When Did the History of Art Begin?

Art|Art History

The history of art is a vast and complex subject, spanning thousands of years, cultures, and styles. It is impossible to pinpoint the exact moment that the history of art began, as it is part of a continuous development from prehistoric times to the present day. However, it is possible to trace some of the major milestones that have marked the development of art through the ages.

The earliest known works of art date back to Upper Paleolithic Europe (c. 40,000–10,000 BCE). During this time, stone sculptures and cave paintings were created by early humans as an expression of their spiritual beliefs and rituals. This marks the beginnings of figurative art – an artistic tradition that has been passed down over generations in many different cultures worldwide.

The Ancient Egyptians (c. 3100 BCE – 332 BCE) are credited with establishing one of the first recognizable civilizations in history. Art was an integral part of their culture and they developed new techniques such as painting on papyrus and creating detailed sculptures from stone and wood. Their artwork often reflected religious themes and was used to decorate tombs, temples, and other public spaces.

In Ancient Greece (800 BCE – 146 BCE), art became more abstract as artists sought to express their ideas in new ways. Sculptures such as those found at the Parthenon depicted idealized human forms in motion while pottery designs adopted a more geometric style based on mathematical principles.

The Roman Empire (27 BCE – 476 CE) adopted much of Greek culture including its classical style of art which was used for propaganda purposes by emperors such as Augustus Caesar. During this period mosaics also became popular for decorating walls and floors in public buildings.

The Middle Ages (5th–15th centuries CE) saw a shift away from classical styles towards more religious-based artwork created by monks in illuminated manuscripts or carved into churches and cathedrals using intricate designs known as Gothic architecture.

The Renaissance period (14th–17th centuries CE) represented a rebirth of interest in classical styles but with a greater emphasis on realism which was achieved through techniques such as linear perspective and chiaroscuro lighting effects used by painters like Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci.

In modern times (18th century–present), artists have continued to push boundaries with new materials, techniques, and concepts giving rise to movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Pop Art, Minimalism etc.


The history of art can be traced back thousands of years but it is impossible to pinpoint exactly when it began due to its ongoing evolution throughout time. From prehistoric cave paintings to modern day movements like Surrealism or Pop Art – artists have always sought new ways to express their ideas through visual media making it an ever-changing field full of creativity and innovation.