Tag Archives: Mona Lisa

Origins of Visual Arts

Sampurna Majumder delves into the evolution of visual arts.


As kids we indulge in various activities – playing, painting and much more. As adults some of us nurture serious hobbies like photography, travelling or drawing/painting.

Coming to painting. We all know about the Mona Lisa – da Vinci’s famous painting. Let’s delve into the evolution of the same?

Art forms that create work which are primarily visual in nature is referred to as visual arts. Examples in this category include drawing, painting, sculpture, designing, crafts, photography, architecture and even filmmaking. Though spanning such a broad spectrum, the term artist was earlier restricted to a person working in the arena of fine arts until the Arts and Crafts movement (1860 – 1910) took place in Britain. The artists of the movement valued vernacular art forms and also emphasized on painting.

Origins of Drawing and Painting

How do we differentiate the two? Well, drawing refers to making an image using tools and techniques, and also extensive use of dry media such as pen, ink, crayons, colour pencils, charcoals and pastels.

Painting on the other hand is the practice of applying pigment to a support such as canvas or paper. However, artistically put, it is a medley of drawing, colour composition and of course aesthetic considerations.

The history of drawing can be traced back to the Paleolithic Age. Cave paintings are known to exist in ancient France, Spain and also some parts of India. Ink drawing on papyrus depicting human figurines are found in ancient Egypt. By the 15th century when paper became prevalent in Europe, drawing was adopted by masters such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli.

Like drawing, the history of painting can be traced back to some 30000 years. Lascaux and Chavet caves in southern France bear evidence to the paintings of bison, cattle, deer and horses.

However, painting and visual arts reached its high period during Renaissance. From Giotto in the 13th century to Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci during the 16th century, visual arts and painting opened a completely new window to the world.