Classifying Art

Art can be categorized and described in many ways. This idea of compartmentalizing art helps us further define why art is made, how it is made and most importantly what exactly is art.  It helps us compare and contrast art methods, styles and periods of time in contemporary and historical art.  It can be described by the media used, by the artist's style, by the theme portrayed and possibly the largest classification; by the Art Movement.

Art Methods and Media

Artist Style: Real vs. Abstract 

Real> > Reality itself
Subject: Representational> Photography> objective image of reality

Alfred Eisenstaedt, V-J Day in Times Square,

New York City, 1945

"In Times Square on V.J. Day, I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing every girl in sight. I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse...I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds." 

- Alfred Eisenstaedt

Subject: Representational> Naturalism> as nearly detailed & accurate as photos

Richard Estes, Central Savings New York City 1970

Subject: Representational> Realism> easily identifiable

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503-1506

The Last Supper, 1495-1498

Subject: Representational> Expressionism>main forms can be identified

Vincent van Gogh, The Olive Trees, 1889

Subject: Representational> Abstract Art> abstract, but a part is identifiable

Anslem Kiefer, Ash Flower, 2004

Without Subject: Non Representational> Nonobjective Abstract Art> identifiable mainly as feelings or intensities of beauty

Helen Frankenthaler, Radius, 1993

Chapter 3 of Living With Art focuses on defining art through the concept of themes. Theme, for our purpose will be defined as a common thread that binds pieces of artwork. Under politics and the social order, the text gives the examples of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, a protest against the horrors of war

and Barbara Kruger’s, We Will No Longer Be Seen and Not Heard, her feminist social commentary on the objectification of women in advertising.

The text has divided art into 9 themes:

Visual Delights and the Arts of Daily Life

Objects created for daily use

Ottoman Turkey or Syria, First half of the 16th century, 9.8 x 9.9 in. 
A stone paste tile, the very pale green ground decorated in underglaze cobalt-blue, turquoise and bole red with lotus heads midway on each side all around a central pair of swirled saz leaves.

Damascus, Syria, Mid 16th century, 11.75 x 10.5 in. {30 x 26.5 cm.}  
A stone paste tile, the white ground painted in cobalt-blue. black and turquoise with a lattice of split palmettes and arabesques overlaid by a similar arrangement of flower-heads and palmette vine.

Damascus, 16th century, 9.5 x 9 .5in. {24.1 x 24.1cm.}
A stone paste square tile painted in underglaze cobalt blue, emerald green, turquoise and manganese purple. Outlined in black, a central blue boss containing white cartouches around a central rosette, all contained within a surrounding array of triangular sections containing flowers and rosettes.

Islamic Textiles

    Embroidered cover, 1690s -1720s, Silk and guilt thread embroidery on silk, 32 in x 45 in or 82 cms x 114 cms
This is a unique cover and as such not easy to attribute precisely. Turkish experts feel its Persian, and Persian expert feel its Turkish.

Ceremonial Calligraphic Batik, Cotton Wax Resist, Terracotta, Ceribon, Java, Pos. late 19th century, 27in x 66in; 69cm x 155cm
Designed with caligraphy, birds and Six Pointed Stars

Ottoman Calligraphic Tomb Panel, Silk Lampas, Turkish, 17th century, 66cms x109cms
Calligraphy reads "Allah is the God of Mohamed who loves him and is not equal to him.
Pray to God for peace on all the noblest prophets. All merciful and almighty God bless the messengers. The four Khalifers, Abu Bakr,Omar, Osman,Ali and the rest of scribes"
Silk and metal embroidered panel on cotton showing stylized
pomegranates and carnations, Turkish, 18th century, 23.5" x 16"
Printed cotton (detail), ca. 1830, British Isles, English, Cotton, 84 x 25 in. (213.4 x 63.5 cm)



Bowl, ca. 10th century, Probably Iran (Nishapur); Excavated in Nishapur, Iran, 1939,
Earthenware, underglaze-painted in black and red over cream-colored slip
Writing box, late 16th–early 17th century, India, Gujarat or Sindh, Wood with ivory and sadeli decoration; 13 1/2 x 20 7/8 in. (34.3 x 53 cm)
The Sacred Realm
Religious imagery; imagery representing divine realms; deities and other spiritual beings; works created to provide a setting for rituals of worship and prayer


Standing Buddha Offering Protection, late 5th century, India (Uttar Pradesh, Mathura),
Red sandstone, 33 11/16 in

Standing Buddha, Unified Silla dynasty (668–935), 8th century, Korea, Gilt bronze, 5 1/2 in.

