I wanted to get my head round all the art styles that have come and gone through the ages, so I’ve put together a summary for people like me who like to keep things brief and superficial. The pictures are nice though.

I’ve started at the Romanesque period.

Romanesque – about 1000 AD to 1200AD

Flat is the key word here. The artists in this period used mainly primary colours (because they didn’t have any others), had very little depth (like me), and didn’t like landscape backgrounds.  Figures varied in size in relation to their importance. Realism wasn’t important as long as the message was clear.

The Three Maji – 12th Century

Three men looking at a star, message received.


Gothic – about 1200AD to 1400AD

Named after the Goth tribes that destroyed the Roman Empire because renaissance types thought they were non-classical and ugly. The figures were more animated occasionally having unusual (crazy) poses and facial expression. The backgrounds became more important.

Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus – Simone Martini

Here there is a book, a vase, the floor looks three dimensional, the figures in the middle have exaggerated but still realistic poses. It looks less flat. The gothic style was a step forward in realism.


International Gothic – around about 1300

International Gothic stood for dignified elegance (me again) and rich decorative colouring with elongated figures and flowing lines. They also made better use of perspective and setting. Figures began to be given more space in their surroundings and an interest was taken in realistic plants and animals.

The painting below by Don Lorenzo is considered to be a perfect example of International Gothic. There is a definite depth to the painting that you don’t see in the previous styles.

Don Lorenzo – Adoration of the Maji -1420

adoration of maji

Renaissance – 1400 to mid-1500

Here’s where depth and perspective really kick in. The Renaissance was a break from the medieval way of thinking. Like I said previously, my favourite guy Jan van Eyck was one of the first renaissance men. He used oil as a medium to create detailed paintings over several layers, then the Italians moved in on the act.

Renaissance art was all about linear perspective and foreshortening of lines to create the illusion of depth. Leonardo pioneered sfumato – a softening of sharp outlines and gradual blending of one tone into another by using glazes. Light and dark contrasts were used more than ever to create realistic solid objects.

You might have thought I’d roll out the old Mona Lisa picture at this point, but I haven’t, give someone else a chance. Here’s Raphael doing his thing.

Raphael – Saint Catherine of Alexandria, 1507


That’s enough for now, next we’ll move on to Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo and other good stuff.

Thanks for reading

Ian Young

Art Styles – Romanesque to Renaissance
Tagged on:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *