Art History: Paintings of Cultural Significance

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.”

–Vincent Van Gogh

The quote,rightly said by one of the greatest painters of all times,represents how Painting takes us to a new realm all together.

The practice of applying pigment,paint or color or any other medium to a solid surface is called “painting”.Any sort of tool can be used but for the longest of time; brush has been used as the base and other tools/implements such as sponges,knives,airbrushes is also used.The support for paintings includes canvas,paper,wall surfaces,pottery,lacquer,leaf ,wood,concrete leaf, copper and concrete. The way a lot of things can be expressed through writing,painting is also one of such depiction. It brings narration,abstraction,composition and visual arts to a common platform.There a lot of ways paintings can be brought to much life. It can be a depiction of Western Art, symbolic of history, religious art or photographic in any way.


  • Painting has long been a historical aspect spanning through multiple culture and artifacts.
  • The longing of creativity still continues but its roots have been sown much before. Although,now we see things based much on abstract and conceptual perceptions;once the idea of painting in much of historical times was limited to religious and cultural basis;mostly until the twentieth century.
  • Even,all forms of Eastern Painting-being it ideas from China,Japan,Indonesia etc; all of which has had a major impact and influence on Western Art form .The vice-versa is undoubtfully true,too.
  • Nothing happened all of a sudden;the whole verge to which Paintings stand now has definitely happened after a series of different art forms- private,civic,patronage,religious etc. Later, the spectators ofpaintings definitely grew especially in the affluent classes of the society The Renaissance and the Baroque era are classic examples of those times. But, Baroque artisans found immense popularity among the middle class as well.
  • Then, in the 18th century,Paintings articulated romance very well on the canvas.Artists like John Constable, J.M.W Turner,Francisco de Goya became extremely popular. From the 20th century, commercial art gallery became very popular and appreciated too.

Let us try to explore the world of Paintings through the lens of historical times, chronologically, in order to see how it evolved over time



  • Place of discovery being Maros,south Sulawesi,Indonesia-Pettakere Cave are more than 44,000 years old.
  • In a 2014 study, this came out as of Uraniu-Thorium Carbon Dating technique.


Depciting as one of the closer evidence from the paleolithic or the mesolithic times, the rock shelters of Bhimbetkas are classic examples of the oldest archaelogical site from Central India.

Corresponding to ealry Mesolithic,these paintings depicts evidences of hunting and dancing.



  • Range of influences comes from Jewish,Islamic,Indonesian,Indian,Chinese,Japanese and Korean artform.
  • Mostly consisting of patterns or designs-Eastern Paintings were more refined with ornamentation-for e.g- shapes of zigzags,spiral,animals or dots were pretty much common and accepted.
  • Korean Paintings began around 108 BC and is also the oldest. It depicts a combination of Buddhist themes,facial features and Korean-style Landscapes.
  • Encompassing a wide variety of styles and genres,Japanese Paintings were its prime example adopting both its traditions and outside influence.They popularised woodblock paintings a lot
  • Chinese has more like an artisitc way of expression, mostly geometric patterns (from olden times). In fact,after a while “Oil Paintings” were also much popularised.
  • Owing to how India is already known for, even most of its history with Paintings is about religious deities and kings.India,that way, depicts a huge Painting culture being influenced both from the Mughals or its very own land rulers.
  1. The Madhubani Painting,for example,is still practised in parts of Bihar.Mughal artform has long been famous for its miniature style.

2. Rajput Paintings have depicted paintings on almost all Indian Mythological Themes wheres Tanjore  artforms still                        remains the best form of South Indian Style paintings.



Countries like Egypt,Rome and Greece have long been known for its sculptures and paintings.

  • Egyptian painting is itself related to its own language-in fact, painted symbols are a representation of that mostly along with symmetricity being one of its major style.Paintings of gods and deceased deities have been much of importance in their styles.The reason of survival of these very old paintings is due to the climate in the area
  • Roman Painting have been much of importance because of its amazing depiction of landscape and perspective paintings. Although a few of them have survived till now; but it is enough to provide an insight into that era
  • Greece and Greek Culture has always been talk of the town because of its representation in visual arts.Being it “Pottery” or “Ceramics” Paintings, the functioning of how their painting works is phenomenal-example also being- black figure vase painting and red-figure vase painting.It is also little known for its wood panel painting.Few artists of those times (around 1100 BC) still remain unmatchable because of their brilliance in both art and articulation.

19th and 20th Century Painting

The world was experiencing major changes during this time

At the turn of the 19th Century, Neoclassicism became quiet a new style in Europe and also dominating most .Architecture, decorative arts and sculpture saw people flourishing great art themselves.After invention of the ancient sites-Herculaneum and Pompeii in 18th century, Neo-Classicism became quiet popular.Lasting about the 1840’s,it took much of its shape under Napoleon and in the French Revolution also.By now, Romanticism had come to England;Other popular genres in this country became Seascape and Landscape Paintings.After quiet sometimes; in France,Romanticism developed into contemporary art.