Seated Buddha Amoghasiddhi, the Transcendent Buddha of the North, late 10th–early 11th century, India (Himachal Pradesh, ancient kingdoms of Tibet), Silver and bronze with copper inlay and traces of gold foil, 8 in. 

The Goddess Durga as Slayer of the Buffalo-Demon Mahisha (Mahishasuramardini), 14th–15th century, Nepal, Gilt copper alloy, inlaid with semiprecious stones, 8 1/4 in. 

Seated Ganesha, ca. 15th century, Sukhothai or Lan Na style, Thailand, Bronz, 12 3/4 in.

Sistine Chapel in Apostolic Palace, official residence of the Pope, Vatican City, Italy 

Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo,1508-1512
Diagram from Wikipedia

Creation of Adam on the Sistine ceiling
The Last Judgment, 1535-1541

Politics and the Social Order

Political leaders; art created to serve those in power; art that takes “sides in debates of the day”

Guerilla Girls
   We're a bunch of anonymous females who take the names of dead women artists as pseudonyms and appear in public wearing gorilla masks. We have produced posters, stickers, books, printed projects, and actions that expose sexism and racism in politics, the art world, film and the culture at large. We use humor to convey information, provoke discussion, and show that feminists can be funny. We wear gorilla masks to focus on the issues rather than our personalities. Dubbing ourselves the conscience of culture, we declare ourselves feminist counterparts to the mostly male tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Batman, and the Lone Ranger. Our work has been passed around the world by kindred spirits who we are proud to have as supporters. It has also appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Bitch and Bust; on TV and radio, including NPR,, the BBC and CBC; and in countless art and feminist texts. The mystery surrounding our identities has attracted attention. We could be anyone; we are everywhere.


Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions), 1991, Photographic silkscreen on vinyl

Shepard Fairey, Duality Of Humanity 1

Immigration Reform

Uncle Scam

Tao Ruspoli, Cleon Peterson, Casey Ryder and Shepard Fairey, Relief for Haiti

Stories and Histories
Stories as subject matter, “especially stories whose roots reach deep into their culture’s collective memory;” heroes; lives of saints; folktales; mythology

Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgment of Paris, c. 1639, Oil on panel, 199 x 379 cm

Prometheus Bound, The eagle was painted by Snyders, Made in Southern Netherlands
(modern Belgium), Begun c. 1611-12, completed by 1618, Oil on canvas, 95 1/2 x 82 1/2 inches (242.6 x 209.5 cm)


Horace Pippin, "John Brown Going to His Hanging," 1942

  Horace Pippin ( 1888 - 1946 )
 Pippin was a native of Pennsylvania and lived there most of his life. He fought in the 369th Infantry Regiment in World War I. A wound immobilized his right arm, but despite this fact he taught himself to paint. He burned images in wood with a hot poker, and then painted them with oils. This print is based on his mother's description of the scene.

Looking Outward: The Here and Now
Life here, now, in this place, at this time; daily life in the present

Zoe Strauss

Looking Inward: The Human Experience
The human condition; shared experiences


Auguste Rodin, The Helmet-Maker's Wife, Conceived 1880-83; cast 1925, 
Cast by the founder Alexis Rudier,Paris, Bronze, 19 1/2 x 9 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches 

The Good Spirit, Conceived c. 1900; cast before 1917, Plaster, 9 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 5 inches (24.1 x 13.3 x 12.7 cm)

Possession, Conceived c. 1888; cast before 1917, Plaster, 9 1/4 x 4 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches 
(23.5 x 12.1 x 11.4 cm)

Shame (Absolution), Conceived c. 1889-90; cast 1925,
Cast by the founder Alexis Rudier,Paris, Bronze, 25 3/4 x 15 x 12 1/2 inches
(65.4 x 38.1 x 31.8 cm)

