Painting has been a form of expressing emotions and ideas for ages. It is a visual language. But instead of words, artists paint lines, shapes, forms, and textures with colors to express their emotions. Different painting styles emerged with the passage of time. So, it’s normal for you to wonder about the types of painting!
Painting styles continually change with time. Modernism, impressionism, surrealism, realism, cubism, and many other styles have been introduced in different periods of time. Some of these styles are realistic, some are elusive, and others are abstractive forms of art.
In this article, I will talk about 10 types of painting styles and their origin. Before that, let us tell more about the origin of painting and the first painters in human history.
Origin Of Painting
Painting is an ancient form of art. When humans just started using tools and fire, they also started to grasp the idea of representing their surroundings through art. The evidence is found in the cave arts. Most of the cave arts were done by early humans during 40,000 to 10,000 BCE, which was the Upper Palaeolithic period.
During this time, Homo sapiens became the dominant human species, replacing Neanderthals.
They were nomadic and lived on hunting and gathering food. Back then, humans still did not know how to build houses. So, they mostly lived in caves.
Among these cave dwellers, some of them became the first artists. They drew and painted wild animals and human figures with charcoal and natural pigments. The earliest forms of cave art were rock engravings. But soon, the cave dwellers learned new styles of drawing and painting.
The most famous cave paintings found until now are in the ancient caves of southern France and Spain. However, the earliest figurative art was found in the Fumane cave, Italy. They were paintings of red ochre animals, probably painted in 35.000 BCE.
The earliest hand-stitched art dates back to 39,000 BCE. It was discovered in the caves of El Castillo in Cantabria, France. Some other beautiful cave art is in the caves of Altamira, Spain. One of these paintings depicts a wounded buffalo painted with colorful pigments. Most of these cave arts are still well preserved as the caves were unreachable for centuries.
Experts believe none of these paintings are meaningless. There are a few ideas regarding why the early humans painted. It can be as simple as painting their world just for the sake of the art. They used drawing and painting as a ritual for hunting as well. They believed paintings had magical powers.
Types Of Paintings And Their Origin
Humans have an innate fascination for paintings. Since ancient times, artists have been developing new styles. These styles grow out of their previous styles but develop their unique characteristics.
When you look into the different styles of painting, you will learn more about their periods and society. Each painting becomes a mirror of the past, present, and future.
You must understand that different styles of painting have developed over the course of history. Therefore, in this article I will discuss major painting styles that have more historical value. Here are the major painting styles that changed the perspective of seeing the world:
The Renaissance is an era of change and a celebration of individualism. It is a prominent cultural reformation that replaced the Middle Ages. The era saw great changes in painting, literature, architecture, and sculpture. The center of this change was Italy, but the influence spread all over European countries.
From 1400 to 1600, the style of art in Europe also went through some changes. The Italian artist was inspired by classical Greek paintings and sculptures. The painting style then developed with its own characteristics. The artists of this style draw realistic and extremely detailed paintings.
If you look at the painting of Mona Lisa, you can see how Leonardo da Vinci painted the smallest details of the subject’s facial expression with utmost dedication. Just a hint of a smile on her face can catch the attention of the viewers.
The same goes for any other paintings of the era. The artists captured even the smallest of details that add depth to the entire presentation of the story portrayed on the canvas.
The main focus of Renaissance art is humanism and individualism. The paintings express the necessity of virtuous actions. The arts also reflect the idea that fate or God does not control human destiny.
These are the famous artists of the Renaissance and their works:
- Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503
- Sandro Botticelli, Idealized Portrait of a Lady, 1480
- Raphael- The School of Atlantis, 1509
- Paolo Veronese- The Wedding Feast of Cana, 1563
- Hans Holbein- The Ambassadors
Mannerism Painting Style
During the early 16th century, another painting style flourished along with the Renaissance in Italy. The word “mannerism” comes from the Italian word “maniera”, which means “style.” The mannerist painters put more focus on style and technique instead of naturalism.
Mannerist paintings became more artificial-looking and less naturalistic like the Renaissance paintings. The paintings appeared to be more dramatic and emotional. Instead of having natural and bright colors, the paintings were somber and had more dark and gray colors.
The human figures portrayed in the paintings have strained and awkward gestures. The backgrounds behind them were also dark and garish in color.
As an example, see Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment. The color of the portrait is somber and not bright at all. The subject of the painting is also serious. It shows the dead have risen for the final judgment. The celestials are also present. Every figure in the picture looks tense and anxious.
