Subscribe to our newsletter


Recognition of Art Movements

Kunststromingen herkennen - Lyklema Fine Art

Recognizing a period in which a painting was made can be done by the technique used, the representation, the canvas used and even the material of the stretcher frame. In this blog we briefly discuss the various movements since 1600.

BAROQUE (1600-1750)

Art is often made on commission these days. You could increase your prestige with a work of art. Think of the many portraits that Rembrandt painted, also to provide for his livelihood. The royal houses and the church were (and still are) often clients. Think of the Sistine Chapel or the many altarpieces from the Middle Ages. At the end of the 16th century, the Catholic Church noticed that it was losing believers to the Protestant Church. Of course, the Pope could not ignore this and orders artists to create art that removes doubts.

Baroque is therefore one of the few art styles that did not originate, but was imposed. Just as in the Renaissance, the church was often the client. The Baroque is characterized by great dark-light contrasts (chiaroscuro) and asymmetry. Examples of artists from this period are Peter Paul Rubens, Jan Steen and Johannes Vermeer. You will find their works in the Mauritshuis and the Rijksmuseum.


ROMANTICISM (1790-1850)

Romanticism was a movement that emerged mainly at the end of the 18th and 19th centuries in the arts (visual arts, literature and music) and the intellectual life of Germany, France and the United Kingdom in particular, but also in Belgium and the Netherlands. Romanticism was an (anti-) reaction to the ideals of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. “The world cannot be made” was the clear cultural criticism.

Romanticism is about the subjective experience with introspection, intuition, emotion and so spontaneity and imagination are central. Art had to show individual authenticity and feelings. It could also tip over into what is called Black Romanticism with its focus on 'the sublime': a combination of lust, pleasure, suffering, dreams, irrational fears, doom-mongering and horrible horrors.

Internationally, the best-known artists are Caspar David Friedrich, John Constable and Eugène Delacroix. Their differences show how diverse the Romantic movement actually was. Jan Ekels de Jonge, B.C. Koekkoek, Bart van Hove, Salomon Verveer and Andreas Schelfhout are Dutch exponents. In Belgium you should think of the history painter Gustaaf Wappers and, among others, Antoine Wiertz, Jean-Baptiste Madou, Adèle Kindt and Louis Gallait.


REALISM (1830-1875)

Realism, like Baroque, is a reaction to an idealistic art movement: Romanticism. In Romanticism, painting was based on emotion and imagination and representations were constructed and idealized. Around 1820 a movement emerged that painted from reality. Artists went into the countryside and painted nature as they saw it. The performances from this period are easy to recognize by the subjects from nature and the countryside and the relatively rough regions. Famous artist include Gustave Courbet and Théodore Rousseau.




Photography has turned the art world upside down. Suddenly reality could be captured in all its details and the world suddenly really saw itself in the moment. At the same time, oil paint was also stored in a tube, so that paint no longer had to be mixed live and painters could paint in the open air: En plein-Air. Revolutionary. The light became the aperture of the (photo) representation. Painters also focused on capturing the moment without romanticizing all the details, as in the period before Impressionism. This experimentation and opposition to the established order makes this the first modern art style. Impressionist works can be recognized by their depiction, which is often snapshots, a fleeting way of working with a quick touch, relatively little detail and playing with the types of light. Famous artists include Claude Monet, Édouard Manet and George Breitner. In the Netherlands, Impressionist works can mainly be viewed in the Stedelijk, Van Gogh Museum, Boijmans Van Beuningen and, for example, the Singer Museum.


POINTILISM (1885-1900)

The French artist Georges Seurat thought impressionism was not scientific enough and not precise enough. He thus formed the basis of a new sub-movement: pointilism. He himself initially spoke of 'chromoluminarism'. These neo-impressionists also painted everyday scenes, immortalizing the leisure activities and nightlife of the upper class, alongside cityscapes and landscapes.

The paint is applied to the canvas in short small strokes. In later works these become increasingly clear dots of color. Many pointillist paintings combine dots and short strokes of paint. Each dot is pure in color. By continuously alternating color and placing the dots close to each other, it appears as if colors are optically mixing with each other. The effect is most convincing when a pointillist painting is viewed from a greater distance. A performance can be created with only a limited number of bright colors. It uses how our brains register color and 'compose' images.

The best-known painters of pointillism are Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross, the Belgian Théo van Rysselberghe, Camille Pissarro, Giovanni Segantini, James Ensor, Édouard Vuillard. Dutch artists such as Piet Mondriaan, Vincent van Gogh and Jan Toorop also painted in pointillist style for a short period. In the Netherlands you will find works from this movement in the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijks and Het Singer in Laren.


