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Master Drawings


A term for a European painter of skill who worked before 1800, or a painting by such a painter.  An Old Master print is an original print, e.g., an engraving or etching, made by an artist in the same period.  The likewise is true for an Old Master drawing. In theory, an Old Master should be an artist who was fully trained and worked independently; however, in practice, paintings considered to be produced by pupils or workshops will be included in this term.  Therefore, beyond a certain level of competence, date rather than quality is the criterion for using the term.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term often had a starting date of perhaps 1450 or 1470, any artwork made before that were “primitives”; however, this distinction is no longer made.  The end-date is necessarily vague. For example, Goya (1746 – 1828) is considered an Old Master, and he was still painting and printmaking at his death in 1828. However, the term may be used, but usually is not, for artists such as John Constable (1776 – 1837) or Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1868).  The term tends to be avoided by art historians as too vague, particularly when discussing paintings, although less so for Old Master prints and drawings. It remains more current in the art trade. Auction houses still usually divide their sales between “Old Master paintings,” “Nineteenth century paintings,” and “Modern paintings.”  Christie’s defines the term as ranging “from the 14th to the early 19th century.”

Examples of Old Masters are:  Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael, Durer, Caravaggio, Velazquez, and Goya.


The word “Renaissance” (French for ‘rebirth’, or “rinascimento’ in Italian) was first used to define the historical age in Italy – and in Europe in general – that followed the Middle Ages and preceded the Reformation, spanning roughly the 14th through the 16th century.  The principal features were the revival of learning based on classical sources, the rise of courtly and papal patronage, the development of perspective in painting and the advancements of science.
Examples of Renaissance artists are:  Cimabue, Giotto, Arnolfo de Cambio, Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo.

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A term applied to an artistic style that emerged after the Sack of Rome (1527) and in concept and time immediately followed the High Renaissance.  Mannerism is actually a fusion of various highly individualized styles that poses as an alternative to the neoclassical punctiliousness achieved in the Roman art and architecture of the High Renaissance.  The term comes from the Italian maniera, or “style,” in the sense of an artist’s characteristic “touch” or recognizable “manner.”  However, historically regarded, Mannerism is a useful designation for those aspects of the late Renaissance arts (1530-1580), whose proponents sought to create dramatic and dynamic effects by depicting figures with elongated forms and in exaggerated, out-of-balance poses in manipulated irrational space, lit with unrealistic lighting.
Examples of Mannerist artists are:  El Greco, Titian, Rosso Fiorentino, Tintoretto, and Parmigianino.
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A period as well as a style that dominated said period.  The Baroque style used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music. The  style began around 1600 in Rome, Italy and spread to most of Europe. The appeal of Baroque style turned consciously from the witty, intellectual qualities of 16th century Mannerist art to a visceral appeal aimed at the senses.  It employed an iconography that was direct, simple, obvious, and dramatic.  Baroque art drew on certain broad and heroic tendencies in Annibale Caracci and his circle, and found inspiration in other artists such as Correggio, Caravaggio, and Federico Barocci – now sometimes termed “proto-Baroque.”  This also the age of Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Velasquez.
Examples of Baroque artists are:  Caravaggio, Rubens, Bernini, Annibale Caracci, and Gianlorenzo

