Sunday, 5 August 2012

art history, cave to renaissance

( J. Miro   )



1                    Intro

 2               Cave painting

 6               Egypt and Mesopotamia

     10             Map of the ancient world

12            The Mediterranean  World

14            Ancient Greece and Rome

19            China

22             India
24                                 Islamic art

28             Byzantine Art

31             Celtic Art

34             The East

35            The Mezoamericans

36           The Wilton Diptych

     37          About Part II           

38           Timelines

40         Bibliography

     41           Websites
By  M.Kelly 
Edited by C. Hambleton
A Concise (ish) History of Painting
Part 1: Prehistory – end of Middle Ages

“The blowing of the second trumpet”  illuminated manuscript c 950AD CE, Spain

It is useful to know something of the history of art since, amongst other things; it sheds light on the development of the human race. For the purposes of these booklets the term ‘art’ is being used to encompass drawing and painting- in caves, on walls, pottery, papyrus (paper-like material), wooden board, vellum (animal hide), plastics  and cloth (silk, canvas, hessian, etc;)  but not sculpture, architecture, jewellery or textile design although many of the theories herein do apply to these other artistic ‘disciplines’.
The terms:  “Shamanistic”, “Divinistic”, “Narrativistic”, “Reactivistic”, “Capitalistic”, “Egoistic”, “Egotistic” and “Conceptualistic” are not descriptions of ‘movements’, styles or periods of art such as Cubism, Gothic or the Renaissance. They are descriptions of the motivation behind a work of art.  The need to communicate lies at the root of all art but the need to communicate what? And why?…  An understanding of the nature of the motivation is a way of getting to grips with the complex and multi-layered history of a series of failures, triumphs and…. artworks that were simply ‘fit for purpose’. 
Shamanistic Art.     (cave painting)

Cave paintings,  Lascaux, France.

  Although Homo Sapiens appear to have walked this planet for about 200,000 years
the first painting did not take place until approximately 30,000 years ago in Europe and 40,000 years ago in Australia. The most famous examples (in Europe) are the cave paintings at Altamira (northern Spain),  Lascaux and the Chauvet caves (southern France) these are believed to have been created by the Magdalenian people of the Palaeolithic era. (  visite la Grotte, it’s very good )
Prehistoric painters used the pigments available in the vicinity. These pigments were the so-called earth pigments, (minerals limonite and hematite, red ochre, yellow ochre and umber), charcoal from the fire (carbon black), burnt bones (bone black) and white from grounded calcite (lime white).  ( )

The oldest examples of Aboriginal cave paintings are in West Australia's Pilbara region, the Olary district of South Australia and Arnheim Land, they are estimated to be up to around 40,000 years old.

(Kakadu, Australia)

In Europe there are other caves whose walls were painted between 30,000 -10,000 years ago with pictures, mainly of animals. There are bison, horses, deer and mammoths (ancient XL hairy version of elephants) and some people believe that the individuals who painted them hoped that it would help their tribe to kill the animals for food and clothing. It would appear from the quantity of found images that they did not paint every time they went out to hunt. It is more likely that they did it at on such occasions as the turn of the year (summer solstice- June 21st) or the birth of the tribal leader’s children. Many of the large images are painted in parts of caves where painting would have required, wooden, scaffolding and lamps of animal fat to be used. A serious enterprise; not just to pass the time because it was wet outside.
This type of art may, in part, be considered ‘Shamanistic’ .  A Shaman was (and still is) an individual who attempts to channel unseen forces of the natural and spiritual world  so as to create (generally) positive outcomes for their tribe (e.g. a successful hunt). They may also use parts of trees and plants, animal products, etc; to create positive outcomes, to journey into the spirit world as well as to heal individuals. 
Because there are hardly any paintings of flowers or trees or other things, just the animals, they would have needed to kill for food, and since this would be one of the most dangerous activities they undertook, it is reasonable to conclude that the paintings were created for Shamanistic purposes. Some argue that because no remnants of ceremonies have been discovered, the paintings were not created for religious or shamanistic reasons. However this can be described as fallacious  (unsound) reasoning, the creation of the painting was the ceremony, by creating the animal/ the hunt on the wall you were defining your power over its kind/ adding a ‘blessing’ to the outcome of the hunts. Or maybe not, no-one actually knows but E H Gombrich said
 ( in The Story of Art 15th Edition )
“they are the oldest relics of that universal belief in the power of picture-making; in other words, that these primitive hunters thought that if they only made a picture of their prey – and perhaps belaboured it with spears or stone axes – the real animals would also succumb to their power”

Cave paintings in Australia, Africa, Asia and the Americas contain more humanoid figures, often, apparently hunting so the same analysis could be applied to them.

