Art Evolution: Painting Styles Throughout History | NZ Fine Prints

Art Evolution: Exploring Painting Styles Throughout History

Paintbrushes sitting in front of abstract-style paintinging in front of abstract-style painting

From ancient cave paintings to Warhol’s famous art prints, there’s no doubt that painting styles have evolved in numerous ways throughout history. In this blog post, we walk through some notable periods in art history. Read on to explore ancient artworks from around the world, gain a brief glimpse into their evolution, and reflect on how these styles are expressed in the art scene today.


Prehistoric Painting

Prehistoric paintings are the oldest known paintings of prehistoric man, found on the walls of caves, produced by people of preliterate cultures. Prehistoric paintings are now considered to be priceless artworks. During their time, they are thought to have symbolic or religious intent, and to have been used to keep records and track major historical events. Prehistoric art was observational, documenting the other cultures they had come across, the success of hunters, and more. 

The first examples of art are dated back more than 64,000 years, such as the 71 hand stencils found in the Cave of Maltravieso, alongside animal paintings and some linear designs. Other forms of prehistoric art include engraved stones and crosshatch designs, found throughout Europe and South Africa.


Egyptian Art

Egyptian art gained traction across the western world for its symbolic, vivid, and abstract design. A notable difference between Egyptian art and the record-keeping of prehistoric times is intent. Art was used in a more ritualistic way to express wealth, power, belief systems, history, and life after death. For example, statues were used to honour the deceased. This practice was a symbolic way for the spirit of the dead to remain connected from beyond the terrestrial realm.

There are many examples of ancient Egyptian art, both two and three-dimensional, used to honour the dead. Heavy symbolism was used to connect the Egyptian people with the gods, creating beautiful, usually front-facing statues to honour the royal and elite. Throughout all art styles, the ancient Egyptians used the imagery of people, animals, and other figures, accompanied by text. 

A notable attribute of ancient Egyptian art is the use of size. Many ancient art pieces found across Egypt use size differences to convey hierarchy. Royalty was portrayed in large scales while lower-ranking figures or average Egyptians were depicted much smaller.


The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages are of incredible importance in art history. During this time, medieval artworks around Europe were heavily influenced by Christianity. Societal and cultural developments lead to a boom in the visual arts and a shift in aesthetic values. Medieval artists developed secular art, a departure from the common religious themes at the time, and the wealthy and elite would commission works such as cathedrals, churches, and manuscripts. 

Medieval art encompasses many artistic styles, including the birth of Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic art, to name a few. Artists during this period would use mineral pigments and a layering technique for painting. With few options for creating a range of colours and textures, artists would paint over dry colour to create mixes of colour and thick-textured brushstrokes.


Renaissance Art

Renaissance art developed around the year 1300 and is associated with social changes within society. Art in the Renaissance period was influenced by the Middle Ages, with scholars studying literary texts from medieval scholars before them. With artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, this is one of the most influential and widely recognised periods for art. 

This period saw a shift in painting and sculpture style, with the development of linear perspective, alongside a range of other techniques, used to give their work a more realistic feeling. The more abstract art of the medieval period had transitioned to a representational style that expanded the subject matter to go beyond biblical scenes. 

More and more artists began adding their own originality to artworks and the period is seen to represent the rebirth of human ideals and naturalism. As well as oil painting, the Renaissance saw the full development of mixing techniques, originally seen in medieval artworks.


Pop Art

Of the numerous modern art movements to date, some of the more notable styles included futurism, surrealism, minimalism, and of course, Pop art. Andy Warhol and other artists within the pop art movement used imagery from popular and mass culture to challenge historic styles of art. This movement utilised commonplace objects and imagery from popular culture or mass-produced objects.

The modern world rejected the history of realism in art and saw the rise of innovative and experimental art. The focus of artists shifted from depicting realistic scenes to the use of various materials, techniques, and other abstract elements. 

Warhol’s work with Marilyn Monroe and the infamous Campbell’s Soup Cans are some of the most recognised modern art pieces. The style has cemented itself in art culture for its use of humour and irony, communicated through the bright punches of colour in the various works.


