From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914

Late Nineteenth-Century Painting

How did art change in the nineteenth century?

During the nineteenth century, the world experienced massive social upheavals due to the Industrial Revolution. The German philosophers Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) and Karl Marx (1818–1883), authors of the Communist Manifesto (1848), believed that the working class (the proletariat) would soon revolt against the bourgeois. Marx in particular was interested in the artist as a member of the proletariat, whose work—art—was consumed and exploited by the upper classes. Because of the new availability of manufactured goods, handmade items and traditional crafts took on new value. Other important thinkers also affected nineteenth-century perceptions of art, such as Sigmund Freud (1856–1923), an Austrian neurologist who is credited with founding psychoanalysis, which inspired many artists and writers.

The nineteenth century also saw the rise of the newspaper, and along with it, the rise in the importance of the art critic, whose voice became ever more important in judging and valuing art. Unlike in previous centuries, museums and galleries became important public and business institutions, a change from the previous system of royal or church patronage that characterized art production during the Renaissance. Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, Romanticism faded and realism became more popular in European art. By the end of the century, the public was shocked by Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, which evolved from realism and, in some cases, a new interest in psychology.


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