     The Chumash people California

   The San people, South Africa                                                

Humans painted in many of these styles for over 20,000 years. Although there are differences, the similarities are more important. Painters had a very limited understanding of scale, perspective, foreshortening and, therefore, pictorial depth
(The apparent distance from front to back or near to far in an artwork. Techniques of perspective are used to create the illusion of depth in paintings ) .  This is not a criticism, just an observation.
A few cave paintings, in various locations around the world, contain depictions of what some people describe as aliens and spacecraft……. .

            (Summawarescary, Australia)                                                       (Val Cominca, Italy)

Divinistic Art
The next development in art can be found in the tombs of Ancient Egypt beginning around 5,500 years ago and soon after in Babylon and Assyria

The movement from a hunter/ gatherer lifestyle to a more settled and sophisticated farming economy took place in these regions due to the river Nile (in Egypt) and the Euphrates and Tigris in what was called Mesopotamia:  largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq as well as some parts of northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and southwestern Iran.
 ( ) ( )
Using the waters of these rivers people were able to plant and harvest such things as edible wild grasses (that became wheat and rye) vegetables and rice. They also herded, corralled and bred goats, cattle, etc; and that is how they were able to create a relatively stable economy.  These groups of people, often described as tribes, evolved (sometimes by attacking and overcoming other tribes) to become kingdoms. Kings or Pharaohs as they were known in Egypt, wanted records made of their endeavours, successes and creation myths. To this end they had the interiors of tombs and temples adorned with paintings and relief paintings. ( )

(Egypt circa 3,000 BCE)

Sometimes the paint was applied directly to the walls and sometimes the paint was added to low relief carvings in sandstone. The difference in the highs and lows being only approx 5cm. They were then painted with colours such as red-brown (iron oxide), red-orange (dried bodies of female scale insects such as beetles  or realgar, a form of arsenic sulphide), yellow (orpiment, a form of arsenic sulphide), white (crushed bone, ivory), black (soot or roasted ivory) and blue (Lapis lazuli, a semi precious stone).   (  )

For nearly three thousand years they painted in this stylised fashion but  “it must not be supposed that Egyptian artists thought that human beings looked like that. They merely followed a rule which allowed them to include everything in the human form that they considered important. Perhaps the strict adherence to the rule had something to do with their magic purpose. For how could a man with his arm ‘foreshortened’ or ‘cut off’ bring or receive the required offerings to the dead?   (And for 3,000 years)
No-one wanted anything different, no-one asked the artist to be ‘original’. On the contrary, he was probably considered the best artist who could make his statues (and paintings) like the admired monuments of the past. So it happened that in the course of three thousand years or more Egyptian art changed very little.

Apart from around the 12th century BCE when Amenophis IV ( who called himself Akhnaten after his single God; Aten)  broke with tradition and moved his court to a place now called Tell-el-Amarna. And his artists seem to have been affected by Mycenaean art.  During the reign of his successor; Tutankhamen the window to the outside world was shut  and the old beliefs and art forms were restored.”
  E H Gombrich  The Story of Art, 15th Edition.

(Nubian offerings)

Bit of farming and all that
These artworks might be thought of, mainly, as ‘Divinistic’ since they were done on the orders of a king / pharaoh and in those times such people were considered to be living Gods (divine) and the artworks were about their doings (even their farming) and those of their Gods that, generally, ruled from up above  such as:

                                                      Ra (sun God)                     

                                              Atum (the creator God),   

                                             Khepri (creator and sun), 

                                                 Hathor (love and joy),       


Lion. c.575 BCE. Processional Way, Babylon. Glazed brick. Height: approx 38" (96.5cm).
 Archaeological Museum, Istanbul, Turkey

(In Babylonia and Assyria painted ceramic tiles were used to illustrate myths
    and historical narratives, as decorations in tombs and palaces.)

