Art is defined as “the expression of creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture”. Art has been around since the Stone Age. It started with cave paintings and megalithic structures and developed immensely over time. Between the mid-19th century and the late 20th century, there were three major periods of art: realism, impressionism, and pop art.
Realism began in France in the 1840s around the 1848 Revolution. Realism was considered the beginning of modern art. It was an attempt to show people in ordinary life situations, avoiding doubtful and supernatural elements. In fact, realism was intended to oppose romanticism, which had dominated in France since the late 18th century. Realist painters often showed working people and ordinary people in normal environments doing real activities. Two major artists during this art period were Gustave Courbet and Jean-Francois Millet. One of Courbet’s famous paintings was ‘The Desperate Man’, which was completed in 1845 as was a self-portrait. The medium used was oil paint. One of Millet’s famous paintings was ‘The Gleaners’. This was also an oil painting and was completed in 1857. While Millet was in Barbizon, he witnessed gleaning. Gleaning was the right for poor women and children to remove bits of grain that were left in the fields after a harvest.
Impressionism is a style of art that began in France around the 1860s. Impressionism focused on showing the visual impression of the moment, using the shifting effect of light and color. It uses small, thin brush strokes and emphasizing the different effects of light and its changing qualities. Some of the major artists during this period were Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. One of Monet’s famous paintings was ‘Impression, Sunrise’. The medium used was oil paint. This painting was created and completed in 1872 and was first shown in the Exhibition of the Impressionists in Paris. The painting shows the port of Le Havre, which was Monet’s hometown. One of Manet’s famous paintings was ‘Olympia’. It was first shown at the 1865 Paris Salon. It was completed in 1863 and shows a naked woman lying on a bed while a servant is bringing her flowers. Olympia was modeled by Victorine Meurent and the servant was modeled by Laure. The medium used was oil paint. One of Renoir’s famous paintings was ‘Girls at the Piano’. The medium used was oil on canvas. The painting was completed in 1892 as an informal commission for the Luxembourg Museum.
Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the United Kingdom and the United States during the 1950s. It included imagery from popular things, such as advertising and comic books. Pop art was high art mimicking low art. Pop artists elevated vulgar materials to a high status. Three major pop artists were Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, and Roy Lichtenstein. One of Warhol’s famous paintings was ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’. The medium used was synthetic polymer paint. The painting was created in 1962 and represented exactly what the title says, Campbell’s Soup cans. One of Duchamp’s famous artworks was ‘Bicycle Wheel’. The medium used was a mounted metal wheel. The artwork consists of a bicycle fork with the front wheel mounted upside-down on a wooden stool. One of Lichtenstein’s famous works was ‘Crying Girl’. The medium used was enamel paint. The artwork was created in 1963.
The three major art periods: realism, impressionism, and pop art paved the way for modern art, during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many very talented artists emerged during these periods and changed how art was viewed forever. These art periods extremely impacted the history of art as a whole.