How does Ancient Art Compare to Modern Art?

Since its humble beginnings, art has always been a result of man's intellectual and emotional connection with the world. Its primary aim is to produce a message which will either provoke an unexplainable consciousness within the hearts of its viewers or incite wisdom among the minds of the curious or the affronted. Due to its extensive role for man, art has long been studied in a variety of ways, with some scholars adapting the vantage point of mere aesthetics while some venture into comparative analyses.

The act of relating ancient art to modern art is not as simple as considering the time both were made. There is a more specific, more diverse method in seeing how the older works measure up to the newer ones.

Basically speaking, ancient art concerns the types of art created during the ancient societies. In this case, the term "ancient" refers to the earliest recording of man's history right down to the Middle Ages. A common denominator along the works conceived during this period is the reason for their creation. Adoration, may it be of a deity, a ruler, or an event, played a part in each society's formation of artistry.

The religious nature of Ancient Egypt allowed for works depicting the Pharaohs, gods and goddesses, all of whom were given divine status. With this kind if adoration come a set of symbols that heighten the rulers to power. By bestowing animal-like characteristics to the Pharaohs, for example, they are given god-like prestige in wall paintings, pottery and even miniature sculptures. Ancient China, meanwhile, produced the famous terracotta soldiers as tributes to their impeccable army. It shows how cultural and religious factors played little to the development of the art forms that have made the ancient society so famous until now. By portraying events through the means of pottery and painting, such were immortalized without the need to be written down as literature.

How does ancient art compare to modern art, considering such fervor for a supreme being, an event, or a society? Taking into deliberation the fact that modern art dates back from the 1860's and beyond, a different style and philosophy prevails among the majority of works. Similar to ancient art, the modern ones are also results of experimentation, but not in a phase of honoring a higher being. These are more personal works, with nature and human emotion playing an integral part for artists like Van Gogh, Seurat, and Picasso.

It is also during the modern era when all the various schools of artistic thoughts have emerged to detach the wholeness of art. Cubism, realism, Dadaism, surrealism, and many more isms allowed for artistic freedom to take center stage. Here, the personal began to turn into a collaborative effort as artists joined forces to take a stand for their favored style. Dadaism, for example, is a cultural movement that rejects the standards of art that realism and impressionism have proposed. What resulted then are more styles that emerged for eccentricity's sake such as avant-garde and popular art.

How does ancient art compare to modern art if both of them involve stages of experimentation? Perhaps the ideal way of seeing the larger picture is not by the way they differ, but by the way they match. Ancient art is seen as a result of man's praise for higher beings, whereas modern art sees a return to man's search for identity after being subjugated by social forces for a long time. In the end, only one has to consider the amount of works each era presented in an opportune light that is as indiscriminate as possible.

Subject Matter Websites for Ancient Art

  1. Art History Network