33 major art movements and their influence on today's life and art world

33 major art movements and their influence on today’s life and art world

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Image 1 - History of Art - 33 major Art Movements and their influence on the Art World - Pencil Vs Camera - 73 (Ben Heine Art)

The art world has been evolving since the origin of mankind. Artists are adapting and constantly coming up with new art styles. An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a specific period of time, (usually a few months, years or decades) or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years. 

Art movements were especially important in modern art, when each consecutive movement was considered as a new avant-garde movement such as the recent Pencil Vs Camera concept. There is no rule applied used when grouping art movements.  

This article discusses major Western art movements, art styles and art concepts and their influence on today’s life and art world.

1. Prehistoric Art (- 40,000 - 4,000 B.C.)

Prehistoric Art - 33 major Art Movements and their influence on the Art World - Ben Heine Blog

The foundation of art history can be traced back tens of thousands of years to the Prehistoric era. It started from the old Stone Age. Humanity used rock cravings to design their artifacts. They could craft rock pieces and use them to decorate their walls. They would make engravings, pictorial imagery, sculptures, and stone arrangements..

Art from this period relied on the use of natural pigments and stone carvings to create representations of objects, animals, and rituals that governed a civilization’s existence. One of the most famous examples is the Paleolithic cave paintings found in the complex caves of Lascaux in France which are 20.000 years old. 

2. Ancient Art (- 4,000 B.C. - 400 A.D.)

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Ancient art refers to the many types of art produced by the advanced cultures of ancient societies with an established written language, such as those of ancient China, India, Mesopotamia, Persia, Palestine, EgyptGreece and Rome.

The medium of a work of art from this period varies depending on the civilization that produced it, but most art served similar purposes: to tell stories, decorate utilitarian objects like bowls and weapons, display religious and symbolic imagery, and demonstrate social status. Many works depict stories of rulers, gods, and goddesses.

Artists of the calibre of Picasso, Giacometti, Modigliani, Rodin or Matisse, who have completely revolutionised the artistic panorama of their time, have in fact been deeply inspired by ancient and classical art. Picasso had studied ancient Greek and Roman art through his visits to the Louvre during his student years. Visual references to antiquity begin to appear in his works from 1917, also known as Picasso’s «classical period». The statuesque nudes, the classical compositions, but also an interest in subject matter taken from mythology prevail in Picasso’s works of this time. The Parthenon sculptures had a profound effect on August Rodin when he saw them for the first time at the British Museum.

3. Medieval Art (500-1400)

Image 3 - Medieval Art - 33 major Art Movements

The Middle Ages, often referred to as the “Dark Ages,” marked a period of economic and cultural deterioration following the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D.

It covers a vast scope of time and place, over 1000 years of art in Europe, and at certain periods in Western Asia and Northern Africa. It includes major art movements and periods, national and regional art, genres, revivals, the artists’ crafts, and the artists themselves. A generally accepted scheme includes the later phases of Early Christian artMigration Period artByzantine artInsular artPre-RomanesqueRomanesque art, and Gothic art, as well as many other periods within these central styles. In addition each region, mostly during the period in the process of becoming nations or cultures, had its own distinct artistic style, such as Anglo-Saxon art or Viking art.

Medieval art was produced in many media, and works survive in large numbers in sculptureilluminated manuscriptsstained glassmetalwork and mosaics. Medieval art in Europe grew out of the artistic heritage of the Roman Empire and the iconographic traditions of the early Christian church. These sources were mixed with the vigorous “barbarian” artistic culture of Northern Europe to produce a remarkable artistic legacy.

For Christian believers, and especially for those who follow the Orthodox and Roman Catholic rites, of course such art is still having an impact now. It narrates the scriptures and offers particular theological and spiritual interpretations of Christian beliefs. 

Technically speaking, Medieval Artists made a lot of mistakes in the way they rendered perspective, tones and colors but this lack of accuracy allowed the arrival of the Renaissance revolutionary perfectionism or even more recently the amazing details in the Photorealism movement.

4. Renaissance and High Renaissance Art (1400-1600)


This style of painting, sculpture, and decorative art was characterized by a focus on nature and individualism, the thought of man as independent and self-reliant. Though these ideals were present in the late Medieval period, they flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries, paralleling social and economic changes like secularization.

The Renaissance reached its height in Florence, Italy, due in large part to the Medici, a wealthy merchant family who adamantly supported the arts and humanism, a variety of beliefs and philosophies that places emphasis on the human realm. Italian designer Filippo Brunelleschi and sculptor Donatello were key innovators during this period.

