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Difference Between Ancient Art and Modern Art (With Table)

Art is a way through which an artist shows his creativity and imagination to express the beauty, power, ideas of what he/she observes and perceives. Art can be any form, whether be it painting, sculpture, dance, architecture etc. There is no exact description of What is an Art? Because ideas, creativity changes over time, and every person sees beauty and perceive imagination in their own way. Art has been categorised into two ways: Ancient Art and Modern Art.

Ancient Art vs Modern Art

The main difference between Ancient and Modern Art is that it was loosely based on periods. Ancient Art was something that was the art produced during ancient times. It is assumed that it started somewhere at the time of the Palaeolithic Age and continued till the 17th century. After the 18th century began the time of Modern Art and continued till the second world war. Ancient art used to depict the history and lifestyles of people of ancient age. Whereas Modern Art depicts the changing times, questions, oppose and is open for experimentation.

Ancient Art means the form of art which was produced by the people of advanced culture in the ancient age. It was prevalent in all the continents of the world, but most famously, it was found in Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Palestine, China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Ancient art is seen as a historical archive that shows the history of mankind in the form of writings, paintings, sculpture, pottery etc. Some of the famous artists of the age include Publius Aelius Fortunatus, The Malibu Painter, Quintus Pedius, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo etc.

Modern Art refers to the artistic work of art which was very different from ancient art and was popular at the period between 18th-20th century. Modern Art was the period of experimentation, questioning, observing, and it rejected ancient art completely. When Modern art emerged, it was the period of world war where everything was in chaos, people were sceptical, which led them to question things and thus modern art was born. Some of the famous artists include Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Georges Seurat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec etc.

Comparison Table Between Ancient Art and Modern Art

Parameters of ComparisonsAncient ArtModern Art
DefinitionAncient Art was usually created for a certain specific purpose, and now it is served as an artefact.Modern Art was very different from Ancient art. It meant self-expression.
EpochIt began from Paleolithic Age to the Middle Ages.It began from the 19th century till the 20th century.
Art MovementNo art movements are related to it.Several Art Movements like; Dadaism, Surrealism, Cubism, Expressionism etc.
DepictionIt depicted informally and conformed norms of the society.It was formal and more expressive. It questioned everything.
Famous WorksMona Lisa, Dionysus Cup, The Last Supper, Mask of Agamemnon etc.The Broken Column, The Starry Night, Guernica, The Weeping Women, Tree Study etc.

What is Ancient Art?

It is very difficult to trace the exact timeline of when Ancient Art began. Roughly speaking, it began somewhere in the Paleolithic age and continued till Middle Ages. Ancient Art was produced for only certain purposes, such as ceremonial processes like burial, marriage or any functions. Believed to be created by some of the advanced cultures of ancient societies like ancient India, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, China, etc. This art is referred to as Pre-historic Art.

Ancient Art was informal and represented the particular culture, religion, politics, religion, and lifestyle. It also reflected the place of origin where the art originated. Old civilizations always produced works of art that depicted their cultures which were different from other cultures. Ancient Art is used as a historical artefact by researchers and historians.

One of the famous work of Mesopotamian Civilization was known by the name ‘cradle of civilization’. Ancient art depicted art in the form of pottery, sculpture, painting, architecture, Calligraphy. One of the earliest art of pre-historic times was Bhimbetka Petroglyphs found in Central India.

What is Modern Art?

Modern art extends from the 19th century till the 20th century. It depicts the philosophy and styles of art. Modern art was basically the period of experimentation where modern artists wanted to create something new and fresh. Modern Art is very opposite from Ancient Art. It questions, oppose the traditional ideas and art and the way they are expressed. It focuses on the art related to modern changing times, different perspectives, ideas about the world and the function of art.

Heritage of Modern Art began with the painters like Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. These were considered pioneers of the modern form. Modern art beginning can be traced to the Period of Enlightenment. Most important being the French Revolution which was considered as the birth of many modernist concepts.

It started many art movements. Romantics, Realists and Impressionists gave birth to modern art. In the 19th century, one more movement was added i.e. Symbolism. In the 20th century, many other art movements sprouted up, such as Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism, and Futurism. Modern art was introduced in the USA by Armory Shaw in 1913. Modern Art is very unique in its sense and has a formal approach. It has a global appeal and doesn’t associate with one particular culture.

Main Differences Between Ancient Art and Modern Art

  1. Ancient Art was usually created for a certain specific purpose, and now it is served as an artefact. It reflects the particular culture, religion and politics of the times. Modern Art was very different from Ancient art. It meant self-expression.
  2. Ancient Art began from Paleolithic Age to the Middle Ages. Modern Art began from the 19th century till the 20th century. It covered the period of the two world war.
  3. No art movements are related to Ancient Art. Several Art Movements are related to Modern art like Dadaism, Surrealism, Impressionism, Futurism, Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism etc.
  4. Ancient Art depicted informally and conform to norms of the society and represented society as a whole. Modern was formal and more expressive. It questioned and opposed everything. It had a unique and global appeal.
  5. Famous work of Ancient Art: Mona Lisa, Dionysus Cup, The Last Supper, Mask of Agamemnon etc. Famous work of Modern Art is The Broken Column, The Starry Night, Guernica, The Weeping Women, Tree Study etc.


Both the art form, whether Ancient or Modern Art, have their features, and they exhibit the lifestyle of humans. Both have their style and charm. Ancient art required precision, and artist needed to have proper training and skill to pursue, and it is now called conventional art. Whereas modern art is the abstract form, it represents our ideas, imagination and creativity.

Anybody can be an artist according to Modern art. Modern Art believes in aesthetic beauty and is known as Contemporary Art. Modern Artists largely create their art on canvasses. Whereas Ancient Artists used sculpture form mostly. Cave Paintings and Graffiti Art are also art of Ancient Culture. Modern Art took the form of Pop Art, Video Art, Minimal Art etc., in modern times.


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