An Overview of the Major Movements in Art from the 16th Century to the Present


G. Stolyarov II

See Mr. Stolyarov's Index of Selected Writings, Originally Published on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices.
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007, where it received over 3,900 page views. To preserve a record of my writings following the shutdown of Yahoo! Voices in 2014, I have given this article a permanent presence on this page.

~ G. Stolyarov II, July 28, 2014

There is an abundance of terms to learn when analyzing art from various historical periods. Those new to art history might be perplexed at all the various "isms" to which critics and more experienced art connoisseurs refer. Fear not! This guide to the major art movements from the 16th century to our time will give you elementary definitions of each of these schools of art, so that you can readily follow discussions involving them.

Mannerism - Art consisting of theatrical and heavily stylized work, including artificially elongated figures, and complex, often unnatural poses. As Mannerism progressed into the 16th century, its portrayals of reality became increasingly distorted.

Baroque - A style emerging in 17th century as a reaction against Mannerism, emphasizing emotional content to a greater degree, as well as a return to realism, tradition, and spirituality. The Baroque style was strongly supported by the Catholic Church.

Rococo - A light, elaborate, decorative style of art that grew out of the Baroque period.

Neoclassicism - A severe, orderly, rigid style developed in late 18th, early 19th century as reaction against emotionalism of Baroque and Rococo periods, drawing inspiration from the art of Greece and Rome.

Romanticism - A reaction against Neoclassicism, emphasis on the exotic and emotional, as well as a reflection of the artist's individual ideas and personality.

Realism - The portrayal of subjects to resemble their actual states as closely as possible, without idealization or emphasis on formal theory. Realists often painted everyday people in everyday settings.

Impressionism - A light, spontaneous manner of painting, reaction against formalism, characterized by desire to convey subjective impressions of objects rather than fully replicating their real appearance.

Post-Impressionism - A style branching off of Impressionism, but less casual and more serious than Impressionism. Post-Impressionist artists more often tried to show their personal subjective feelings and inner states through their painting.

Expressionism - A movement that fully departed from realistic portrayal and instead focused entirely on the artist's subjective feelings. Some branches of Expressionism emphasized pure form and no subject at all.

Cubism - A movement that desired to capture essence of objects by showing them from multiple points of view simultaneously, often in a distorted and deliberately unrealistic perspective.

Surrealism - A movement that used imagery from the subconscious, fantasy, dreams, unusual settings for ordinary objects. Surrealism tried to detach painting from all logical order and instead emphasize chaos and uncertainty.

Romantic Realism - A contemporary movement inspired by Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. Romantic Realism reacts against non-representational forms of art by portraying the heroic element in human life through realistic but glorified imagery, from which the negative or accidental and philosophically irrelevant details are omitted. Romantic Realism emphasizes human aspiration, accomplishment, and triumph while attempting to convey messages of moral significance.

Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. 

In December 2013, Mr. Stolyarov published Death is Wrong, an ambitious children’s book on life extension illustrated by his wife Wendy. Death is Wrong can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Mr. Stolyarov has contributed articles to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), The Wave Chronicle, Le Quebecois Libre, Brighter Brains Institute, Immortal Life, Enter Stage RightRebirth of Reason, The Liberal Institute, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

In an effort to assist the spread of rational ideas, Mr. Stolyarov published his articles on Associated Content (subsequently the Yahoo! Contributor Network and Yahoo! Voices) from 2007 until Yahoo! closed this venue in 2014. Mr. Stolyarov held the highest Clout Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and was one of its Page View Millionaires, with over 3,175,000 views. Mr. Stolyarov’s selected writings from that era have been preserved on this page.

Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS), Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA), Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE), and Associate in Insurance Accounting and Finance (AIAF).

Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a philosophical treatise, A Rational Cosmology,  a play, Implied Consent, and a free self-help treatise, The Best Self-Help is Free. You can watch his YouTube Videos.Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.