Here are some of the techniques that were used during the Renaissance and that are still used today by modern traditional and even digital painters: The use of proportion (the first major treatment of the painting as a window into space appeared in the work of Giotto di Bondone, at the beginning of the 14th century). True linear perspective was formalized later, by Filippo Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti. In addition to giving a more realistic presentation of art, it moved Renaissance painters into composing more paintings.

Another technique was the foreshortening. The term foreshortening refers to the artistic effect of shortening lines in a drawing so as to create an illusion of perspective. 

Sfumato was also a great invention of the Renaissance. The term sfumato was coined by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci and refers to a fine art painting technique of blurring or softening of sharp outlines by subtle and gradual blending of one tone into another through the use of thin glazes to give the illusion of depth or three-dimensionality. This stems from the Italian word sfumare meaning to evaporate or to fade out. The Latin origin is fumare, to smoke. 

Finally, the Chiaroscuro technique. The term chiaroscuro refers to the fine art painting modeling effect of using a strong contrast between light and dark to give the illusion of depth or three-dimensionality. This comes from the Italian words meaning light (chiaro) and dark (scuro), a technique which came into wide use in the Baroque period.

5. Mannerism (1527-1580)

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Mannerism encompasses a variety of approaches influenced by, and reacting to, the harmonious ideals associated with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and early Michelangelo. Where High Renaissance art emphasizes proportion, balance, and ideal beauty, Mannerism exaggerates such qualities, often resulting in compositions that are asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant. Notable for its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities, this artistic style privileges compositional tension and instability rather than the balance and clarity of earlier Renaissance painting. Mannerism in literature and music is notable for its highly florid style and intellectual sophistication. The definition of Mannerism and the phases within it continues to be a subject of debate among art historians. For example, some scholars have applied the label to certain early modern forms of literature (especially poetry) and music of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The word Mannerism comes from an Italian word Maniera which means “Manner” or “Style”. But many art historians have different views of the word Mannerism but still many recognize and identify it with European art and culture in the 16th Century.

The term is also used to refer to some late Gothic painters working in northern Europe from about 1500 to 1530, especially the Antwerp Mannerists—a group unrelated to the Italian movement. Mannerism has also been applied by analogy to the Silver Age of Latin literature.

6. Baroque (1600-1750)

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The term Baroque, derived from the Portuguese ‘barocco’ meaning ‘irregular pearl or stone’, is a movement in art and architecture developed in Europe from the early seventeenth to mid-eighteenth century. Baroque emphasizes dramatic, exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted, detail, which is a far cry from Surrealism, to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur.

The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria, southern Germany and Russia. By the 1730s, it had evolved into an even more flamboyant style, called rocaille or Rococo, which appeared in France and Central Europe until the mid to late 18th century.

In the decorative arts, the style employs plentiful and intricate ornamentation. The departure from Renaissance classicism has its own ways in each country. But a general feature is that everywhere the starting point is the ornamental elements introduced by the Renaissance. The classical repertoire is crowded, dense, overlapping, loaded, in order to provoke shock effects. New motifs introduced by Baroque are: the cartouche, trophies and weapons, baskets of fruit or flowers, and others, made in marquetry, stucco or carved.

Like other art periods, Baroque art slowly declined and many other art styles appeared and replaced it. Even though other art styles appeared, Baroque art influenced post-modern art, modern graphic design, and modern-day interior design. Post-modern art is influenced by Baroque art because it
 represents the rejection of the new modern art. Baroque art gives artists an escape route from dominant art movement. Baroque art is very extravagant and powerful, which gives the contemporary artist more freedom to create and imagine figures, ideas, and scenes. 

7. Neoclassicism (1750-1850)


The principles of Neoclassicism embodied the styles, theories, or philosophies of the different types of art from ancient Greece and Rome, concentrating on traditional forms with a focus on elegance and symmetry. During the early/mid 18th century, Baroque art gave way to the decadent, whimsical Rococo. Later, around 1780, this frivolous style was superceded by the next great revival of classical art, known as Neoclassicism.

Neoclassical art arose in opposition to the overly decorative and gaudy styles of Rococo and Baroque that were infusing society with a vanity art culture based on personal conceits and whimsy.

Championed by the scholar Johann Winckelmann (1717-68), this new style is exemplified by the neoclassical painting of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825); the pictures of his follower J.A.D. Ingres (1780-1867); the neoclassical sculpture of Antonio Canova (1757-1822); and the architecture of designers like Jacques Soufflot (1713-80), Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and others. This movement led to other significant periods like Gothic literature and art.

