Three examples of images from the Western art history canon: the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Le Promenade by Claude Monet, and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso. These paintings, artists, and movements (High Renaissance, Impressionism and Cubism, respectively) have all been extensively explored in art history.
Reader question: “What do you think are the most exciting fields in art history which haven’t been properly explored?”
Oh – this is a tough but great question!
It’s tough because there are just so many areas of art history that haven’t been properly explored. There are certain “popular” areas of art history that tend to get the most amount of attention in scholarship. These areas usually adhere to the Western art history canon.
Country: Odilon Redon spent his life in France, growing up in Bordeaux and later living and working in Paris.
Well, who was he?
Odilon Redon was part of the Symbolism movement, a European movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Symbolist art is similar to Surrealism in that it doesn’t seem to make any sense. However, there is one big difference between Symbolism and Surrealism: In Surrealism, it’s not supposed to make any sense. But in Symbolism, everything means something.
Anna Ancher, Denmark’s most famous female artist
Anna Ancher is famous in Scandinavia, but basically unknown in the rest of the world. Which is a shame because we always need more discussion on awesome female artists in art history.
Movement/Style: Part of the Skagen artists’ colony. She’s usually associated with Naturalism, and sometimes with Realism and Impressionism.
Country: She traveled a bit around Europe, but lived, worked and died in the small town of Skagen in Denmark.
Well, who was she?
Anna Ancher (1859 – 1935) was a Danish painter active in the late 19th and early 20th century. She was part of a group of artists and other creative people who briefly lived and worked in the small fisherfolk village of Skagen in Northern Denmark, known as the Skagen colony.
Strolling About In Spring by Zhan Ziqian can be classified as “Sui Dynasty Chinese art” – not really a well-known “art movement” according to mainstream art history.
Reader question: “Are all artists and their works classified as part of a particular movement? Like, are all artists Impressionists, Romanticists, etc.?”
The short answer is: no.
The long answer is: no, but the fact that so much of art history is focused on “movements” reflects a great deal about the way that mainstream Western art history operates. The reason for this focus on art movements is that this sort of classification means that it’s easier to talk about an artwork’s style, influence and cultural meaning. It’s useful. But it’s also pretty limiting if it’s the only way that we look at art history.