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  • James Stewart

19th Century Art Movements and their Continuing Influence Today

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

An Art Movement is a tendency or style of art with specific objectives or philosophy.


They are themes, techniques or ideas followed by a group of artists over a period of time, more often that not successive movements are a reaction to one before or the current academic thinking.



The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse

The 19th Century was a period of immense change in Europe and the whole world.


Politically and geographically Europe was in a constant state of flux: Italy and Germany were coming from many smaller kingdoms, there was Revolution in France and civil war in the USA, the British Empire was on the ascendant, but others were in decline.


There were many social changes as people moved from the countryside to the growing cities (working in factories as opposed to on the land). This was as a result of the Industrial Revolutions, which also gave rise to the growing middle classes.


The century in art spanned from classic 'Old Master' style to Art Nouveau, Expressionism and the birth of Modernism.


It is interesting to look back at some of the main movements from 1800-1899, since they have a great influence of the 20th Century movements and also art today.


Although, Expressionism encompasses many other movements, its' influence can still be seen today in the work of Tracey Emin.





This was presented brilliantly in the 2021/22 exhibition The Loneliness of the Soul (Royal Academy, London and Oslo). Here works by Tracey Emin were shown alongside works by Edvard Munch. According to Emin, no artist has influenced her more than Edvard Munch. She was attracted to his uncompromising attitude and the expressive force of his 'soul painting', which gives shape to the complex emotional life of the modern individual.


Similarly Bridget Riley cites the pointillist works of Seuarat as a defining influence on the development of her op-art, in particular his work The Bridge at Courbevoie, which she copied as "the best tutorial I ever had". Her version still hangs in her studio today.



Further Riley's series of Disc paintings of 2017 (and her 2020 screen print Measure for Measure) were also inspired by the pointillism of Seurat. In these works Bridget Riley arranges coloured discs in a diagonal grid in a limited palette of off-green, off-violet and off-orange.



Key Movements


The key movements, with a selection of images of the 19th Century are:


  • Aesthetic Movement - promoted in the late 19th century as the aesthetic value of literature, music and the arts over social/political themes. "Art should be beautiful rather than serve a moral, allegorical or other didactic function".


  • Art Nouveau - popular during the Belle Époque period (1890-1910) this movement covered architecture, decorative arts and furniture as well as art and was a reaction to the academic, eclecticism and historicism of art & decoration.

William Morris Arts and Craft design for Trellis wallpaper - 1869

  • Arts and Crafts - this movement, popularised by William Morris, emerged from the attempt to reform design and decoration in the mid-19th century. It was inspired by pieces seen in the Great Exhibition of 1851, when were seen as excessively ornate, artificial and ignorant of the materials used. Then later evolved into Art Nouveau, which it strongly influenced.


  • Biedermeier - The Biedermeier period arose in central Europe (1815-1848) during which the middle classes grew in number, as a result of increased urbanisation & industrialisation, and the arts appealed to their common tastes. It was also helped a by the period of stability after the Napoleonic wars and the Congress of Vienna.


The Yellow Christ by Paul Gauguin - 1889

  • Cloisonism - this is a style of post-impressionist painting with bold flat colours separated by dark colours or outlines. The term was coined at the 1888 Salon des Independants; Gauguin painted in this style.


A Decadent Girl by Ramon Casas - 1899

  • Decadent - The Decadent movement flourished in France and the spread throughout Europe and the US; it is characterised by the representation of superior human creativity and pleasure over logic and the natural world. Decadence was expressed by excess and artificiality.

The Scream by Edvard Munch - 1893

  • Expressionism - The typical feature of Expressionism was to present the world solely from the subjective perspective, distorting radically for emotional effect (angst) or to evoke moods or desires. The Scream by Edvard Munch is considered the ultimate in Expressionism, as are works by Egon Schiele.


The Oxbow, View from Mount Holyoke, Mass by Thomas Cole - 1836

  • Hudson River School - This was a mid-19th century American art movement in landscape artists who were influenced by Romanticism. The paintings, as the name suggests, typically depict the Hudson River, as well as the surrounding area (Catskills, Adirondack and the White Mountains). These paintings reflect three themes in America: Discovery, exploration and settlement. Thomas Cole is generally accepted as the founder of this style.


