ARTH101 Study Guide

Unit 9: Art in Time and Place – The Western World

9a. Associate different artistic styles with specific geographies, eras, beliefs, and historical events

  • What are some of the features of art that resulted from cultural beliefs in the afterlife?
  • What are some aspects of art as it developed in Renaissance Europe?
  • What kinds of cultural influences combined in art created along the Silk Road?
Ideas about art change along with the general conceptual evolution of the history of ideas. For example, the ideas the Renaissance artists focused on, such as new discoveries around rendering the illusion of perspective, differ from what interested romantic artists, such as their concern with the expression of self and human nature as found in classical myths.
New technologies, such as photography, freed painters from having to adopt a discipline that prompted them to mirror reality and opened up creative spaces for new approaches, such as impressionism, cubism, and expressionism.
The futurists were obsessed with war and technological change, while the Fauvists believed art had become too gloomy and needed a lighter and brighter emotional spirit. This unit spans tens of thousands of years, beginning with the cave paintings – whose original meanings we can only surmise – to today's postmodern era.

9b. Link artworks and artists based on historical and geographic contexts

  • Who are some of the artists associated with impressionism?
  • What are some of the characteristics of artworks associated with expressionism?
  • What were some of the identifying features of Byzantine art?
History and geography are disciplines that study human aspects of time and space. Many museums arrange their artworks and artifacts in rooms according to their geographical origins – such as the Art of Japan, Sumeria, or Mexico. As we wander these museums, we associate artworks with their areas of origin. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to build a historical progression of creative practices into museum design. This timeline implies a linear movement of events that progress in one direction in time exists – but this geographic allocation of museum collections to museum rooms does not always translate well in the artistic forum. This unit will help you form the main associations of key artworks with historical periods and the areas of the globe where they originated.
Examples: Viewing art historically allows us to trace ideas across thousands of years. For example, the Roman innovation of the arch was not simply a structural invention It was also a cultural reference for architecture during the Romanesque period (6th to 11th century) when Roman forms were rediscovered during the Middle Ages. Much later still, postmodern architects would mine Roman forms for their expressive value as kitsch, to express light-hearted, frivolous, and playful cultural references.




9c. Describe the key stylistic features of major art periods and movements

  • What are some ways Roman art and architecture continued to exert a strong influence even more than a millennium after the dissolution of the Roman Empire?
  • What is a distinguishing feature of Gothic architecture?
  • What city is associated with the origins of the Renaissance, and what were its features that supported this important development in culture?
Given the thousands of years of art history surveyed in this course and its global spatial extant, it might seem overwhelming to understand all of the art forms and styles covered. However, there are some ways of thinking about historical developments in art that make this "grand tour" more approachable and the study of it more manageable.
One way to think about these art periods is to consider that we see an increasing pace of change throughout their lifespan. For example, in the ancient world of Egypt, key stylistic elements might last for thousands of years. Jump forward to the 20th century. An important artistic movement might spring up, flourish, and fall out of fashion within a decade, followed quickly by similarly relatively short-lived (but continuously influential) art movements. Between these two extremes, other movements last for centuries (that is, shorter than millennia but longer than decades). So, that is one pattern to keep in mind as you review the historical material in this unit.
Another way to approach the scope of historical content is to note certain critical pivot points where something of great importance occurred that caused a major shift in the way art was made. This can range from the invention of a new technique, such as the use of arches in buildings, or the use of the camera obscura to make paintings more realistic.
Competition among religious factions, such as between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism, is another example of a general historical and cultural impact that defined major differences in how artists approached artistic representation.
Another pivot point is the relationship between representation and abstraction, which is a contrast that occurs in several historical places (such as Greek versus Egyptian art, Early Renaissance versus Medieval art, and art after the Impressionists).
As you review the material in this unit, keep in mind these two factors: 1.) The general compression of historical change over time, and 2.) Major pivot points where suddenly a lot of changes from that point forward.
To review, read Romanesque, Gothic Art: Jamb Figures, and Florence in the Early Renaissance.

9d. Associate artistic styles and movements within their historical sequence and progression

  • What were some of the key societal changes occurring that can be found at the beginnings of modern art?
  • What has traditionally been the attitude toward the ruling classes of the avant-garde in art?
  • What qualities were of most interest to Impressionist painters?
Considering Western art during the past two and a half millennia, we can highlight some key periodizations working at a high level. First, we can note the enduring influence of Greek and Roman art, which has ebbed and waned over time so that even in the 20th century, architects might pursue ideas using strict ancient world motifs, at first with deep seriousness (such as neoclassical buildings used for government agencies or museums), and later with a spirit that is more playful during postmodern times. The loss of Greek and Roman culture is a distinguishing characteristic of the Middle Ages, and its rediscovery is the beginning of the Renaissance, which is how pervasive and long-lasting the influence of the ancient Mediterranean world continues to be.
Christianity, both in its Roman Catholic and Protestant formations, is another powerful social and cultural force, providing widely shared religious narratives and values which shape what is considered worthwhile to be produced as art, often produced in a way to be embedded in churches, chapels and cathedrals to last hundreds of years, if not longer.
Another powerful force comes under modernism, encapsulating many other elements such as the rise of cities, capitalism, science, and technology. Modern ideas and art play off against the cultures of Christianity and the ancient world and introduce new dynamics in creativity, particularly one of constant revolution or evolution where new movements arise out of old ones at a much more highly accelerated pace compared to previous centuries.

9e. Describe the prominent characteristics and aesthetic developments of art since the 20th century

  • What art movement was inspired by the noise and violence of World War 1?
  • Would you characterize Georgia O'Keefe's famous flower paintings as abstract, non-objective, or representational?
  • What makes Frank Gehry's early work deconstructivist?
Western art from the 20th century onward is far less influenced by the social forces of Greek and Roman antiquity or Christianity. Whereas it was possible to see modern forces associated with large cities, industrialization, capitalism, science, and technology during previous centuries in some kind of contrast with traditional cultural forces (like romanticism, as a rebellion against technology that often invoked classical values), in the 20th century, modernism is in full swing, producing movement after movement in relatively fast succession.
If asked to point to a new conservative force that appears on the scene, presenting obstacles to the avant-garde's love of constant revolution and evolution of styles, it would be the State, particularly autocratic, totalitarian, and authoritarian states such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.
These governments tried to enforce traditional values in various ways, such as the Degenerate Art exhibit in Germany, or through the aesthetic of socialist realism – previously the domain of Church or classical antiquity – on an art scene that was moving far beyond them by privileging wild experimentation, individualistic expression, and often eschewing representation entirely in favor of ever-more abstract forms.


Unit 9 Vocabulary

Be sure you understand these terms as you study for the final exam. Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • cave painting
  • cubism
  • expressionism
  • Fauvism
  • futurism
  • impressionism
  • modernism
  • pivot point
  • Renaissance
  • romantic
  • romanticism