The legacy of painters like – Cezanne Gaugin,Seurat and Van Gogh were quiet important for the development of modern art in the 20th century.One major breakthrough during this period was the first cubist paintings being made by Pablo Picasso,he depicted so well that nature can be brought down to cone, sphere and cube.

Lets delve into the most famous paintings of all time-


Being already very famous for being the most valuable and the most “looked at” paintings of all times;Leonardo’s creation of Mona Lisa oozes out from every realm of the painting. Always considered a “Renaissance period Masterpiece” it has unique characteristics which still makes it the rarest of rare-being it the expression, the subtleness and the composition of the half-length portrait painting.

Being a property of the French now; and being kept at Paris since 1797;it is believed to have painted between 1503 and 1506; and continued till 1517.It is still known for its Guiness World Records in highest insurance evaluation.



With added silver, gold leaf and platinum, a painting which is an “oil on canvas” made-exhibits a couple in love, in intimate ways intertwined in pretty yellow robes. Painted around 1907;often called THE GOLDEN PERIOD, the man behind this painting was the Symbolist Painter from Austria- Gustav Klimt. Still considered his best work, this remains a beauty of the museum in Vienna at present day.


This was painted by the great painter – Vincent van Gogh  in 1889 . It was done during his stay at an asylum .It is still mentioned how his paintings depicted his Life itself. He suffered from mental illness for quiet sometimes.Although he was recovering, he suddenly relapsed and the paradigm shift in his work also became visible. Soon after this painting, we lost him to suicide.

The way he had presented the blending of hills and dark shade of sky depicts much more than colours on a paper. Even the bright yellow color shining does grab’s people’s attention.


Created by Norwegian Expressionist artist Edward Munch , in 1893,”The Scream” is a popular name given to a composition. Representing something on a deeper level here is what reflects the anxiety of a human being.Thats what the agonised face here,depicts.

Painting was actually created by Munch in basically two extensions- in pastels and lithograph stone;Although most of the versions are stolen; but some remains had definitely helped us gain an insight.



I think every secondary school kid must be accustomed to seeing this fresco painting;such is the painting by the Italian artist, Michaelangelo-The Creation of Adam .Part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.It is a Bible-based narration of how God gives life to the first man on the Earth-Adam. It is one of the most sought after and replicated paintings of all time.

In the painting,God is presented as an elderly man in some white beard while Adam,depicted naked-takes “Life’ or we can say “Spark of Life” from God.



In the Gospels accounts, the last meal is “The Supper” which is a consternation between TWELVE APOSTLES.This is a depiction before his crucifixion.It is mainly commemorated on Thursday.The painting is famous; also because-Jesus already predicted that he will be betrayed by one of them present there.

Th Last Supper,by Leonordo, is still regarded as the source of early Christian Eucharistic traditions.


A painting, estimated to have been painted around the 1660’s,that has been subjected to various literary treatments and also selected as the most beautiful paintings in THE NETHERLANDS(2006); the work has been in “The Hague” since 1902.

The painting, an OIL ON CANVAS painting, is basically a 17th century Dutch Painting depicting an European girl in a turban and exotic dress and the earringThe earring mentioned specifically here because there have been controversies on the material of it also. The girl’s gaze towards the viewer has increased after its recent restoration in 1994


Painted between 1801 and 1805,also known as “Bonaparte Crossing the Alps” or “Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass”; a masterpiece of art by the French artist Jacques-Louis Davis.The depiction is basically a view of Bonaparte crossing the Alps along with his army through the Great St.Bernard Pass. This painting kept on being produced a number of times.It is believed that the same painting has around fiver versions to it.


A painting by Eugene Delacroix,  Liberty Leading the People , basically commemorates the Revolution in July (in the year 1830). In the painting; the concept of Liberty is personified by a woman wearing a Phrygian cap.The woman here is leading other people their way over fallen bodies and barricades, and holding French Revolutions’s flag. Also,after this painting Eugene picked up different themes and became the leader of French Painting Romanticism , in his next paintings.


Based in Florence and made in the mid 1480’s, Italian artist Sandro Botecelli, has beautifully created this painting. The Italian Renaissance period was tried to be showcased here- How the classical God is standing in the middle and the left God,Zephyr(the Wind God)is blowing her away.The other woman, along with it is also blowing wind of some sort; but the intensity varies.It mostly reforms to the Gothic form of art here.

Botticelli hardly used a deep space for perception and did not much give importance to volume of his characters. Normally, he didn’t paint everything with landscaped backgrounds but here this was a different one,though.The picturesque view of the grass and the laurel trees are green with golden shades, the foreground, the water species looks all art in itself.

This is all about the little history over time and the famous ones of all times. If you are one of those who sees the world,more beautifully through art; then an insight of Paintings is just for you.

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