8. Romanticism (1780-1850)

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Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature, all components of modernity. The individual was prized, but it was also felt that people were under an obligation to their fellow-men: personal commitment to the group was therefore important.

Among the characteristic attitudes of Romanticism were the following: a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning in upon the self and a heightened examination of human personality and its moods and mental potentialities; a preoccupation with the genius, the hero, and the exceptional figure in general and a focus on his or her passions and inner struggles; a new view of the artist as a supremely individual creator, whose creative spirit is more important than strict adherence to formal rules and traditional procedures; an emphasis upon imagination as a gateway  to transcendent experience and spiritual truth; an obsessive interest in folk culture, national and ethnic cultural origins, and the medieval era; and a predilection for the exotic, the remote, the mysterious, the weird, the occult, the monstrous, the diseased, and even the satanic.

Today, Romanticism can be found in a wide cross-section of film, television, literature, music, and art. Whether it is a focus on the eternal power of nature or an audience’s visceral reaction to a particular medium, contemporary society is full of Romanticism. Our cultural focus on individualism, liberty, and desire to protect nature as well as fantasizing about historical periods come from romanticism!

Romanticism influenced political ideology, inviting engagement with the cause of the poor and oppressed and with ideals of social emancipation and progress. 

9. Realism (1848-1900)

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Realism is a genre of art that started in France after the French Revolution of 1848. A clear rejection of Romanticism, the dominant style that had come before it, Realist painters focused on scenes of contemporary people and daily life. What may seem normal now was revolutionary after centuries of painters depicting exotic scenes from mythology and the Bible, or creating portraits of the nobility and clergy. Realism was a result of multiple events: the anti-Romantic movement in Germany, the rise of journalism, and the advent of photography. One of the most influential leaders of the Realist movement is Gustave Courbet, a French artist committed to painting only what he could physically see.

10. Impressionism (1865-1895)

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Impressionism was a radical art movement that began in the late 1800s, centered primarily around Parisian painters. Impressionists rebelled against classical subject matter and embraced modernity, desiring to create works that reflected the world in which they lived. Uniting them was a focus on how light could define a moment in time, with color providing definition instead of black lines. The Impressionists emphasized the practice of plein air painting, or painting outside. Initially derided by critics, Impressionism has since been embraced as one of the most popular and influential art styles in Western history.

Impressionism was considered the first-ever modern form of painting. It started in France as a formal art that later spread to other parts of the world. Not only that, but it relies on the presence of light and brushwork to show the nature of a subject. Evident between the 1860s and 1870s. It was associated with fast and hanging sketch-like feels. Impressionist could center their artworks around the modern world. They depended on what happened rather than historical or religious matters. A French artist, by the name of Claude Monet, was known for the idea of impressionism.

He was particularly interested in the passage of time in his portrayal of light. His series of paintings capturing Rouen Cathedral at different times of the year and day offer clear examples of Monet’s ideas on how a subject can be transformed by properties around it. His most famous of this series is 1894’s Rouen Cathedral: The Facade at Sunset. Monet expanded his Impressionist practice throughout his life, culminating in his multiple studies of the Waterlily Pond, produced from 1898 to 1926, of which the later works in the series (done just before his death) achieve an almost abstract quality.

Post-Impressionism was more a reaction against Impressionism, which it considered too stifling. Post-Impressionists chose to portray not just what was tangible, taking a more symbolic and emotive approach to their subject matter, especially in color use, which was not required to express realism. In post-impressionism, artworks added more focus on colors and less emphasis on light.

11. Pointillism (1880-1891)

Pointillism-Paul-Signac-33-major-Art-Movements - Ben Heine Blog

Also known as ‘stippling art’ or ‘dot art’, Pointillism is a painting technique pioneered by French artists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. The duo branched off from their Impressionist buddies to evolved their small paint dabs and strokes into distinct dots of color that, when applied en mass, form cohesive, detailed and dimensional images (a little like our modern-day pixels, if you will).

Pointillism involved the application of paint in carefully placed dots of pure, unmixed colour. According to Seurat and Signac, these would be blended by the viewer’s eye to create a more striking image than any made after mixing colours conventionally on a palette.

Vincent van Gogh, who knew Seurat and Signac from his time living in Paris from 1886 to 1888, had a brief association with Pointillism. Certainly some of his paintings from that Parisian period – such as 1887’s Self-Portrait – show hints of its influence. (After a visit to Seurat’s studio one day, he claimed to have experienced a “revelation of colour”.) It’s generally agreed, however, that van Gogh was too restless a spirit for a style as technical as Pointillism.

