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Monarchy and enlightenment

The monarchs of Europe embraced the most ornate elements of 17th-century art. Rulers invested vast resources on elaborate church facades, stunning, gold-covered chapels and strikingly-realistic painting and sculpture. While in the newly independent Dutch Republic, a market emerged to meet the Protestant tastes of the growing merchant class. By the 18th century, Voltaire, Rousseau and other intellectuals had put forward Enlightenment ideas that would spark an age of revolution and usher in the modern world. Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker of Smarthistory together with leading art historians, and our museum partners have created hundreds of short engaging conversational videos and articles, making Khan Academy one of the most accessible and extensive resources for the study of the history of art.
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A thumbnail for: Baroque art

Baroque art

Protestants harshly criticized the Catholic "cult of images," and instead created new genres of more modestly scaled art (still life, landscape, etc.). The Catholic Church in turn, ardently embraced the religious power of art. The visual arts, the Church argued, played a key role in guiding the faithful. Religious art had to be clear, persuasive, and powerful. The result, from both the Catholics and Protestants was some of the most convincingly naturalistic art ever made.
A thumbnail for: Rococo


It’s hard not to like Rococo art. After all, it’s subjects are often about luxury and pleasure, which makes sense since this style of art and architecture was patronized by extremely wealthy European aristocrats. This tutorial features works of art that were created right up to the brink of the French Revolution when many of the Rococo's patrons lost their heads.
A thumbnail for: Neo-Classicism


Jacques Louis David, an active supporter of the French Revolution of 1789, is the star of this tutorial. David served in the revolutionary government, used his art in the service of its cause—and voted to behead King Louis XVI. He captured the patriotism of the revolution’s early phase and later, memorialized its dead heroes. And when the revolution failed and Napoleon came to power, David used his great talents to present a heroic image of the military general-turned emperor. David invents a new style for the democratic values of the Enlightenment—one that is the very opposite of the luxuriousness of the Rococo—and that looks back to Renaissance and to ancient Greek art, hence the name—Neo-Classicism (new classicism).
A thumbnail for: Britain & America in the Age of Revolution

Britain & America in the Age of Revolution

It was hard to be an artist in America during the colonial period, and for decades after. There were no real art schools, no grand tradition of painting or sculpture, and no wealthy aristocratic patrons to commission heroic subjects. Americans were practical, and they wanted portraits (a reality that frustrated ambitious American artists). Nevertheless, Americans looked to England for support and inspiration. As you’ll learn in this tutorial, Copley was the greatest American portrait painter of the period, and Peale, who studied with Copley, painted portraits of American heroes such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
A thumbnail for: Latin America/New Spain

Latin America/New Spain

Art and culture from the European invasion of the Americas to the end of the colonial era with a focus on one of the most remarkable examples of cross cultural influence ever made.