Invention and Fantasy
Imaginary Worlds

The Poetry of America, 1943

The Eye, 1945

The Elephants, 1948

Face of War, 1940, Oil on canvas, 64 x 79cm 

Mediative Rose, 1958, Oil on canvas, 36 x 28 cm

Art and Nature
Nature and our relationship to it

 Andy Goldsworthy

Claude Monet, The Four Trees, 1891, Oil on canvas, 32 1/4 x 32 1/8 in. (81.9 x 81.6 cm)

Water Lilies, 1919, Oil on canvas 

Water-Lily Pond, Symphony in Rose , 1900,  Oil on canvas

Art and Art

Art for arts’ sake; “no other purpose than to give visual pleasure or to pose another answer to the on going question, “What is art?”

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1921, Oil on canvas, 39 x 35 cm

Composition with Gray and Light Brown, 1918, Oil on canvas, 80.2 x 49.9 cm

Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43, Oil on canvas, 127 x 127 cm

Wassily Kandinsky, Black Spot I, 1912,  Oil on canvas, 100 x 130 cm


Composition VIII, 1923, Oil on canvas, 140 x 201 cm (55 1/8 x 79 1/8 in)

Composition X, 1939, Oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm (51 1/8 x 76 3/4 in)

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

The Gates, Central Park,
New York City, 1979-2005
Christo and Jeanne-Claude set up 17,503 vinyl "gates" along 23 miles of pathways in Central Park in New York City. From each gate hung a panel of deep saffron-colored nylon fabric. The exhibit ran from February 12, 2005 through February 27, 2005.

Sketch of The Gates, Christo and Jeanne-Claude


The Gates, Project for Central Park, New York City
Drawing 2001, in two parts, 165 X 38 cm. and 165 X 106.6 cm. (65" X 15" and 65" X 42")
Pencil, charcoal, pastel, wax crayon, enamel paint and aerial photograph


Art Trends

The Evolution of Artistic Endeavors

15th c Artists made art for clients with assistants and apprentices
16th c Artists were employees in royal workshops
19th c Artistic vision: world of art schools, galleries, critics, collectors and museums
Today Graphic Design uses all of the above- where technology has gotten us?
Today- Artists with no training are often discovered- outsider art

Movements- Encountering Art Through History 
Prehistoric Art
Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) 
The period from 30,000- 10,000 BC was marked by the "ever-developing ability to create tools and weapons."  Art in the Old Stone Age: portable or stationary
Portable art was small (so it could be moved easily)and was referred to as figurative for the most part because it depicted human or animal form. There were also decorated objects. The artwork was "carved from stone, bone or antler or modeled with clay."
The "Venus" was a popular figurine which depicted "females of child-bearing build."


The Venus of Willendorf

Lascaux Cave Paintings
Cave paintings depicted mostly animals

Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) Art
The Middle Stone Age took place 2,000 years between the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic ages (10,000- 8000 BC), This period saw "the beginnings of both settled communities and farming" and "the invention of the bow and arrow, pottery for food storage and the domestication of a few animals" used for food or, for the hunting of food. The art of the period was utilitarian pottery. The most lively work of the period were rock paintings. They could be seen on "cliffs or "walls" of natural rock" and were similar to the earlier cave paintings except they depicted more human figures than animals. The images were stylized, "more like pictographs than pictures" and patterns of groupings were repeated creating rhythm.
A high concentration of rock paintings was found in Spain's Levant region.

Neolithic (New Stone Age) Art
 The Neolithic period, 8000- 300 BC, also called New Stone Age, began when men first developed agriculture and settled in permanent villages. It ended with the discovery of bronze. The prime medium of Neolithic art was pottery. Other important artistic expressions were statuary of the universally worshiped Mother Goddess and megalithic stone monuments. (from
Bronze Age Art
Art from the Bronze age (c.3500-1100 BCE), an important period linking the Stone Age  with the Iron Age,  was a reflection of the environment of the time. The Bronze Age was characterized by the production of the metal bronze (an alloy of copper and tin), and it witnessed an increase in economic productivity and the consequent emergence of skilled workers, many of whom were involved in artistic activity, albeit of a semi-functional nature. Ornamental and decorative designs on helmets, body armor, swords, axe-heads and other weapons became more widespread. Ceramic designs became more elegant, and a new range of ceremonial/religious artifacts and artworks began to emerge.
Iron Age Art
In contrast to the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, development during the Iron Age (c.1100-200 BCE) was much faster and more visible. It witnessed the widespread use of iron and iron tools, resulting in greater prosperity and a huge upsurge in the arts, especially around the eastern Mediterranean. During this period, both the Minoan and Mycenean civilizations declined while Greek art dazzled the entire Mediterranean, especially  Greek sculpture. Etruscan art also appeared, but it was the Hellenic culture of ancient Greece which dominated, along with Egyptian and Persian art.  (from