Pointillism has had a big impact on subsequent art movements also giving their names according to the shapes or forms that were used in the art movement such as 
Cubism or Digital Circlism.

12. Symbolism (1880-1910)


Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts seeking to represent absolute truths symbolically through metaphorical images and language mainly as a reaction against naturalism and realism. In literature, the style originates with the 1857 publication of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal. The works of Edgar Allan Poe, which Baudelaire admired greatly and translated into French, were a significant influence and the source of many stock tropes and images. The aesthetic was developed by Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine during the 1860s and 1870s. In the 1880s, the aesthetic was articulated by a series of manifestos and attracted a generation of writers. The term “symbolist” was first applied by the critic Jean Moréas, who invented the term to distinguish the Symbolists from the related Decadents of literature and of art.

As an art form and the means of transmitting philosophical statements, Symbolism is greatly influential in culture. There are literally thousands of conscious and unconscious symbols used every day by everyone in the world; our knowledge of these symbols and their origins is limited only by our desire to understand where and why they originated. For example, many of the symbols used in the Government of the United States are descended from Masonic symbolism. The pyramid and all-seeing eye on paper money is a good example; nowhere in the mythology of the United States is there a pyramid, nor the eye other than that of God. In fact, the pyramid is meant to symbolize power and strength, as stated explicitly by Charles Thomson, the designer.

Finally, a good example of symbolism in the modern world is the pervasive nature of Trademarks, the insignias that instantly identify people, places, and things. Since the insignia is intended to fully represent its owner — the “Golden Arches” means MacDonald’s, the “Swoosh” means Nike — we are trained to recognize all the important aspects of the owner in the identifying mark.

13. Art Nouveau (1890-1910)

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It is an international style of art, architecture, and applied art, especially the decorative arts, known in different languages by different names: Jugendstil in German, Stile Liberty in Italian, Modernisme català in Catalan, etc. In English it is also known as the Modern Style>. The style was most popular between 1890 and 1910. It was a reaction against the academic arteclecticism and historicism of 19th century architecture and decoration. It was often inspired by natural forms such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. Other characteristics of Art Nouveau were a sense of dynamism and movement, often given by asymmetry or whiplash lines, and the use of modern materials, particularly iron, glass, ceramics and later concrete, to create unusual forms and larger open spaces. whiplash lines, and the use of modern materials, particularly iron, glass, ceramics and later concrete, to create unusual forms and larger open spaces. One major objective of Art Nouveau was to break down the traditional distinction between fine arts (especially painting and sculpture) and applied arts. It was most widely used in interior design, graphic arts, furniture, glass art, textiles, ceramics, jewellery and metal work. 

From Belgium and France, it spread to the rest of Europe, taking on different names and characteristics in each country and it had a huge influence on other art movements.

14. Fauvism (1905-1910)

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It was the first project of its kind to succeed and thrive in the 20th century. Henry Matisse, who engineered the project, added a bit of emotionalism to their paintings. He added brushstrokes and vivid colors to their artwork. They became more appealing to their audience. The paintings of the Fauves were characterized by seemingly wild brush work and strident colors, while their subject matter had a high degree of simplification and abstraction. Fauvism can be classified as an extreme development of Van Gogh‘s Post-Impressionism fused with the pointillism of Seurat and other Neo-Impressionist painters, in particular Paul Signac. Other key influences were Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, whose employment of areas of saturated color—notably in paintings from Tahiti—strongly influenced Derain’s work at Collioure in 1905.

15. Expressionism (1905-1925)

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Expressionism is considered more as an international tendency than a coherent art movement, which was particularly influential at the beginning of the twentieth century. It spanned various fields: art, literature, music, theatre and architecture. Expressionist artists sought to express emotional experience, rather than physical reality. Famous Expressionist paintings are Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Wassily Kandinsky’s Der Blaue Reiter, and Egon Schiele’s Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up. Expressionism is a complex and vast term that has meant different things at different times.

People, places and objects are distorted or exaggerated. Even nature is sometimes distorted. The scenes show a modern world which is hostile and alienating. The sinister feeling is amplified by aggressive and raw brush strokes.

German Expressionism was one of several creative movements in Germany before WWI, influencing architecture, painting, printing, and cinema.  Expressionist films often used wildly non-realistic and geometrically absurd sets with designs painted on walls and floors to represent lights and shadows.  The plots of these films often dealt with madness, insanity and betrayal as well as other topics considered to be intellectual (as opposed to non-intellectual topics of action and romance). The influence of German Expressionism can be seen in American film as well.  Many German directors fled to America to escape the Nazis during WWII, and found their way to Hollywood.  Here horror and film noir genres received the greatest impact.