Neo-Expressionism and Beyond

In the late 70s, Neo-Expressionism dominated the art world, with the portrayal of realistic and familiar objects returning, but often with a more abstract nature. The use of colour harmony and intense expressionism was used as a reaction to the high-concept, minimalistic styles previously seen. The post-modern era of art sees no clear direction for future styles, but it is thought that the world is moving toward pluralism. This means that different art and painting styles are being adopted from various cultures, with artwork and artists becoming more diverse and all-encompassing.


Find Your Favourite Art Styles at New Zealand Fine Prints

There are too many art styles and movements throughout history to cover in a single article. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the most influential periods from prehistoric times to today, showing a brief glimpse into the diverse evolution of art. Interested in delving deeper into the art scene? If so, we have a range of beautiful canvas wall art in NZ for you to explore. Browse New Zealand Fine Prints online today and find your favourite art prints from around the world.

Street Art Capitals Around the World | NZ Fine Prints

Street Art Capitals Around the World

Street Art Stye in Camden, London

Street art has a long history and can be seen in every corner of the globe, but some cities have stood out for their immensely creative, beautiful, and in many cases politically charged street art. In recent decades, we’ve seen street art style move from being viewed as vandalism to being celebrated in galleries, with art prints of street art selling out. In this article, we highlight some of the street art capitals around the world and show what makes these cities so special.



When it comes to art, Barcelona has birthed some of the world’s greatest artists—such as Pablo Picasso—and this extends to the street art scene. Many parts of the city have come to life with creativity and colour. Areas like Poblenou have many abandoned buildings that have provided some of the best street artists with canvases for their work, bringing the neighbourhood back to life. The Three Chimneys urban park is built specifically for graffiti art, where artists can express themselves and put their art on display without having to worry about any legal consequences. There are thousands of incredible art pieces throughout the city. With so many beautiful discoveries to make, you can’t help but feel inspired. Barcelona should be at the top of any art-lovers travel list.



New York’s thriving art scene is recognised around the world and the streets are no exception. Within the city, Brooklyn is the heart of the street art scene, with local and international talents taking advantage of the enormous canvas provided by the concrete jungle. Brooklyn has life and character around every corner, the creative murals constantly changing and evolving. The Bushwick Collective was started in 2011 by local artist Joe Ficalora. The Collective is an open-air gallery space, highlighting the murals of many artists and creatives. The Collective has transformed the Brooklyn neighbourhood into a colourful and artistic space. Graffiti and street art tours through Brooklyn are popular tourist attractions, bringing people from all over the world to the heart of New York’s street-art culture. The enormous and detailed murals are a must-see for any street-lover, giving this small New York neighbourhood a contemporary and creative re-vamp.


Buenos Aires

The street art scene in Buenos Aires began as a political and socially charged movement, inspired by Mexican muralism. Artists used public spaces in the city to communicate their message and protest the repressive political climate developing a language of protest throughout Argentina. Almost a century later in 2001, the streets became riddled with propaganda and negative messaging due to the recent economic crisis. Art collectives worked to transform the streets into a colourful and positive space, breaking up the overwhelming political messages and creating larger than life cartoons and vibrant imagery. Buenos Aires is known for the enormous scale of its murals, scattered throughout the city. This bright and large-scale street art scene has put Buenos Aires on many art fans’ travel bucket lists. The beautiful architecture and street art pair together perfectly to provide the city with a thriving pulse.



It’s common for street art culture to come from tragedy, and sadly, that’s the case for our very own Christchurch. After the devastating earthquakes in the early 2010s, Christchurch was due for a major rebuild and this is where street art became a core part of the city’s new life. In 2013, George Shaw, a Nelson art collector, organised a street art festival in Christchurch, commissioning new art pieces on walls throughout the city centre. The festival’s success planted the seed for Christchurch’s growing art scene and inspired artists to engage with the landscape and repopulate the city’s abandoned spaces with murals. The street art style in Christchurch carries political, social, and in many cases, humorous messages. Natural disasters destroyed parts of the city. The landscape changed and evolved. Street art rejuvenated the streets with creative energy and has now created an ever-changing graffiti art scene in our very own country.



