From the early Christian period to the Rococo, the story of European art is one of evolution: the Gothic art of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries blossomed into the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth, which developed into the elaborate Baroque of the seventeenth century, which reached the furthest extent of its development in the Rococo of the early eighteenth. Only at that point did a conscious disconnection from the immediately preceding style occur, first in the opposition of Neoclassicism to the principles of the Rococo, and then in the rebellion of Romanticism against the principles of Neoclassicism.
But as we move into the nineteenth century, something different happens. For the first time, rather than a single, unified artistic school or a pair of opposing schools we encounter the beginnings of a plurality of distinct artistic styles. These styles sprang from different, sometimes conflicting, artistic philosophies, but they coexisted alongside one another, and in doing so arguably laid the groundwork for the endless variation in artistic expression which would be produced by the artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Realism, and Impressionism”