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“Isms of Art”- Tracing the Timeline of The Most Famous Movements of Art History - Part 2

It's true that delineating the different art periods with precision is impossible. Many of the art periods even overlap with eras occurring at the same time. Also, some eras lasted for a few thousand years while others vanished within a short span. However, with each style, the swinging art pendulum depicts the transformations and contributions made by artists through their creative expression and the story of why and how we unfolded the present understanding of art. With this said, let us continue the tales of the remaining art movements that left a striking stroke in the art history timeline.

Art Nouveau

This revolutionary art movement marked the inception of “New Art,” sweeping the idea across Europe. Art Nouveau is among the most authentic and classic art movements of the 19th century. It was popularly embraced as an avant-garde style, with applied arts, graphics, and illustration being dominant in this art form. The uniqueness of this art movement led to the formation of its particular successive styles, known as the Vienna Secession in Austria and Modernisme in Spain. Art Nouveau was widely adopted & adapted in various art mediums like fine arts, painting, sculpture, architecture, graphic and interior design, jewelry-making, etc. Perhaps its most timeless legacy can be seen in the theatrical posters of Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, featuring a French actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Famous Artists- Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt

Popular Artworks- The Four Seasons by Alphonse Mucha, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, as shown in the image above.


Conceived in France in the 19th century, Impressionism came when Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro grew weary of their studios and headed in the fresh air for inspiration. Claude Monet, a famous impressionist, along with his companions, took the bold step of breaking away from the academic tradition and created their artwork outdoors, while most artists expressed their work indoors in a studio. They painted exquisite landscapes that led to the categorization of works with fine brush strokes and vivid colors as impressionism. Impressionists mostly depicted people's regular life, making the art too controversial for its time. It was in the 1874 underground exhibition when the art movement was publicly recognized and applauded for its new style.

Famous artist- Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt

Popular artworks- Impression, Sunrise by Monet (1872), Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Renoir (1876), Water Lilies series by Monet (1890s – 1900s), , as shown in the image above.


Fast forward to a few years later, artists like Vincent van Gogh further introduced Post-Impressionism-revolutionizing naturalism by breaking the ‘rules’ of light and color. The art style came as a response to the Impressionist movement when artists reacted against the need for naturalistic depictions. As a result, Post-impressionism heeded many different types of art styles, from the Pointillism of Georges Seurat to the Symbolism of Paul Gauguin. The art movement embraced experimentation and depiction of emotions through abstract components and symbolic content.

Famous Artists- Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard

Popular Artworks- A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (1884 – 1886), The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh (1889) , as shown in the image above. The Yellow Christ by Paul Gauguin (1891)


Popularised by Henri Matisse, Fauvism was the first avant-garde of the 20th-century art movements. Its key characteristics include the use of deep color, line art, and brushwork, a bold feel of surface design, and flat composition. The divergence of color from its illustrative, representational pursuit was one of the core elements that shaped this art movement. However distinguished, it set a strong legacy for its successor art movements, mainly Cubism and Expressionism.

Famous artists- André Derain, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh

Popular artwork- Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse , as shown in the image above. and The Houses of Parliament by André Derain


The early 20th century witnessed the loss of spirituality and the emergence of clashing world views. In the wake of such myriad ideas, Expressionism took birth, an art movement that applied distortion of form and strong colors to express anxieties and raw emotions. Expressionist artists grew weary of taking inspiration from the dominant Western art. Instead, they reinstated the essence of native folk traditions and tribal art. The art movement escalated to the extent that artists formed groups named Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) so they could publish works and express their ideas collectively. The prominence of Expressionist art can be seen in the works of Edvard Munch and James Ensor.

Famous Artists- Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, James Ensor

Popular Artworks- The Dance of Life by Edvard Munch , as shown in the image above. The Blue Rider by Wassily Kandinsky


Arguably designated as ‘the first abstract style of modern art,’ this revolutionary art technique of portraying reality was invented by the famous Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 20th century. They ditched figurative forms and went for total abstraction, creating Cubism. The art style is characterized by fragmented subject matters visible from various angles or dimensions and rejects the concept that art should simulate nature. Much like Expressionism, the artists of the cubism era took inspiration from the expressive tendencies of non-Western art. Coherently, Cubism paved the way for ‘collage paintings,’ along with ‘boxy,’ a three-dimensional effect evergreen for contemporary art and design.

