Art History

Gilgal Garden’s creator Thomas Child, a masonry contractor, became by necessity a self-made artist and in doing so he produced work in different styles that can be seen as a microcosm of the History of Art. As he became more and more involved with the Garden his family and friends gave him books about art. A willing experimenter, the influences of these resources and the times (1945 – 1963), a particularly rich and turbulent period in art history, can be seen throughout the Garden.

This activity is going to simplify and define various styles of art up to today’s Postmodern period in a somewhat arbitrary manner, heavily weighted to the last few hundred years. These are simplifications, most art contains a mixture of styles and influences. However, by working with these basic terms and categories insight can be gained and the art of seeing can be exercised.

Also note that the terms introduced here are Western Culture biased – they often do not account in a meaningful way for the variety of significant art produced by non-western civilizations or indigenous populations, art that may be the equal or superior to the accepted Western canon.

Art, the act of creating and imbuing with meaning, is basically subjective.
Opinions count. Have fun.


1. Examine the following five basic periods of Art History and the accompanying examples.

Click on each period below to see examples and connect to additional web resources

#1 - Representation (approximately 40,000 BC – 1400 AD)
- The use of images in art that clearly represent real things,
- but lack the three dimensional "photographic" perspective of the next period.
Starting with the first cave paintings – horses, tools, people.

#2 - Renaissance Perspective / Photographic Perspective (approximately 1400 –1800’s)

- The "realistic" representation of three dimensions on a flat plane using formal rules of drawing that approximate the way a camera would render a scene.

#3 - Impressionism / Expressionism (approximately 1850 –1910)
- A break with formal perspective, not a picture of reality, but a communication or representation of how it looks (Impressionism) and feels (Expressionism) to the individual artist.

#4 - Modern (approximately 1910 – 1960’s)
- The most important aspect is honoring the material (canvas, paint, marble...), not relating it directly to reality. Abstraction appears for the first time.

#5 - Postmodern (approximately 1960’s – present)

- A reaction to Modernism and a return to references to people, events, and current living conditions.

2. For each of the five periods choose one of the Gilgal Garden works that can be used to illustrate the basic concept of the period.

3. Explain why you chose each work. Be specific.