The diverse range of street art on Melbourne’s street walls is among the most eclectic and accomplished in the world. The city has become the “Stencil Capital of the World”, bringing street art culture to a wider audience. The city is host to both illegal exhibitions and public festivals, bringing people from all over to the streets of Melbourne. Small street lanes with a huge range of unique bars and eateries are surrounded by large-scale, beautiful murals—many inspired by the street art culture of New York City. Melbourne’s streets are pulsing with life, always changing and inspiring new artists to contribute to the vibrant and creative movement. Melbourne’s bright streets are recognised globally and have continued to inspire other cities to adopt the urban art style.



You can’t discuss street art without mentioning London. Inspired by the art movement in New York, London began seeing street walls used as canvases with stencils, tags, and public sculptures popping up all over the city. East London is the hot spot for street art culture, but the work is seen in all the city neighbourhoods. Places like Brick Lane, Shoreditch, and Camden are just a few of the numerous locations where you can explore the culture of London street art. Banksy has become one of the most famous street artists in the world, going from the underground Bristol scene to spreading his stencil art and political messages all over the city. The anonymous artist’s signature style of combining humour and politics in his imagery or slogans became a sensation and cemented Banksy as a street art phenomenon. Balloon Girl, Kissing Coopers, and Bomb Hugger are a few of Banksy’s globally recognised works, contributing to the widespread acknowledgement of graffiti as art rather than vandalism.


Find Some Street Art for Your Home

Street art is a unique style that can transform an old, abandoned street into a beautiful art piece, attracting thousands of visitors. Why not bring the same provocative style to your home? Framed wall art provides character and can add a dash of swagger to your living space. We have prints by talented artists from all over the world, in a huge range of styles to help you bring some art culture into your home, browse online today.

Gardening & artists who garden | NZ Fine Prints

For some people gardening is a chore, for others it is a sandpit for adults. 

Pohutukawa Tree in Blossom
The Garden by Barry Ross Smith
The intersection between human habitation and our natural environment is where the intrinsic beauty of plants meets our unique among animals impulse to re-order what nature has created in what appears to us to be a more aesthetically pleasing (and productive) way.  
Wheelbarrow in Garden
Detail of Lazy Bones & the Pleasure Garden by Hamish Allan

It is fair bet that those of us who have been bitten by the gardening bug might also want to bring the outdoors inside when it comes to art, decorating our walls with botanical posters for instance. And it is not too far of a stretch to imagine these flora fans are also buying prints of birds in such vast numbers over the past few years as we celebrate the fact that native birds of NZ are being seen in increasing numbers within the gardens of our towns and cities thanks to both pest eradication but also the deliberate creation of habitat in domestic and public gardens.

Blossom Trees and Mount Fuji
Japanese artist Hiroshige, the epitome of gardens as art
But as part of a small campaign to exercise our print buyer's more whimsical choices (he jokes that sometimes he can't resist buying what he thinks people should want rather than what they actually do) we have dipped our toes into offering a new collection of wall art - prints of gardens and gardening (we have also allowed him to buy a large range of retro/vintage music and film posters) but he will now be back on the straight and narrow for the next
few months!

Dick Frizzell "Incinerater" Ltd Edition Print
Backyard Incinerator by Dick Frizzell 

There are artists who garden,
most famously Claude Monet whose garden at Giverny was, as we would say these days, part of his practice. But local kiwi painters like Jeanette Blackburn are almost as well-known for their garden art galleries as for their work. And then we have Hamish Allan's carefully composed renditions of what could only be a New Zealand backyard, Dick Frizzell's "backyard" series like his prints of lawn mowers and the incinerator pictured here - and then the doyen of NZ garden painters Karl Maughan from whom we still have just the single offset print available, "Riverhead".