Famous Artists- Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris

Popular Artwork- Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso, as shown in the image above.


Surrealism befalls under the most classic and convenient art styles. It portrayed defied reason and imaginative expression that emerges through the subconscious mind. The movement was spurred when a group of visual artists adopted automatism, a technique that depended on the subconscious for creativity. And so, Surrealists took the liberty of challenging perceptions and reality in artwork, paving the way for their absolute creative freedom. The roots of Surrealism lie in the juxtaposition of a realistic painting style with unconventional and unrealistic subject matters.

Famous Artists- Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte

Popular Artworks- The Treachery of Images and The Son of Man by René Magritte, The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí , as shown in the image above.

Abstract Expressionism

This was the first American art movement to embark its name in international art history. Emerged after World War II in New York, this art genre overtook the spontaneity of Surrealism and infused it with the dark mood of post-War trauma. Works like the drip paintings by Jackson Pollock show the spontaneous creation and gestural paint application that defines the art style. Abstract Expressionism clubs various artworks under its umbrella, such as Willem de Kooning’s figurative paintings and Mark Rothko’s color fields.

Famous Artists- Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko

Popular Artwork- Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) by Jackson Pollock, as shown in the image above.

Pop Art

Emerging in a fresh post-war period in America and Britain, Pop art marks the beginning of contemporary art. Striking satire is core to Pop art that led to imagery creation, taking inspiration from advertising, comic books, and everyday objects in this art style. As a result, Pop Art emphasizes banal elements of common goods and is often thought of as a reaction against the subconscious aspects of Abstract Expressionism. Depicting boldness, vibrance, abundance, and accessibility for creativity, the Pop art figureheads by Andy Warhol are the most remarkable examples of this art genre.

Famous Artists- Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns

Popular Artwork- Marilyn Diptych, by Andy Warhol, shown in the image above.


It all started when a group of young artists activated their introspective senses and overly expressed the works of Abstract Expressionist artists. Anonymity and material feel of artwork are the primary characteristics of Minimalist art. The minimalist artists drew attention to what was present instead of overly looming in the imaginative space. They highlighted the beauty of purified forms, order, simplicity, and harmony, paving the way for cleaner and chic art.

Famous Artists- Frank Stella, Robert Morris, Agnes Martin

Popular Artworks- Die Fahne Hoch! by Frank Stella, Untitled (mirrored cubes) by Robert Morris, as shown in the image above.

Conceptual Art

Revolutionizing the art ideology in the 1960s, the Conceptual artists entirely rejected previous art movements and accentuated visual components, creating art in general or performance-based forms and ephemera. As this type of art focused on ideas and concepts, it invented no distinct style or form that artists could pinpoint.

Famous Artists- Joseph Kosuth, Ewa Partum, Lawrence Weiner

Popular Artworks- One and Three Chairs by Joseph Kosuth, Active Poetry by Ewa Partum, , as shown in the image above.

Contemporary Art

Appeared in the latter half of the 20th century, Contemporary art corresponds to the modern times we live in. Its key focus is the broad contextual frameworks – political and cultural, themes of identification, and advancements in technology. Contemporary artists do not merely create art for the aesthetic pleasure of looking at artwork but are much more focused on disseminating ideas. The era is marked by its diversity of styles and contextual frameworks, including concepts such as Postmodernism, Feminist art, Neo-Expressionism etc. Today, contemporary art retains various art forms and techniques under its umbrella, including sculptures, Performance Artwork, Digital art, etc.

Famous Artists- Christoph Müller, Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama

Popular Artworks- Infinity Mirror Room by Yayoi Kusama, Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson


Apart from the art movements we covered in our isms of art series, there are a plethora of other art movements that inspire contemporary artists. It’s fascinating how art today was led by such majestic art styles and influential artists. Let us know your favorite art and artists in the comment section below!

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