Assyrian Lamassu, Human headed, winged lion (or bull) c 510 BCE
The Ancient Mediterranean World

Around about 3.500 years ago the Minoans based in Crete (+ the Mycenaeans of the Peloponnese)  and about 2,700 years ago the Etruscans in what is now known as Italy started making decorated pottery, murals,  mosaics on floors and walls and paintings.



Narrativistic art
They illustrated such things as men in acrobatic combat with bulls, sea creatures, sexual activities and mythical beings such as the Minotaur. The styles became elegant and graphic although not totally naturalistic with the regard to the proportion of humans. The people of these civilisations, like the ones in northern Europe, China, India and other parts of south east Asia believed in a range of Gods, demi-Gods and heroic individuals and had complex stories involving these beings.
Many of these stories/ myths and narratives were the subject matter of their art and so it could be described as the dawn of Narrativistic art/ Illustrative art. It is this urge to tell/ illustrate a story (and make money) that has lead to the rise of today’s international film industry. A narrative is a story that is created in a constructive format (as a work of writing, speech, poetry, prose, pictures, song, motion pictures, etc;) that describes a sequence of fictional or non-fictional events. Painters have never been so good at making up their own stories. The main difficulty is that a single image cannot relate a whole story and people seem to feel short changed if they can’t see/ know the whole thing which is one of the reasons why films are the predominant art form today.  Some people say that painting was killed in the 1930’s by Sam Goldwyn and Cecil B de Mille.  Libel: a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person, except they, Goldwyn and de Mille, are dead.

Greece & Rome
                            A Vase                                                                

                        A Vase

Approximately 2,700 years ago various independent city states (including the Mycenaeans and the Athenians), in and around what is now referred to as Greece, combined forces to become what we now call Ancient Greece and created a form of democracy (called an oligarchy) which, while it did not give rights to any women or men (who did not own land), was still a major step forward from what had gone before. They also created a more naturalistic form of art, especially in the area of sculpture.
  “By the time Greek philosophy reached its zenith in the fourth century BCE the philosophy of art already had a history and the issues that Plato and Aristotle discussed had already been settled, unsettled, re-settled, raised again and generally disputed over. And this fact is hardly surprising. For art is one of the things that sets human beings apart from other animals. “
(The Philosophy of Art by A Neill and A Ridley. McGraw Hill ) 
Now, that’s fair enough and lots of art historians say similar things but it (and they) doesn’t/ don’t  explain why the sculpture of Ancient Greece, mainly of the human form, was so naturalistic and realistic and yet their painting was so lame. Painters were, mainly, paid to make paintings, , and they were paid to make them ‘to a brief’, as in:
 “I want a painting of a couple of men fighting and a couple of Oryx, on that wall and that wall there, for my wife’s birthday because she likes fighting and antelopes…. But not men fighting antelopes so don’t get it mixed up. The party’s  20 days from now, budget- 15 drachmas tops”
 (Sculptors and doctors could make about 6 drachmas a day, see frescoes below, a decent painter would have painted those 2 images in 2-3 days maximum).
The ancient Greek philosophising was mainly about poetry and when they spoke of painting they (Plato for instance) hardly got any further than the idea of imitating nature, so you would think the painters might have made a better attempt at it.  And yet Aristotle supposedly said   The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance”. Ancient Greek artists appear to have never actually done anything like that, so maybe that was when he was talking about poetry, or play writing (which is what he concentrated on). For someone who invented logic you’d think he would have been sharper with his definitions, seriously sharper. The lesson to be learnt is that there can be no single definition of ‘art’ because there is, and was, so many disciplines (prose, drama, poetry, sculpture, painting, architecture, etc;)  nor can there be one definition of painting, or the philosophy, of painting since it is, and has been, undertaken for a variety of reasons by a wide range of individuals around the world.
(see Futurists and consider DaDa)

Bargain really  for 15 drachma

(Silenus – Greek 4th cent BCE)