In modern film culture, German Expressionism is best seen in writer/director Tim Burton, known for his crazy, quirky and outlandish films.  Batman Returns is cited as a modern attempt to capture the essence of German Expressionism. You can see for yourself by clicking here.  While you watch pay close attention to the use of light, but also keep an eye out for some wildly non-realistic costumes and sets!  German Expressionism is also seen in Burton’s 1990 film Edward Scissorhands, where Johnny Depp’s character looks like the long lost twin to Cesare from Dr. Caligari.  In his 1993 animated feature film The Nightmare Before Christmas, the animated settings greatly reflect the sets from Caligari with their twists, turns, and abrupt angles.

16. Cubism (1908-1920)

Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture. In Cubist artwork, objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form, instead of depicting objects from a single viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Cubism has simply been considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century.

In France, offshoots of Cubism developed, including Orphism, Abstract art and later Purism. The impact of Cubism was far-reaching and wide-ranging. In France and other countries Futurism, Suprematism, Dada, Constructivism, Vorticism, De Stijl and Art Deco developed in response to Cubism. Early Futurist paintings hold in common with Cubism the fusing of the past and the present, the representation of different views of the subject pictured at the same time, also called multiple perspective, simultaneity or multiplicity, while Constructivism was influenced by Picasso’s technique of constructing sculpture from separate elements. Other common threads between these disparate movements include the faceting or simplification of geometric forms, and the association of mechanization and modern life.

The influence of cubism extended to other artistic fields, outside painting and sculpture. In literature, the written works of Gertrude Stein employ repetition and repetitive phrases as building blocks in both passages and whole chapters. Most of Stein’s important works utilize this technique, including the novel The Making of Americans (1906–08). 

Not only were they the first important patrons of Cubism, Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo were also important influences on Cubism as well. Picasso in turn was an important influence on Stein’s writing. In the field of American fiction, William Faulkner’s 1930 novel As I Lay Dying can be read as an interaction with the cubist mode. The novel features narratives of the diverse experiences of 15 characters which, when taken together, produce a single cohesive body. The poets generally associated with Cubism are Guillaume Apollinaire, Blaise Cendrars, Jean Cocteau, Max Jacob, André Salmon and Pierre Reverdy. As American poet Kenneth Rexroth explains, Cubism in poetry “is the conscious, deliberate dissociation and recombination of elements into a new artistic entity made self-sufficient by its rigorous architecture.

17. Constructivism (1914-1930)

Constructivism Art Movement Animation by Rob King

Developed by the Russian avant-garde around 1914, constructivism is a branch of abstract art, rejecting the idea of “art for art’s sake” in favour of art as a practice directed towards social purposes. The movement’s work was mostly geometric and accurately composed, sometimes through mathematics and measuring tools.

Constructivists proposed to replace art’s traditional concern with composition with a focus on construction. Objects were to be created not in order to express beauty, or the artist’s outlook, or to represent the world, but to carry out a fundamental analysis of the materials and forms of art, one which might lead to the design of functional objects. For many Constructivists, this entailed an ethic of “truth to materials,” the belief that materials should be employed only in accordance with their capacities, and in such a way that demonstrated the uses to which they could be put.

The seed of Constructivism was a desire to express the experience of modern life – its dynamism, its new and disorientating qualities of space and time. But also crucial was the desire to develop a new form of art more appropriate to the democratic and modernizing goals of the Russian Revolution. Constructivists were to be constructors of a new society – cultural workers on par with scientists in their search for solutions to modern problems.

18. Futurism (1909-1918)

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It was a controversial movement that, at some point, tried to liken human beings to be machined. Its main goal was to embrace speed and innovation in society. In this movement, Filippo Marinetti proposed a manifesto with no limitation to artwork. There were architects, painters, and writers. The paintings drawn in that era were of automobiles, trains, and animals.

19. Suprematism (1913 – 1918)

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Suprematism is an art movement focused on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colors. It was founded by Kazimir Malevich in Russia, and announced in Malevich’s 1915 Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0,10, in St. Petersburg, where he, alongside 13 other artists, exhibited 36 works in a similar style. The term suprematism refers to an abstract art based upon “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” rather than on visual depiction of objects.

The first hints of it emerged in background and costume sketches that Kazimir Malevich designed in 1913 for Victory Over the Sun, a Futurist opera performed in St. Petersburg. While the drawings still have a clear relationship to Cubo-Futurism (a Russian art movement in which Malevich was prominently involved), the simple shapes that provide a visual foundation for Suprematism appear repeatedly.

