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What Is The Difference Between Western And Non Western Art

Art has always been a reflection of culture and society, and throughout history, different regions have produced unique styles and forms of artistic expression. Western and non-western art are two broad categories that encompass a wide range of artistic traditions. Understanding the differences between these two can help us appreciate and recognize the diverse world of art. In this article, we will explore the characteristics that distinguish Western and non-Western art forms, shedding light on their distinct features and historical contexts.

Western art refers to the artistic traditions that have primarily originated from Europe and the United States. It encompasses various art movements such as the Renaissance, Baroque, Romanticism, Impressionism, and many more. Western art is often characterized by its emphasis on individualism, realism, perspective, and the use of traditional mediums like oil paintings and sculptures. It has been greatly influenced by classical Greek and Roman art, as well as Judeo-Christian religious themes.

Western Art

Renaissance Art

The Renaissance was a transformative period that emerged in Europe during the 14th to 17th centuries. It marked a revival of interest in the arts, sciences, and the humanities, and had a profound impact on the development of Western art. Renaissance art was characterized by a renewed focus on humanism, perspective, and anatomy.

During this period, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael created iconic works that are still admired today. Renaissance art often depicted religious and mythological themes with a strong emphasis on realism and naturalism. Artists sought to capture the human form with precision, exploring the capabilities of light and shadow to create depth and three-dimensionality.

One of the defining features of Renaissance art was the use of linear perspective, which allowed artists to create the illusion of depth and space on a two-dimensional surface. This technique revolutionized the way art was perceived, giving it a more realistic and lifelike quality. Renaissance art also incorporated classical elements from ancient Greek and Roman art, drawing inspiration from the proportions and ideals of beauty.

Renaissance Art

Baroque Art

Baroque art originated in Europe during the 17th century and is known for its extravagant, highly detailed, and dramatic style. It was a response to the religious and political changes that occurred during the Counter-Reformation, a period of Catholic revival. Baroque art aimed to evoke strong emotions and create a sense of grandeur.

One of the key characteristics of Baroque art was its emphasis on movement and energy. Artists used dynamic compositions and exaggerated gestures to convey a sense of drama and theatricality. The use of intense lighting and chiaroscuro, the contrast between light and dark, added to the dramatic effect. Baroque art often featured rich colors, intricate details, and elaborate ornamentation.

Notable Baroque artists include Caravaggio, Bernini, and Rembrandt. Caravaggio’s use of dramatic lighting and naturalistic style had a significant influence on the development of Baroque art. Bernini, a renowned sculptor, created dynamic and emotive sculptures that seemed to come to life. Rembrandt, a Dutch painter, was known for his masterful use of light and shadow to create depth and atmosphere.

Baroque Art


Romanticism emerged in Europe and America during the late 18th to mid-19th centuries as a reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment. It emphasized individualism, imagination, and emotions. Romantic art often portrayed dramatic landscapes, exotic subjects, and intense emotional states.

Artists sought to convey a sense of awe and wonder in the face of nature’s beauty and the sublime. They often depicted rugged landscapes, stormy seas, and untamed wildernesses. Romantic art also explored themes of love, passion, and heroism. The artists of this movement sought to evoke strong emotional responses from the viewer, encouraging them to reflect on their own experiences and emotions.

Notable Romantic artists include Caspar David Friedrich, J.M.W. Turner, and Eugene Delacroix. Friedrich’s landscapes often portrayed a sense of solitude and contemplation, with a focus on the individual’s relationship with nature. Turner was known for his atmospheric and dramatic seascapes, capturing the power and majesty of the ocean. Delacroix’s paintings were characterized by their vivid colors and passionate brushwork, expressing intense emotions and political themes.

Romanticism Art


Impressionism, which emerged in France during the late 19th century, revolutionized the way art was perceived and created. It focused on capturing the fleeting effects of light and color in the atmosphere. Impressionist paintings often featured loose brushwork, visible brushstrokes, and an emphasis on capturing the essence of a moment.

Impressionist artists sought to depict the changing qualities of light and its impact on the perception of color. They often painted en plein air, meaning they worked outdoors to capture the effects of natural light. The subject matter of Impressionist art varied widely and included landscapes, city scenes, portraits, and still lifes.

Notable Impressionist artists include Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Degas. Monet’s series of paintings depicting water lilies and his views of Rouen Cathedral are iconic examples of Impressionist art. Renoir is known for his vibrant depictions of people, particularly his portraits of women. Degas focused on capturing the movements and gestures of ballet dancers and everyday scenes of Parisian life.

Impressionism Art

Non-Western Art: African Art

African art encompasses a wide range of diverse artistic traditions that have evolved across the African continent. It includes traditional masks, sculptures, textiles, and paintings. African art often reflects the cultural and spiritual beliefs of different African tribes and communities.

African art is known for its abstraction, symbolic representation, and emphasis on communal values. It often incorporates geometric shapes, bold patterns, and vibrant colors. Masks are an important part of African art and are used in various rituals and ceremonies. They can represent ancestors, spirits, or deities, and are believed to have spiritual powers.

Each region of Africa has its own unique artistic style and techniques. For example, West African art is characterized by its use of wood carvings and brass sculptures, while East African art is known for its intricate beadwork and colorful textiles. The art of the Ndebele people in Southern Africa features vibrant geometric patterns painted on houses and clothing.

African Art

Asian Art: Chinese Calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy is a highly respected and revered art form that has a rich history dating back thousands of years. It involves the skilled use of a brush and ink to create beautiful and expressive characters. Chinese calligraphy is not only a form of artistic expression but also a means of communication and meditation.

Chinese calligraphy is characterized by its emphasis on grace, balance, and harmony. The brush strokes are carefully executed, and the composition of the characters is meticulously planned. Each character is considered a work of art in itself and is imbued with meaning and symbolism.

Calligraphy is deeply rooted in Chinese culture and has been influenced by various philosophical and religious traditions, such as Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. It is often used in the creation of scrolls, paintings, and inscriptions on ceramics and other objects.

Chinese Calligraphy

Indigenous Art: Australian Aboriginal Art

Australian Aboriginal art is a unique and ancient form of art that has been practiced by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years. It includes rock paintings, bark paintings, sculptures, and contemporary art forms. Aboriginal art often incorporates intricate patterns, symbols, and dot paintings, which represent stories, Dreamtime narratives, and ancestral connections to the land.