Pliny, Ancient Rome’s most important historian concerning the arts, recorded that nearly all the forms of art—sculpture, landscape, portrait painting, even genre painting (scenes from everyday life = partly narratavistic) —were advanced in Greek times, and in some cases, more advanced than in Rome. Though very little remains of Greek wall art and portraiture, certainly Greek sculpture and vase painting bears this out. These forms were not likely surpassed by Roman artists in fineness of design or execution.
 As another example of the lost “Golden Age”, he singled out Peiraikos, “whose artistry is surpassed by only a very few…He painted barbershops and shoemakers’ stalls, donkeys, vegetables, and such, and for that reason came to be called the ‘painter of vulgar subjects’; yet these works are altogether delightful, and they were sold at higher prices than the greatest [paintings] of many other artists “
Now this is all well and good and this next story is often quoted in Histories of Art
Zeuxis and his contemporary Parrhasius (of Ephesus and later Athens) are reported in the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder to have staged a contest to determine which of the two was the greater artist. When Zeuxis unveiled his painting of grapes, they appeared so luscious and inviting that birds flew down from the sky to peck at them. Zeuxis then asked Parrhasius to pull aside the curtain from his painting, only for Parrhasius to reveal the curtain itself was a painting, and Zeuxis was forced to concede defeat. Zeuxis is rumored to have said: 'I have deceived the birds, but Parrhasius has deceived Zeuxis.'
However, none of the remaining Greek or Roman painting looks as though it could have been so realistic as to fool an artist (painter) and although Pliny was a great historian he was also a great story teller (but not a great painter) so we may need to consider taking a pinch of salt with this ‘grape painting fooling the birds’ story.

The beginning of Portrait painting - around about the 4th century BCE. It could be described as the beginning of “Capitalistic” art. This is where the motivation is an individual’s desire (not necessarily a king, pharaoh or chieftain) to make themselves look important, to leave a record of themselves for generations to come and, usually, to show off their wealth: “Look at me in my bling, and look at my excellent wife/ husband/ partner-type person, my top-of-the-range horse and my totally massive house”.   There is little in the way of physical evidence because the portraits were often painted on wooden boards but people wrote about them. Most of the paintings of the this era were created using Tempera, also known as egg tempera It is a permanent fast drying painting medium consisting of coloured pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk, + water, or some other size).

It would appear that the ancient Greeks used perspective in their 2 dimensional art and that the Romans continued with the practice. It was not a mathematically/ visually correct perspective but it was not unrecognisable. In fact, the first painting that dealt with foreshortening of figures and a set them in a naturalistic-looking landscape was painted shortly after 323 BC CE because it was on the tomb that was once thought to be that of Phillip II but is now thought to be that of Alexander the Great (his son), at Vergina in northern Greece.

( Reconstruction )
Maybe we should settle on:  “The classical period (5th and 4th centuries BCE ) had broken important ground in naturalistic representation. Its artists had discovered foreshortening, shading, highlights and some idea of recession.”
The Oxford History of Classical Art edited by John Boardman. Oxford University Press.


Although art (as in sculpture, pottery, jewellery)  has been created for many thousands of years in China it is only since approximately 400 BCE (the Warring states period) that painting (on silk and walls) became a recognised artistic discipline.
During the Six Dynasties period (220–589 AD CE), people began to appreciate painting for its own beauty and to write about art. From this time we begin to know about individual artists, such as Gu Kaizhi. Even when these artists illustrated Confucian moral themes – such as the proper behavior of children to their parents – they tried to make the figures graceful. Calligraphy was also a big deal

Yue Fei [Yueh Fei] - Song Dynasty (1107-1187)  ‘Give me Back My Land !’

Two gentlemen engrossed in conversation while two others look on, a Chinese painting on a ceramic tile from a tomb near Luoyang, Henan province, dated to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 AD CE).