Ancient and Classical Art

Areas to study:

The Aegean

Most narrowly, the "middle" period of ancient Greek civilization, beginning around 480 B.C.E. and lasting until around 350 B.C. E.  More broadly, the civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and the centuries during which they flourished.  Most generally, and with a lowercase c, any art that emphasizes  rational order, balance, harmony and restraint, especially if it looks to the art of ancient Greece and Rome for models.

The Etruscan Civilization
The Anglo-Saxons - 5th century, The Visigoths - 1st - 8th centuries, The Franks (Merovingian Art) - 5th - 8th centuries, The Ostrogoths - 488 - 526, The Lombards - 568 - 774, The Burgundians - 413 - 532, The Picts - mid 1st - 9th centuries, Hiberno-Saxon (Insular) Art - 500 - c. 1000
Early Christian and Byzantine
The Dark Ages
Period in medieval European history dominated by the Frankish rulers of the Carolingian dynasty, roughly 750-850 C.E.  In art, the term refers especially to the artistic flowering sponsored by Charlemagne (ruled 800-840).

Architecture and art dominant in  Europe from the 9th century to the 12th century.  Romanesque architecture, based on ancient Roman precedents, emphasizes the round arch and the barrel vault.

Flourished in Europe, especially northern, from the mid-12th century to the 16th century.  Gothic architecture found its finest expression in cathedrals, which are characterized by soaring interiors and large stained glass windows, features made possible by the use of the pointed arch and the flying buttress.

Period in Europe from the 14th to the 16th century, characterized by a renewed interest in Classical art, architecture literature and philosophy.  The Renaissance began in Italy and gradually spread to the rest of Europe.
Selected Artists:
Proto-Renaissance- Duccio, Giotto, Nicola and Giovanni Pisano
Early Renaissance - Brunelleschi, Donatello, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, van Eyck, Durer (sculpture), Schongauer
High Renaissance- Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Tintoretto, Bosch, Grunewald, Durer (printmaking)

Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503-1519 Oil on Poplar

From the Italian for "style" or "stylishness,"  a trend in 16th century Italian art.  Mannerist artists cultivated a variety of elegant, refined, virtuosic, and highly artificial styles, often featuring elongated figures, sinuous contours, bizarre effects of scale and lighting, shallow pictorial space, and intense colors.
Selected Artists:
Bernini, Carravagio, El Greco
17th through the early 18th century Europe
Originated in Rome and associated at first with the Counter-Reformation of the Catholic Church, the dominant style  of Baroque art was characterized by dramatic use of light, bold colors and value contrasts, emotionalism, a tendency to push into the viewer's space, and an overalll theatricality.  Pictorial composition often emphasized a diagonal axis , and sculpture, painting and architecture were often combined to create ornate and impressive settings.
Selected Artists:
Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Synder, van Dyck, Frans Hals, Poussin, Ribera, Velazquez

Popular in Europe in the first three quarters of the 18th century
Rococo architecture and furnishings emphasized ornate but small-scale decoration, curvilinear forms, and pastel colors.  Rococo painting , also tending toward the use of pastels, has a playful, lighthearted romantic quality and often pictures the aristocracy at leisure.
Selected Artists: 
Canaletto, Tiepolo, Watteau, Chardin, Fragonard, Hogarth, Reynolds, John Singleton Copley, Nicolas Pineau

Literally, "new classicism," a Western movement in painting, sculpture and architecture of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that looked to the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration.  Neoclassical artists worked in a variety of individual styles, but in general, like any art labeled classical, Neoclassical art emphasized order, clarity and restraint.
Selected Artists: William Henry Rinehart, early Jacques-Louis David, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Nicolas Poussin, Canova

