What Is the History of Protest Art?

Art|Art History

The history of protest art is long and storied, stretching back to the earliest days of civilization. It is a type of art that has been used to communicate a message or political opinion, often in an attempt to draw attention to a perceived injustice or wrongdoing. From the earliest examples of graffiti on walls in ancient Egypt to the street art of today, protest art has long been a tool for expressing dissent and making one’s voice heard.

The earliest known examples of protest art date back to ancient Egypt. On the walls of tombs and temples, hieroglyphic messages were inscribed as a way for people to express their grievances against those in power. Similarly, ancient Greek and Roman societies also used graffiti as a way for people to express their dissatisfaction with their leaders and government policies.

In the Middle Ages, political cartoons emerged as another form of protest art. These drawings were used by satirists and cartoonists to comment on controversial topics such as politics, religion, and social issues. The most famous example is William Hogarth’s series “A Rake’s Progress” (1735), which satirized the moral decay of England at the time.

During the Enlightenment period, artwork was increasingly used as a form of political protest against oppressive regimes or governments that were seen as unjust or oppressive. In France during this period, many painters created works that sought to challenge the status quo and speak out against oppressive rulers like King Louis XIV. One famous example is Jacques-Louis David’s painting “The Death of Marat” (1793), which commemorates assassinated revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat.

In modern times, street art has become one of the most popular forms of protest art around the world. From Banksy’s satirical murals in London to Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama “Hope” poster from 2008, street artists use public spaces as their canvas for expressing dissent against governments and powerful institutions. In addition, digital technology has allowed for new forms of protest art such as memes and GIFs that are shared widely on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

Throughout history, protest art has been an effective tool in speaking truth to power and inspiring social change. Whether it be graffiti on tombs in Ancient Egypt or memes shared online today – its message remains clear: those who are oppressed must make their voices heard if they wish for meaningful change in society.


What Is the History of Protest Art? The history of protest art stretches back thousands of years with its roots firmly planted in Ancient Egypt and Greece where messages were inscribed on walls or painted onto canvases as ways to express grievances against those in power. Moving through time into modern day society we see similar themes emerge with street artists using public spaces as their canvas while digital technology opens up new possibilities such as memes being shared online through social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram.