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The art of Europe encompasses the history of visual art in Europe. European prehistoric art started as mobile rock, and cave painting art, and was characteristic of the period between the Paleolithic and the Iron Age.

Written histories of European art often begin with the art of the Ancient Middle East, and the Ancient Aegean civilisations, dating from the 3rd millennium BC. Parallel with these significant cultures, art of one form or another existed all over Europe, wherever there were people, leaving signs such as carvings, decorated artifacts and huge standing stones. However a consistent pattern of artistic development within Europe becomes clear only with the art of Ancient Greece, adopted and transformed by Rome and carried; with the Empire, across much of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

The influence of the art of the Classical period waxed and waned throughout the next two thousand years, seeming to slip into a distant memory in parts of the Medieval period, to re-emerge in the Renaissance, suffer a period of what some early art historians viewed as "decay" during the Baroque period, to reappear in a refined form in Neo-Classicism and to be reborn in Post-Modernism.

Before the 1800s, the Christian church was a major influence upon European art, the commissions of the Church, architectural, painterly and sculptural, providing the major source of work for artists. The history of the Church was very much reflected in the history of art, during this period. In the same period of time there was renewed interest in heroes and heroines, tales of mythological gods and goddesses, great wars, and bizarre creatures which were not connected to religion.

Secularism has influenced European art since the Classical period, while most art of the last 200 years has been produced without reference to religion and often with no particular ideology at all. On the other hand, European art has often been influenced by politics of one kind or another, of the state, of the patron and of the artist.

European art is arranged into a number of stylistic periods, which, historically, overlap each other as different styles flourished in different areas. Broadly the periods are, Classical, Byzantine, Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, Modern and Postmodern.


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