Here is a list of famous artists and their paintings in the Mannerism style:
- Michelangelo- The Last Judgement, 1536-41
- Andres de Sarto- Holy family, 1528
- Pontormo- The Carmignano Visitation, 1530
- Agnolo di Cosimo- The Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo, 1545
- Titan- Self-Portrait, 1597
- El Greco- View of Toledo, 1595
- Lavinia Fontana- Portrait of a Noblewoman, 1580
Academic Painting Style
Academic painting is a style of art that is influenced by European academies or the French Academy of Arts. The artists of the academic style painted realistic paintings with details.
These paintings were true to life, but the subject matter of the art was high-minded. The artists painted historical paintings, genre paintings, landscapes, portraits, and still life paintings. All of these forms of art had a clear message of morality and life lessons.
For example, paintings that depict a battle give the message of courage and bravery. The paintings showing a biblical moment remind us of the presence of God and the importance of morality. The artists even used objects in still life paintings to convey the same ideas.
A group of artists aimed to improve the social and professional status of artists. Thus, they decided to establish schools for their purpose. In the sixteenth century, art schools were founded all over European countries, especially Italy and France.
These academies were sponsored by kings, princes, and popes. The purpose of these institutes was to educate young artists on classical theories of Renaissance art.
Some famous artists and paintings in academic painting styles are:
- Paul Delaroche-Napoleon crossing the Alps, 1850
- Orpheus and Eurydice, 1864
- William Adolphe Bouguereau- The Elder Sister, 1868
- Eugene de Blaas-God’s Creatures, 1877
- Jean Leon Gerome- Pollice Verso, 1872
- Carl Bloch- Wedding at Cana, 1870
- Jean Baptiste Edouard- Long Live the Emperor, 1891
The origin of abstract painting can be traced back to the 19th century. However, art flourished in the early 20th century in the US and Europe. The abstract painting style belongs to modern art styles.
The word ‘Abstract’ means ‘to separate something from something else. It does not represent the world as it is. The artists use various shapes, forms, lines, colors, and figures to create meaningful art.
The paintings may not look realistic, but they still represent the truth about the time and society. In this style of art, objects and landscapes are simplified or schematized. Eventually, geometric shapes like triangles, circles, and rectangular shapes became part of representing visual reality.
Abstract artists usually paint on large canvases. They typically use oil colors, watercolors, and acrylic colors to paint abstract paintings. These colors work well on canvases.
Some of the most famous examples of Abstract painters and their paintings are:
- Piet Mondrian – Tableau I, 1921
- Wassily Kandinsky- Yellow, Red, Blue, 1925
- Joan Miró – La Mancha Roja (The red spot), 1925
- Pablo Picasso: Nude- Green Leaves and Bust, 1932
- Ben Nicholson – white relief, 1936
- Jackson Pollock-Autumn Rhythm,1947
- Robert Delaunay, Rhythm
Cubism is one of the most revolutionary painting styles. This style was created mainly by two famous painters, Pablo Picasso, and George Braque, in the early 20th century. The artists used multiple views of objects in one painting, which created a fragmented abstract image to show reality.
Cubism is also a kind of abstract art. Similar to abstract art, geometrical shapes are also significant in cubism. The artists break down objects and figures into distinct areas and put them in the paintings.
The purpose of this kind of art is to show different viewpoints at the same time and space. The paintings appear to be three-dimensional, which makes them even more unique.
For instance, Marc Chagall painted ‘I and The Village’, a narrative self-portrait. In this painting, the painter brought several elements together. You will see fragments of faces, men, women, animals, and houses.
All of these elements have distinctive shapes, but they are not as detailed as realistic paintings of the past. However, it still managed to express the painter’s childhood in his hometown.
Here is a list of famous artists and their paintings:
- Pablo Picasso- Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907
- Marc Chagall- Adam and Eve, 1912
- George Braque- Viaduct at L’Estaque,1908
- Marcel Janco- Portrait of a Girl, 1930
- Heinrich Campendonk- Bucolic Landscape, 1913
- Amadeo de Souza Cardoso- Stronghold, 1912
- Kazimir Malevich- Musical Instrument, 1913
Symbolic representation of the world has always been present in every art style. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, symbolism flourished as an independent style. The movement began in France. During this time, European society was going through enormous changes.
Symbolist artists saw the world from an imaginary perspective. The paintings rarely have any direct view of the world. But the subject matter is still related to the reality and truth of humanity.
Symbolist artists do not view the world realistically or state obvious facts. Instead, they use metaphors and symbols. The themes of the paintings are often mystic and spiritual. They are more about the feelings and inner struggle of human beings.
For example, ‘Jupiter and Semele’, painted by Gustave Moreau, shows the love between the Roman God Jupiter and the human princess Semele. The painting indirectly presents the human relationship with God and suffering.
