Art History

Many artistic movements are reflective of larger Social Movements. In 1848 there were uprisings and revolutions in many European countries. It was a restless time that resulted in new attitudes to class structure, politics, morals and fashion. These new attitudes were reflected in the new artistic styles that swept across Europe at the same time.

Realism was a movement in art that focused on ordinary people in ordinary settings. Realist paintings often depicted field workers, fisher-folk or farm animals. The movement recorded the heroic nature of everyday life and reflected the beliefs of the Socialist Movement. Realism became popular with many young British painters, who reacted against the romantic storytelling themes that were popular in Victorian art at that time.

Throughout art history, work that has been thought of as very controversial when new, has come to be accepted as quite conventional. Today, the Impressionists are one of the most popular artistic movements. The Impressionists experimented with new methods of painting. They were interested in representing the effects of light on colour and how it appeared to the human eye. When it was first exhibited, their work was thought of as controversial and shocking by art critics as it was very different to what was popular at the time.

Pop art was another movement that was viewed as rebellious when it first began. Now it is seen as being quite fun and acceptable. Its influence can be found everywhere in modern culture. Like Realism, Pop art was part of a larger social movement. Pop art aimed to shock, and reflected the new ideals and imagery of popular 1960s culture, in other words "pop culture". It challenged the artistic conventions of the time. Pop artists took very mundane objects, such as soup cans or images from comic books, and made them into art.

Mariana by Dante Gabriel Rossetti The Gleaner by Jules Adolphe Aime Louis Breton La Falaise à Fécamp (The Cliffs at Fécamp) by Claude Monet

Related Timelines

Art History Timeline


  1. Look at the Art History Timelines. Can you find sets of pictures that are very similar in style? Think about what makes them similar to each other and different from other pictures.
  2. Look at Scottish Landscape pictures. Can you find a picture of a forest in winter and a picture of a landscape in summer? Think about what the artist has done to express the season in each of them.
  3. Choose and everyday object to do a drawing of to create your own pop art picture. Make sure you use bright colours!