Impression, Soleil Levant by Claude Monet - 1872

  • Impressionism - Radicals of their time, the Impressionists violated the rules os academic painting with relatively small, thin, visible brush strokes; open comoposition and an emphasis of the depiction of light over time. The name comes from an 1857 Claude Monet painting Impression, Soleil Levant.

Poster for the Incoherents in Paris - 1886

  • Incoherents - This was a short lived French movement founded by writer Jules Levy, represented by a satirical irreverence that anticipated later movements such as Anti-Art and Dada. The Incoherents presented work which was deliberately irrational and iconoclastic, used found objects and was non-sensical.

Le Bois d'Amour a Pont Aven (or le Talisman) by Paul Serusier - 1888

  • Les Nabis - Les Nabis were a group of French artists (1888-1900) who played a large part in the transition from impressionism to abstract art, symbolism and other early movements in modern art. Pierre Bonnard and Paul Serusier were members of this group, they believed that a work of art was not a depiction of nature, but a synthesis of metaphors and symbols created by the artist.


Portrait of Charlotte du Val D'Ognes by Marie-Denise Villiers - 1801

  • Neo-Classicism - This movement also in interior design, architecture, literature, much and theatre drew inspiration from the art and culture of classical antiquity. It was a reaction to the excesses of the precious Rococo style.


Women of Algiers by Eugene Delacroix - 1834

  • Orientalism - As the name implies Orientalism is the imitation or depiction of aspects in the Eastern world, or in the case of painting more specifically, the Middle East. An example in architecture is the Royal Pavilion in Brighton or the interior of Leighton House in London.


Parade de Cirque by George Suerat - 1887-8

  • Pointillism - Suerat and Signac developed a style of painting with small distinct dots of colour in 1886, as a separate branch of Expressionism. The term "Pointillism" was coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works of these artists, but is now used without its earlier pejorative connotation.


The Centenary of Independence By Henri Rousseau - 1892

  • Post-Impressionism - From 1886 to 1905 Post Impressionism de eloped from the last Expressionist exhibition and ended with Fauvism. As a reaction to the expressionism, with its' concern for the naturalistic representation of light and colour, post-expressionism emphasised abstract qualities or symbolism and so included Les Nabis, Symbolists etc. Paul Cezanne was a leading post impressionist, as were Van Gogh, Gauguin and Suerat.


The Death of King Arthur by James Archer - 1860

  • Pre-Raphaelite - In 1848 a group of seven English artists formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to forge a return to abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions. The Brotherhood believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael had been a corrupting influence on academic teaching of art, hence the name. In particular, the group objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the Royal Academy of Arts, whom they called "Sir Sloshua". To the Pre-Raphaelites, according to William Michael Rossetti, "sloshy" meant "anything lax or scamped in the process of painting ... and hence ... any thing or person of a commonplace or conventional kind".


Bonjour Monsieur Courbet by Gustav Courbet - 1854

  • Realism - This style attempts to represent subjects truthfully. This movement is often called Naturalism, although they are not completely interchangeable. Gustav Courbet capitalised on the mundane, ugly or sordid realism to promote the common man and the rise of left with politics.


Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich - 1818

  • Romanticism - These paintings are characterised by an emphasis on emotion and individualism, clandestine literature, idealisation of nature, suspicion of science/industrialisation, and glorification of the past with a strong preference for the medieval rather than the classical. Romanticism was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalisation of nature. The works of William Blake are considered British examples of Romanticism, with the inspiration of gods and mystical powers represented.


  • Symbolism - This movement developed mainly as a reactio to Naturalism and Realism, and seeks to represent absolutre truths symbolically through language and metaphorical images.


  • Spiritualist Art - Spiritualism influenced art, having an influence on artistic consciousness, with spiritual art having a huge impact on what became modernism and therefore art today.


[source: Wikipedia]


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