Isn’t it beautiful when kids who at first struggle to get a grip of their fingers, unfold an entire narration of their imaginative world through random scribbles and abstract yet meaningful shapes? The narrations of their drawings may not fit into the boundaries of traditional art but convey their emotions, vision, and intuitions colorfully. Just like the art that provides an illustrative language of drawings to those kids, the first introduction of art in the prehistoric era defined the lifestyle of cave humans and their interaction with nature. This is where the culture of representing emotions, principles, thoughts, and stories in the form of art primitively developed. Artistic movements throughout human history brought a significant amount of cultural change and evaluation to human existence. The article ahead summarizes a brief history of those artistic movements throughout the four different ages of human evolution that magnificently influenced distinct communities and brought an optimistic culture change.

Artistic Movements and Cultural Change - Sheet1
Art, MARKS, K. (2023) 115 Greatest Paintings of Modern Art_©

Conventional art of Prehistoric era (40,000 BCE – 4000 BCE)

Artistic Movements and Cultural Change - Sheet2
Cave paintings, CBS News (2016) ‘7 Best Places To View Ancient Cave Paintings,’ 21 April_©

Primitive art in the Stone Age

The Stone Age mostly comprises the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods which define early human lifestyle and its evolution. Humans living in this age were nomads, and they depended on temporary shelters like huts and, in some cases, caves. The artistic movements in this era were influenced by geographical, geological, and climatic conditions in their respective territories. Cave paintings that vividly depicted their nomadic way of life and hunting served as a translation of art. Later, nomadic existence began to settle, as evidenced by the permanent architectural forms in Turkey’s Catal Huyuk. This development in the pursuit of stability subsequently fueled a wall painting artistic movement.

Artistic Movements and Cultural Change - Sheet3
Vedic scriptures, Tiwari, A. (2021) Nasadiya Sukta-The Hymn of Creation from Rig Veda_©

Symbolism in the art of the Bronze age 

Nomadic humans invented new forms of survival in this age. Agriculture and animal domestication also contributed to the stabilization of the hunting culture. The new era of building communities and constructing community settlements was then identified in Asia through the Indus Valley civilization and Sumerian civilization, in northern Africa and Europe through the Egyptian kingdom, in southern Africa through the Kerma civilization, and in America through the Norte Chico civilization. Some civilizations then motivated artistic movements through scriptures, sculptures, and wall paintings. The artistic movements were more functional rather than decorative. Art was symbolic and subtle in interpretation. The architectural and urban groundwork in the Indus Valley civilization also promoted functionality in those times. The functional artistic movement started to amalgamate with monumental art at the end of this age by providing us with monumental masses like the pyramids in Egypt and ziggurats in Mesopotamia.       

Artistic Movements and Cultural Change - Sheet4
Ancient Greek architecture – mythical routes (2018)_©

Iron Age that induced monumental art

The cultural change brought by stability in lifestyle started captivating humans to elaborate artistic movements more meticulously. Wall paintings and scriptures then got intricately rendered and extended the limits of the imaginations of those humans. This prominent cultural change induced philosophical and artistic movements and generated great scriptures like the Vedas, the Hebrew Bible, and the Greek philosophies. Unfortunately, the socio-political disturbances through such artistic movements started disturbing the naturally equilibrated lifestyle of humans and gradually descended to the rise and fall of certain communities. The decline of the Greek kingdom in Europe, the Sumerian civilization becoming an Assyrian empire in Asia, and the Indus Valley civilization giving rise to the Kuru dynasty all illustrate the various ways that artistic movements have influenced cultural change. Artistic movements may have imbalanced some cultures but they also provided the world with some beautified temple architecture of Asia, and influential classical architecture of Greece, and nurtured the culturally revived artistic movements of Ancient times.

Philosophy of art in Ancient times (6000 BCE – 600 CE)

Cultural exchange promoted by extensive trade networks established in earlier times provided this new age of humans with broader aspects of knowledge and visionary instincts. The exchange of art and knowledge in this era made this a prominent historical time. The art of warfare is one of the artistic movements that turned regional disputes into massive bloodshed and ended up revolutionizing kingdoms at this time. In Europe, the fall of the Greek empire ended up giving rise to the Roman Empire, in Asia Achaemenid Empire culturally changed into the Sassanid Empire, the Mauryan Empire then into Gupta Empire. 