20. Dadaism (1916-1924)

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During the First World War, countless artists, writers and intellectuals who opposed the war sought refuge in Switzerland. Zurich, in particular, was a hub for people in exile, and it was here that Hugo Ball and Emmy Hemmings opened the Cabaret Voltaire on 5 February 1916. The Cabaret was a meeting spot for the more radical avant-garde artists. A cross between a nightclub and an arts center, artists could exhibit their work there among cutting-edge poetry, music, and dance. Hans (Jean) Arp, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck were among the original contributors to the Cabaret Voltaire. As the war raged on, their art and performances became increasingly experimental, dissident and anarchic. Together, they protested against the pointlessness and horrors of the war under the battle cry of DADA.

21. Surrealism (1917-1950)

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Surrealism was a cultural movement which developed in Europe in the aftermath of World War I and was largely influenced by Dada. The movement is best known for its visual artworks and writings and the juxtaposition of distant realities to activate the unconscious mind through the imagery. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes, sometimes with photographic precision, creating strange creatures from everyday objects, and developing painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was, according to leader André Breton, to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality”, or surreality.

Works of Surrealism feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur. However, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost (for instance, of the “pure psychic automatism” Breton speaks of in the first Surrealist Manifesto), with the works themselves being secondary, i.e. artifacts of surrealist experimentation. Leader Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was, above all, a revolutionary movement. At the time, the movement was associated with political causes such as communism and anarchism.

The Surrealism art movement had a great impact in art, literature, culture and even extending to politics. Surrealism is a creative act of effort towards liberating the imagination. It is as dynamic as it is subtle; Surrealism is still alive and growing until today. Many artists around the world are influenced by Surrealism styles, ideas & techniques. Surrealism taught the world to see art not merely visually and literally; but to appreciate it in a subconscious level as well. Today, surrealism is a familiar form of art that continues to grow globally. It’s easy for artists to show their creativity through Surrealism, because the style provides them more freedom to convey their feelings and thoughts through the canvas. Surreal art can be dreamy or gritty; or it can be optimistic or depressing.

22. Kinetic Art (1920-1960)

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Kinetic art derives from the Greek word “kinesis”, meaning “movement”. Hence kinetic art refers to forms of art which contain motion. Generally speaking kinetic art works are most commonly three dimensional sculptures that move naturally (eg, wind powered) or are operated via machine or the user. The seemingly contemporary art movement actually has its roots in Impressionism, when artists first began attempting to express movement in their art. In the early 1900s, artists began to experiment further with art in motion, with sculptural machine and mobiles pushing kinetic art forward. Russian artists Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko were the first creators of sculptural mobiles, something that would later be perfected by Alexander Calder. In contemporary terms, kinetic art encompasses sculptures and installations that have movement as their primary consideration Kinetic art is an art movement that proposes works containing moving parts. The movement can be produced by the wind, the sun, a motor or the viewer. Kinetic art encompasses a wide variety of overlapping techniques and styles.

23. Abstract Expressionism (1940s-1950s)

Abstract expressionism is a post–World War II art movement in American painting, developed in New York City in the 1940s. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York at the center of the Western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris. Although the term “abstract expressionism” was first applied to American art in 1946 by the art critic Robert Coates, it had been first used in Germany in 1919 in the magazine Der Sturm, regarding German Expressionism. In the United States, Alfred Barr was the first to use this term in 1929 in relation to works by Wassily Kandinsky.

24. Art Deco (1920-1935)

Emerging out of Art Nouveau in the 1920s, the Art Deco movement attempted to beautify mass-produced, functional constructs such as clocks, cars and buildings. It reached the height of its popularity between the world wars and sought to represent luxury, glamor and technological and social progress.

25. Pop Art (1950-1960)

Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the United Kingdom and the United States during the mid- to late-1950s. The movement presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular and mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane mass-produced objects. One of its aims is to use images of popular (as opposed to elitist) culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitschy elements of any culture, most often through the use of irony. It is also associated with the artists’ use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques. In pop art, material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, or combined with unrelated material. One of its greatest representatives is Andy Warhol. Pop Art is still present in today’s industrial art and also in Street Art.

