The Art of Painting Through the Ages ~ Kwentology

Art has always been a form of communication and expression for people. The world’s oldest paintings date back 40,000 years. Found on the walls of caves, these paintings often featured large animals. Finger flutings are another type of cave art. They are impressions in the walls of cave made by people’s fingers.

Over the years and centuries, there have been many different styles of painting. Here are just a few examples. Check out a museum near you to see more!

Italian Renaissance Painting

The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci
Image of The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci
Renaissance means “rebirth,” and Renaissance in Europe, which lasted from the 14th to the 17th century, was a time of great growth for all kinds of learning, culture, and art, including paintings. The city of Florence, Italy, was considered the birthplace and the center of the Renaissance art movement. Many Renaissance paintings were commissioned by the Catholic Church and feature religious themes. One of the most famous of these painting is The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci, painted on the convent wall. Visitors to Milan, Italy, can still see it today. Wealthy families also commissioned portraits of themselves and family members. Some paintings, such as The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, captured themes from classical literature. Even when showing fictional characters, Renaissance paintings portrayed people and other subjects as realistically as possible.

The Dutch Golden Age of Painting

The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer
Image of The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer
In the 17th century, the Dutch Republic (which is now the Netherlands) was the richest country in Europe. During this time, Dutch painters were known for several different kinds of paintings. Many depicted scenes of middle-class and peasant life, such as The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer. Other themes included landscapes, townscapes, still lifes, and the sea. Wealthy families commissioned man family portraits. Rembrandt van Rijn painted individual as well as group portraits, such as Night Watch. Painters from this period often emphasized light and shadow.

Guess What?

More than 5 million paintings were created by Dutch artists during the Dutch golden age of painting. There were so many canvases that individual paintings didn’t sell for very much money most of the time. Today, many of the works of these artists hang in museums and are considered priceless.


Water Lilies, by Claude Monet
Image of Water Lilies, by Claude Monet
Paris, France, was the center of the art world in the mid to late 1800s, when a new painting style called impressionism was created. These paintings featured ordinary people, scenes of everyday life, landscapes, and still lifes. Impressionist artist painted with a brighter range of colors than a lot of previous artists. This is evident in many paintings, including Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. painters also used shorter brushstrokes, which are visible to the viewer, such as in Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and in portraits by Auguste Renoir, including the Portrait of Madame Charpentier and Her Children. Impressionistic works were often less realistic looking than those painters who had come before them.
  • There were about 250 paintings in Claude Monet's Water Lilies series.

Guess What?

Today, museum exhibits of Impressionist paintings are among the most popular with the public. But when the Impressionists began painting, their work was not appreciated. Art patrons and members of the art community did not like the new style.


Jackson Pollock unique style of painting.
Image of Jackson Pollock unique style of painting.
Modernism is less a style of art than entire movement. Modern art is all about an artist’s individual experimentation with and interpretation of objects and emotions. That explains why these works of art are incredibly varied and inventive. Some modern artists include the early-20th-century painters Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, as well as Piet Mondrian, who worked mostly in the 1930s, and Jackson Pollock, who painted in the 1940s. Two modern famous artists from 1960s are Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
  • Artist Jackson Pollock was known for his unique style of dripping and splashing paint onto a canvas.
Cool Facts!
Researchers have found cave paintings on the walls of Rouffignac cave, in France, that were done 13,000 years ago by children as young as 3 years old. They figure out the ages of the artists by measuring the finger flutings found there.

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