Artistic Movements

When a group of artists work in a similar and distinctive style, using the same techniques or they share the same opinions or attitudes, the work of the group is sometimes described as being an artistic movement. There have been many artistic movements.

The artists whose work form an artistic movement often worked in the same country or city. For example, Impressionism is an important art movement which began in France. The artists in this movement tried to capture a moment in time through the effects of light and colour.

The work produced by the artists who make up each artistic movement may have been influenced by many things including the politics or social attitudes of the time. For example, the artists who formed the Realism movement in the 1800s were inspired by their belief in Socialism, and depicted scenes from real life in their work.

The artists in some movements worked closely together. For example the Camden Town Group was set up by Walter Sickert in 1911. The group had 16 members who exhibited together. The Colourists were a group of four Scottish artists who believed in the same approach to art but worked independently of each other. They all spent time in France in the early 1900s and were influenced by the use of strong colours found in French painting at that time.

In the late 1980s, a new movement in British art was formed, known as The Young British Artists (YBA). The artists in this movement have used lots of new types of materials and process in their work. The artists in this movement are still working today.

Lunga from Iona by Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell © Artist's Estate, c/o Portland Gallery, London. The Blue Petticoat by Spencer Frederick Gore


  1. Look at the French Impressionism  paintings in the 1800-1900 timeline. Impressionist artists tried to capture the effects of light and colour by using strokes of bright colours straight from the paint-tube side by side on the canvas instead of mixing them together to make new colours on a palette. Try using small lines of different shades of the same colour side by side and see what effects you can create. You don't have to use oil paint and canvas – you can use paper and paint or coloured pencils.
  2. Look at the 1800-1900 timeline. Look at French Impressionism  paintings. What have they in common? Now look at the Pre-Raphaelite  paintings. What have they in common?  Compare the differences between the Pre-Raphaelite and French Impressionist paintings.
  3. Look at all the different artistic movements in the timelines. Which one do you like most?  What attracts you to it?