The purpose of works of art may be to communicate ideas, such as in politically, spiritually, or philosophically motivated art; to create a sense of beauty (think, aesthetics); to explore the nature of perception; for pleasure; or to generate strong emotions. The purpose may also be seemingly nonexistent.
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. 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.
Each of these centers of early civilization developed a unique and characteristic style in its art. Because of the size and duration of these civilizations, more of their art works have survived and more of their influence has been transmitted to other cultures and later times. Some also have provided the first records of how artists worked.
Paleolithic 100,000 - 10,000 BC
In the history of art, prehistoric art is all art produced in preliterate, prehistorical cultures beginning somewhere in very late geological history, and generally continuing until that culture either develops writing or other methods of record-keeping, or it makes significant contact with another culture that has. The very earliest human artifacts showing evidence of workmanship with an artistic purpose are a subject of some debate; it is clear that such workmanship existed by 40,000 years ago in the Upper Palaeolithic era.
Mesolithic 10,000 - 4,000 BC
The Mesolithic began with the Holocene warm period around 11,660 BP and ended with the introduction of farming, the date of which varied in each geographical region. Regions that experienced greater environmental effects as the last glacial period ended have a much more apparent Mesolithic era, lasting millennia. In northern Europe, for example, societies were able to live well on rich food supplies from the marshlands created by the warmer climate. As the "Neolithic package" (including farming, herding, polished stone axes, timber longhouses and pottery) spread into Europe, the Mesolithic way of life was marginalized and eventually disappeared. Mesolithic adaptations such as sedentism, population size and use of plant foods are cited as evidence of the transition to agriculture.
Neolithic 4,000 - 2,000 BC
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicate that various forms of domestication of plants and animals arose independently in six separate locales worldwide ca. 10,000–7000 years BP (8,000–5,000 BC), with the earliest known evidence found throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of southwestern and southern Asia, northern and central Africa and Central America. The first full-blown manifestation of the entire Neolithic complex is seen in the Middle Eastern Sumerian cities (ca. 3,500 BC), whose emergence also inaugurates the end of the prehistoric Neolithic period, and beginning of the early Bronze age.
Age of Antiquity 2000 - 500 BC
The Age of Antiquity was the era of may famous cultures that created many of the modern habits and items We use today. Worldwide, the Bronze Age generally followed the Neolithic period, but in some parts of the world, a Copper Age served as a transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age. The term Stone Age implies the inability to smelt any ore, the term Bronze Age implies the inability to smelt iron ore and the term Iron Age implies the ability to manufacture artifacts in any of the three types of hard material.
500 BC - 500 A.D.
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing agricultural practices, religious beliefs and artistic styles.
500 - 1499 A.D.
The Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages (c. 1001–1300). The period saw a continuation of trends begun during late classical antiquity, including population decline, especially in urban centres, a decline of trade, and increased immigration. The period has been labelled the "Dark Ages", a characterization highlighting the relative paucity of literary and cultural output from this time, especially in Western Europe.
1500 - 1599 A.D.
The Renaissance - As a cultural movement, it encompassed a flowering of literature, science, art, religion, and politics, and a resurgence of learning based on classical sources, the development of linear perspective in painting, and gradual but widespread educational reform.
1600 - 1699 A.D.
The Age of Discovery - also known as the Age of Exploration, was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania and mapping the planet.
1700 - 1799 A.D.
The Age of Enlightenment - The term "Enlightenment" came into use in English during the mid-18th century, with particular reference to French philosophy, as the equivalent of a term then in use by German writers, Zeitalter der Aufklärung, signifying officially the philosophical outlook of the 18th century. However, the German term Aufklärung was not merely applied retrospectively; it was already the common term by 1784, when Immanuel Kant published his influential essay Answering the Question: What Is Enlightenment? According to Kant,The Enlightenment was "Mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error."
1800 - 1899 A.D.
The Romantic Era - Romanticism (or the Romantic Era or the "'Romantic Period"') was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature. The movement validated strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror and terror and awe—especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities, both new aesthetic categories.
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