The Evolution Of Art And How It Shaped The Modern World

The Evolution of Art and how it Shaped the Modern World
The Evolution of Art and how it Shaped the Modern World

A concise overview of art ‘s evolution and its influence across history, across the globe, on societies and civilizations.

Modern Art Evolution

Modern art has evolved and is associated with plenty of associations and embedded in industries across the world. And what comes to your mind as its definition of art will vary based on your experience. Art is everywhere. It’s in religion, embedded in our society, and is certainly developing. I think so far what I have stated is agreeable, right? So the big question is how has the evolution of art changed the modern world?

The Evolution Of Art In The Palaeolithic Age

How far back can we go to study the evolution of art? Perhaps as far back as the Palaeolithic Age? I think so. Humans lived before there were written records. During this period, humans made significant advances in art, religion, food production, agriculture, and hunting. I would like to focus on the advance of art during this period. One of the first significant signs of art is the cave drawings. These appeared to be a way humans captured important events and record them for the future. The story of a great hunt could is captured and then later retold. As you inspect some of these cave drawings, one thing you notice is scale. The animals hunted in the drawings are very close to being proportionate to other animals. This tells us that humans back then valued animals.

Palaeolithic Age Cave Art
Palaeolithic Age Cave Art

According to Clemens Schmillen, “This is an image of Rock paintings from the Cave of Beasts (Gilf Kebir, Libyan Desert) Estimated 7000 BP.”

The animals appear in 3D and you can see much more details. As compared to humans, they are much more developed speaking artistically. Humans in the drawings are of lessor artistic quality and lacking details of the animals. This means to me the humans are less important. The focus is on the animals, not the humans. And you might ask why? Is it because humans had little self-value? Some will argue that is the case. But you could also just as easily make the argument the other way. You could say humans were smart enough back then to note one’s self-worth and in the art humans wanted the viewer to focus on the animals, not humans.

If a cave dweller drew a map on the cave wall, and the map shows animals and other humans, is the map considered art? The primary purpose of the drawing is to serve as a map, not art. But at this very early stage, perhaps these drawings served as the springboard to art and therefore were crude forms of art. Therefore, they were both a map and art.

Pottery with re-construction repairs found in Xianrendong cave, dating to 20,000–10,000 years ago
Pottery with re-construction repairs found in Xianrendong cave, dating to 20,000–10,000 years ago

According to the National Museum of China, “This is an image of Pottery with re-construction repairs found in Xianrendong cave, dating to 20,000–10,000 years ago.”

Mesolithic and Neolithic Periods

Later humans advanced into what is now known as the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. This is where humans used stone tools and lived in camps. During this time agriculture is introduced. And when this happened camps became more permanent. Humans now are using art in ritual practices and honoring the dead. Evidence of these is in the statues and effigies that were discovered.

Bronze age - Gold Mask of Agamemno produced during the Mycenaean civilization, from Mycenae, Greece, 1550 BC
Bronze age – Gold Mask of Agamemno produced during the Mycenaean civilization, from Mycenae, Greece, 1550 BC

According to Xuan Che, “This is an image of Gold ‘Mask of Agamemnon produced during the Mycenaean civilization, from Mycenae, Greece, 1550 BC.”

Bronze Age

Now humans have advanced into the Bronze Age. During the Bronze age, humans advanced to working with metals such as copper, bronze, and tin alloy.

Classic potter's kick-wheel in Erfurt, Germany
Classic potter’s kick-wheel in Erfurt, Germany

According to Oliver Kurmis, “This is an image of Classic potter’s kick-wheel in Erfurt, Germany.”

Now more sophisticated tools were being developed. During this time the potter’s wheel was invented. As tools became more sophisticated, so did art. Art became more refined. And we see this in art honoring ancestors. The statues and pots created on a potter’s wheel are now symmetrical.

Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I
Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I

According to Jon Bodsworth, “This is an image of Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I.”

So now if there are humans that can operate a potter’s wheel efficiently and can create sculptures, are these humans considered artists? They have special skills so maybe at this point, they are not artists but a craftsman. And perhaps at this point, the foundation of an artist was born.

Hieroglyphics compared to cave drawings
Hieroglyphics compared to cave drawings

During this time, we now have hieroglyphics being developed in certain civilizations. By looking at the hieroglyphics and comparing them to cave drawings, you can see where the hieroglyphics came from. It looks like they took directly it off the cave wall.

Hellenic Era

Roman Antique Ceramic Vase
Roman Antique Ceramic Vase

According to, “This is an image of Roman Antique Ceramic Vase.”

Humans now more into the Hellenic Era. this is where we see Roman and Greek cultures. During this period, we see the birth of democracy and the death of Alexander the Great. Pottery is now even more refined and past they depict events in murals and Roman vases. Statues and images on pottery were proportionally very accurate. It’s clear that we now have an artist. These works are now very carefully crafted with emotion, with feelings, with information, and with an intensity of being flawless.

Middle Ages

Now we come to the Middle Ages. During this time there are three periods but I lump them all into one category, the Middle Ages. During this period, art is heavily focused on religious figures. So the idea here is that beautiful art attracts followers. Art and religion go well together. Here we see an increase in detail in art.

Stoneware glazed jar with overlapping circles grid pattern. Syria, 12th-13th century
Stoneware glazed jar with overlapping circles grid pattern. Syria, 12th-13th century

According to Marie-Lan Nguyen, “This is an image of Stoneware glazed jar with overlapping circles grid pattern. Syria, 12th-13th century.”

During this time we see Arabian artists refining their patterns in which leads us to some of the most amazing murals in the world. And we also see these designs in other works of art, like pottery.

View of Sagrada Familia from Placa de Gaudi. The construction cranes have been digitally removed
View of Sagrada Familia from Placa de Gaudi. The construction cranes have been digitally removed

According to C messier, “This is an image of View of Sagrada Familia from Placa de Gaudi. The cranes have been digitally removed.”

So one lesson we can learn is if you want to make something out of nothing just add art. Art makes the bland and unknown attractive and known. Who wants to worship in an old, rundown place when you can worship at such a beautiful place as St. Pert’s Basilica or La Sagrada Familia? Now you can see the power of art and the artist.

Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Giorgione
Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Giorgione

According to wiki, “This is an image of View of Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci – Francesco Melzi.”

According to Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection (The Met object ID 436771), “This is an image of Michelangelo Daniele da Volterra (dettaglio).”

According to, “This is an image of Self-portrait of Raphael, aged approximately 23.”

Self-portrait of Raphael Sourced from wiki.

According to Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, “This is an image of Giorgione”

Renaissance Period

Moving into the Renaissance Period. Now you see many artists you will recognize immediately, such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Giorgione. In this period art grows exponentially. It’s become part of all fields of study such are math, architecture, medicine, astronomy, and engineering. All have forms of art in the way of images and drawings.

Portrait of Vesalius from his De humani corporis fabrica
Portrait of Vesalius from his De humani corporis fabrica

According to Andreas Vesalius Wiki, “This is an image of Portrait of Vesalius from his De humani corporis fabrica.”

For example, in medicine consider Andreas Vesalius to revolutionize the study of biology and the practice of medicine by his careful description of the anatomy of the human. As an author and physician, he wrote one of the most famous books on human anatomy called the De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem. Andreas Vesalius often depicts highly detailed human illustrations in allegorical poses. In my opinion and perhaps others as well these drawings rival other influential artists such as Albrecht Durer.

In the Renaissance Period, you can see how artists are now embracing composition. As a viewer, your experience is now shaped by the artist. For example, if the artwork is very symmetrical, the artwork has asymmetrical compositions, the artwork then conveys a feeling of calm. If the artwork is asymmetrical, maybe the artist intended a dynamic experience. The composition can draw more attention to one part of the artwork leading your eye to that part of the art. The artist has influenced the focal point, giving the viewer the experience the artist intends.

Now we have the general element of design, Line, Shape Color, Space, etc. Art develops again. Now we have an artist, but also a specialist. An artist for anatomy, an anatomist. An artist who makes clay models, a sculptor. And the list goes on. You get the idea. So now we have an artist who is very precise and technical. The artwork is precisely composed. Attention to detail is clear in the very artwork of this period. Artists pride themselves on their enormous efforts in creating grandiose visual spectacles.

The General Elements Of Design

The General Elements Of Design

According to toptal, “there is no real consensus in the design community about what the main principles of design actually are. That said, the following twelve principles are those mentioned most often in articles and books on the subject.


One of the most common complaints designers have about client feedback often revolves around clients who say a design needs to “pop” more. While that sounds like a completely arbitrary term, what the client generally means is that the design needs more contrast.

Contrast refers to how different elements are in a design, particularly adjacent elements. These differences make various elements stand out. Contrast is also a very important aspect of creating accessible designs. Insufficient contrast can make text content in particular very difficult to read, especially for people with visual impairments.


Every element of a design—typography, colors, images, shapes, patterns, etc.—carries a visual weight. Some elements are heavy and draw the eye, while other elements are lighter. The way these elements are laid out on a page should create a feeling of balance.

There are two basic types of balance: symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical designs layout elements of equal weight on either side of an imaginary center line. Asymmetrical balance uses elements of differing weights, often laid out in relation to a line that is not centered within the overall design.


Emphasis deals with the parts of a design that are meant to stand out. In most cases, this means the most important information the design is meant to convey.


Proportion is one of the easier design principles to understand. Simply put, it’s the size of elements in relation to one another. Proportion signals what’s important in a design and what isn’t. Larger elements are more important, smaller elements less.


Hierarchy is another principle of design that directly relates to how well content can be processed by people using a website. It refers to the importance of elements within a design. The most important elements (or content) should appear to be the most important.


