Timeline of Art

Industrial Revolution
Mass production, the camera, and a return to nature

Industrial Revolution, Timeline of Art

In the first years of the nineteenth century, a series of mechanical inventions changed the course of human culture instantly and permanently. James Watt created a new form of steam engine, powering factories and launching international travel with more efficient steam ships. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin and Edmund Cartwright’s power loom created a massive textile boom, with exponentially faster production leading to a commoditization of a previously craft culture. Benjamin Huntsman’s crucible steel and James Neilson’s hot blast furnace made iron and steel the building materials of choice, ushering in the era of the skyscraper.

But as the factories filled, artists’ practice was radically and permanently changed by a much simpler invention. In 1843, John Goffe Rand invented the tin paint tube. Where before paint was mixed in the studio and dried out quickly, preserving the paint in a tube allowed artists mobility for the first time. Paradoxically, while the Industrial Revolution drew millions into cities and urban centers, it sent artists outside. Art of the Industrial Revolution tends to be pastoral, plein-aire, more often a reaction against the speed and metal of the industrial age. We see the birth of Romanticism, Impressionism, and the Hudson River School dedicated to the majesty of nature. With travel more affordable via steamship, artists traveled the globe, leading to the first blendings of cultural style and influence. It took a hundred years and a world war before artists fully embraced industrialization, when the radical Futurist movement swept through Europe.

Reed Enger, "Industrial Revolution, Mass production, the camera, and a return to nature," in Obelisk Art History, Published October 20, 2016; last modified October 13, 2022, http://www.arthistoryproject.com/timeline/industrial-revolution/.

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Romanticism, Industrial Revolution


Artistic revolt against the Age of Enlightenment

1800 – 1860
Oceanic Art, Industrial Revolution

Oceanic Art

10,000 islands, 1800 cultures and languages

1800 – 1925
Orientalism, Industrial Revolution


The western fantasy

1805 – 1920
Hudson River School, Industrial Revolution

Hudson River School

An American fraternity of mountain worshipers

1825 – 1870
Early Photography, Industrial Revolution

Early Photography

Nature's pencil: light!

1826 – 1860
Barbizon School, Industrial Revolution

Barbizon School

A small village in France, a gathering of artists.

1830 – 1870
Pre Raphaelites, Industrial Revolution

Pre Raphaelites

Love-lorn teenagers drag art back to the future

1848 – 1900
Realism, Industrial Revolution


Truth, accuracy, and the absence of personal bias

1850 – 1880
Impressionism, Industrial Revolution


Light and movement as the crux of human perception

1860 – 1900
Meiji Art, Industrial Revolution

Meiji Art

The end of feudalism begins with the search for knowledge

1868 – 1912
Early Modernism, Industrial Revolution

Early Modernism

Tradition be damned.

1870 – 1900
Post-Impressionism, Industrial Revolution


Beyond nature, toward emotional simplicity.

1886 – 1905
Les Nabis, Industrial Revolution

Les Nabis

Painting metaphor and symbol

1888 – 1900
Next Era
Modernism, Timeline of Art


World wars and the rejection of tradition

1870 – 1960

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