Luoshenfu by Gu Kaizhi (344-406 AD CE)

Six principles

The "Six principles of Chinese painting" were established by Xie He, a writer, art historian and critic in 5th century China. He is most famous for his "Six points to consider when judging a painting" :
1.    "Spirit Resonance", or vitality, and seems to translate to the nervous energy transmitted from the artist into the work. The overall energy of a work of art. Xie He said that without Spirit Resonance, there was no need to look further.
2.    "Bone Method", or the way of using the brush. This refers not only to texture and brush stroke, but to the close link between handwriting and personality. In his day, the art of calligraphy was inseparable from painting.
3.    "Correspondence to the Object", or the depicting of form, which would include shape and line.
4.    "Suitability to Type", or the application of color, including layers, value and tone.
5.    "Division and Planning", or placing and arrangement, corresponding to composition, space and depth.
6.    "Transmission by Copying", or the copying of models, not only from life but also the works of antiquity.
It may have been written 2,500 years ago but it still holds true with regard to representational art.   The word "representational," when used to describe a work of art, means that the work depicts something that can be recognized by most people.
It’s fair to say that, like in Europe, Asian Art started out as Shamanistic then developed into Divinistic and Narratavistic as religions became more sophisticated and city states grew into nation states. However in the 11th century  “Buddhism influenced Chinese art ….devout artists began to paint water and mountains (and trees, and clouds) in a spirit of reverence, not in order to teach any particular lesson, not merely as decorations but to provide material for deep thought…That is the purpose behind the greatest of the Chinese landscape paintings of the 12th and 13th centuries.”  
E H Gombrich  The Story of Art 15th Edition

And so the idea was that the viewer would meditate upon the painting, make his/ her devotions and therefore it could be described as:

Devotionalistic  art
Later, in the USA in the 1950’s artists such as Barnet Newman and Mark Rothko would develop an abstract art that was based on similar principles.
In ancient China Capitalistic art followed Divinistic and Narratavistic as wealthy individuals chose to record and advertise their prowess. And this progression applied to the wide ranging art of:
The history of Indian murals starts in ancient and early medieval times, from 2nd century BC to 8th - 10th century AD. There are known to be more than 20 locations around India containing murals from this period, mainly natural caves and rock-cut chambers. The highest achievements of this time are the caves of Ajanta, Bagh, Sittanavasal, Armamalai Cave (Tamil Nadu), Ravan Chhaya rock shelter, Kailasanatha temple in Ellora Caves. Murals from this period depict mainly religious themes of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu religions.

A mural painting depicting a scene from Mahajanaka Jataka, Cave 1, Ajanta
“The making of images was forbidden (by the Muslim conquerors of Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa and Spain) But art as such cannot be so easily suppressed, and the craftsmen of the East, who were not permitted to represent human beings, let their imagination play with pattern and forms……Later sects among the Muslims were less strict in their interpretation of the ban on images. They did allow the painting of figures and illustrations as long as they had no connection with religion”
E H Gombrich  The Story of Art 15th Edition

Iskandar (Alexander the Great) at the Talking Tree from a manuscript of the Shahnama
 (Book of Kings) by Firdawsi circa 1330-1340, Il-Khanid dynasty
The previous illustration is from Iran and “depicts the king's arrival at the end of the world, where he encounters a tree with male and female heads. The talking tree, shown here with both human and animal heads, warns the king of his imminent death in a foreign land. Like much of Ilkhanid art, the painting draws on Chinese pictorial elements, such as the surging rocks and vegetation, to create an unusual and evocative composition”

Leaf from a Qur'an manuscript, late 11th–12th century
Iran or Afghanistan
Ink, gold, and colors on paper
Source: Leaf from a Qur'an manuscript [Iran or Afghanistan] (29.160.23) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Islamic art developed from many sources: Roman, Early Christian art, and Byzantine styles were taken over in early Islamic art and architecture; the influence of the Sassanian art of pre-Islamic Persia was of paramount significance; Central Asian styles were brought in with various nomadic incursions; and Chinese influences had an important effect on Islamic painting, pottery, and textiles."

There are repeating elements in Islamic art, such as the use of geometrical floral or vegetal designs in a repetition known as the arabesque. The arabesque in Islamic art is often used to symbolize the transcendent, indivisible and infinite nature of Allah. Mistakes in repetitions may be intentionally introduced as a show of humility by artists who believes only Allah can produce perfection, although this theory is disputed.
Human portrayals can be found in all eras of Islamic art. Human representation for the purpose of worship is considered idolatry and is duly forbidden in Islamic law, known as Sharia law. There are also many depictions of Muhammad, Islam's chief prophet, in historical Islamic art.
Today, as is well known, figurative art is widely rejected in Islam and depictions of Muhammad are considered especially offensive. The article in the website mentioned below seeks to provide a factual background for this, chronicling the history of figurative depictions in Islamic art, pinning down exactly what is prohibited in the Qur'an and hadith, and exploring the reasoning given for the special sensitivity to depictions of Muhammad.