26. Photorealism (1960-Now)

Image 10 - Photorealism Art - Malevich - 33 major Art Movements and their influence on the Art World - Pencil Vs Camera - 73 (Ben Heine Art)

Photorealism is a style of visual art that is concerned with the technical ability to wow viewers. Primarily an American art movement, it gained momentum in the late 1960s and 1970s as a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. Here, artists were most concerned with painting and replicating a photograph to the best of their ability, carefully planning their work to great effect and eschewing the spontaneity that is the hallmark of Abstract Expressionism. Similar to Pop Art, Photorealism is often focused on imagery related to consumer culture.

The word Photorealism was coined by Louis K. Meisel in 1969 and appeared in print for the first time in 1970 in a Whitney Museum catalogue for the show “Twenty-two Realists.” It is also sometimes labeled as Super-Realism, New Realism, Sharp Focus Realism, or Hyper-Realism.

Louis K. Meisel, two years later, developed a five-point definition at the request of Stuart M. Speiser, who had commissioned a large collection of works by the Photorealists, which later developed into a traveling show known as ‘Photo-Realism 1973: The Stuart M. Speiser Collection’, which was donated to the Smithsonian in 1978 and is shown in several of its museums as well as traveling under the auspices of ‘site’. Photorealist painting cannot exist without the photograph. In Photorealism, change and movement must be frozen in time which must then be accurately represented by the artist.

Photorealists gather their imagery and information with the camera and photograph. Once the photograph is developed (usually onto a photographic slide) the artist will systematically transfer the image from the photographic slide onto canvases. Usually this is done either by projecting the slide onto the canvas or by using traditional grid techniques.

In the end, as in many things in art, and life in general, the final conclusion remains behind the individual perspective. The answer lies in the eye of the beholder, whether you find the artistic strain within it, or just admire it for the sheer talent, Photorealism is remarkable and amazing in its own right.

27. Installation Art (1960-Now)

Installation Art

Installation art is a movement in art developed at the same time as pop art in the late 1950s, which is characterized by large-scale, mixed-media constructions, often designed for a specific place or for a temporary period of time. Often, installation art involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.

Installation art can be either temporary or permanent. Installation artworks have been constructed in exhibition spaces such as museums and galleries, as well as public and private spaces. The genre incorporates a broad range of everyday and natural materials, which are often chosen for their “evocative” qualities, as well as new media such as videosoundperformanceimmersive virtual reality and the internet. Many installations are site-specific in that they are designed to exist only in the space for which they were created, appealing to qualities evident in a three-dimensional immersive medium. It is a very popular movement in the 21st century.

28. Conceptual Art (1960-Now)

Image 11 - Conceptual Art - Malevich - 33 major Art Movements and their influence on the Art World - Pencil Vs Camera - 73 (Ben Heine Art)

Conceptual art, sometimes simply called conceptualism, was one of several 20th century art movements that arose during 1960s, emphasizing ideas and theoretical practices rather than the creation of visual forms. The term was coined in 1967 by the artist Sol LeWitt, who gave the new genre its name in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” in which he wrote, “The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product.” 

Conceptual art is an art movement based on the notion that idea or concept is the essence of art. Art doesn’t even have to take on a physical form. It can be something the artist says or does or a document of the artist’s thinking. As Sol LeWitt put it “the idea itself is a work of art”. So when looking at Conceptual art instead of focusing on how the art looks like, you should focus on the artist’s thinking process and the idea behind it. 

Conceptual art, also referred to as conceptualism, is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic, technical, and material concerns. Some works of conceptual art, sometimes called installations, may be constructed by anyone simply by following a set of written instructions. This method was fundamental to American artist Sol LeWitt’s definition of conceptual art, one of the first to appear in print.

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.

29. Minimalism (1960-Now)


Minimalist art eschewed artistic expression, preferring to keep things literal (as one of Minimalism’s founders, painter Frank Stella, said of the movement, ‘What you see is what you see’). Extreme simplicity was key to this movement, where medium and materials stole the show from the artists behind them. Emerging in New York in the early 1960s (and also known as ABC art, Literalism, Literal Art, Reductivism and Rejective Art), Minimalism was characterized by sparsity. Minimalism, chiefly American movement in the visual arts and music originating in New York City in the late 1960s and characterized by extreme simplicity of form and a literal, objective approach. Minimal art, along with the music of Erik Satie and the aesthetics of John Cage, was a distinct influence on Minimalist music. Reacting against the complex, intellectually sophisticated style of modern music, several composers began to compose in a simple, literal style, thereby creating an extremely simple and accessible music.

In both music and the visual arts, Minimalism was an attempt to explore the essential elements of an art form. In Minimalist visual arts, the personal, gestural elements were stripped away in order to reveal the objective, purely visual elements of painting and sculpture.