SYMBOLISM (1888-1896)

Symbolism is a reaction to the materialistic view of life and therefore part of 'Fin de siècle'. Symbolists regarded imagination as the main inspiration for a work of art. Colors were not realistic but expressive. Emotion was more important than intellect. Painting from dream images. Artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin were considered the artists of Symbolism at the end of the nineteenth century. The synthetists and their followers took pious Christian scenes and everyday scenes of rural life as their subjects. The inner world, personal moods and subjective experiences are also sources of inspiration. Symbolist artists and writers across Europe in the 1890s rejected the Impressionist practice of studying the effects of light on the outside world and instead looked inward to explore themes of love and jealousy, loneliness and fear, illness and death

In addition to Moreau and Redon, James Ensor, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Félicien Rops and Henri Rousseau are famous artists of this movement. Dutch artists who are considered part of Symbolism are Roland Holst, Ferdinand Hart Nibrig, Carel de Nerée to Babberich and, for example, Jan Toorop. But Piet Mondriaan and many other Dutch Pointilists have also used this for a shorter or longer period of time in their works of art.


JUGEND STILL & ART Nouveau (1880-1914)

Jugenstill is called Art Nouveau outside Germany. However, they all stood for the same thing: modern, hopeful, new and youthful and was an anti-reaction to neo-classism and the form-blurring impressionism. Art Nouveau embraces technology in addition to traditional motifs. The style is often characterized by rich colors, geometric figures and excessive decorations. Art Nouveau manifested itself mainly in everyday objects such as glass art, jewelry, furniture, architecture and painting. The movement had a short but intense heyday, which mainly expanded during the Belle Epoque. In Western Europe the style was a thing of the past well before 1910, but in the East it could survive a little longer.


CUBISM (1907-1914)

All new art movements are first abhorred by the established order. For Cubism, that is putting it mildly. They were called disruptors of the peace. “Is it enough to represent what I can see?” Perspective painting has been used since the Renaissance. Cubism questioned this and looked at the world in a whole new way. Cubism can be recognized by: geometric shapes, often bright colors and a collage style. Famous Cubists are Pablo Picasso, George Braque and Robert Delaunay. The first two were inspired, among others, by the French painter Paul Cézanne, who stated that all of nature is made up of basic geometric shapes. In principle, everything we see can be reduced to cylinders, cones, cubes and spheres. Cezanne (almost) left out the perspective and dared to smash everything 'flat' again. It took 10 years before Picasso dared to show his first cubist painting Les Demoiselles to the outside world. In the Netherlands there are relatively many cubist works in the Art Museum in The Hague and the Kröller Müller.



It is not the sensorially observable reality that is important, but the inner expression of the artist. That, in one sentence, is the core of this movement that actually summarizes art from that time on. There is only one law: that there are no laws, and therefore they cannot be imposed on an artist. Not only can painted figures and objects undergo a change in shape, making them barely recognizable, colors also acquire their own emotional value in expressionist art. They can be completely separate from the visually observable. The sky is no longer gray or blue, but purple or poisonous green. Ignoring spatiality and deliberately ignoring laws of perspective are also frequently used in expressionist art. Human figures are not depicted plastically, but appear 'flat', as if there were only two dimensions.

Important representatives of expressionism from the early twentieth century are the artists' group Die Brücke, which was founded in Dresden in 1905, and the painters' group Der Blaue Reiter, later founded in Munich. The founders of Die Brücke were the architecture students Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Fritz Bleyl. Later other painters joined the group, including Otto Mueller, Max Pechstein, Emil Nolde and Kees van Dongen. Man and the landscape are the most important motifs depicted by this group of artists. Der Blaue Reiter was founded in 1911 by Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, Franz Marc and Alfred Kubin. The group was named after an equestrian painting Kandinsky painted in 1903. French Fauvism is strongly related to German Expressionism. Artist association De Ploeg, which was founded in 1918, was also strongly influenced by the time that Jan Wiegers spent in Davos with Kirchner.




After the Second World War, (abstract) expressionism flared up again, especially in America. The artists included here painted abstractly instead of figuratively, so radically different from the early expressionists. Similarities are that no laws apply here and feeling is the basis for expression. Art critic Robert Coates reintroduced the term abstract expressionism in 1946 in connection with the work of Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. The act of painting is central. It is also called action painting. Pollock laid his canvases flat on the floor and let the paint drip onto them or use the pouring techniques he developed himself. The size of the canvas almost drowns the viewer in that one color, so that it cannot miss its impact. Surfaces were carefully constructed by artists such as Newman and Rothko from several layers to be applied one after the other.

In addition to surrealism, Picasso and cubism also influenced the young avant-garde of New York. The abstraction of Kandinsky and Mondriaan, who had also settled in New York, was also a source of inspiration. An important difference between European and the new abstract American art was also the format in which the work was done. The European abstract paintings of the older generation were still of normal size, usually made on a standard easel. The Americans painted on a gigantic scale.



POPART (1950-1965)

The Pop art movement started separately, simultaneously in America and the United Kingdom. It used consumer society and popular culture as inspiration: advertisements, comics and mass-produced products were used as sources of inspiration. Pop art rebelled against the elite and wanted to make art for everyone again. By using popular culture as a source, many famous people appear in the works of art (think of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe). Pop art can be recognized by sharp lines, almost photo-like paintings with great attention to detail. Famous painters from this period are: Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. If you want to see examples live in the Netherlands, go to the Stedelijk Museum or the Boijmans Van Beuningen.


Sources:, Wikipedia, several books



Previous Article Next Article