Some other famous painters and their art of symbolism are:
- Pierre Puvis de Chavannes-The Balloon, 1874
- Luc Olivier Merson- The Hunchback of Notre-Dame 1881
- George Frederick Watts-Hope, 1886
- Mikhail Nesterov- The Vision of the Youth Bartholomew, 1890
- James Ensor- Self-Portrait with Masks, 1899
- Carlos Schwabe- The Death of the Gravedigger, 1895
- Henri Martin- Mystic Scene, 1895
Another art movement started in France in the 1860s. Impressionist artists used the shifting of light and color in their paintings to express their ideas in paintings. This painting style did not stay confined to the studious.
The impressionist painters went outside and painted on the spot. They want to capture the natural light in their paintings. Therefore, they also have to paint quickly.
The subject of impressionism was mostly landscapes and scenes of everyday life. This subject matter and the work of light made impressionism paintings different from the other styles of paintings. They are all about normal people and their daily activities.
You will often see impressionist artists painting people in social gatherings, or taking a stroll in the street, by the seaside, or relaxing in parks. Nature is also presented in a simple yet attractive manner in the paintings.
Artists like Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh are the most well-known impressionist artists. The brush strokes in their paintings are so well defined that you can understand the paintings even from a distance.
The impressionist paintings often seemed unfinished and simple. That is why critics often discourage impressionist artists. However, people eventually came to understand the depth and artistic value of this kind of painting.
Some well-known impressionist artists and their paintings are:
- Vincent van Gogh-Wheatfield with Crows, 1895
- Gustave Caillebotte- Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877
- Joaquin Sorolla- Walk on the Beach, 1909
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir- Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881
- Paul Gauguin- Cali Factories, 1875
- Armand Guillaumin- Les rochers rouges, 1894
- Edgar Degas- Henri Rouart in front of his factory, 1875
Both literature and art started to change in the late 19th century because of modernism. It became a global movement to reform society and culture. Artists following this movement considered themselves free from any rules, styles, or standards of art. The painters rejected the painting styles of the past and celebrated the new age of innovation.
The experience and values of modern industrial life are mostly responsible for the change in the painting style. Modernist artists started to use new imagery materials, symbols, and techniques to create paintings. These paintings reflected the modern world and its reality.
People of modern society have different hopes and aspirations. Their lives greatly differ from the social lives of the past. Therefore, artists felt the need for a new style for painting and expressing reality. Since there are no boundaries or standards, you will see different styles of painting and techniques used in modern art.
Below are some of the popular modernist painters and their paintings:
- Edward Hopper- Nightwalkers, 1942
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge- Two Women Waltzing, 1892
- Pablo Picasso- Brick factory at Tortosa, 1909
- Marc Chagall- Over the City, 1914
- S.H. Raza- Untitled, 1940
- Rene Portocarrero- Composition, 1952
- Emiliano Di Cavalcanti
Expressionism and Fauvism
Expressionism and Fauvism both emerged in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Both of these movements have a similar style of expressing emotions in distorted and exaggerated ways in the paintings with non-naturalist colors.
Expressionism flourished in Germany. On the other hand, Fauvism developed in Paris, France from 1905 to 1907. Artists of both styles are more concerned about showing their emotions in the paintings. The real world is not their painting subject. Rather, it is the feelings and inner turmoil of human beings.
One of the best examples of expressionist art is ‘The Scream’. Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch painted ‘The Scream’ in 1893. In the painting, a human seems to be in agony. Behind the person, the sky is red and distorted. It shows the inner agony and anxiety of humans. The inner emotion of the artist changes the way they see the world.
Some famous painters of this period of Expressionism and Fauvism are:
- Edward Muhch- Evening on Karl Johan Street, 1892
- Franz Marc- Fate of the Animals, 1900
- Emil Nolde- Masks, 1911
- Ernst Ludwig Kirchiner- Berlin Street Scene, 1915
- Vincent van Gogh- The Starry Night, 1889
- Wassily Kandinsky- The Blue Rider,1903
- Max Beckmann- The Night, 1918-19
Surrealism is a movement that started in France in the early 20th century. The pioneer of surrealism was the poet Andre Breton, who introduced the idea in 1924. The painting style of surrealism portrays the unconscious mind of a human being. To do this, the artists use irrational collocation of different images.
The paintings consist of strange creatures inspired by daily objects. The artists developed a painting technique that brought the unconscious mind of people into the light as art. In this style, dreams and reality exist side by side, creating a super-reality.
In one surrealist painting, The Persistence of Memory, you will see how surrealism combines reality and dreams. Salvador Dali painted daily objects like clothes and clocks in simple backgrounds. However, the clocks are melting away like human memories fade away with time.
