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Art History - Prehistoric through Gothic

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    • Front Matter
    • 1: Introduction
      How do we study and interpret art and architecture from prehistoric, ancient, and Medieval ages? This introduction explains some approaches.
    • 2: Paleolithic
      Paleolithic art is dominated by the surviving cave art in regions of Spain and France. The early humans were nomadic and the sculptural figures had to be portable. Female figurines with similar exaggerated parts of the body are found across Europe.
    • 3: Neolithic
      The Neolithic Period still presents challenges since writing is not available. We experience growing communities building towns, domesticating animals and plants, and migrating to areas where large civilizations will appear. The art and architecture play a vital part in helping to understand these prehistoric ancestors.
      • 4: Ancient Near East
        The Ancient Near East is often referred to as the cradle of civilization. The Epic of Gilgamesh comes from Sumer and is the first story to be recorded and passed on through writing. This volatile region was rich in resources and grew at a pace that eventually overwhelmed those same resources leading to a collapse of the culture. The art and architecture tell the story of these people, their lives, their concerns, and the gods and goddesses they worshipped and feared.
      • 5: Ancient Egypt
        Ancient Egypt art includes some of the most monumental works ever created. The fact that the civilization was very stable due to its proximity to the Nile and a defensible region enabled an enduring art style that lasted almost 3,000 years. The Armarna Period is one exception that provides a departure from the traditionally formulaic art of earlier and later periods.
      • 6: Aegean
        The Aegean includes the fascinating and technologically advanced Minoans, the Neolithic communities in the Cyclades and the powerful Mycenaeans. This region, with active volcanoes at that time, was decimated by earthquakes that weakened and eventually doomed the Minoan civilization and culture. One positive result of the ensuing volcanic eruptions was preservation of many of the frescoes and ceramics.
      • 7: Ancient Greece
        The meteoric rise of the Athenians can be attributed to the creative loan practices for olive farmers and a new political system called democracy. Tremendous strides in science, math, medicine, and the arts can be attributed to the Athenians. New standards and styles in pottery, sculpture, and architecture led to the Greco-Roman model still used today in Western civilizations.
      • 8: Etruscans
        The Etruscans developed several city-states in Italy. The cities were conquered one by one by the Romans, and in doing so the Romans assimilated much of the Etruscan technologies. They were skilled at detailed bronze casting, and had their own unique culture, style, and burial practices.
        • 9: Ancient Roman

          The Romans conquer the Greeks and inherit a more cultured heritage with many talented artists and scholars. They use the Greek artists to fashion both Republican and Imperial images for their empire. Using a special formula for concrete, they build on a massive scale in Rome and throughout their vast empire.
        • 10: Early Christian

          Early Christian imagery centered around Christ as the Good Shepherd. Once Christianity becomes accepted as the religion of the Roman Empire, Christian sculpture, iconography, and architecture rapidly develop. A split in the church creates both Roman and Eastern Orthodox factions.
        • 11: Early Medieval

          After the fall of the Roman Empire, Christianity will be tested for the next several hundred years. Threats from invading peoples such as the Vikings, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths kept Christian Europe on edge.The Byzantine Empire was not as successful managing the region as the Roman Empire before it. Charlemagne is a major figure of the time who helps stabilize Christian Europe. Monastic communities produce the greatest art of the period in the form of detailed illuminated books and manuscripts.
        • 12: Islamic Art

          Islamic art merges existing Jewish and Christian forms to produce an evolutionary style with an emphasis on decorative geometric patterning. The Alhambra and other building programs surpassed the Medieval Christian towns and cities of that time. Travelers were amazed at the great Morrish palaces and cities of light built in Spain. An emphasis on design and intricate patterns rather than images of religious figures or leaders was common. The exception was princely gifts and storytelling on cerami
          • 13: Romanesque
            Romanesque art was created in the tradition of the Roman Empire, although often inferior. The formula for concrete was lost so the buildings had to be constructed using masonry skills. Thick-walled churches provided structural support and were adored with biblical stories carved in stone. Much of what was produced was an evolution of Roman forms to suit Christianity.
            • 14: Gothic
              Gothic is a most fascinating art movement that quickly made the Romanesque style seem boring and obsolete. So much so, that some newly built churches were quickly renovated in the new Gothic Style! The Gothic Style began in a suburb of northern Paris as a vision of Abbot Suger (1081 – 13 January 1151), who was a French abbot, statesman, and historian. He was one of the earliest patrons of Gothic architecture, and is widely credited with popularizing the style.
            • Back Matter

            Art History - Prehistoric through Gothic is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Michael Leonard.