Drastic stylistic changes as art becomes Modern

Modern Art means: "The point at which artists (1) felt free to trust their inner visions, (2) express those visions in their work, (3) use Real Life (social issues and images from modern life) as a source of subject matter and (4) experiment and innovate as often as possible."
Modern Art began in the 19th century and ran until the late 1960's early 1970's.
Movement in western art of the 19th century, generally thought to be  in opposition to Neoclassicism.  Romantic works are marked by intense colors, turbulent emotions, complex composition, soft outlines, and sometimes heroic or exotic subject matter.
Selected Artists:
Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Eugene Delacroix, Theodore Gericault, Jacques-Louis David, Adelaide Labile-Guiard, Marie-Louise-Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, William Blake, Joseph Mallord William Turner, John Singleton Copley, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole, John Constable, Caspar David Friedrich, Niepce, Jacques Mande Daguerre, Henry Fox Talbot

Eugene Delacroix
Liberty Leading the People, 1830
Oil on canvas
Louvre, Paris, France

"With this painting Delacroix responded to the July revolution of 1830 against Charles X (king of France 1824-30) and absolutism in France, which finished with serious democratic reforms. As a result the new 'citizen king' Louis-Phillippe was elected and his power was restricted; France became a bourgeois monarchy. Delacroix wrote to his brother, a general: ‘Since I have not fought and conquered for the fatherland, I can at least paint on its behalf.’ To the left of Liberty, a man wearing a top hat, is Delacroix himself. The boy with pistols on the right was perhaps the inspiration for the character of Gavroche in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. The new king Louis-Phillippe bought the work for 3,000 francs, but never exhibited it."Link(Taken from

"Toward the middle of the 19th century, a small group of young artists in England reacted vigorously against what they felt was "the frivolous art of the day"..Their ambition was to bring English art back to a greater "truth to nature." They deeply admired the simplicities of the early 15th century, and they felt this admiration made them a brotherhood. "While contemporary critics and art historians worshiped Raphael as the great master of the Renaissance, these young students rebelled against what they saw as Raphael's theatricality and the Victorian hypocrisy and pomp of the academic art tradition.
Selected Artists:
Edward Burne-Jones, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

 John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852, Oil on Canvas, 30" x 40"

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Helen of Troy, 1863
Mid-19th century, identified especially with Gustave Courbet , which fostered the idea that everyday people and events are fit subjects for important art
Selected Artists:
Gustave Courbet, Honore Daumier, Thomas Eakins, Auguste Rodin

Gustave Courbet, The Desperate Man, 1844-45 

Honore Daumier, The Third-Class Carriage, 1863-65, Oil on Canvas, 25 3/4" x 35 1/2"

Originating in the 1860's in France
It arose in opposition to the academic art of the day.  In subject matter, Impressionism followed Realism in portraying daily life, especially the leisure activities of the middle class.  Landscape was also a favorite subject, encouraged by the new practice of painting outdoors.  In technique, Impressionist painters favored alla prima painting, which was put into the service of recording fleeting effects of nature and the rapidly changing urban scene.
Selected Artists:
Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Eadweard Muybridge, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Edgar Degas, Blue Dancers, c. 1899

Claude Monet, Water Lillies, 1914

Neo-Impressionism and Post Impressionism
A term applied to the work of several artists- French or living in France- from about 1885-1905.  Although all painted in highly personal styles, the Post-Impressionists were united in rejecting the relative absence of form characteristic of Impressionism.  Pointillism was a quasi-scientific painting technique during this period, developed and promulgated by Georges Seurat and his followers, in which pure colors were applied in regular, small touches (points) that blended through optical color mixture when viewed at a certain distance.
Selected Artists:
Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin

During the post-impressionist era this was a technique that used dots of pure color to create an image.  When seen at the appropriate distance, they achieve maximum luminosity.
 Selected Artists:
Georges Seurat, Paul Signac