The impetus for putting together our new gardens/gardening art collection really came from seeing how the posters of Japanese woodblock prints brought together artistic merit with a celebration of gardening as art, as the gardens in Japan are surely the epitome of the landscape as art. And we thought that maybe people who are into gardening but not so much into art would like to see just how well Japanese style wall art would suit them but they would not think to search for this kind of artwork in our online catalogue.

Gardens are such a fascinating glimpse into the way we imagine we would like to live, from the garden that is neglected to one that is bursting with this season's most fashionable colours how we garden says so much about the people who live in it.  We hope you enjoy our new collection of garden art prints - it is not just for those of us who are into gardens and landscaping, surely there are plenty of folk who may enjoy a garden when it is an artistic expression of aspects of what a garden is framed on the wall rather than being out there pulling out the weeds every weekend!

Film & Music Posters - How we select vintage wall art design

The all encompassing term "wall art" is becoming a more prevalent shorthand for what were once

Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

exclusively referred to as art prints and posters.  Like when what we thought should be called fine art by NZ painters a decade ago started getting referred to as "kiwiana" alongside the more obvious tiki paintings, four square man etc New Zealand Fine Prints are happy to move with the times and be guided by our customers what they would like to call what we sell even if this new phrase takes a bit of getting used to!

One of the advantages of the expanding definition of wall art (eg from framed prints to wall charts, prints on canvas and even wall decals) is we have been able to expand what we sell beyond the traditional reproduction prints of paintings, maps etc into other things that can go on the walls of kiwi homes and offices, but without straying too far from our core values as a business.  It seems obvious that those folks who show more than an average interest in art would also be interested in music, theatre and film and those of us on our wholesale buying team certainly are into the broader arts as well for sure.

Poster for Fritz Lang's Metropolis

But we believe that delivering value to customers is not just in a good quality item from a production standpoint, it also about selling decoration that will endure not just physically but also continue to be enjoyed as an artwork (ok, wall art) for many years.  This means selling prints by artists who have something to say, prints of places that mean something to New Zealanders and trying not to promote more ephemeral  watered down or generic designs that are, as we say, to match the curtains.   We don't want you to buy an artwork for your walls that "fashions out" really quickly.

So as we grow our range of film and music wall posters we had to devise a criteria that would satisfy demand for a broader range of poster choices without going too far down the path of stocking modern day music posters created for fans (or more cynically created by publishers to cash in on what's popular right now). Drawing a line between what we call the "social expression" market (the teenager whose choice of music or movie posters are a visual shorthand to tell people what kind of person they are) and the broader decorative - ie wall art - market where a poster is there both for its aesthetic merits as well as for its content/subject or design theme.

The Supremes UK Tour Poster
The Supremes UK Tour Poster
Our wholesale team have therefore decided that we won't - at least initially - stock music posters that are designed purely to demonstrate that you are a fan of a contemporary band or a singer or love a just released film. Musically these are the posters that are a photograph of the act (or actor) doing their thing on stage/film set or showing their attitude or style accompanied with the name of the group, rapper or singer or film.   Given the size of the New Zealand market and the order minimums that make sense when importing posters it just doesn't work for us to try and pick trends, there is nothing less saleable than a cutting edge music poster after the band's popularity has peaked!  But we believe there is a sweet spot where a music poster captures both the spirit of the band/singer with an iconic retro/vintage design aesthetic that makes it more broadly interesting than just to fans of the group. So we are stocking retro or vintage designs that have stood the test of time already and that we believe will continue to resonate for the life of the posters on your walls.

Obviously we would like to have a diversity of designs and acts from around the world and across different genres, so we have lined up four different wholesale suppliers across the US, Australia and Europe to try and achieve this aim.

We think in particular that vintage music poster designs for concerts and album releases are true to the spirit of New Zealand Fine Prints, they fit with our extensive range of vintage travel, tourism and advertising posters from what are now well-known graphic designers. This is where we offer a good quality reproduction of an authentic poster design, a replica as close as we can get to the original - ie without Photoshopping the imperfections.

Illustrating this post are examples of some of the new movie and music posters that are now in stock at New Zealand's wall art specialists since 1966, please check out our music and film poster collection to see everything we currently have for sale.