European art history

Where can I find information about the history of European visual arts?

Entry last updated: 14/12/23


European Art is a visual art that has many stylistic periods that show the topical subjects, artistic styles and social influences of that time. The stylistic periods often overlap each other and can be reborn in different time periods. It is also known as Western Art because the term is used by other countries that share a European cultural tradition eg Canada and United States.

List of main stylistic periods in European Art

Stylistic periods in art are defined by what is favoured in that time period. Artists can be influenced by culture, religion, experiences, environment and architecture to name a few. These time periods are approximate as they vary between sources.

  • Medieval (c. 400 AD - 1400 AD)

  • Renaissance (c. 1400 AD -1600 AD)

  • Mannerism (c. 1520 AD - 1600 AD)

  • Baroque (c. 1600 AD - 1750 AD)

  • Rococo (c. 1700 AD - 1780 AD)

  • Neoclassicism (c. 1750 AD - 1850 AD)

  • Romanticism (c. 1780 AD - 1850 AD)

  • Realism (c. 1848 AD - 1900 AD)

  • Impressionism (c. 1865 AD - 1885 AD)

  • Modern (c. 1860 AD - 1970 AD): Includes styles like cubism, art nouveau, art deco and more.

  • Contemporary (c. 1970 AD - present)

Tips: Before searching it can be useful to come up with a list of words to use. These are sometimes called keywords. They can be the name of a person, place, or event you are researching eg Art history, European art, Visual arts, Western art, Baroque, Impressionism, Edvard Munch, Raphael, Mona Lisa, Girl with a pearl earring.

Epic Resources

EPIC is a collection of online resources that have been put together especially for New Zealand school students.

Tips: To get to the EPIC databases you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can log on to AnyQuestions between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday, and one of the librarians will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Oxford Art Online

Oxford Art Online is a gateway to a number of reliable and respected art resources.

  • In the search bar enter 'Art history'.

  • The articles Social history of art and Women and art history are worth looking at.

  • Or search for 'European art' to find Maori - European interactions in art.

  • To the left of the search bar, you will see six headings that have drop-down menus. If you use these topics your results will be alphabetical - not most relevant information first.

  • You will also need to use the filters (the list in the left-hand column) to narrow down your search. The more choices you make in the list, the better the results.

Britannica School Secondary

Britannica School has many articles about European art history, its different styles and artists.

  • Try a search for 'western painting' or 'western sculpture'.

  • The articles Western sculpture and Western painting have in-depth overviews.

  • Use the Table of contents to jump to a specific stylistic period.

  • Or you could try a search for a specific art history period or artist eg Claude Monet.

General websites

Here are some websites you can use to find information about the history of European art.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is an educational site filled with articles and videos on lots of topics in science, math, history, computers and more.

  • In the search box enter 'Art History'

  • Select Art History.

  • There is a Course summary in the left-hand column where you can choose the stylistic period that suits your research needs. European art appears several times on this list.

  • Search and have a look at What is art history and where is it going? for further reading.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Heibrunn Timeline of Art History

This is a part of the website for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the largest and most respected art museums in the world. This means the information is well-researched, reliable and created by experts in their field.

  • Choose the Essays tab for articles about pieces of art, time periods, artistic styles and artists. You can filter these results by choosing the Time Period, Region or Theme.

  • Works of Art are images from The Met's collection. Use the filters at the top to narrow results to a time period, geographical region and thematic category.

  • In Chronologies, select Europe on the map for different regions and times.

  • Then choose from the list for an Overview and* Key Events* for that place and time eg Italian Peninsula, 1000–1400 A.D.


Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. The content is written by volunteers from all over the world. It could be considered a mix of opinion and fact-based information.

  • In the search box look for 'European art' and go to Art of Europe.

  • This topic has some very good information about European art and different stylistic periods.

  • You can also search Wikipedia for more specific topics on artists or stylistic periods eg Postmodern art.

Tips: Wikipedia has great coverage of many topics, including European Art History. But you need to be aware that this information is written by lots of different people. If you are using this site, it's a good idea to check the information against that on other sites or in books from the library.


YouTube is a video sharing site. The content can be created by anyone and is a mixture of reliable information and items that are just for fun.

  • Enter 'art history' in the search bar.

  • Look for A brief history of art western movements.

  • This has some great information that helps make art styles easy to understand. The channel that created it - Behind the Masterpiece - also has other videos about particular pieces of art and art styles.

Tips: Remember that anyone can add content to YouTube so you should always check the information that is shown on here against other sites or from the library.

New Zealand sites

These are some New Zealand websites you can use to find out about European influence on New Zealand painting and sculpture.


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. At the bottom of the page, we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • In the subjects on the dark blue strip choose Topics.

  • Select Culture and Society, then The arts and entertainment.

  • Choose History of New Zealand Painting.

  • This article has information about how European artwork, style and artists influenced painting styles here in New Zealand.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we look down to the bottom of the page, we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Look down the page for the section called Creative and Intellectual Life.

  • Choose Visual Arts.

  • Look at the Painting story and choose an article from the contents eg 19th-century landscape painting.

  • Or go to Sculpture and installation art to find Colonial origins.

Tips: We like sites like NZHistory and Te Ara because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.


You can visit your local public or school library to find books about European art. Here are some that we found:

SCIS no: 5474961

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