Religions in the previous era were regional but cultural change influenced communities to expand their territories. Revived religions started spreading through various religions like Buddhism generated in India spread across the rest of Asia and influenced them fundamentally through artistic movements. At this time, the Aksumite rule found appeal in the spread of Christianity throughout Africa. This religious and cultural change provoked artistic movements to portray the evolution of the religious principles of the communities through wall paintings, regional folk arts, and intricate architectural carvings. The architectural advancement in the Roman empire of this age accomplished by the invention of concrete defines artistic movement brought by architecture. 

Religious art of the Middle ages (500 CE – 1500 CE)

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Mosaic art, Medieval art and architecture (no date)_©

In this medieval era, artistic movements were prominently inclined toward architecture influenced by the geographical, climatic, historical, socio-political, and religious principles of various communities. In this period in Europe, the Roman Empire turned into the Byzantine Empire and Holy Roman Empire and further gave rise to dominant territories like France, England, Spain, and Portugal, and in Asia the spread of Islam dominated surrounding communities and kingdoms like the Middle East and India. Paintings from the Roman catacombs, opulent Byzantine structures like the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, renowned mosaics from Ravenna, illuminated manuscripts, and metalwork from the Insular art of Britain and Ireland determine the artistic movements in this region. Romanesque architecture, like that of the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and the magnificent Gothic cathedrals of Amiens, Reims, and Notre-Dame in Paris, with their facade sculptures, stained glass windows, altarpieces, and embroidered vestments, are other notable examples of this era’s artistic output. The architectural diversity in this era could be acknowledged through styles like Early Christian, Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, and Indo-Saracenic. The artistic movement in medieval times included intricate visual culture and a wide range of mediums, including fabrics, paintings, sculptures, architecture, shrines, and ivory goods but mostly all mediums were under the great influence of religions.

Renaissance of art in the Modern period ( 1500 CE – Present )

The Renaissance ,Esaak, S. (2019) The Renaissance_©

The most culturally changed and revived era of all times is this modern period. The scientific and industrial revolutions in the early stages of this period influenced the artistic movements and redefined their purpose. Artistic movements which were religious and regional turned into political weapons and caused evolutions at this time. The transitory artistic movement between the Middle Ages and the modern times was titled Renaissance which influenced significant art and architecture in this era. In Europe, the French Revolution gave birth to diverse artistic movements as per the political influence of that time. Where realistic artistic movements like Mannerism, Impressionism, Realism, and Expressionism were portraying the true narrations of this period through fine arts and commercial arts, artistic movements like Baroque, and Rococo were beautifying this era’s paintings and architecture with their artistic fluidity. Some artistic movements in this period redefined the previous historical artistic movements which are titled Neo-classical and Greek revival, where artistic movements like Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Bauhaus started to discover new art forms and concept to reinvent the definition of art.  

Political influence in the art was still dominant in this time which was translated in the process of colonization through architecture. Though Artistic movements helped the domination to a certain extent, they also served as an important tool in decolonization with the help of their provoking and educating nature. Eventually, artistic movements succeeded at some point in balancing the rapid cultural change happening in this era and subtly started to modernize human existence with a set of new and futuristic principles. 

Art plays an important role in human existence as it not only translates emotions and principles but also serves as a medium of optimum communication. Throughout the history of artistic movements, art has proven to be an excellent communicator to build strong and rapidly upgrading communities. The cultural changes happening in human evolution on earth suggest both the emergence of art and the influence of art. Hence, the Compatibility of artistic movements and human evolution are going to befriend each other for their advancement and sustenance. 


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Manjiree, Introvert at heart, but a person who loves to express her narratives like an extrovert. The term “hungry learner” may not fully succeed to explain her philosophy, but could give you a tiny teaser of her curious mind. Currently, in the process of exploring the true sustenance of architecture.