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884-86, Oil on Canvas
Early 20th century, especially prevalent in Germany, which claimed the right to distort  visual appearances to express psychological or emotional states, especially the artist's own personal feelings
Selected Artists:
Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Otto Dix, Karl Schmidt-Rorrluff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann, Kathe Kollwitz, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, James Ensor, Rufino Tamayo, Edvard Munch, Henry Gotlieb, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Milton Avery, Willem de Kooning, Arthur G. Dove, George Grosz, Philip Guston, Alice Neel, Ben Shanh, Joseph Stella, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Dorothea Tanning

Käthe Kollwitz, Death, woman, and child /self-portrait, Etching

Early 20th century, short lived but influential in France that emphasized bold, abitrary, expressive color
Selected Artists: 
Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Georges Rouault, Georges Braque

Arts and Crafts
 The Arts and Crafts movement initially developed in England during the latter half of the 19th century. Subsequently this style was taken up by American designers, with somewhat different results. In the United States, the Arts and Crafts style was also known as Mission style.
This movement, which challenged the tastes of the Victorian era, was inspired by the social reform concerns of thinkers such as Walter Crane and John Ruskin, together with the ideals of reformer and designer, William Morris.
Their notions of good design were linked to their notions of a good society. This was a vision of a society in which the worker was not brutalized by the working conditions found in factories, but rather could take pride in his craftsmanship and skill. The rise of a consumer class coincided with the rise of manufactured consumer goods. In this period, manufactured goods were often poor in design and quality.  Ruskin, Morris, and others proposed that it would be better for all if individual craftsmanship could be revived-- the worker could then produce beautiful objects that exhibited the result of fine craftsmanship, as opposed to the shoddy products of mass production. Thus the goal was to create design that was... " for the people and by the people, and a source of pleasure to the maker and the user." Workers could produce beautiful objects that would enhance the lives of ordinary people, and at the same time provide decent employment for the craftsman. (from
Selected Artists:
William Morris

Art Nouveau - 1905-1939
Selected Artists:
Alphonse Mucha
The name given to the painting style invented by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907 and 1912, which uses multiple views of objects to create the effect of three-dimensionality while acknowledging the two-dimensional surface of the picture plane.  Signaling the beginning of abstract art, Cubism is a semi-abstract style that continued the strong trend away from representational art initiated by Cezanne in the late 1800's. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Selected Artists:
Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris
Die Brücke - 1905-1913
An early 2oth century movement in art and literature that refashioned Cubism in light of its own desire to glorify the dynamic character of the machine age. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Selected Artists:

founded by Vladimir Tatlin between 1913 and 1922 associated primarily with 3-dimensional spatial concepts in scultpture and architecture. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Pratice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)

An early twentieth century art movement which ridiculed contemporary culture and traditional art forms. Dadaists produced works of anti-art that deliberately defied reason. The movement was formed to prove the bankruptcy of existing style of artistic expression rather than to promote a particular style itself. It was born as a consequence of the collapse during World War I of social and moral values which had developed to that time. Dada artists produced works which were nihilistic or reflected a cynical attitude toward social values, and, at the same time, irrational — absurd and playful, emotive and intuitive, and often cryptic. Dadaists typically produced art objects in unconventional forms produced by unconventional methods. Several artists employed the chance results of accident as a means of production, for instance.
Selected Artists:
John Heartfield, Hannah Hock, Jan Arp, Max Ernst
Suprematism - 1915- mid-1920s
Art Deco - 1920s-1930s