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A style of art that emerged in France in the early 18th century as a continuation of the Baroque style. In contrast, to the heavier themes and darker colors of the Baroque, the Rococo style was characterized by an opulence, grace, playfulness, and lightness. Rococo motifs focused on the carefree aristocratic life and on lighthearted romance rather than heroic batters or religious figures; they also rotated heavily around nature and exterior settings. In the mid to late 18th century, Rococo was largely supplanted by the Neoclassical style.
The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style. Due to the Rococo love of shell-like curves and focus on decorative arts, some critics used the term to derogatively imply that the style was frivolous or merely fashion. Interestingly enough, when the term was first used in English in about 1836, it was a colloquialism meaning “old-fashioned.” However, since the mid-19th century, the term has been accepted by art historians. While there is still debate about the historical significance of the style to art in general, Rococo is now widely recognized as a major period in the development of European art.
Examples of Rococo artists are: Jean-Honoré Fragonard, François Boucher, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
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An artistic and intellectual movement that originated in late 18th century Western Europe. It is, in part, a revolt against aristocratic, social, and political norms of the Enlightenment period, and a reaction against the rationalization of nature. In art and literature, it stressed strong emotion as a source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror, and the awe experience in confronting the sublimity of nature. It was influenced by ideas of the Enlightenment and elevated medievalism and elements of art and narrative perceived to be from the medieval period. The name “romantic” itself comes from the term “romance” which is prose or poetic heroic narrative originating in medieval literature and romantic literature.
The ideologies and events of the French Revolution are thought to have influenced the movement. Romanticism elevated the achievements of what is perceived as misunderstood heroic individuals and artists that altered society. It also legitimized the individual’s imagination as a critical authority, which permitted freedom from classic notions of form in art. There was a strong recourse to historical and natural inevitability in the representation of its ideas. Although Romanticism emerged as a reaction against Neoclassicism, it did not really replace the Neoclassical style so much as act as a counterbalancing influence. Many artists of the period were influenced by both styles to a certain degree.
Examples of Romantic artists are: Turner, Friedrich, and Géricault.

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The term can be applied to distinct movements in the visual arts, performance art, music, and literature, each of which took place at various periods between the 18th and 20th centuries. Nevertheless, the neoclassical movements in each of the aforementioned categories shared the ideal of “classic” or “canonic” models and trying to regain those “classic” ideals that were lost over time. Specific to the visual arts, neoclassicism was a European art style and movement that began in the 18th century as a reaction to the Baroque and Rococo movements, which were seen as vacuous, overly dramatic and decorative. Neoclassical art sought to return to the “classic” and pure beauty of Grecco-Roman arts, or what was perceived to be the ancient Greek and Roman arts. An art of an ideal, Neoclassicist art sought, not to repeat classics or the canon in lifeless reproductions, rather to synthesize such traditions anew in each work.
Although the techniques of Greek art were admired, more often than not neoclassical paintings and sculptures would focus rather on classical or mythical subject matter. Neoclassic artists used this subject matter to express their ideas about courage, sacrifice, and love of country. The movement first took off in France and England, but later influenced other European artists of the 18th and 19th centuries. Eventually, neoclassicism gained influence in the United States during the late 1800s and into the 20th century.
Examples of Neoclassical artists are: Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres, Antonio Canova, Sir Henry Raeburn, and Thomas Gainsborough.

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A 19th century art movement that began as a loose association of Paris-based artists, who began exhibiting their art publicly in the 1860s. The name of the movement is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satiric review published in Le Charivari (25 April 1874). Characteristics of Impressionist painting include visible brushstrokes, light colors, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, and unusual visual angles. The influence of the Impressionists is thought to have spread beyond the art world, leading to Impressionist music and Impressionist literature. Impressionism also describes art created in this style, but outside of the late 19th century time period.
Examples of Impressionist artists are: Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Cassatt, and Degas.

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The Age of Enlightenment (from the German word Aufklärung, meaning “Enlightenment”) referes to either a period during the 18th century in European and American philosophy, or the longer period including the 17th century and the Age of Reason. It can more narrowly be referred to as the historical intellectual movement, The Enlightenment, which advocated Reason as a means to establishing an authoritative system of aesthetics, ethics, government, and logic, to allow philosophers to obtain objective truth about the universe.
Inspired by the revolution in physics commenced by Newtonian kinematics, Enlightenment thinkers argued that the same kind of systematic thinking could apply to all forms of human activity. Hence, the Enlightenment is often closely linked with the Scientific Revolution, as both emphasized empiricism, reason, science, and rationality. The intellectual leaders believed they would lead the world into progress from a long period of doubtful tradition, irrationality, superstition, and tyranny, which they imputed to the Dark Ages. The movement helped to create the intellectual framework for the American and French Revolutions, the Latin American independence movement, and the Polish Constitution of May 3rd; and led to the rise of classical liberalism, democracy, and capitalism. The Enlightenment is matched with the Neoclassical period in the arts.

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