A History of Art in GIFs

Once upon a time, the world opened its eyes.

Eventually some bacteria got together, decided it wanted legs, and after a couple millennia people walked the earth. Without the internet, they became very bored, and some of the French ones even began to decorate their caves with paintings of animals and cavewoman selfies.

Making things was really fun, and soon people started to make art that could go outside the cave with them. One of the first things they made was a sculpture of a woman: the voluptuous feminine ideal of old known as the Venus of Willendorf. This first of many Venuses was very important because it finally offered women an object by which they could measure their beauty. Rejoice, for the stepping stones of society are laid!

Later, the Egyptians came along and re-defined civilization and art. They built incredible monuments and set new standards for architecture, sculpture and design. Their art was so amazing that most of it was stolen, placed in European museums and never returned!

After that, the ancient Greeks showed up on the scene and mostly built a lot of columns. That’s it, right?

The Romans really liked columns too! And war. But that was basically it. Not much art there. Bummer.

In the East, the Byzantines were absolutely crushing the architecture game. This is the Hagia Sophia; built in 537 AD in Constantinople, it was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. It took the French nearly 100 years to finish Notre Dame, but the Hagia Sophia was finished in only 6. (It’s about 20,000 square feet bigger too.)

Once the Medieval era descended on Europe and things got real in a very plague-y, scary way, people started producing some legitimately good art. (Funny how that happens, huh?) We got beautiful (and hilarious) illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, metalwork, tapestries, and glitzed-out mosaics fit for the jacuzzi of any respectable McMansion. Most of it was filled with pictures of Jesus, but you know what they say: die young, leave behind rich subject matter for a million paintings.

As we moved into the 1300’s and the Renaissance, we finally started to see a rise in secular art. Some people think the world’s greatest artworks were produced during this period. However since the art world was still entirely dominated by self-congratulatory white men, we’re not giving them any more props than they’ve already received. Please enjoy this GIF celebrating the power of womanhood instead.

By the 1500’s artists like El Greco and Bronzino were breaking all the rules: they started using art as a weapon against the immorality of religious and political abuses. A hundred years later, Caravaggio, Rubens, and Rembrandt came along and showed everybody how to actually paint. It was a big deal.

Over in Japan, artists like Katsushika Hokusai were stuntin all over everybody.

By the 19th century, artists had discovered that it was way more fun to break rules than to follow them. Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cassatt and Degas all stopped being polite and started getting real – as real as upper class people painting the effects of natural light could get, anyway. But it was still beautiful and groundbreaking and their works are commemorated in many dentist’s offices today.

In the 20th century we were graced by the goddess Frida and delightfully confused by the greatest schedule I substance of all time, Salvador Dali.

Rothko and Pollock proved that art didn’t need form to make you feel.

And Warhol predicted that we’d all get our 15 minutes of fame.

Cindy Sherman, Judy Chicago, Miriam Schapiro, Yoko Ono, Hannah Wilke, Ana Mendieta, Lynda Benglis, Marina Abramovic, Jenny Holzer, Tracy Emin, Barbara Kruger and other women stepped up to re-define the roles of women in visual and performance art.

And everybody said this. But they were all wrong.


Get a look at the future of art at the 2nd Annual International GIF Festival on Thursday, January 28 at 6pm in the auditorium of the Jepson Center for the Arts. The GIF Festival is brought to you by Art Rise Savannah as part of the PULSE Art + Technology Festival. Entry is by PULSE Pass only. Click here to purchase.

Author: SAI

Savannah Art Informer is a program by Art Rise Savannah, a non-profit arts organization in Savannah, Georgia.

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