Repetition is a great way to reinforce an idea. It’s also a great way to unify a design that brings together a lot of different elements. Repetition can be done in a number of ways: via repeating the same colors, typefaces, shapes, or other elements of a design.


The spaces between repeating elements can cause a sense of rhythm to form, similar to the way the space between notes in a musical composition create a rhythm. There are five basic types of visual rhythm that designers can create: random, regular, alternating, flowing, and progressive.


Patterns are nothing more than a repetition of multiple design elements working together. Wallpaper patterns are the most ubiquitous example of patterns that virtually everyone is familiar with.

White Space

White space—also referred to as “negative space”— is the areas of a design that do not include any design elements. The space is, effectively, empty.


Movement refers to the way the eye travels over a design. The most important element should lead to the next most important and so on. This is done through positioning (the eye naturally falls on certain areas of a design first), emphasis, and other design elements already mentioned.


Variety in design is used to create visual interest. Without variety, a design can very quickly become monotonous, causing the user to lose interest. Variety can be created in a variety of ways, through color, typography, images, shapes, and virtually any other design element.


Everyone has seen a website or other design out there that seemed to just throw elements on a page with no regard for how they worked together. Newspaper ads that use ten different fonts come to mind almost immediately.

Other Principles of Design

Other principles of design are also touched upon in various articles on the subject. These include typography, color, Gestalt Principles, grid and alignment, framing, and shape. Some definitely fit the definition of “principles” while others are more like elements of design. “

Romantic Age

We now ingrained art in religion and politics. Art is being used to push the agenda of each. But as we now know today, this is about to change as the art develops again. Art then going into the Romantic Age and the Impressionist movement.

The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault
The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault

According to The Raft of the Medusa Wiki, “This is an image of The Raft of the Medusa – JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT – La Balsa de la Medusa (Museo del Louvre, 1818-19.”

The Romantic Age is about one’s self or the individual as you can see by the works of Theodore Gericault, “The Raft of the Medusa”, and the “Wanderer above the Sea Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich.

The The Raft of the Medusa, which was completed when Theodore Gericault was 27, has become a symbol of French Romanticism. It is an over-life-size painting measuring 491 by 716 cm or 16 ft 1 in by 23 ft 6 in, that portrays a scene from the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, which sank off the coast of modern-day Mauritania on July 2, 1816. On July 5, 1816, at least 147 people cast adrift on a hastily built raft; all but 15 perished in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived suffered from malnutrition, exhaustion, and cannibalism. The incident became a worldwide embarrassment, in part because they widely attributed the cause to the French captain’s inability.

While The Raft of the Medusa maintains elements of historical painting styles, it represents a departure from the Neoclassical school’s calm and order in both subject matter and dramatic presentation.

Impressionist Movement

Famous painting, Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet
Famous painting, Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet

And the Impressionist movement in which focuses on landscapes characterized by small but visible brush strokes with open compositions. for example, an artist that comes to mind quickly is Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet. During this period, art became fragmented, because some frowned on certain styles in which lacked tremendous effort upon. These were mainly the expressive styles.

According to, “This famous painting, Impression, Sunrise, was created from a scene in the port of Le Havre. Monet depicts a mist, which provides a hazy background to the piece set in the French harbor. The orange and yellow hues contrast brilliantly with the dark vessels, where little, if any detail is immediately visible to the audience. It is a striking and candid work that shows the smaller boats in the foreground almost being propelled along by the movement of the water. This has, once again, been achieved by separate brushstrokes that also show various colors “sparkling” on the sea.

From the 15th April to 15th May 1874 Monet exhibited his work together with Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and some other thirty artists. They organized their exhibition on their own as they were usually rejected at the Paris Salon. Most visitors were disgusted and even outraged over such a graffiti. Monet’s Impression, Sunrise enjoyed the most attention and some visitors even claimed that they were absolutely unable to recognize what was shown at all.

Today, Impression, Sunrise is considered as the most prominent Impressionism painting, along with the famous Van Gogh night stars painting.”

From here we see art explode into many movements. To mention a few, Cubism, Expressionism, Art Nouveau, Surrealism, Pop-Art and more. Art develops once again and becomes more subjective. And now we can argue Realism vs Style. The argument over the artist’s true technical ability vs pure style.

Are you considered an artist if you have no technical skill? And then there is the artist that has both and can span Realism and Style. One artist that comes to mind is Picasso. In his early days you see his artwork as Realism later he goes on to Style and is credited for creating Cubism. So this brings an interesting question to mind. Can you have Style without having a true understanding of Realism?

And if you subscribe to the notion that an artist does not have to have a firm grasp on Realism to be an artist you now have the situation where anyone can be an artist. To be an artist you do not need to be a professional proficient in Realism.


Art means different things to different people. Art today is anything and everything. We have come full circle back to the cave-dwelling wall art.