Surrealism developed from another movement known as the Dada movement during World War I. From the 1920s, surrealism crossed the border of France and spread all over the world. This movement not only affected the painting style but also changed the visual arts, music, and literature.
Let us know the names of some famous paintings of surrealism:
- Giorgio de Chirico- The Song, 1914
- Joan Miro- The Hunter, 1923
- Pablo Picasso- The Sculpture, 1925
- Francis Picabia- Veglione, Cannes, 1924
- Rene Magritte- Not to be Reproduced, 1937
- Salvador Dali- Sleep, 1937
- Ali Akbar Sadeghi- Coalition
Eastern Style Of Painting
Now that you have learned about the most important painting styles of the West, you should also know about the style of Eastern paintings.
Here are the major cultures and their art forms from the eastern parts of the world:
Chinese Painting Style
China has always been one of the cultural centers of the world. It is also one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Thus, art, literature, architecture, and the economy developed first in China before many other eastern civilizations. The same goes for the painting style.
The history of Chinese art is quite long. The Chinese landscape painting style (900 to 1200) became the most famous Chinese art form. They have excellent skills in calligraphy. It is a traditional form of art practiced in China and other eastern countries. Later, calligraphy entered the western art world as well.
The artists of China use black and colorful inks on paper and silk to create beautiful paintings. In the past, Chinese artists did not use any kind of oil painting. Many of the ancient paintings depict Buddhist scholars and their students. You can also see
People gather in social meetings in the pictures.
While the human and animal figures are detailed and bright in color and ink, the background of ancient Chinese paintings is plane and muted.
Some of the most famous Chinese Paintings are:
- The Nymph of the Luo River – Gu Kaizhi
- Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers – Zhou Fang
- Five Oxen – Han Huang
- The Night Revels of Han Xizai – Gu Hongzhong
- A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains – Wang Ximeng
Japanese Style Of Painting
Similar to China, Japan also has a long history of different painting styles. The painting style of Japan is mostly influenced by Chinese painting styles. It also uses black ink and paints on paper and silk. Later, in the 16th century, the painting styles of western countries also influenced the painting style of Japanese art.
Buddhism is also one of the themes of Japanese paintings. Besides that, Japanese paints capture beautiful natural elements such as mountains, trees, and the sea. Stories are also one of the most common subjects in Japanese art.
Modern Japanese painters still use the nihonga painting style. They have managed to preserve the traditional style, but also added some new techniques. The use of natural and traditional colors and ink is still valued. However, some artists also use modern paint like acrylic with the traditional painting style.
Here are the most famous paintings in the Japanese style:
- Katsushika Hokusai – The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife
- Tomioka Tessai – Abe-no-Nakamaro Writing Nostalgic Poem While Moon-viewing
- Fujishima Takeji – Sunrise over the Eastern Sea
- Kawanabe Kyosai – Tiger
- Hiroshi Yoshida – Fuji from Kawaguchi Lake
The Indian Painting Style
The Indian sub-continent has been the land of many cultures with diverse characteristics. Thus, the paintings also have variations in style and depiction. Among so many painting styles, the most noticeable Indian styles are Mughal, Rajput, Tanjore, and Madhubani painting styles.
The Mughal painting styles emerged during the Mughal period. The artists had the job of painting kings, queens, princes, and princesses. The portraits were often small in size. But the artists could paint beautiful drawings of the royals with many details.
Then, there is the Rajput Painting Style that shows the moments of the Rajput kingdoms. The paintings are mostly about religious devotion, romance, heroic moments, and the everyday life of people. The painting style of the Rajputs is also a bit different from the Mughal style. The human figures are not quite realistic in this form of art.
The Tanjore painting style of South India is one of the most detailed and colorful among Indian-style paintings. Artists use this painting style most of the time to paint their gods and goddesses.
Finally, there is the Madhubani painting style. This painting style was created by women from Mithila, Bihar Pradesh, India. It is kind of similar to cubism, but it is also unique in its own way. The human and animal figures are understandable. However, they do not appear to be realistic.
Here are some other famous paintings and Indian painting styles:
- Bharat Mata by Abanindranath Tagore
- Three Pujarins by Jamini Roy
- Phad Paintings
- Mandana Art
- Kalamkari Painting
The style of painting is continuously changing. Thus, it is not possible to talk about all the painting styles in just a few sentences. Hopefully, you have learned a lot about the 10 types of painting styles and their origin from this article.
Art is an integrated part of the human psyche. Thus, it will always be a universal language of humanity, no matter what the painting style is.