30. Performance art (1960-Now)

Image 12 - Art Movements - Art History - Performance art - Ben Heine Flesh and Acrylic - Moscow Planetarium 2015

Performance Art is a term that emerged in the 1960s to describe different types of art that are created through actions performed by the artist or other participants, which may be live or recorded, spontaneous or scripted. Performance challenges the conventions of traditional forms of visual art such as painting and sculpture by embracing a variety of styles such as happenings, body art, body painting, actions, and events.

31. Land Art (1965-Now)

Land Art - Ben Heine Blog

Land art, variously known as Earth art, environmental art, and Earthworks, is an art movement that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, largely associated with Great Britain and the United States. but that also includes examples from many countries. As a trend, “land art” expanded boundaries of art by the materials used and the siting of the works. The materials used were often the materials of the Earth, including the soil, rocks, vegetation, and water found on-site, and the sites of the works were often distant from population centers. Though sometimes fairly inaccessible, photo documentation was commonly brought back to the urban art gallery. Land Art, a term coined by the artist Robert Smithson, is a movement that occurred in the U.S. during the late 1960s and during the 1970s.

However, the art form has existed for thousands of years. Land Art is a work of art created with and embodied by the physical landscape. The movement sought to take art out of museums and set it within a natural context. Many works of Land Art are temporary or left to change with the elements of nature. The best known work of contemporary Land Art is Spiral Jetty (1970) which Smithson created as a protrusion into Utah’s Great Salt Lake.

The essential feature of Land Art is the inseparable link between the work of art and the landscape in which it is placed. Land Art is often comprised of such materials as stone, bed rock, water, branches and other natural elements, but concrete, metal, and pigments are often employed as well. Initially Land Art became popular in the American Southwest, but these works now only exist as photographs or recordings. The artists of these works began to create Land Art as a way to condemn the artificiality of commercialized art that was popular during their era. The first work termed as Land Art was created at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture by artists Douglas Leichter and Richard Saba.

32. Digital Circlism (2010-2020)

Image 13 - Art Movement Digital Circlism - ben heine art Print 3D effect copy

In this series started in 2010 and through the use of graphic softwares and a whole lot of creativity, Ben Heine recreates iconic faces from history and pop culture with flat circles of various sizes and colors, in order to give them a dynamic and 3-dimensional appearance. Heine defines it as a synthesis of Pop Art (art including imagery from popular culture) and Pointillism (painting technique that uses small, distinct dots of pure color). In this series, Heine updates the pointillism school of art by making the “points” actual recognizable circles with which he creates portraits of pop icons and others. Heine’s circle technique adds a symbolic significance to the subjects portrayed. “These portraits are as striking as posters struck from the iconic Alberto Korda photo of Che, but suddenly re-conceived to be projected upon the infinite cyberwall of digital space, a sort of modern stained glass artworks. Each portrait requires between 100 to 180 hours of work to be completed. The artist explained his workflow in an interview for Adobe Photoshop.

33. Pencil Vs Camera (2010-2021)

Image 14 - Art Movement - Pencil Vs Camera 58 - Ben Heine Art

Pencil Vs Camera is an original visual concept invented and popularized by Ben Heine since April 2010. It is also one of the most creative and powerful art concepts of the 21st century. The images in this series usually show some augmented reality through a hand-drawn sketch held and photographed by the artist to infuse ordinary scenes with new surreal, visionary, or romanticized narratives. Ben’s visible hand represents the connection between the viewer, the artist and the artwork. Heine does not recreate photographs, but he reimagines them.

In these images, he likes to tell a story and convey timeless messages using imagination, illusion, poetry and surrealism. His work is powered by a fearless positivity. An already beautiful-looking photo is enhanced with a sketch that adds a splash of satire and whimsy. Starting with simple sketches, Ben brought major innovations to the concept in 2012 and 2013, adding colors and black paper or increasing the drawings’ size.

Heine’s first Pencil Vs Camera’s images quickly gained popularity and received positive criticisms from specialized and influential art experts. Since 2012, many smartphone applications emulate Heine’s Pencil Vs Camera’s style. Thousands of artists have also borrowed from Heine’s innovations to create variations of Pencil Vs Camera.

The concept became a real artistic movement when hundreds of thousands of young people tried it all around the world. The concept has become popular in many primary and secondary schools worldwide. It is used to stimulate students’ imagination and encourage them to use new technologies and share their ideas.

© Ben Heine – This article is copyrighted – Use without prior consent is forbidden.

Ben Heine

Ben Heine

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