Art Through the Ages: From the Renaissance to Modern Art

Art has been defined as a form of creative human activity involving physical skill, visual art, and imaginative imagination to express aesthetic beauty, physical strength, emotional power, or other creative ideas. Artistic production is one of the oldest forms of communication, dating from pre-history up to the present. In most cases, art derives from the desire for beauty and novelty, combined with the ability to manipulate objects according to a perceived plan. This article focuses on defining art, analyzing its various components, and providing examples of artistic production in everyday life.

Philosophy considers art as a form of human excellence and it is an attempt to uncover the deeper meaning of beauty through a process of analysis and interpretation. The history of Philosophy begins with the earliest recorded appearances of aesthetic art, especially in architecture. Later philosophers associated art with the idea of value, particularly with the value of human beauty. Later philosophers developed various theories about how to measure the value of art, with some even arguing that beauty and value are identical.

The history of visual arts is divided into two sections: prehistoric and modem. Pertaining to the later of the two sections, the prehistoric period witnessed the development of Paleolithic Art. The Paleolithic Age was characterized by the appearance of ‘permanent art’, the necessity of tools for daily use, and the absence of any significant societal organization. Art in this period can be classified primarily into two forms: (a) facial paintings or (b) figurative art. In addition, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Age (also called Old Stone Age) witness the first appearance of pictorial images, and cuneiform sculptures, which are the earliest known ciphers. Art in the latter period mainly concerns its production in terms of ceramic goods, weapons, ceramic glasses, figurative paintings, and other fine art.

The history of art also witnessed the appearance of Minimal Art, which arose around the start of the Early Modern Period. This art consists of highly refined representational art (such as Impressionism) and iconographic or abstract art. The key takeaways from this period are the reduction of the role of the artist, the materialization of art on the canvas, and the development of mass consumer art. Minimal art may be further subdivided into graphic art, typography, and cartography.

Art of the Post-Renaissance Period witnessed the birth of new aesthetic traditions, which tended to legitimate the importance of the human visual arts and crafts as a socially valuable form. By the seventeenth century, however, the European society had become so fragmented that the role of the artist was no longer of central significance. As a result, new aesthetic trends arose, which emphasized naturalness and the aesthetic values of the average person. Among these new aesthetic trends were the Pre-Raphaelites, who promoted an avant-garde approach to art, an approach which did not necessarily challenge the authority of the artist but which nevertheless gave merit to the role of the artistic producer as a central subject of artistic discussion.

Modern art is a continuation of the history of artistic experimentation and artistic invention, which can be seen throughout the history of art, literature and cinema. However, with the development of digital technology and the increased influence of the Internet, there is now a much larger scope for artists. In the past, artists had to set up their own institutions in order to receive patronage and promotion for their artistic creations. With the Internet, artists can now use the internet as a medium of communication and exchange information regarding their work, thus benefitting from the increased interest and knowledge about art.