The Emperor Constantine, who was crowned in York, in what is now known as England,  ‘turned’ the Roman empire Christian (313 AD  CE, his Edict of Milan)  and in 330 AD CE  moved the capital from Rome to Byzantium (which he re-named Constantinople) to consolidate the ‘Eastern Empire’.  Constantinople is now known as Istanbul, the capital of modern day Turkey. In 1453 AD CE, after 1,123 years as the capital,  the city ‘fell’ to Sultan Mehmed II and his troops of the Ottoman Empire,. This marked the demise of the Byzantine Empire and is a date that is considered to be the end of what was known as ‘the Middle Ages’ in Europe. Many scholars and artists fled to Italy and that was one of the major catalysts of the ‘Renaissance’.

(Emperor Justinian and friends c 550 AD CE)
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) from about 5th century until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The term has also been used for the art of states which were contemporary with the Byzantine Empire and shared a common culture with it: Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia and also Venice, which had close ties to the Byzantine Empire.  In some respects the Byzantine artistic tradition has continued in Russia, Greece, Serbia, and other Eastern Orthodox countries to the present day.

 Fresco of the Crucifixion in Santa Maria Antiqua, Rome dating from between 741 to 752,

This style of art was, and is, used to depict Holy topics and so can be considered Divinistic. The paintings themselves usually included quite a lot of gold leaf. The mosaics included gold leaf and coloured glass and semi-precious stones; a form of multi media or very posh collage.

Madonna and child
You might already have noticed the slightly weird thing about this style from the three illustrations. It’s a proportion thing. In the real world you could say there are 7 heads to the body (i.e. the body is 7 times the height of a head) and they had that sorted artwise in ancient Greece around 700 BCE. In Byzantine art (starting about 1,000 years later) there are 12 heads to the body and that’s why they all look too tall. No-one is absolutely sure why, Your task, should you accept it, is to find out the reason.
It has nothing to do with the ‘Golden Section’ (which shall be dealt with in Part II) and it is not because people had smaller heads (or longer bodies)  at that time.

(Keltick art)

There are three "traditions" of Celtic art, the first being the continental Iron age art, mainly associated with La Tène  and the Hallstatt cultures (approx 500-100 BCE)  which draws on native, classical and (perhaps via the Mediterranean) oriental sources.

Overview of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. The core Hallstatt territory (800 BCE) is shown in solid yellow, the area of influence by 500 BCE, in light yellow. The core territory of the La Tène culture (450 BCE) is shown in solid green, the eventual area of La Tène influence by 50 BCE in light green. The territories of some major Celtic tribes are labeled.

The second, Iron Age (throughout the Roman occupation of Britain) art in Britain and Ireland, draws on the continental tradition while adding distinctive regional styles (see Sutton Hoo). The third, the Celtic "renaissance" of the early Middle Ages (750-950 AD CE) in Ireland and parts of Britain and France, is also called Insular art by those who argue that it arises from a mixture of influences that cannot be characterised as exclusively Celtic. Nevertheless, it was this third tradition formed the basis for the art of the Celtic revival beginning in the late 18th century.  (Wikipedia, partly)

Shoulder clasp from Sutton Hoo (ship) burial mound (Suffolk) c 500-625 AD CE

This was made by Anglo Saxons, not Celts but it has distinct similarities. This was at a time when it was becoming cool to be a Christian in northern Europe.
Celtic art has had an increasing influence on tattoos since the 1980’s. It costs approximately 12 times as much to have a tattoo removed as it does to have it done.