de Stijl - 1920s-1932
originally a German school of architecture that flourished between WWI and WWII 
The Bauhaus attracted many leading experimental artists of both 2 and 3-dimensional fields. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Pratice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Magic Realism - 1920s-1940s
a style of art and literature developed principally in the 20th century, stressing the subconscious or nonrational significance of imagery arrived at by automatism or the exploitation of chance effects, unexpected juxtapositions, etc.
Surrealism was developed by the 20th-century literary and artistic movement. The surrealist movement of visual art and literature, flourished in Europe between World Wars I and II. Surrealism grew principally out of the earlier Dada movement, which before World War I produced works of anti-art that deliberately defied reason; but Surrealism emphasis was not on negation but on positive expression. The movement represented a reaction against what its members saw as the destruction wrought by the "rationalism" that had guided European culture and politics in the past and had culminated in the horrors of World War I. According to the major spokesman of the movement, the poet and critic André Breton, who published "The Surrealist Manifesto" in 1924, Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely, that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in "an absolute reality, a surreality." Drawing heavily on theories adapted from Sigmund Freud, Breton saw the unconscious as the wellspring of the imagination. He defined genius in terms of accessibility to this normally untapped realm, which, he believed, could be attained by poets and painters alike. This movement continues to flourish at all ends of the earth. Continued thought processes and investigations into the mind produce today some of the best art ever seen.
Selected Artists:
Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Rene Magritte, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, Frida Kahlo
Exquisite Corpse:
The Exquisite Corpse (“cadavre exquis” in French) game (along with some of the most influential and intriguing art of the century) was developed by the artists and writers associated with Andre Breton's surrealist group during the third decade of the twentieth century.
It is a game of folded paper played by several people, who compose a sentence or drawing without anyone seeing the preceding collaboration or collaborations. The now classic example, which gave the game its name, was drawn from the first sentence obtained this way: The-exquisite-corpse-will-drink-new-wine." -excerpt from the 1939 Abridged Dictionary of Surrealism, as copied off the wall at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Exquisite Corpse is a collaborative experiment between a small number of artists, each with little to no idea as to what has gone before, creating a (hopefully) single, unified and otherwise unique work that could not be created any other way. Graphic skills, while important, need not be a barrier to participation. Flexibility, creativity, humor, and openness are indispensable.

Activity: Create an Exquisite Corpse in Art

1. Take a piece of paper and fold it into sections. For example, if there are four people participating, fold the paper into four sections; you can do this in three or even two sections.

2. Without letting anyone see, Person #1 draws the start of a person or creature in Section #1. Person #1 continues the lines at the bottom of Section #1 slightly over onto Section #2.

3. Person #1 then folds Section #1 over (so that no one can see what has been drawn) and passes the paper on to Person #2.

4. Now, starting with the lines from Section #1, Person #2 (who hasn't seen Section #1) continues the drawing in Section #2, then continues the lines from Section #2 slightly over onto section #3.

5. Person #2 then folds Section #2 over (so that no one can see what has been drawn) and passes the paper to Person #3.

6. Continue until all the sections are filled. Then unfold the paper and see what you have created.

Muralismo Mexicano
born from the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920

Primarily in the 1930's, murals were painted depicting the social situations and politics of post-revolutionary Mexico.  The murals are often times expressions of Marxism.
Selected Artists: 
Los Tres Grandes (The Big Three): Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco

Abstract Expressionism
An American movement that grew out of Surrealism in the mid-late 2oth century, with emphasis on spontaneity or subconscious creation. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Pratice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Selected Artists: Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Hans Hoffman, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Louise Bourgeois and Louise Nevelson

(The) New York School
Selected Artist:
Chuck Close, Leon Golub, Arshile Gorky, Nancy Graves, Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Elizabeth Murray, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Nancy Spero, Frank Stella, Richard Tuttle, Andy Warhol
Action Painters
a subgroup of Abstract expressionists who worked with gestural lines, movements and sometimes rapid and fluid image constructions as opposed to large blocks or "fields of pure color (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Pratice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Selected Artists:
Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock

Color Field Painting 
An abstract style of painting following Abstract Expressionism beginning in the 1950's that is characterized by a canvas with areas of solid colors. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Pratice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Selected Artists:
Helen Frankenthlaler, Hans Hoffman, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko

Pop Art- 1950's-present
The term  stands for "popular art," which was prompted by the dissatisfaction of younger artists with their position or prospects in relation to the dominance of abstract art.
(from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Selected Artists:
Jim Dine, William Eggleston, Red Grooms, Richard Hamilton, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Alex Katz, Roy Lichtenstein, Peter Max, Takashi Murakami, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenburg, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, George Segal, Andy Warhol
, Tom Wesselmann

Conceptual Art 
"In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. -Sol LeWitt "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art", Artforum, June 1967.
Selected Artists:
Chris Burden, Jenny Holzer
, Sol LeWitt

was a precedent for nonobjective abstraction in the early 20th century.  Minimalism relied only on the basic elements for meaning- without any trace of the artistic process. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton) Selected Artists:
Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Sol Lewitt, Richard Serra, Frank Stella

