Guitar (1912), and Juan Gris’ Glass of Beer and Playing Cards (1913) are some of the most popular Cubism paintings of all time.

Surrealism (1916 – 1950)

Surrealism was a product of Dadaism in 1916. During this art movement, surrealists condemned the rationalist mindset. They blamed this oppositional thought process on historic events such as the First  World War, which they alleged to have suppressed imaginative thoughts.

German philosopher Karl Marx and the theories of Sigmund Freud, who explored psychoanalysis and the capacity of human imagination, heavily influenced Surrealists.

Most Surrealist artists, including Salvador Dali, delved into the unconscious mind to illustrate revelations seen on the streets and in everyday life. Many of Dali’s famous paintings combined strange and vivid dreams with historical accuracy.

Abstract Expressionism (1940s – 1950s)

The legacy of Surrealism shaped Abstract Expressionism, which emerged in New York following the Second World War. Abstract Expressionism artists moved away from conventional works of art. Instead, they used improvisation and spontaneity to create abstract masterpieces. Many of the pieces from this movement were so massive that an easel could no longer accommodate them. Instead, the artists would place their canvases on the floor.

Some celebrated Abstract Expressionist painters include Jackson Pollock, who is well-known for his style of drip painting. Another would be Mark Rothko, whose paintings featured sizable blocks of color to evoke a sense of spirituality.

The Art Movement Does Not End Here

Stay on the lookout for the third and final extension of our art history timeline, where we will be discussing the history of Optical Art, Arte Povera, Minimalism, and other contemporary western art movements from the 1950s and beyond.

If you think you have a painting or sculpture from one of these time periods in your possession, you can sell or use artwork as collateral here. Biltmore Loan and Jewelry is a leading art buyer in Chandler and Scottsdale, Arizona. Rest assured that our art appraisal specialist will offer you a competitive price for an authentic masterpiece.