Mismatching patterns, circa 2002

This takes us into the ‘Dark Ages’, the ‘Middle Ages’  ‘Medieval Times’ , these are European terms relating to the period approximately 476 AD CE (the Fall of the western Roman empire) to the 14th century:-  the Renaissance.  The ‘Dark Ages’ are generally considered to have lasted from  476-1000 AD CE and are referred to as the ‘early Middle Ages’. This was when the inventiveness of the Roman Empire was dispersed and Europe went through a rough and nasty phase and most scholastic and artistic activity took place in castles, churches and monasteries .  
Have a look at the Lindisfarne Gospels via this link:



In Asia, Islamic, Chinese, Japanese and Indian art and culture continued to flourish. In Japan the lively Ban Dainagon Ekotoba used a continuous narrative illustration which emphasized figures in active motion depicted in rapidly executed brush strokes and thin but vibrant colors. The 11th century Siege of the Sanjō Palace is a famous example of this style. Possibly the origin of the Manga style.

Night attack on the Sanjo Palace, 11th century, Japan.

Panel from the Tale of Genji, handscroll (detail) 11th century. Sometimes called  the world’s first modern novel.

In the Americas the: Olmecs, Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Aztecs, Toltecs, Mayans and the Incas got on with their art  (not much in the way of painting but fantastic stone reliefs, ceramics, architecture and sculpture) and although the Spaniards subjected them to terrible suffering in the 16th and 17th centuries (and beyond) the Inca and the Mayan peoples continue to exist and still create beautiful art and artefacts.  It should be noted that the Aztecs subjected other people to their rule and,  “Human sacrifice, practiced by most other Mesoamericans, had become the central rite of Aztec religion. On dates determined by the astrological calendar they sacrificed their own people by the thousand – hearts of 20,000 are said to have been torn out at a single occasion – and to obtain more victims they embarked, in the mid-fifteenth century, on a campaign of imperial expansion, the success of which was largely due to their soldier’s disciplined willingness to confront death. As a result, Cortes was greeted as a liberator by the subject peoples who assisted him in the conquest of Mexico – promptly followed by the suppression of the indigenous religions, and the arts they had inspired”.
  A World History of Art. H Honour and J Fleming
Cacaxtla Battle Mural, Zapotec circa 500 AD CE

Inca artefact    c 800 AD CE

 Aztec Moon Goddess Relief, Temple Mayor Museum, Mexico City. 1400 A.D.CE This sculpture, 10 feet in diameter, is one of the most impressive and important examples of Aztec art. Her name is Coyolxauhqui, which means "She of the Rattles on her Cheeks". She was also called one who "spoke to all the centipedes and spiders and transformed herself into a sorceress" or a "very evil woman". She was one of the major goddesses in Aztec mythology.

Back to Europe: England c1400

The Wilton Diptych in the National Gallery (London) takes its name from Wilton House,  Wiltshire, where it was housed between 1705 and 1929. The name of the artist and the place where it was made are unknown. It has been suggested that the painter came from Italy or Bohemia, but it is probable that the diptych ( - painting or other representation composed of two hinged leaves which close like a book ) was made on behalf of Richard II himself and that it was painted in England or northern France around the time of Richard's second marriage in 1396. Surviving panel paintings from northern Europe dating from the late 14th century are very rare. Check out those angel wings

On the outside (exterior) of the diptych the heraldic 
decoration relates to Richard II. The king's arms on the panel behind the Virgin and Child consist of shield, cresting and mantle. Richard began to display his arms in this way only from 1395 onwards.
And the rest of Europe:
after a lot of unpleasantness- the early Middle Ages- things began to pick up (artwise) and people started to put some physical and mental effort into painting and it is generally thought that this began in Italy after the fall of Constantinople and the beginning of it is best illustrated by the work of Giotto di Bondone.

"The massacre of the innocents", 1302-05   (very unpleasant)
Fresco on wall, 200- 185 cm. – Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

This is the beginning of  “the Renaissance”  ( from Old French: renaistre, to be born again,  from Latin: renasci, to be born again )   and is dealt with (concisely) in Part II.

