Historical Summary

Renaissance, Mannerism and Classicism 

The Renaissance has been defined as “the golden age of painting”. In Italy, artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Mantegna, Sandro Botticelli, Raffaello and Tiziano, elevated painting to its highest standards by introducing the use of perspective, along with the study of human anatomy and proportions. Flemish and german painters, e.g. Dürer, Cranach, Grünewald, Van Eyk, H. Bosch and P. Breugel, played an essential role in the Renaissance, though they shared a more realistic and less idealized approach, more affected by the middle ages Renaissance painting was interwined with the revolution of ideas and with the scientific developments of the time, which placed man at the centre of everything, conceiving painters as intellectuals rather than mere artisans; painting thus came to be seen as expressing the personality and artistic creativity of their authors. 

Baroque and Rococò 

The baroque style was influenced by a realistic understanding of the world, in contrast with the idealized figures of the neoplatonic culture of the Renaissance, thus giving way to a new historical era. Baroque painting emphatized landscapes through light; among the leading figures of said artistic interpretation, suffice it to mantion Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Veermer, De la Tour, Velasquez and Rubens. Rococo may be seen as the decadent phase of the baroque movement, a lighter and more trivial style, represented by artists like Fragonard and Boucher.

Romanticism, Realism, Idealism 

After the decadence of rococo and the scantly imaginative period of Neoclassicism, a new generation of painters arose with the Romanticism. 

Romanticism gave priority to nature and landscapes over the human figure; there followed the supremacy of the natural order over humankind, in contrast with the ideals of ancient Greece and of the Renaissance, which conceived humankind as the supreme master of its own fate. Romantics thus elevated the landscape to a high–level genre rather than a mere background for human figures. The main representatives of the period were Turner, Friedrich, Constable up to Corot. A pessimist interpreter of the time was Goya, while Courbet was the main interpreter of Realism and Böcklin of Idealism.


At the end of the century, Impressionism marked the beginning of modern times with painters like Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cezanne. Impressionism took after Romanticism, though it privileged common landscapes or daily scenes, free from metaphysical influences. With painters like Monet, Manet, Renoir, Lautrec, Seurat and Degas, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism expressed a wide number of techniques, all hinging on the fundamental role of light and colour mixtures. 

Modernism, Cubism, Expressionism, Futurism, Symbolism, Constructivism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Pop-art 

Picasso realized his first cubist work by drawing from Cezanne’s idea whereby all representations of nature may be referred to three basic solids: cube, sphere and cone. Cubism was followed by other movements, e.g. Expressionism, Futurism, Suprematism, Contructivism, Dadaism, Surrealism, up to the Pop-art, which linked art with popular and mass culture. Going beyond said movements, painting has preserved the classical figurative style, albeit with modern reinterpretations.