Op Art
Began in the 1960's and is primarily optical and highly graphic, although it can merge into three-dimensionality when used in paintings that include an element of relief.
It is an extension and modification of the geometric abstraction that developed in the early 20th century. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Selected Artists: Josef ALbers, Victor Vasarely, M.C. Escher, Bridget Riley


Painting and sculpture of the 1960's and 1970's that imitated the impersonal precision and wealth of minute detail associated with photography.  Photorealist sculptors sometimes clothed their figures in real clothing, and painters sometimes took an actual photograph for their subject, faithfully depicting the effects of depth of field (sharp detail giving way to blurred areas_, forced perspective, and other characteristics of the technology.
Selected Artists: 
Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, Anthony Brunelli

Psychedelic Art

The 1960s was a period that witnessed many trends from the hippy culture to people who would love to rebel and be seen and heard. In art, psychedelic art was one such trend that raised quite a few eyebrows!  The distinctive characteristic of psychedelic art is the beautiful, colorful images that have a surreal feel to it. Psychedelic paintings are inspired by certain experiences. This art made use of beautiful and bright forms with detailing and such compositions always illustrated the psychedelic experiences felt by the artist. Surrealistic drawings, brightly colored patterns, detailing and even morphing were used to depict various scenes. (from
Selected Artists:

Peter Max

Contemporary Art- "art that has been and continues to be created during our lifetimes"


1970s to mid 1980s, used to characterize the breaking down of the unified traditions of modernism (in essence, “deconstructive art practices”) ; consisting of photo, abstract painting, collage, drawing, constructed sculpture, installations and public art.  Post Modernism uses less traditional methods of art making.  Artists of the 70’s and 80’s wanted to expose the ways images are culturally coded.

Feminist Art
The Feminist Art Movement began in the early 70's with the idea that women’s experiences must be expressed through art, where they had previously been ignored or trivialized.  Early proponents of Feminist Art in the United States envisioned a revolution. They called for a new framework in which the universal would include women’s experiences, in addition to men’s. (from
Selected Artists: 
Judy Chicago, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman,
Guerilla Girls- an anonymous group of women artists installed posters in soho documenting sexism in NY galleries and museums.

The return, in the early 1980's, to figurative art and a more personalized expression.  The movement satisfied the growing appetite for recognizable images and meaningful content by producing monumental dramatic figures with broad gestures, painted in broad brushstrokes. (from Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice, 11th ed., Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, Cayton)
Selected Artists:
Georg Baselitz, Jean Michel Basquiat, Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Chuck Connelly, Eric Fischl, David Hockney, Anselm Kiefer, David Salle, Julian Schnabel

Graffiti and Street Art

had its origins in the USA in the late 1970s, had its heyday in the mid 1980s in the USA
The Graffiti Movement is characterized by markings, written words or paintings in public spaces.

Selected Artists:
Banksy, Swoon, Shepard Fairey, Ron English

Low Brow/ Pop Surrealism 
an underground visual art movement that arose in the Los Angelos, California area in the late 1970s. Lowbrow is a widespread populist art movement with origins in the underground comics world, punk music, hot-rod street culture, and other subcultures. It is also often known by the name pop surrealism. Lowbrow art often has a sense of humor - sometimes the humor is gleeful, sometimes impish, and sometimes it's a sarcastic comment.
Selected Artists: 
Tara McPherson, Sylvia Ji, Jeff Soto, Dalek, Elizabeth McGrath, Mike Giant, Camille Rose Garcia, Mark Ryden, Frank Kozik, Aiden Hughes

Neo Pop 
a revised form of Pop Art adapted from its forefathers beginning in the 1980's to present
It is a rebirth of recognizable objects and celebrities from popular culture with icons and symbols of the present times
Selected Artists: 
Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Rah Crawford, Katharina Fritsch, Damien Hirst, Ron English, KRK Ryden


Kamah said...

I beleive that each art work speaks from each individual experience and it is an expression of their emotions.Therefore, to critique a work, I believe I need to be aware of what the artist is trying to say, and I beleive that each one is trying to say something, but the one that caught my eyes was the "Weeping Woman."

ryan said...

I was writing about the rhetoric triangle the other day as it relates to art. It's tough to understand meaning!