Art is a diverse range of human activity, and resulting product, that involves creative or imaginative talent expressive of technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas.
The term art encompasses diverse media such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, decorative arts, photography, and installation.
The history of art mirrors the history of humankind, and the study of works of art and the lives of artists illuminates much about our shared past.
A shell engraved by Homo erectus was determined to be between 430,000 and 540,000 years old. A set of eight 130,000 years old white-tailed eagle talons bear cut marks and abrasion that indicate manipulation by neanderthals, possibly for using it as jewelry. A series of tiny, drilled snail shells about 75,000 years old—were discovered in a South African cave. Containers that may have been used to hold paints have been found dating as far back as 100,000 years.
Sculptures, cave paintings, rock paintings and petroglyphs from the Upper Paleolithic dating to roughly 40,000 years ago have been found, but the precise meaning of such art is often disputed because so little is known about the cultures that produced them.
Among the oldest sculptures discovered to date is the Lion-man, which was found in 1939 in a German cave. It is between 35,000 and 40,000 years old and belongs to the prehistoric period, or the period before the invention of writing
Many great traditions in art have a foundation in the art of one of the great ancient civilizations: Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, China, Ancient Greece, Rome, as well as Inca, Maya, and Olmec.
In Byzantine and Medieval art of the Western Middle Ages, much art focused on the expression of subjects about Biblical and religious culture, and used styles that showed the higher glory of a heavenly world, such as the use of gold in the background of paintings, or glass in mosaics or windows, which also presented figures in idealized, patterned (flat) forms. Nevertheless, a classical realist tradition persisted in small Byzantine works, and realism steadily grew in the art of Catholic Europe.
Renaissance art (1350 – 1620 AD) is the painting, sculpture, and decorative arts of the period of European history known as the Renaissance, which emerged as a distinct style in Italy in about AD 1400, in parallel with developments which occurred in philosophy, literature, music, science, and technology.
The western Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century saw artistic depictions of physical and rational certainties of the clockwork universe, as well as politically revolutionary visions of a post-monarchist world, such as Blake’s portrayal of Newton as a divine geometer, or David’s propagandistic paintings. This led to Romantic rejections of this in favor of pictures of the emotional side and individuality of humans, exemplified in the novels of Goethe. The late 19th century then saw a host of artistic movements,
such as academic art, Symbolism, impressionism and fauvism among others.
Arguably the most eventful period in the history of art, the 20th century witnessed the birth (foreshadowed at the end of the 19th century) and outgrowth of abstraction, along with innumerable movements that came and went amidst radical changes across the globe. Some of most influential modern and contemporary art movements and developments of the century include Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, Photorealism, and Neo-Expressionism.
The Louvre Museum in Paris, France, is the most visited and famous museum in the world.
Vincent van Gogh was probably the best painter ever. He was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in Western art history. In a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. Not commercially successful, he struggled with severe depression and poverty, eventually leading to his suicide at age thirty-seven.
The Mona Lisa is probably the most famous, most studied, most widely recognized, and most visited painting in the world. Most academics consider it the greatest masterpiece of all time.
The most expensive paintings ever sold is Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, circa 1490–1500 – sold for: $450.3 million at Christie’s (November 15, 2017).