Art Periods/

Chief Artists and Major Works               

Historical Events
Stone Age (30,000 –2500 b.c.e.)
Cave painting, fertility goddesses, megalithic structures
Lascaux Cave Painting, Woman of Willendorf, Stonehenge
Ice Age ends (10,000.–8,000 b.c.e.); New Stone Age and first permanent settlements (8000 –2500 b.c.e.)
Mesopotamian (3500 –539 b.c.e.)
Warrior art and narration in stone relief
Standard of Ur, Gate of Ishtar, Stele of Hammurabi's Code
Sumerians invent writing (3400 b.c.e.); Hammurabi writes his law code (1780 b.c.e.); Abraham founds monotheism
Egyptian (3100 –30 b.c.e.)
Art with an afterlife focus: pyramids and tomb painting
Imhotep, Step Pyramid, Great Pyramids, Bust of Nefertiti
Narmer unites Upper/Lower Egypt (3100 b.c.e.); Rameses II battles the Hittites (1274 b.c.e.); Cleopatra dies (30 b.c.e.)
Greek and Hellenistic (850 –31 b.c.e.)
Greek idealism: balance, perfect proportions; architectural orders(Doric, Ionic, Corinthian)
Parthenon, Myron, Phidias, Polykleitos, Praxiteles
Athens defeats Persia at Marathon (490 b.c.e.); Peloponnesian Wars (431 –404 b.c.e.); Alexander the Great's conquests
 (336 –323 b.c.e.)

Art Periods/

     Chief Artists    
     and Major

      Historical Events

Roman (500 b.c.e.– a.d. 476)
Roman realism: practical and down to earth; the arch
Augustus of Primaporta, Coliseum, Trajan's Column, Pantheon
Julius Caesar assassinated (44 b.c.e.); Augustus proclaimed Emperor (27 b.c.e.); Diocletian splits Empire (a.d. 292); Rome falls (a.d. 476)

Indian, Chinese, and Japanese(653 b.c.e.–a.d. 1900)
Serene, meditative art, and Arts of the Floating World
Gu Kaizhi, Li Cheng, Guo Xi, Hokusai, Hiroshige
Birth of Buddha (563 b.c.e); Silk Road opens (1st century b.c.e); Buddhism spreads to China (1st–2nd centuries a.d.) and Japan (5th century a.d.)
Byzantine and Islamic (a.d. 476–a.d.1453)
Heavenly Byzantine mosaics; Islamic architecture and amazing maze-like design
Hagia Sophia, Andrei Rublev, Mosque of Córdoba, the Alhambra
Justinian partly restores Western Roman Empire (a.d. 533–a.d. 562); Iconoclasm Controversy (a.d. 726–a.d. 843); Birth of Islam (a.d. 610) and Muslim Conquests (a.d. 632–a.d. 732)
Middle Ages (500–1400)
Celtic art, Carolingian Renaissance, Romanesque, Gothic
St. Sernin, Durham Cathedral, Notre Dame, Chartres, Cimabue, Duccio, Giotto
Viking Raids (793–1066); Battle of Hastings (1066); Crusades I–IV (1095–1204); Black Death (1347–1351); Hundred Years' War (1337–1453)

The Philosophy of Art, Readings Ancient and Modern, edited by A Neill, A Ridley.
ISBN 978-0-07-046192-5  McGraw Hill

Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art, edited by P Lamarque , S Haugen Olsen
ISBN 978-1-4051-0582-8  Blackwell Publishing

The Oxford History of Classical Art,     edited by J Boardman
ISBN 0-19-814386-9  Oxford University Press                                                 Good book

Greek Art,   by J Boardman   4th Edition
ISBN 0-500-20792-3  Thames and Hudson

The High Renaissance and Mannerism, Italy, the North and Spain  by L Murray
ISBN 0-500-20162-5    Thames and Hudson

History of Art, 5th Edition re-visited, by H W Janson and A F Janson
ISBN 0-500-23751-4  Thames and  Hudson                                                    Good book

Art, the History of Western Art, edited by: E L Buchholz, G Buhler, K Hille, A Kaeppele, I Stotland
ISBN 978-0-7136-6786-6   Herbert Press London.

The Story of Art 15th Edition     E H Gombrich 
ISBN  9-7000714-833552    Phaidon                                                             Very  Good book

Learning to look at paintings   Acton. M                       
ISBN                                 Routledge

A World History of Art 7th Edit          Honour H & Fleming J             
ISBN       Laurence King Publishing                                                          Another good book

Techniques of the World’s Great Paintings        Januszczack  W   
ISBN         Phaidon

Ayres  J       The Artist’s Craft, A History

      (directory for Japanese cultural websites)