Art is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as:
“the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”.
It extends to all areas of creative endeavour including painting, photography, sculptures, film, music, literature and performance, and is generally created with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions in its audience.
There are believed to be over 1,000,000 serious art collectors around the world.
The history of art can be traced back to the beginnings of civilisation and the dawn of humankind itself. The earliest known examples of art are cave paintings found in Chauvet in France, dating from 32,000 years ago. Such images often depict large wild animals, tracings of human hands or abstract patterns.
As civilisations developed across the world, artistic styles grew from the differing cultures of ancient societies. Often the art created was based on religious beliefs or as a way of creating a historical record (such as Egyptian hieroglyphics).
The history of art can be traced through several different distinct time periods. Within each period there are a number of different artistic styles and movements. Each style of art can be seen as either an attempt to break with, or re-define, a previous style. These different styles often coincide with moments of great political and social change, as artists reacted to the times in which they worked.
Although there are no truly defining dates for when each period starts and finishes, with many movements overlapping, they are (in order):
Prehistoric and ancient art
Main article: Prehistoric and ancient art
The earliest known forms of recognisable art date back to at least 38,000 B.C and the period of ancient art refers to works created by the great civilisations of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. The style then developed into the Classical antiquity of Greece and the Roman Empire.
Medieval art (200 – 1430)
Main article: Medieval art
Styles within this period include: Early Christian art, Byzantine art, Anglo Saxon art, Mosan art, Migration Period art, Romanesque art and Gothic art.
Renaissance art (1300 – 1602)
Main article: Renaissance art
Styles within this period include: Italian Renaissance art and Classicism.
Neoclassicism (1602 – 1830)
Main article: Neoclassicism
Styles within this period include: Mannerism and Late Renaissance art, Baroque art, Rococo art and Neoclassicism.
Romanticism (1790 – 1880)
Main article: Romanticism
Styles within this period include: The Nazarene movement, The Ancients, Purismo, the Düsseldorf school, the Hudson River school and Luminism.
Modern art (1900 – 1970)
Styles within this period include: The Norwich school, Biedermeier, Photography and Realism.
Main article: Modern art
Styles within this period include: Russian Avant-Garde, Impressionsim, Luminism, Symbolism, the Arts and Crafts movement, Post-Impressionsim, Pointillism, Fauvism, Art Nouveau, Expressionsim, Abstract art, Cubism, the Ashcan school, Futurism, Dadaism, Bauhaus, Surrealism, Constructivism, Art Deco, Abstract Expressionism, Outsider art, Pop art, Situationsim and Minimalism.
Contemporary art (1960s – present day)
Main article: Contemporary art
Styles within this period include: Postmodern art, Modernism, New Realism, Conceptual art, Graffiti, Junk art, Psychedelic art, Photorealism, Installation art, Neo-expressionism and Deconstructivism.
Types of art
The term ‘art’ can cover a number of mediums used by artists to express their ideas. These include:
The world’s most expensive artwork
Main article: List of notable artworks
The world record for the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction is held by Francis bacon's 1969 triptych ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’. Depicting his close friend (and sometime-rival) British figurative painter Lucian Freud, the work sold at Christie's in New York in November 2013 for a price of $142,405,000.
The sale beat the previous record held by Edvard Munch's iconing painting 'The Scream', which sold at Sotheby's in 2012 for $119,922,500.
The record for the most expensive artwork ever privately sold is understood to be held by 'The Card Players' (1892) by Paul Cézanne. The painting was reported to have been sold by Greek shipping magnate George Embiricos to the Royal family of Quatar for a price in excess of $259 million.
This sale beat the previous record held by Jackson Pollock’s ‘No.5, 1948’, which was sold by David Geffen to an anonymous collector in 2006 for an alleged $140m.
The most valuable artwork of all time is thought to be Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Mona Lisa’. Its last recorded valuation was in 1962, when the painting was insured for $100m. Adjusted for inflation in 2010, this value would be approximately $713m.