Complete guide to art history

Art has abstract and subjective concepts and definitions, which change and transform according to the point of view, serving to validate or disqualify works of art, according to the vision of those who evaluate the material produced.

Although it is not easy (or possible) to define what art is, after all, we can find its different applications and representations in the most diverse fields of knowledge, from architectural and psychological studies to examples found in pedagogy, music, lyrics, gastronomy.

In a generally accepted knowledge, art corresponds to human activity linked to aesthetic manifestations, made by artists from different and individual perceptions, emotions and ideas, with the objective of stimulating interest, reflection and consciousness on the part of the spectators. Therefore, we can say and observe that each work of art has a unique and different meaning.

Art is a reflection of the human being and often represents his social condition and the essence of the thinking being. And today we will talk about the rich and essential, history of art!


It is not just a timeline of events, figures and works. The history of art consists of a true science, which studies from artistic movements to aesthetic modifications, works of art and its various artists. Because of its complexity, art and its history are analyzed according to the social, political and religious aspects of each era. Through the history of art, we can learn more about our own evolution, through artistic expressions and manifestations.

Accompanying the development of humanity, relating to the culture of the various existing peoples, seeking to understand the manifestations that have been and are being carried out until today, the history of art, helps to compose the history of societies.

Many researchers try to discover the origins of humanity and among so many researches, it is concluded that the appearance of man is directly associated to the appearance of symbolic forms, which help to build statements about the origin and evolution of the human being.

Therefore, the history of art is organized in periods that accompany the very development of civilizations. This process is continuous, and never comes to an end, for it is being lived every day.


Represented by a timeline, the periods of art are equivalent to a chronology of human development. Thus, it is possible to find artistic manifestations present in Prehistory, Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Modern and 20th century.


Prehistory was the first period of human evolution, and left traces of the first symbolic forms of the species. Cave paintings, are the pioneer forms of artistic expression of this time, where men left drawn on the walls of caves, their way of living and seeing the world, through these rustic paintings, recording their beliefs and perceptions of nature.


Marked by the discovery of writing, this period was strongly influenced by the Egyptians in its evolution. Symbols and hieroglyphic signs are created and highlight the abilities of the Egyptian people, manifested also through the tombs of pharaohs, statues of divinities, and other artifacts of their daily lives.

At that time, the Greeks also assumed artistic protagonism through their paintings, monuments and buildings that glorify man as the main reference, for being considered then, the center of perfection.


Strongly marked by religious influence, this period highlights Celtic, Gothic and Roman artistic expressions.

The Roman people had an important highlight for the artistic activities of the time, with famous constructions that impacted the architecture and also through the Paleochristian art, based on the teachings of Christ and through the Byzantine Art.


The Modern Age was marked by a period of intense expansion due to geographical discoveries. Nature became a highlight in the artistic works of the time, divided into three major movements:

  • Renaissance: resurgence of Greco-Roman art, with emphasis on painting;
  • Baroque: valuing feelings and emotions, the style was influenced by the Protestant Reformation and the counter-reform;
  • Rococo: phase of valorization of the decorative features, had as a highlight the decoration and ornamentation of environments.


Also called the period of Contemporary Art, the period was marked by great conflicts, such as the French Revolution, World War I and II, and the Cold War.

Artistic expressions were manifested through movements such as neoclassicism, romanticism, realism and impressionism, which revolutionized 20th century art.


Period in which great artistic tendencies like expressionism, fauvism, cubism, futurism, abstractionism, Dadaism and surrealism appear. These movements represent a lot to the world of arts, and presented great artists and surprising works to the history of art.


As we can see, art is presented through various forms such as plastic, music, sculpture, cinema, theater, dance, architecture, etc. There are several expressions that serve to describe different manifestations of art, for example: plastic arts, scenic arts, graphic arts, visual arts, etc.

Some authors and thinkers have organized the different arts in a numbered list, which follows the evolution of societies and cultures:

1st Art – Music;
2nd Art – Dance;
3rd Art – Painting;
4th Art – Sculpture;
5th Art – Theater;
6th Art – Literature;
7th Art – Cinema;
8th Art – Photography;
9th Art – Comics;
10th Art – Electronic Games;
11th Art – Digital Art.


Long, complex and unfinished, is the history of art. Each day new elements, expressions and manifestations are included in this study, which is enriched and expanded to the most diverse fields of knowledge.

To act professionally with art there are some obvious paths, such as schools of fine arts, plastic arts, theater, music, paintings, etc. However, due to its widespread influence, it is possible to work with artistic elements and representations, both theoretical and practical, in various segments of education, especially at the level of higher education.

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